York Region has many developed hiking trails for the urban hiker. The best is still one that ranges from Kleinburg to Woodbridge following the Humber River East Branch. It appeals to all our senses.
The valley is so incised and wide as to allow the hiker to escape the harsh reality of urban light and noise. The smells can either take you back to your childhood or send you into a sneezing fit. The paved surface of the trail allows the not-so-avid recreationist the opportunity to experience the outdoors, but the adventurer is allowed to wander off trail to the edges of the valley where the sense of touch comes into play. We trudge through snow or brush against brush. Through four seasons, the experienced naturalist can even taste the outdoors. Yes, even winter has its hang-over seeds and fruits. Get out and breathe the filtered air and take an active lifestyle that will relieve the stressors of the daily routine. See what previous hikes encouraged on the Humber River valley at http://yorkurbanist.com/trails/humber-valley-heritage-trail/
But respect the trails. Take stewardship of them for your next use and for the generation that follows. Keep litter to your person, avoid taking pets that upset the natural inclinations of wildlife, and greet those other trail users in the most friendly manner as they share your ideals of a walk with nature.
Although urban trails are in a dissimilar context, I am repeating these Hiking Rules from http://www.canadianliving.com/health/fitness/how_to_start_hiking_4.php and Michael Haynes, with whom I have worked on a trails project. Michael is well known in the hiking world having had his own CBC radio program and having authored a hiking book.
“Rules to live by….
Inconsiderate, ill-informed hikers are the scourge of the trails. For one thing, flicked cigarette butts or flying embers from campfires have started many forest fires. If you must build a fire, the Canada Safety Council recommends clearing an area with a three-metre diameter, making a circle of rocks around the fire and keeping a bucket of water, sand and a shovel nearby.
“I would always discourage people from lighting fires in the backcountry,” says Southam. “It can be damaging to what are often very fragile environments. That said, I think you should carry some waterproof matches in the event that you need to light a fire for safety purposes.”
If you absolutely must indulge in hot soup or tea on the trail, buy a lightweight stove. Some butane stoves are small enough to fit in your pocket.
Leave no footprints nor …
• Scoop when you poop. If fire is the No. 1 problem on trails, No. 2 could be, well, number two. With no outhouses on many long trails, poorly placed poops can be a disgusting problem. Leave No Trace Canada, a national nonprofit organization, advises hikers to dig a hole 15 to 20 centimetres deep and at least 60 metres from water and trails. Cover the hole when you are finished, and don’t leave your used toilet paper on the trail. Ideally you should seal it in a plastic bag and take it off the trail, but at the very least, bury it.
• Pack out what you pack in. Litter is another scourge of the hiking trail. Glass, cans and plastic are not just visually offensive, they can harm animals and people.
• Leave Fido at home. While dogs are a fixture on many trails, some die-hard hikers believe dogs should stay home. Some trails actually have no-dog policies. “It’s from dog feces more than anything else that water sources get contaminated,” says Haynes. Haynes adds if dogs do need to accompany you, you should always keep them on a leash.
• Don’t hike alone.
• Check the weather forecast before you head out.
• Carry a map and compass with you, even if you have a GPS.
• If you don’t know the area, study a map before you hike.
• Obey all posted signs.
• Tell someone where you’re going and when you will be returning.
• Keep the noise down.
• Leave the alcohol at home.
Choosing your trail
Just as a new swimmer isn’t going to breaststroke across the English Channel, a novice hiker has to pace herself. Some longer trails, especially ones with steep hills, demand a fairly high level of fitness. Haynes recommends beginners should start at five kilometres or less (one to two hours) for their first few walks. Flat trails of up to 10 kilometres may be fine as well, but new hikers shouldn’t attempt longer routes. Trails beyond 15 kilometres – or 10 kilometres with a significant climb – are best left to the more experienced hikers. Most formal trails will tell you the distance, and some will rate the level of difficulty. And if you have a topographic map, you can quickly see if there are any steep hills.
Whether you want to take a sweet afternoon stroll or spend four nights sleeping in the wilderness, there’s a trail out there for you. For getting fit, clearing your head, escaping the concrete and getting to see some of Canada’s most stunning scenery, it’s hard to find anything better than taking a hike. “