Tuesday, May 31, 2011

City Love: Biking Up (& Down) The Niagara Escarpment

Tonight, I feel like I conquered the world.  For the first time ever, I biked up The Niagara Escarpment (or as it's known here in Hamilton, 'the mountain').  Maybe I wouldn't have been as intimidated by this feat if everyone didn't refer to it as a mountain, but let me tell you, now that I've done it, I feel like I've accomplished some sort of local right of passage.

For a route, I chose the Chedoke Radial Trail - a part of the Bruce Trail.  The sign's a bit ghetto, but oh well.  At least there was a water fountain right beside this sign, which was great because I forgot to bring along water...

The trail starts out easy enough, travelling behind some houses as it transitions from an urban environment to waterfall-filled UNESCO world biosphere reserve awesomeness.  Before entering the depths of the escarpment, the trail cuts across the Chedoke Municipal Golf Course:
Then it's into the forest and the first of four waterfalls I came across on the route, Lower Westcliffe Falls:
Next up, Mountview Falls and the bridge that runs over it:
There were some incredible sections of trail after that - for a few hundred metres lofty limestone escarpment walls rose up on either side of the trail forming a canyon:
After that, a clearing with a view over the west end of the city - here's McMaster University and Hospital:

Just around the corner from this amazing view, you guessed it, another waterfall.  This one is Upper Princess Falls:
Finally, there was one more waterfall, Scenic Falls.  I forgot to mention, Hamilton is the City of Waterfalls.  There are 126 waterfalls and cascades within the city's urban boundary - that's said to be more than any city in the world (but don't quote me on that).  I was a bit skeptical about this whole 'City of Waterfalls' thing...until this evening's excursion.
This one was a bit tricky to get to - I left my bike on the side of the trail and walked along that rocky ledge...the one with the gap in it (nothing a small jump can't overcome).

Finally...I made it to my destination...a bridge over a multi-lane high speed highway:
Seems like a pretty uninspiring ending to such an amazing journey...but I can't tell you how many times I've driven under this bridge...hundreds.  So it felt more than a little triumphant to finally be standing on the bridge with my bike.

All in all, the ride up took a little over half an hour - but that was with lots of stops and detours to take photos.  The ride down on the other hand...felt like five minutes.  It was beyond exhilarating to coast down the escarpment, feeling the cool damp air each time I passed a waterfall before arriving back downtown.

It was a truly bizarre experience, emerging from a world of trees, waterfalls, and limestone cliffs back into the city.  As I biked the dozen or so blocks back to our house, splattered with mud and just a little sweaty...I felt almost like a foreigner from another world.  Then, as the sights became familiar and the mud dried and flaked off, the neighbourhood felt like home again...though just knowing that that 'other world' exists so close by, left my perception changed.

Man oh man, I LOVE this city!

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