This week has been a soggy one with a generous helping on rainy dampness to see the winter out. But as with all unrelenting acts of nature, sometimes we are granted a short reprieve. This reprieve showed itself in the form of several hours of semi-sunny, rain free weather. So while the weather was cooperative I took the opportunity to get out into the Don Valley with my camera. I started at one of my favourite places on the river, the Crothers Woods and made my way down into the valley by the water treatment plant.
The persistent damp weather we’ve been experiencing had made the trails muddy and slippery. This made trampling down the hill a bit of a sticky business, but once I made it down past the tracks and the rumbling GO trains, things got a bit smoother. The walk up the river bank was much more exciting, the river had swollen and the waters were running fast with fresh rainfall. But the most interesting thing of all was an outdoor firepit I stumbled upon on the banks of the Don. It had no signage, no marking of any kind, nor a proper trail leading to it. Just a large metal kiln like firepit with three wooden beaches planted in the ground around it. There was cut wood near it, meaning someone has used it recently. This structure is a mystery to me at the moment and I’m trying to figure out who made it and why? Someone went through a lot of trouble to drag the metal structure down a dirt path and construct the benches. But most importantly, I want to know if I can use it? I really want to. The location seems great, overlooking the river and a sandbank on the shore, in the shadows of a large viaduct that spans the valley. Seems like a good place to sit down and enjoy a fire on a urban hike.
Once I was done swooning and aweing over the possibilities that the firepit presents, I was off down the river in the search of a bright yellow tent I’ve seen from a subway recent ride. The Don Valley has historically been a refuge for those on the margins of society, ranging from; fleeing outlaws, the city’s downtrodden, to depression era hobo towns, and currently the city’s homeless. At one point the valley was the city’s border and refuge, now the small sliver of wilderness it preserves in the heart of the city makes it all the more attractive for similar purposes. Along the way down the riverbank I came across quite a few encampments, some still in service and others abandoned to the elements. Some looked attractive and inviting, sitting on the banks of the river in the late afternoon light. While others were far less than that and invoked visions of cold wet nights. It’s amazing sometimes what this city hides in plain sight.