2017 Trip 2: urban camping

Trip 2: Rouge River Park - May 2017

We were very excited for this extended long week trip. We headed to the Rouge River campground, a municipal park in Toronto. It is on the lower west side of Pickering, on the Rouge River.

This river stretches from Lake Ontario to north of Toronto. It is a huge swath of green space, that is currently being transformed into a national urban park by Parks Canada, and will be the first in Canada with this designation. The park spans 80 square kilometres in the heart of Canada's largest city. By comparison, it will be 22 times larger than Central Park in New York.

The campsite is quite nice, well treed, and the Rouge river winds its way along the edge of many of the sites. The sites are somewhat open, but all are very well maintained. There is a lot Park staff here, working on a variety of landscaping and maintenance and projects such as new cedar cabins with canvas roofs, great for those who are not tenters or for those that want to camp and do not have the gear.  All this activity probably ties into the new park designation, and this year's Canada 150 celebrations.

a sea of beige beside us

Spent the rest of the day getting settled in, and we took a wander of the park to have a good look, and to collect site numbers for future visits. The wind started to pick up and a huge black cloud was looming over the tree line. There was a warning for thunderstorms in the area, and the wind got so heavy we rolled up the awning just in case. The storm went by us to the north, and all we ended up with was the high winds and a brief ten minute downpour.

Friday turned out to be a sunny with cloudy periods sort of day. Perfect for a nice hike in the woods. We headed for the trailhead of the Mast Head Trail from just inside the park gate. There were a few trails to choose from, so went went with the one that seemed to closely follow the edge of the river high up on a ridge.  It was a lovely trail through a mixed treed old forest, slowly making its way uphill along what revealed itself as a deep ravine. At the top, we were treated to a nice lookout down to the river, which was now far below us. The trail then circled back, a good hour and a bit excursion.

way down there is a river, and an Alto

well chewed up

a very little Alto

definitely a big tree

Later in the afternoon we headed over to see Dale's cousin David and his wife Cathy. Their two grown children and their little ones also came over, and we a great visit over a nice surf & turf summer BBQ. They live close by, just a short hop on the 401 from the park. A reasonably warm day that started to cool off in the evening, great for sleeping, with just a touch of the heater thrown in to take the edge off.

Saturday was the main attraction of our urban adventure, starting off with a GO train ride into the heart of downtown Toronto. A few months back we purchased tickets to a Georgia O'Keefe exhibit at the Art  Gallery of Ontario (AGO), and this became the impetus for us to try out this urban campground. The GO train was a fabulous way to get downtown, turning a traffic laden, easily hour long drive, into an effortless, much shorter journey. An added quick subway ride had us within a block of the AGO. We grabbed a quick Americano at a funky coffee shop nearby, an awaited our noon hour entry time.

We are big fans of Georgia O'Keefe's art. She has been a favourite for a very long time. This particular exhibit is the only North American stop, so we knew we had to make the trip to see it. The AGO recently underwent a large renovation, the principle architect of this effort was none other than Frank Gehry...yes, another favourite. He designed the very expansive facade for the building using massive wood laminated beams and vast panels of glass.

very impressive structure

We turned the corner of the block, and there it was, this huge facade, announcing to all that you have arrived at the AGO. Exactly what you would want from a world renowned architect. It is very impressive. The whole building is quite nice, and the wood theme carries throughout the entire building.

The art exhibit was fabulous, an excellent collection of her work that spanned six decades. It was for the most part curated in a chronological order, which allowed you to see the progression of her work and how her style evolved. Her work is very much influenced by her location, and you can certainly see this. From the dark urban views of her time in New York City, to the lush green surroundings of Lake George, and then to the surreal desert landscapes of New Mexico. Mixed in were her various studies of flowers, most of the ones that we all recognize, as well as a whole range in a variety of styles, from charcoals to pale pastels. Many were simply quite stunning.

I always find it interesting to read the info for each piece. Some of her artwork dates back almost 100 years ago. Taking a moment to think about that, we are looking at a canvas that the artist has touched, moved and pondered, so very many years ago. Now that is a bit surreal in of itself.

Intermixed within the exhibit were the works of many famous photographers of her time, guys like Stieglitz, Adams and Strand.  These were all friends of hers, and fellow artists. O'Keefe was actually married to Stieglitz, for quite a number of years. She was a large part of his work, forming the basis of a number of his personal exhibits. I was quite happy to see the Adams prints,  as he is my all time favourite photographer.

When we finished wandering the gallery, we grabbed a tasty snack at the Gallery Cafe, then headed west onto Queen St. West, exploring the cool eclectic mix of shops. We walked a number a blocks, then looped back around towards Union Station, and to our GO train back home. It was a great way to get downtown...no traffic, no parking, no hassles.

home made kettle chips...at an art gallery???

Sunday was grim from a weather perspective, but we stuck to our plan to head downtown once again. It has been many years since we have wandered around downtown Toronto, and we were not going to pass up the chance. Hopped the GO train, then we bought a day pass for the transit system (which encompasses the subways, buses and streetcars).  We planned to use the subway and streetcars to move around. Dale had her eye on a few shops she wanted to visit, so off we went.

lots of very tall buildings, and not surprising, mostly financial institutions

Large cities tend to have neighbourhoods of cool funky shops, as they have a much larger population base to draw customers from. Ottawa on the other hand, being a much smaller city, has only a few cool shopping neighbourhoods. One aspect of travelling that we both enjoy is exploring the local neighbourhoods and funky independent shops.

quite the maze of trolley cables

seems the complicated part was the business plan

curious what makes it Express

A highlight today for me was Cumbrae's, a butchery, or perhaps more descriptive, a foodie's extravaganza! The place was awesome, in a hard core foodie sort of way. I got chatting with a super nice young guy, who explained the how's & why's of the business, and all their assorted offerings. If we lived in Toronto, I could see spending a large portion of a pay check in there. Everything looked so appetizing. We walked out with dinner for the evening, a vacuum packed chunk of pulled pork, and a few jars of house spice blends. I could have spent hours in there just drooling at everything.

dry aging display fridge

The weather somewhat cooperated, but we did get a few showers off and on. We did a lot of walking and browsing the shops. One cool guy in a stereo shop pointed us in the direction of a funky graffiti alley.

really like the shock of colour

We eventually made our way back to the GO train, and we were soon home. None too soon either, as a short time after the skies opened and we got a dandy downpour.

Dinner was the treats we picked up from Cumbrae's, Texas smoked pork ribs with a side of root veggie mashed potatoes. The ribs had a kick of heat and a great smokey taste. Small meal, huge taste.

It rained overnight, but by morning the rain had passed and we were left with just the overcast skies. No rush to leave this morning, so we slowly packed up and were on our way.

Visiting Dale's family, camping in a nice park setting, along with getting the big city downtown experience was a perfect blend. Access to the park and access to the downtown core was all hassle free and quite effortless.
A nice discovery...


  1. Beautifully written! What a great trip.

    1. Thanks Donna, is was a great way to camp out and head into the city.