September 20, 2018

Mike Bell: Canadian Office reopens with a Waterfall Tour!


Over the years interacting on Internet Monk, Klasie Kraalogies and I have become quite good friends. We both have lived in Southern Africa and Saskatchewan, love rocks, and like to hang out at Internet Monk. Klasie still lives in Southern Saskatchewan. Google “Southern Saskatchewan Waterfall”. Yes, there are no results! When I heard that we was coming for a conference in my area, I decided to take him for a waterfall hike/drive through some of more interesting waterfalls in my part of the city.

One of Hamilton’s best kept secrets until recently has been its waterfalls. Geologically Hamilton, and in particular the part of Hamilton where I live, the Dundas valley, is surrounded on three sides by the Niagara Escarpment. It is a beautiful area of hills, outcroppings, ravines and forest, and is known for inspiring the hymn “This is my Father’s world”. Whenever a stream, or river crosses the escarpment, you get a waterfall. The escarpment’s most famous one of course is Niagara Falls, but in Hamilton alone there are over 100 named waterfalls!

My plan was that I would pick Klasie up at the Toronto airport at 11:30 a.m., drive 45 minutes to Hamilton, have lunch, tour waterfalls, and then drop him off at the train station just outside Hamilton by 3:45 p.m. Total waterfall viewing time would be just over three hours. My initial goal was six waterfalls. I expanded that to ten. We settled on eight waterfalls plus a hike to a restored ruins.

Lunch was at the iconic Tim Hortons. Tim Hortons was founded in Hamilton in 1964 by Ron Joyce and hockey player Tim Horton. (Tim died in a car crash in 1974). Hamilton was very much a blue collar town at the time, and Tim Hortons built a reputation as the coffee shop for the everyday Canadian. (Its reputation has been sullied recently by its now Brazilian owners, not properly recognizing that, and not treating workers fairly during a minimum wage hike, but that is very much a different topic.)

All the waterfalls we visited were within a 10 minute drive from my house! Hopefully you will get a real sense from these pictures of the beauty of the area.

The first waterfall was just three minutes from the restaurant. Tiffany Falls (9 minutes from home) is one of the prettiest waterfalls in Hamilton. It is just a 250 yard walk from the parking lot to the base of the falls. We had a snowfall a few days prior, so the trail was VERY icy. The falls looks deceptively small in this picture, but it is 69 feet from base to top. In the winter it is a popular ice climbing destination.

Klasie has a liking for lichen, so was stopping to take photos along the way.

Our next stop, just a few minutes away was Mills Falls (8 minutes from home). This waterfall has been the location of four different saw and grist mills for over 200 years. (The first three were destroyed by fire.) The last one built in 1863, was converted into a restaurant in 1979 and now has a reputation for being one of the finest restaurants in the area. The waterfall runs through the middle of the restaurant! One of the original mill’s claim to fame was that it was used as a jail to hold traitors in the war of 1812. Fifteen were sentenced to death, eight of these were hung, and had their heads chopped off and displayed on poles in an event that became known as the Bloody Assize of 1814. As (For those not familiar with their history the outcome of the war was that the area that is now Canada remained in the control of the British.)

We then descended to the bottom of the escarpment, Sherman falls is just 650 yards away, but is located on a different creek! There Klasie took this picture of me that I now use as my facebook profile.

I think the falls is a little nicer in focus! It is 55 feet high, so just a little shorter than Tiffany falls.

Our next step was the thirteen foot high Hermitage Cascade, a seven minute drive away. Had a large tree not just fallen in front of the falls, it would have looked like this (picture not mine).

The waterfall was the site of a suicide in the 1830s, the result of a banned relationship between a servant and a niece of the landowner. The body was interred at the closest crossroads, and the street is known to this day as “Lover’s Lane.”

The house on the property, nicknamed the Hermitage, was acquired by the Leith family in 1853, but was destroyed by fire in 1934. Restoration attempts have been made over the years to preserve the ruins, with the most successful being completed just last year. Klasie and I hiked up to the house and took the opportunity to take some photos.

Klasie lent me his camera to take a picture, which he later sent to me. I hope work goes well for him so he can afford a colour camera! I should mention that it was at that moment that I dropped my phone without realizing it. It was found by a five year old whose family lived half an hour away. I was able to recover it later that evening. As a result however, all the remaining pictures are strictly from Klasie’s camera.

“The Hermitage” is on one of my favourite trails, the 2 mile main loop, that takes is a wide variety of scenic vistas. There are about 25 miles of marked trails in the valley, with about an equal number of unmarked trails.

From the Hermitage we took a short drive to downtown Dundas which is overshadowed by the Dundas Peak. It is a popular hiking destination from Tews Falls (coming up). Note the people at the top of the peak to get an idea of scale. You can see my house from the top of peak! From where this picture was taken I am just three minutes from home.

Just one city block away from where this picture was taken was our next waterfalls. Dundas Falls is a leftover from when Dundas was an industrial powerhouse. In the 1800s water meant power, and as you can tell from these pictures, the area had lots of power sources. This falls was the site of a paper mill until 1929, when the mill was torn down to provide space for a high school. The high school was converted into luxury condos just a few years ago, and the falls runs past it on the left.

We continued up the road that ran by Dundas Falls, and stopped briefly to take some pictures at the top of the hill. Way off in the distance you can see downtown Hamilton along with just a sliver of Lake Ontario.

At this point we were only about half a mile from the Darnley Cascade, which I had originally planned to see, but we were starting to run short on time, and there were more impressive waterfalls up ahead.

Just a few blocks away from the previous vista was Webster’s Falls (10 minutes from home). The falls and its surrounding park have become a popular tourist destination in recent years, so much so that access has to be restricted in the summer months. We were able to park right at the falls to grab some quick photos.

This is a waterfall that changes its personality based on the waterflow and time of year. One of my favourite hikes is into the bottom of the falls. The area is absolutely gorgeous in the autumn, especially in the weeks around Canadian thanksgiving. More on that later.

Another of my favourite hikes is the hike from Webster’s Falls to Tews Falls and out to Dundas Peak. The trail is temporarily closed between the two falls, but we were able to drive right up to Tews Falls (9 minutes from home) to take some pictures. Note the large block of ice at the bottom of the falls, the remnant of a cold winter.

Tews Falls is the tallest falls in Hamilton at 135 feet in height. As such it is just shorter than Niagara Falls. The size of the gorge indicates that this would have been a much more significant falls at some point in its geological history.

The last falls of the day that we had time for was the 49 feet tall Borer’s Falls (9 minutes from home). While some of the other falls have become tourist attractions, Borer’s Falls does not even have a parking lot, and so we pulled off on the side of the road to take a look. I am friends with the Borer family who ran a sawmill on this site for over a century. It too is a popular ice climbing destination in the winter when it freezes over.

It was now 3:30 and Klasie had to be on his train by 4:00. We were about 13 minutes from the train station, 20 minutes if we stopped to see one final waterfall, Smokey Hollow Falls. I decided that would be cutting things a little too tight, so we headed off to the train station where we said our final goodbyes.

There were a number of other waterfalls and vistas within a few hundred yards of our tour. Some we did not have time to see, others were not accessible at this time of year. I will give you and Klasie a sneak peek in my next post as he has already promised to come back and do some more touring.

As noted above, the Canadian Office has reopened! I hope to be contributing more to Internet Monk in the coming months sharing some stories with a Canadian perspective. I already have a few more posts in the works, so stay tuned.

Comments

  1. Welcome back MB. And I do love me some waterfalls. I gotta get back out to Great Falls NP before the swarms of tourists descend…

  2. Looks like you two had a good time! Wonderful pics.

    I’ve spent a fair amount of time, especially as a youngster, around Hamilton and Brantford. It’s a beautiful area which has experienced incredible population growth. I didn’t realize there are so many falls.

  3. my daughter & her family moved to Hamilton late last summer… we haven’t done the waterfall tour yet… but plan on this spring…
    the spelling of your last name is almost (but not quite) right! 🙂

    • Michael Bell says:

      Hi Michael Bell(s). I had thought of saying “hi” on facebook before. I think we have a few connections (other than the name) outside of Internet Monk. When we came to Canada we knew one family in the whole country, the Budges of Orillia. Perhaps you have bumped into them? I see from facebook we have a mutual friend in Matthew Gibbons who I once worked with. Do you know Nigel Paul of MoveIn? He is a close relative. I am also an acquaintance of Gord Martin of Vision Ministries with which your church is affiliated. Have you run into Jody Cross at First Baptist Orillia? He is the guy who taught be how to be a worship leader.

  4. Ronald Avra says:

    Good to have you back; good pics. You might post a couple of updates after spring finally hits your area.

    • Michael Bell says:

      The time for update is actually fall. (No pun intended). The colors are spectacular. I will be posting a few pictures in my followup post.

  5. StuartB says:

    Klasie is a good man, he’s on my list of iMonkers to have a beer with.

    Looks like a fun time in the cold north!

    • Rick Ro. says:

      +1. Mike Bell and Klasie, both! You, too, Stuart!

      • Michael Bell says:

        Our trip was so rushed. Didn’t really have time to sit and talk a whole lot. Next time we can be a little more leisurely and have time for a beer, or a Diet Coke, for those who have read my past posts.

    • Michael Bell says:

      Relatively open invitation to be a free tour guide for anyone who wants to visit. I also do wilderness trips where the fishing is divine. (As many as 25 Bass per person per day – mostly catch and release)

  6. john barry says:

    Mike Bells, thank you for this information and pictures. Will include this area in my travels one day for sure, thanks to your photos and info you shared. Had no idea about this area and surely can spend a day or two there . An unexpected surprise and thanks again . First hand knowledge is the best .

  7. Welcome back! Love the Devil’s Cauldron.. Mike the Geologist would have a Silurian extravaganza there. Your pictures send me back. No ice and snow in Houston now:?. Would love me some Timbits and a Labatts 50 just thinking about the Escarpment. I don’t think many Americans realise how that area prevented them from making Upper Canada another US state (stoney Creek). Good to see you again. Cheers!

    • Michael Bell says:

      As a small world story, Mike the Geologist and my next door neighbor specialize in the same time of Geology and have worked together.

  8. Christiane says:

    O Canada! homeland of my father, of blessed memory

    Thank you for the beautiful photographs. Fifty years ago, we honeymooned in Montreal, and if health permits, we might go back soon. . . .

    I still have relatives in St. Armand, but most of the family settled in Massachusetts when my father was five.

    I LOVE Canada!

  9. Dana Ames says:

    Thanks for the travelogue and pics, Mike. Glad to know you’ll be writing more. Nice to see your faces 🙂

    I love waterfalls, any size, anywhere. You are incredibly fortunate to live so close to all that beauty.

    Dana

  10. Hi Mike, as a person from down under who lives in the driest state – South Australia, pictures of so much water so close to home make me envious -:) . We are coming out of what has been a very dry summer and into autumn (fall) and rain is still scarce. Send some our way, will you? Good to have you back, looking forward to your posts.

  11. Fine falls eh! I love the Canadian landscape. God’s country up there.

  12. Robert F says:

    Lovely falls. Only been to Canada once, for a few hours, after crossing from Detroit to Windsor back in the days when all you needed was a driver’s license for ID to cross the border.

    Is that Klasie, or Elvis Costello in the black and white picture?

  13. Klasie Kraalogies says:

    It was a lovely afternoon. Next time I hope to visit in the summer/autumn!

  14. Pieter F says:

    Hi!
    Thanks Mike, for making this trip possible for “Klasie ” my son. Beautiful area with all those waterfalls! Should be superb sighting during summer! Regrettably too far away for me here in South Africa.
    Lovely day to you!
    Pieter Fourie.

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