Heroic Rescue

What do heroes look like? To one mid-sized black dog, they look like women of a certain age – TPW to the rescue!

This week as we walked up a short hill in Mt. Pleasant cemetery, several of us noticed a sleek, beautiful golden-coloured coyote loping between the gravestones. He appeared to be in the same area where we had seen deer the week before. Maybe he was looking for breakfast?

As we turned a corner (always turning to the right, of course) we saw two or three more coyotes running in formation. They were a blur of motion. But wait, what was that streak of black among the pack? It was a dog who looked as if he were trying to make some new friends – until he realized that the new friends were not very friendly at all.

Quickly, the TPW walkers who saw what was happening, realized the danger to the dog. Our brave friends ran, called, and got hold of the dog. Then a certain heroic walker (initials DD) made herself “look big” and roared at the coyotes until they disappeared. The dog was in love. He had no intention of leaving his new-found REAL friends. Unlike coyotes, TPW folks do not eat dogs for breakfast.

Ever resourceful, the walkers found the dog’s owners and returned him to his foster family. He is a rescue dog from Texas who has only been in Canada a week. Lucky dog to be rescued twice: Smart TPW folks who always travel in packs!


Encounters with Animals in Mount Pleasant Cemetery 

We weren’t early enough this past Saturday to see the larger animals that we often encounter in the cemetery, but we quite frequently see coyotes, and often deer in the park. The end of the cemetery park tapers off into a ravine, and being fairly sheltered, the ravine hosts packs of coyotes and herds of deer, as well as skulks of foxes, swarms of muskrats, and colonies of some of the smaller predators.

Coyotes and deer are keystone species, which are animals that play a unique role in how ecosystems function. Without keystone species, the ecosystem would be entirely different, or cease to exist, so they are therefore very important in the larger scheme of things.

White-tailed deer are considered a keystone species because they are important herbivores in their ecosystem, and they are prey for other species, although not often coyotes. Eating plants benefits the ecosystem by controlling the physical and biological habitat. As both herbivore and prey, white-tailed deer are important, and our forests and farmlands would be completely different if they weren’t around.

Coyotes are also a keystone species, in that they control various populations of other creatures by hunting them for food. Squirrels, in particular, are a favourite prey of coyotes, and the squirrel population in the cemetery is kept reasonably small by the coyotes, making it easier for smaller creatures who fill the same niche as squirrels, such as chipmunks and voles (both essential to the ecosystem) in check. Coyotes are also the apex predator species of the cemetery ecosystem.

All this to say, that ecosystems are fragile, and Mount Pleasant Cemetery is an important urban ecosystem for Toronto. The presence of deer, coyotes, foxes, squirrels, chipmunks and many birds, sometimes surprises us, and often makes our walks more interesting because of these sightings.

From Summer to Fall – walking the Lakeshore

Five of us braved the possibility of rain yesterday morning to walk west to Humber Bay, but we were lucky and made it back to High Park just as it started to drizzle again. I will miss the Lakeshore walks when we switch back to Mount Pleasant, especially the lake birds – swans, egrets, cormorants, geese and ducks all swim and fly along that trail, and they make the walk seem shorter, somehow, as if we might fly too. Two weeks ago, we saw clouds of Monarch butterflies swirling around the newly planted gardens on our way east, and those too inspire us to walk just a little bit more quickly and lightly.

According to some new scientific studies, there are nearly 3 billion fewer birds in North America than there were in 1970. That means that fully a third of all species, both common and rare birds, have disappeared, mostly through habitat loss. There is some hope though, since some waterfowl species, including many of the kinds we see along the Lakeshore, such as mallard ducks and Canada Geese, are increasing in numbers due to targeted conservation efforts. Monarch butterflies are another species that has benefited from targeted conservation efforts that show us that we can help to preserve species in decline. Monarchs were considered to be a species of “special concern” in Ontario, and their numbers were declining for two decades before a resurgence this winter. The reason for this recovery is partly because people in Ontario have been planting more milkweed – the primary food for Monarch caterpillars.

Part of walking is experiencing the outdoors in all weathers, and the beauty of our city’s green spaces. We are very lucky to live in an area that offers so much diversity, and that our access to it is just a short walk away.


A Glorious September Morning

September is a great month, especially when the monarchs are clustering for their trip across the lake.  Let’s hear it from Helen Hunt Jackson, my favourite nineteenth century activist.

The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.
The gentian’s bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.
The sedges flaunt their harvest,

In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook,
From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes’ sweet odors rise;

At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.
By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather,

And autumn’s best of cheer.
But none of all this beauty
Which floods the earth and air
Is unto me the secret
Which makes September fair.

‘T is a thing which I remember;
To name it thrills me yet:

One day of one September

I never can forget.


  And boy, were we challenged; four senior Canadian women who decided it would be so much fun(???) to hike around Mont Blanc in the Alps. To be fair, the Tour de Mont Blanc is absolutely staggeringly beautiful with snow capped mountains, glaciers, mountain meadows full of wild flowers and scattered with cows whose bells were ringing as they wandered, beautiful alpine villages nestled amongst the valleys, waterfalls gushing down mountain sides, spectacular viewpoints everywhere you looked. At any moment we expected Julie Andrews to appear before us singing…(and I haven’t even mentioned the wonderful Swiss/French/Italian food, wine, pastries that we enjoyed every day)
To be brutally honest, the hikes were 6-8 hours long a day, 16km-20km in length a day, hiking up steep inclines and down steep descents, along dirt trails, switchbacks, over rocks, boulders, scree, tree roots, balcony ledges (you know the type, mountain to one side, 2,000 foot drop to the other) and occasionally inching across rock faces and up/down ladders screwed into rock faces and, oh yes, carrying heavy packs on our backs. Ten (10!) days of it with no break. I consider it a miracle that I survived intact to return home. I’m not sure my legs or knees will ever forgive me.
But all of that said, it was a fantastic trip that I will never do again (my new motto is: if you’ve seen one mountain you’ve seen them all), a challenge that I would never have been able to accomplish without all the wisdom, training and endurance I have gained by being a Power Walker and a reminder to us all that we are capable of what seems to be impossible.

I have questions

Did anyone turn up at Sunnyside Beach to walk this Saturday morning?  If so, which way did you go?  How wet did you get?  What did you wear?

I’m always dithering on a rainy Saturday.  Should I go or get back into bed? What does “light rain” feel like?   Can I stand to perspire in a raincoat or is it better to just get wet from the rain?  You’d think, after all these years, I’d have decided where I stand!

Three of us arrived in the rain at the door of the café at 8 this morning.  One of us remembered we were to meet at Sunnyside so we headed down the hill, hoping to catch others.  Half-way down the hill, the rain intensified and it thundered so we returned to the café and had breakfast and a great conversation, sparked, of course, by some tough questions.

The end of an era (sort of)

I’m a big fan of Quirks and Quarks (a CBC science show) and this week they celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in 1969.  As I listened I was struck with awe at the bravery of those men, realizing more now than I did when I was 21, how really primitive the technology of that event was, and frankly, how much luck was required!  Despite the fact that it was an event inspired by the Cold War, we saw it as an achievement by the inhabitants of earth.  We were a hopeful lot back then, thinking we could stop wars with sit-ins and songs.  Sometime in the half century that followed, I lost that shiny view.

I’m sorry to say that I’m giving up again.  Finishing a half-marathon is being removed from my list of annual goals.  For many years, training for my annual 21k race was the motivation to keep me on the walking trails, piling on the kilometres.  I got to know the city really well!  I had trained to walk the Beaches Jazz Festival 21k next weekend, when a family difficulty arose that made it impossible.  The relief I felt when I realized I would have to drop out was astonishing!  I guess I didn’t really want to run that race but could not admit it to myself.  So, from now on my races will be 10k’s.  Don’t despise me; don’t pity me as I accept the limits of my knees.  It’s part of admitting that I’m seventy-one.  (And don’t send me pictures of octagenarians skipping rope!)

Welcome to Our New Website

It’s very exciting to be the first to post on our new communications site.  We’ll all be learning more about it on Tuesday, the 9th of July, so I won’t try to post a tutorial now.

If you missed me this week, it was because I started from my home instead of meeting you at High Park.  I intended to walk 19K and had a route that would bring me to High Park in time for breakfast with the group.   But physiology stepped in and my knees demanded that I stop at 10K.  The Biofreeze is working its magic so I’ll soon be back on track, training for a half-marathon at the end of July.

I was struck as I walked at how well our beautiful lake acts as the city’s air conditioner.  The air cooled noticeably when I crossed Lakeshore Blvd. to Coronation Park.

I’m hoping everyone has a fireworks display in their plans this weekend. My favourite is the kamuro, a dense burst of glittering silver or gold stars which leave a heavy glitter trail and shine bright in the night’s sky.  Happy Canada Day!