a crowd is gathering in thevalley, down the hill from Broadview, on this warmish Saturday just four days before ecologists successfully sink a city council feasibility study on widening the Don Valley Parkway. (See adjacent story.)The thought of more petrol burners cruising downtown along the river is energizing these 75 or so friendly-looking people, some of whom defeated the Spadina expressway 30 years ago.
We're encouraged to sing along with a great gospel song with lines like, "We're all 98 per cent H2O -- whatever you dump in the river'll be pumped back into your soul.'
The swift current of the shallow water whisks fallen leaves on their journey to the sea. A good dog ignores the smell of a big carp rotting at the river's edge. Purple asters and red sumac leaves are shining. A keen-eyed walker plucks a furry caterpillar from the busy path.
Our guide is John Routh, one of the many volunteers who have worked for the last decade to "bring back' the Don. We pass a lot of spindly native trees that have been planted to replace the "invasive' Manitoba maples. Planting of cottonwood trees was so successful, beavers moved in to chew them down.
The only wilderness I have been to is in cities. I like the vines winding up the hydro towers here, the "Profit is theft' graffiti as well as the "Any time is train time' sign growing up amongst the goldenrod.
Instead of a field of correct plantings, I prefer the bottle dump I found the time I waded up the Don. An urban wilderness is a complicated intertwining of the natural and the man-made.
The rusty old footbridge over the river attracts me. A wall is formed by huge limestone boulders that seem to have stopped in mid-tumble a hundred years ago.
An enchanted forest is inhabited by massive half-dead willows full of bug holes and big comfy nests drilled out by patient woodpeckers. The river rushes around a picnic-table-topped log-jam at the base of the train-track bridge. A spray of coloured cables spikes out of the water.
Here on the path less travelled, I half expect to step into a trap -- set by man -- to catch animals or trespassers. I have already tangled with nature on the other side, cutting my forehead on a branch. Sleeping bags, a boot, rigs for cooking -- this evidence of human presence is just as much a part of the valley as the raccoon prints in the wet clay. Nosylike, I have to check out a plastic-covered lean-to. I find four or five fellas "at one with nature' in their cozy beer-stocked den. A little furball curled in a treelet is the orphan raccoon they've adopted. I don't linger. A woman can't afford to be as bold as a raccoon.
It's November. Crickets are still singing and the catnip leaves are just right. This is a place to respect.