Friday, August 29, 2014

Sunset over Sandbanks Park

Part of out itinerary for our outing to Wellington was to photograph the sunset over Sandbanks Park after having dinner at Pomodoro. We weren't exactly successful in fulfilling our goal.

The traffic jam along the 401 on our way out set our whole schedule back. We arrived at the restaurant over half an hour later than planned and finished dinner with a similar time deficit.

According to Peter the sun was supposed to set at about 8:20 p.m. The route to the park from the restaurant is about 24 kilometres. The drive is supposed to take 25 minutes. We left the restaurant at around 8:00 p.m.

The race was on...

Peter's car took the lead again. He was the only person who knew where the "secret" sunset location was.

We had to make a big circle around West Lake on small, country roads to get to our destination. All the while helplessly watching the sun set lower and lower into the sky.

By the time we reached the lake shore it was too late. The sun had dipped fractionally below the horizon. We missed it by just a scant few minutes.

It still afforded us the opportunity to get a few decent shots in nevertheless. What we did see was pretty amazing - a pinky, orange hue reflecting off the scattered clouds in a dark blue sky.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pomodoro Italian Restaurant in Wellington

The foodie group really lived up to its name this weekend. Doing the extraordinary for great food we made a 2-hour (each way), nearly 200 kilometre trek (each way again) out to Wellington (near Trenton/Belleville) to go to an Italian restaurant, Pomodoro, for dinner.

Out of the six of us, I believe it was just Peter and Janice who had gone there before. It was a first for Brenda, Gabe, Fiona and myself.

The plan was constantly in flux. We picked up Gabe right after texting him to see if he was available to go. He had just finished having dim sum with his family at Metro Square up in Markham.

Next we met Brenda along the way in the McDonald's parking lot off the 401 at Brock Road and Consumers Drive in Whitby. She lives out that way.

Since there were now six of us we split into two cars. Peter drove Fiona and Janice. Brenda took Gabe and I. Peter gave us a walkie talkie so both cars could keep in touch with one another.

The drive should have been uneventful, but it wasn't. As usual, there were idiot drivers out there. Before long we were waist deep in an awful traffic jam that blocked the eastbound 401. Stupid drivers running into one another.

At that point we were ahead of Peter. We radioed them and told them what was going on. In the jam they managed to catch up to us. They told us we should get off the highway and take a side street. We were in the left lane right by the exit as we saw them getting off. It was too late for us. We had already passed the off ramp. Now we were stuck.

Peter had made reservations for 5:30. It was already 5:00 and we were at least an hour away from the restaurant. We radioed Peter's car and suggested they call the restaurant to ask them to change our reservations to 6:30. They said they could only hold our table until 6:00. I guess they were quite busy.

Anyway, Peter's car managed to avoid most of the road problems and get to the restaurant by 6:00. We followed about 15 minutes later. Not too bad all things considered.

Pomodoro is not very large. It's quite nicely decorated though with its tin ceilings and mood lighting.

Currently they have their summer menu. From it we ordered a number of appetizers including the Caesar Salad - croutons, pancetta, medium boiled egg, reggiano; the Fritto Misto - vegetables, crispy calamari, shrimp, fish, wild leek aioli; and Antipasto Platter - marinated vegetables, olives, prosciutto, cheese, grilled bread if I remember correctly.

For the mains we ordered the Veal Parmesan and Spaghetti Pomodoro; the Slow Smoked pork with romesco sauce, grilled potatoes & vegetables, the Fresh Fusilli al forno with 4 oz. lobster tail,shrimp, scallop, tilapia, cheese sauce; and Spaghetti and Meatballs. Brenda ordered a bottle of Pinot Grigio to go with our meal.

For dessert we had Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with strawberry compote, toasted walnuts; Chocolate Cake, with zabaglione, fruit compote; and Raspberry Semi Freddo with biscotti, raspberry sauce.

We shared everything. It was all very good.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Hamilton Waterfalls Hunt Pt. 2

After our morning hike to Albion Falls we decided to grab a bite to eat. We checked the web and found a restaurant in nearby Stoney Creek called The Powerhouse. So that's where we headed.

Along the way we passed a Wild Wings restaurant. Sharon and Kenneth were in the lead car and we were following them. In our minds we thought, that would be a good place to go. It turns out Sharon and Kenneth had the same idea. Five minutes later they pulled over in Wendy's/Tim Hortons parking lot and we decided to turn back and go there.

The Wild Wings was in a newly developed strip mall across from a recently built subdivision. We pulled into the parking lot and drove up to the restaurant. That's when we noticed the windows were covered by paper. Sharon got our of their car and went up and read the notice on the door. They had been locked out for not paying their rent. Back to our original plan.

We turned around and drove back across Mud Street to Upper Centennial Parkway and headed north to King Street (right by Dr. Langer's office where we deliver hot towels).

The Powerhouse is located off King Street East in Stoney Creek by the Town Square Parkette. When we arrived in the parking lot we noticed some people in suits and nice dresses walking into the restaurant. When we walked in we discovered why. They were holding a wedding reception there. Time for plan "C".

Since I deliver in the area I knew there were some restaurants along Centennial Parkway north of Queenston Road. So we drove up that way. We found a Jack Astor's by the LCBO in Eastgate Mall. It was open and there were no wedding banquets being held there so we went in.

Peter had wings, Gabe and I had burgers and the kids split an order of poutine. We shared a pitcher of beer between us. Refreshing.

After lunch we drove to see the Devil's Punchbowl. It's relatively close to Jack Astor's. You just head back south along Centennial Parkway and turn onto Ridge Road. The parking lot is located on the north side of the road. It's paid parking. $2/hour or $14/day I believe.

The trailhead is right off the parking lot. It starts off going downhill then flattens out. You still have to go through a few ups and downs before coming to the lower "punchbowl" at the end.

It's pretty impressive looking at 37 metres tall. The bowl is rather large all the way around. Though the actual falls are only supposed to be 3 metres across. I say "supposed to be 3 metres across" because, again, we didn't see any water falling from the falls. Like the Oak Knoll Waterfall it was dry.

This walk was 2 kilometres in length with an elevation change of 50 feet/15 metres. Afterwards we parted ways with Sharon and Kenneth. Peter drove Gabe and I back to Gabe's place where I had parked and we said our good-byes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hamilton Waterfalls Hunt Pt. 1

Albion Falls along Mountain Brow Boulevard, Hamilton.

Gabe, Peter, his niece, Sharon, and her boyfriend, Kenneth and I went to Hamilton on the second Saturday of August to check out some of their waterfalls. They wanted to meet out there at 10:00 in the morning to hike.

Since I'm a late riser I decided to meet Peter and Gabe at the Yonge/Sheppard Eggsmart at 8:30 instead of joining them earlier for breakfast. I just had a bowl of cereal after taking the extra time to sleep in.

Peter drove us out there in his sporty M3. Along with the in-car GPS, Gabe helped navigate with his the map on his smartphone. It didn't help. We got lost anyway. Part of it was our fault. We didn't follow the prescribed route which we thought was incorrect. It turns out it wasn't.

Nevertheless we ended up arriving first shortly after 10:00. We parked at the Oak Knoll Park parking lot off Mountain Brow Boulevard. Since we were there earlier we scouted out part of the trail while waiting for Sharon and Kenneth. We were looking for access down into the valley where we thought we could view the waterfalls from the bottom. We couldn't find any routes down though.

Sharon and Kenneth arrived shortly after. We hooked up with them and followed the path beside the road towards our first waterfall, Oak Knoll Falls. It was dry.

I wouldn't really classify Oak Knolls Falls as a waterfall. It's really small. Pretty much a wee hole running underneath Mountain Brow Boulevard leading to a drop off on the east side. Maybe you'd see some water going over it after a heavy rainstorm. But that would be about the only time. We continued on.

The next waterfall we hit was Albion Falls. It's about half a kilometre down the road from Oak Knolls. It's about 8 metres across at the top; 18 metres across at the bottom; and 19 metres tall. Being late summer there was some water coming down it, but not a significant amount. Its source is the Red Hill Creek.

There were a number of people here looking around and taking pictures. Our group was no different. We stayed about half an hour before continuing on. I believe were were on a combination of the East Mountain Trail Loop and the Red Hill Valley Trail.

We followed the trail adjacent to the creek in King's Forest Park looking for away to cut west across the valley back to where our cars were parked along Mountain Brow Boulevard. We made it as far north as the King's Forest Golf Course which we inadvertently strayed upon. That was a mistake. There were golfers there. Bad golfers. Stray golf balls whizzed over our heads and around us. These guys sucked. We hurried back the way we had come.

Along the trail back we saw what may have been a female, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (woodpecker). That's the closest thing I could find that looked like it on the internet. That was in addition to what looked to be a Great Blue Heron we saw earlier in the creek beside the golf course. Pretty neat.

By the time we made it back to the cars we had walked a total of 7 kilometres. Not bad. The trails were fine. Perhaps not as scenic as some of the others we've had the pleasure to hike. Still, it was a nice way to spend the morning. Now it was time for lunch.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Evening at the Scott Mission

Our church has been organizing volunteer visits to the Scott Mission for a little while now. I've wanted to join earlier, but this was my first time.

Named after, Rev. J. MacPherson Scott, the Scott Mission was founded by Morris and Annie Zeldman in 1941 "to serve the needs of the poor and lost in the community..."

Located on the west side of Spadina Avenue, just north of College Street, they provide food, shelter and clothing to those in need.

I arrived 10-15 minutes before our scheduled meeting time of 6:00 p.m. No one else from our church was there yet. One of the gentlemen working at the Mission let me in and I found a place to sit and wait.

While there I noticed an middle-aged gentleman who was sitting by himself at the front so I introduced myself. His name was Joe and he was originally from Texas. I believe he had been in Toronto for 10 years or so. He said he came up because of our healthcare system. I don't know if he was being serious or not, but I suppose it's entirely possible.

I don't think he knew too much about our city yet because he asked me about other assistance programs. Unfortunately I didn't know much about that sort of thing. I suggested he ask the staff at the Mission about it.

After that one of the fellows working there had Bill Mak and I go to the kitchen to plate the food for dinner. I believe it was leftovers from lunch. They had things stored in a warmer there. There were trays of meat, breakfast sausages, hamburger patties, baby carrots and small potatoes. We plated 42 styrofoam plates.

At 6:30 p.m. we handed about half of them out.

After handing the dinners out I thought I'd try to go out and chat with some of the guys there. Steve and one other fellow from the Chinese service had arrived to join us by now.

The first guy I approached was sitting by himself by the window at the southeast side of the room. I thought he was native, but he was actually Chinese. He was a student who came here from China to study. I'm not exactly sure what he was studying. Maybe English and something else. I didn't pry too much. I didn't ask him how he ended up at the Mission because I didn't want to embarrass him or anything. We had a short chat before he left to go out for a smoke.

Not everyone I went up to wanted to talk. There were at least two guys who weren't interested.

The next fellow I chatted with was a middle aged gentleman of Egyptian decent. He was a really nice guy. Very friendly. He came in a bit late, but only wanted a small amount of food since he had already eaten.

He had a bit of an accent, so I couldn't always understand everything he said. I think he did a lot of different things for work throughout his life. Though, right now, I can't remember what he told me. He mentioned he married a lady from Canada, but after a few years they divorced. Life can take unexpected turns.

The last guy I spoke with was a Caucasian fellow who was just a year older than me. We both grew up in the GTA. Since we were pretty much the same age I think we could relate to a lot of things about life growing up in Toronto.

I have to admit, I'm finishing writing this almost a week later and can't remember a lot of details about the conversations I had.

Normally I like to try to find out some basic information about the guys I chat with. I suppose if we spoke long enough I might feel comfortable enough about bringing up the subject of why they were using the Mission's services. But I didn't get that far this time.

When possible I like to try to offer words of encouragement. I don't know if I did that this time. At the very least I hope a stranger showing some interest in how they're doing somehow lifted their spirits. Even if only a little. That would show some measure of success in our outing.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Killarney Camping Trip Pt. 3

After taking some night shots at George Lake, Peter and I headed back to our campsite. The campfire was out and the girls were already in bed. We readied ourselves and hit the sack soon after.

As usual it took me awhile to get to sleep. I normally toss and turn for a bit. I can't remember if I actually fell asleep or not, but at what I later believed to be 2:00 in the morning I felt a drip of water on my face. Then another... and another...

Our tent was leaking...

...And outside was an intense thunderstorm.

I grabbed my glasses from the pocket on the inside of the tent and turned on my flashlight. Above I could see water seeping through the mesh covering of our tent. Above was our tent fly which we quickly learned wasn't meant to hold back such heavy precipitation.

My camera bag, clothing and other things were spread out beside me inside the tent. I quickly rounded them up and put them in plastic bags to try to keep dry. Luckily for me I had brought a good number of them.

I couldn't quite roll up my sleeping bag tight enough fast enough to keep it from soaking up water, so I placed it on top of my backpack and placed Emily's sleeping pad on top of everything to keep them from the water seeping in from above. Then I sat while water dripped down on and around me.

I suppose I caused enough of a commotion to wake the others. From the tent next door Emily asked us what we wanted to do. Her tent was holding fast so she and her mother were unaffected by the rain.

She said if we wanted to go she could pack everything up in the morning. That was something I had considered, but I don't know if Peter or Fiona wanted to do that.

In short order I made a mad dash for the nearby comfort station. I had to go to the bathroom. I waited as long as I could and the rain had let up slightly, so I didn't get too wet.

Besides the mens and ladies bathrooms, the comfort station had 7 shower stalls and a small laundry room. That's where I stayed until the rain let up. Sitting alone under buzzing fluorescent lights with moths and other flying insect flitting about outside the double doors.

It was unpleasant to say the least. But, as far as I was concerned, much better than the alternative of lying in the dark in a wet sleeping bag not knowing when the rain was going to let up.

After an hour or two the rain stopped. I could still hear it dripping from the trees, but that was it. I went back to the tent and flipped the sleeping pad onto the dry side and tried to place my sleeping bag directly on it so it wouldn't sop up too much water from the floor and tried to get some rest.

In the morning we assessed the damage. Everything was soaked. We had left all our gear out overnight - The folding chairs, the bug screen, our tent, some towels on our makeshift laundry line... everything was wet.

We disassembled it all and threw most of it, dirty and wet, into Emily's trunk. We didn't have the time to let it air dry. That would have to wait until later.

For breakfast Peter cooked up the remaining eggs and bacon making French toast again.

After that Emily and her mum headed back to the city. They had to meet up with Emily's brother by 6:00 in the evening.

Peter, Fiona and I weren't restrained by any time schedule so we headed into the town of Killarney to look for the fish and chips truck and to walk around.

The main drag is along Channel Street at the western end of Highway 637. That's where the harbour is along the Killarney Channel.

We hung out there taking some pictures. That's where Fiona noticed the River Otter swimming around the docks. I have to say it was pretty elusive. It would only poke it's head out for a few seconds before ducking under and resurfacing somewhere else.

With a bit of luck I managed to get a couple of shots of him. The rest of the time he submerged himself beforehand. Peter never actually saw it (let alone get a picture of it). That was too bad.

Afterwards we had our fish and chips from the Herbert Fisheries truck. We followed that up with a cup of ice cream from the nearby trailer corner store before Peter drove us home.

In spite of the rain, I'd have to say it was a good trip overall. A big thanks goes out to Emily for all her hard work in organizing and to Peter for driving and helping with the food.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Killarney Camping Trip Pt. 2

On our second day at Killarney Provincial Park we hiked the Crack Trail (no, it has nothing to do with Mayor Rob Ford and his pipe smoking habit).

We headed there after a breakfast of French toast and bacon courtesy of the culinary skills of Peter.

The trail is 6 kilometres long (3 kilometres each way, there and back) and rated at a high level of difficulty. It's located 7 kilometres east of the park along Highway 637. Get there early because the parking lot fills up fast.

The trail starts off easy. It's pretty much flat for the first kilometre or two. By the time you near the end it rises sharply as you climb over huge boulders on your way up to the ridge. You have to be in good shape to attempt it for sure.

The views from the top are great. You overlook inland lakes and white hills in the park as well as the vast coastline of Georgian Bay. We took a break up there and snacked on the Vietnamese sandwiches Peter bought.

The Crack hike took around 4 hours. We returned to the campground by 4:30. It was fairly late in the afternoon to be sure, but we still wanted to do another hike.

The next one we tried was the Granite Ridge Trial. Em's mom was a bit tired so she stayed back and went to the George Lake beach while the rest of us walked across the street (Highway 637) to the trailhead.

The Granite Ridge Trail is a loop trail that's 2 kilometres long. It's rated at a moderate level with some steep sections. The suggested hiking time is estimated at 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

On the top of the ridge at the end of the trail you can see a thin sliver of Georgian Bay to the south. Turning to the north you see the La Cloche Range. After hiking The Crack earlier in the day this trail was ho-hum.

Dinner was next. We finished the remaining lamb, steak and sausages. They were still good, so none of us got sick.

Peter and I headed out to Lake George to try some more night photography at around 9:30. The skies were overcast this evening, so we didn't get any star shots. Instead we took long exposures of the clouds in the skies. I found a couple of new vantage points to shoot from. It was all right.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Killarney Camping Trip Pt. 1

Emily organized another camping trip over the Civic Day long weekend. Five of us went this time - Emily and her mother were in one car and Peter drove Fiona and I.

We went to Killarney Provincial Park on Georgian Bay. It's about 5 hours north of Toronto. You drive up Highway 400 past Parry Sound; the 400 turns into Highway 69 which you take to Highway 637 and head west until you see the park sign.

We left on Saturday morning. Fiona came by and picked me up and we went to Peter's place, loaded his car then headed up. Emily and her mum left at least half an hour later.

Traffic was understandably backed up going into Barrie. It's like that on weekends during summer with everyone trying to escape the city for cottage country. Being a long weekend probably made it even worse.

Since our car had a sizeable lead in time we stopped a couple of times along the way. The first time was at a roadside rest stop along the 400 to pick up coffee and snacks south of Barrie. The second was for gas and a bathroom break in Parry Sound.

Emily and her mother beat us to the park. They only stopped once to pick up burgers at Lick's (which Emily ate while driving).

Since we arrived at the park in the late afternoon we only had time to hike one of the shorter trails after unpacking and setting up our tents. We picked the Chikanishing Trail first. It's a couple of kilometres west of the main gate on the park's southern boundary.

The trail is a 3 kilometre loop according to the Ontario Parks website (or 3.5 kilometres long according to the sign at the trailhead). It's supposed to take 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours to hike (again depending on the info on the park's website or the sign at the trailhead).

According to the sign - "The Chikanishing Trail crosses over a series of small ridges, ending up at a scenic, wave-washed point on Georgian Bay." and "it meanders across Canadian Shield granite."

It was a good hike rated at a moderate difficulty level. The scenery was decent and the skies clear blue. Peter and I took full advantage both taking a fair number of shots. The trail was fairly well marked and relatively bug free (at the time of the day we went anyway).

After the hike we lit a fire at our campsite and hung out. We cooked part of our dinner over the fire as well as using Emily's camp stove.

Later we headed over to George Lake (a short walk from our campsite) to take star/Milky Way pics. Peter and I took photos while the others hung out and looked for shooting stars. We stayed out an hour before retiring to our tents for the night.