On the Beat

Winter still a brick’s throw away

It’s an unnaturally mild November day.

Leaves are raining on the mud-filmed Belt Line Trail as I walk past blondes and redheads who are losing their foliage for the season.

For this walkabout I’m hitting the bricks — I’m not on strike — but my target is the former quarry known as the Don Valley Brick Works.

I make my way through the Moore Park Ravine with Yes’ “I’ve Seen All Good People,” as my soundtrack. Every so often a gang of canines greets me with an attentive dog walker trailing behind.

Hellos are shared and I continue onward to a fork in the road. I had asked one of the walkers which way to go. The consensus: head left.

Out of the throng of wilderness, I see cars speed along the Bayview extension while the Eagles sing to me about life in the fast lane.

The path briefly edges the street and then veers back into the woods. I continue to pad along, all the while the smell of autumn infiltrates my nasal cavities. Around me, the steep hills’ colours resemble Tom Thomson’s palette.

With the road’s presence disappearing behind a thick tree canopy another man-made structure emanates from behind the misty trees before me.

A smokestack with “Valley” written on it pokes through and I pause for a moment to read the information on a plaque at the path’s side.

Underneath black marker stating, “Lam was here” I read that the Works provided bricks to the building of Casa Loma and Osgoode Hall. Now, by the hand of Mother Nature, with some help from the city, the former quarry has been naturalized.

Sam Roberts muses to me about a bridge to nowhere, and I carry on my trek down steel steps.

Old industrial buildings sit like ghosts. They seem abandoned with shattered panes and the barrage of graffiti painted over in colours matching the fall scenery.

There is evidence of life, though not a soul seems to be around. The Weston Quarry Garden granite marker sits by a pond and “Our Future” signs are affixed to the red-bricked edifice.

Surprisingly, another sign on a fence says, “Warning Live Bees. Keep Out!”

But the jittering motions of a kinglet flying from tree to tree pull me away from the bees and into the birds.

I climb a steep incline in my pursuit of the little warbler, passing sumac trees with clumps of berries looking like a parliament of rooks on its limbs.

Capping off my mountainous climb is the Governor’s Bridge lookout. The CN Tower rises behind the scrapers like a sentinel. To my left the DVP chugs along with mechanical life and behind me the trees are ablaze with colour.

Just below the trees the remnants of the quarry can still be seen in the light beige of the earth. I walk towards the cliffs, passing the dying Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod and milkweed.

Beneath my feet is brick shrapnel, strewn about in a rich russet path leading up to the horseshoe-shaped precipice.

I walk to the edge and look down. It’s one helluva drop. I mutter to myself the view of the city could be comparable to the one from L.A.’s Mulholland Dr.

Oak trees sit atop the former quarry and Burton Cummings tells me about transformation of the ecosystem.

“Seasons change and so did I,” he vocalizes. “It’s the new Mother Nature taking over.”

The last blooming chicory tells me there is still protest to the coming winter. But I’m not too concerned about the last of the wildflowers. Before me is a hill far too steep to skid down.

Still, I run down the 45-degree slope at a madcap pace, amused by the Rolling Stone’s song “Shattered”.

I don’t break anything as I reach the base of my adventure, and Steely Dan pipes in with their song “Do It Again.”

Does my MP3 player really think I’m going to run down a hill at break-neck speed again?

I don’t think so.

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