The Call of The Wild: Daycations

This article was originally published in the 2020 Summer digital issue of Invest In Style Magazine.

August and September are the perfect months to reconnect body and soul with Mother Nature who’s watched over our ravines, trails, waterfronts, and parks all along. Pack a bottle of water and a chocolate bar (no, a piece of fruit), and see what you’ve been missing – for what feels like a very long time. There’s plenty of room for all of us there, even at a respectable hockey stick-length apart.

If you live in Toronto

You’ve heard about Toronto’s ravine walks and have a vague idea that some are connected. Now’s the time to pick one and explore. Toronto is “the city within a park” because there are almost 1,500 parks here, including the ravine parklands. Whether you enter off a side street, or descend wooden steps, the city buzz muffles behind you as you walk (or bike) the well-maintained forested trails (wood chip, gravel and paved) that run along cattail marsh areas, through rare local plant species, and beside brooks (yes, the babbling kind). The ravines are nesting grounds for migratory birds and you may spot a deer, a beaver or a fox. Perhaps the same ones we spotted in urban areas just a few weeks ago. Here are just three of the many ravines you could choose for an afternoon’s delight.

Blythwood Ravine Park marks the southern border of Lawrence Park neighbourhood, and includes an off-leash dog area. You can enter several ways but the entrance to Alexander Muir Memorial Gardens off Yonge Street, south of St. Lawrence, will lead you through a beautiful terraced garden before you enter the ravine itself. On a hot day, this is a cool walk. Cedarvale Ravine starts at the north entrance to the St. Clair West subway station and continues northwest. There’s an off-leash dog park, and a wooden trestle bridge above the ravine near Cedarvale Park. This mid-city ravine’s easy trail walk is close to busy Bathurst Street but you’d never know it once you’re on the trail.

In the east, south of Kingston Road, the boardwalk path that leads you through Glen Stewart Ravine winds along Ames Creek. Red oak and maple trees line the steep slopes and make a stunning fall canopy. The ravine, close to The Beaches neighbourhood, had a little work done in 2016, including new planting and a sturdy steel staircase.

If you live in Southern Georgian Bay… Lookout!

Naturally beautiful in the summer and spectacular in the fall, Southern Georgian Bay offers scenic picnic spots, walking and hiking trails, and waterfront views that make you feel… better. The topography of the area, including the Niagara Escarpment, lends itself to dozens of sweet-spot lookouts.

Irish Mountain Lookout is probably what you’re imagining as you read this. Near Meaford, this beautiful picnic spot offers views of the Niagara Escarpment (a wee bit like the blue and green ocean-side mountains in Ireland), Nottawasaga Bay and a countryside of apple orchards.

Off Scenic Cave Road in The Blue Mountains, the Bruce Trail Lookout provides a spectacular view of the waterfront city of Collingwood and across Georgian Bay. This lookout is one of many along the almost-900-km Bruce Trail. Collingwood’s Millenium Overlook Park is a beautiful waterfront park at the northernmost point of Collingwood Harbour, with walkways, landscaped gardens and a playground for kids. Bring a lunch, sit on the grass and watch the sailboats weave in and out of the harbour, with the Blue Mountains providing the scenic backdrop. Perfect spot to watch the sunset with your sweetie. Or your mom.

If you live in Muskoka

You probably live on or near the water all summer. There’s plenty to see and do in and around Muskoka, year-round, but sitting by the lake, or on the dock, can seem the most urgent of callings. Here are a couple of suggestions if you can tear yourself away from that new paperback we know you aren’t really reading.

In previous, pre-pandemic summers, you’ve probably taken guests to Huckleberry Rock Lookout But why not head there yourself? It’s a long enough walk through the trail, at about 2.5 km, to shake off the dockside lethargy and it’s good for sunrises and sunsets (arguably the best place in Muskoka) – and any time in between. Stand on some of the oldest rock on the planet and revel in your youth.

But to really see the sky, there’s no place like the Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve, the world’s first dark sky preserve. By day, the three trails here are perfect for walking or mountain biking. But after dark – you’ll understand what a night sky really looks like. The trees that grow in this rocky area aren’t tall enough to obstruct your view, and with no human produced lights within the 5,000-acre reserve, the night sky is a jaw-dropping, star-studded knockout. This time of year-end of summer, early fall – is your best chance to maybe catch a glimpse of the northern lights.

If you live in Prince Edward County

The County is a great place for cyclists – newbies and vets alike. But most cycling routes here have the same problem – the temptation to dismount and explore local attractions. Small towns, vineyards and waterfront views make riding here a pleasure.

To ensure you get the most out of your ride, check with your local businesses to see who’s open and find out about their COVID19 customer procotols.

The 4 km Millenium Trail is about a 2.5 hr bike ride that winds through The County, including backyards and across main roads. The former railway line is an all-year trail. Keep your eyes peeled for hidden messages in bottles, zap-strapped to branches. And give the horse the right of way.

You can experience the beautiful Sandbanks Provincial Park and the nearby countryside by cycling the 65 km Park Route. There’s the hilly and oh-so-worth it 40 km Lakeside Route (for the views as well as the vineyards) and the flatter Western Wine Route, also about 40km.