Monday, October 31, 2011


Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate...
First one said, "Oh my, it's getting late!"
Second one said, "There are witches in the air"
Third one said, "But we don't care!"
Fourth one said, "Let's run and run and run!"
Fifth one said, "I'm ready for some fun!"
"OOO-ooo!" went the wind and out went the lights
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

Yep. I still maintain that pumpkin flesh is still the best carving medium. There's nothing like the spicy scent of cinnamon and nutmeg on the cooked pumpkin top of a beautifully carved pumpkin.  Happy Hallowe'en everyone!

Happy Hallowe'en my carving friends!

Happy Hallowe'en everyone!  I hope you're having a truly magical day and are eagerly awaiting the ghosts and goblins at your doorstep.

My carving is about halfway done and I will post some pictures once I'm done.  In the meantime, I will treat you to a scene from one of my favourite classic movies, Clue, which I watch every year while carving pumpkins.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The $1 Tour of Hamilton

Clue updated: October 21, 2011

The following few pages contain a driving tour of the City of Hamilton that will also lead to you six letterboxes in the Hamilton area. 

A few things before heading out:
  • This is a driving tour, so please be careful – obey all rules of the road and don’t read while driving.  Recruit a navigator to read aloud while driving or pull over to stop.
  • Print and take these directions and clues with you!
  • The driving/clue directions are in bold, the rest is information to read once you have arrived at the location.
  • The tour will take about two-three hours, or longer depending on whether you stop to explore.
  • All stops to be made to hunt letterboxes have free parking except at Princess Point which is $1 per hour – you will only need an hour here.  And the money goes to the Royal Botanical Gardens.  Win, win.
  • The stamps each represent the sight you’ve seen, but come together to form one large overall image.  You’ll need at least a half a standard size piece of paper to fit the stamps.  Look for guides on each of the stamps for indication of where the stamp goes and how to align it with other stamps.  Alternatively, you can stamp them all separately and then cut and paste them together at home.
  • Boxes 1-5 are just stamps - magnetized.  Only the final box contains a log book.

Box 1 – the City of Waterfalls

Make your way to the intersection of Scenic Drive and Balflour Drive, Hamilton, and park on Balflour drive.  Walk back out to Scenic Drive on the wide paved walkway.  Follow to the old stone and concrete barrier and look over to see the falls.  You’ll find the magnetic stamp inside the guardrail on the left where it attaches to the concrete in the top bend of the guardrail at the top.

The Chedoke Falls from the base inside the Chedoke Golf Course
The falls you are seeing are the Chedoke Falls with a view from the top.  The picture to the right shows the falls if you were to hike in from the Chedoke park.  Hamilton is known as the City of Waterfalls – there are over 100 waterfalls in Hamilton due to the presence of the Niagara Escarpment.  Most are publicly accessible and I highly recommend taking some time in Hamilton to go waterfalling.  If you do, there’s a letterbox (or two) at my favourite waterfalls. During the  winter, there are groups that go waterfalling and practice ice climbing on the frozen falls!

Though you can’t see it from this vantage point, the Chedoke Falls themselves are considered to be a ribbon-type waterfall and is over 15 metres in height.  However, you can access these falls from below by crossing the Chedoke Municipal Golf course and traveling up river to view them. 
Box 2 – the Niagara Escarpment
From your car, go back onto Scenic Drive which is one way at this location and continue on Scenic, cross the intersection.  You are now on Fennell Avenue West. Keep your eyes peeled as you pass Mohawk College on the right.  Then on the far left side as you cross West 5th Street, you will see Auchmar Estate through a chain link fence.  Continue on Fennel and turn left on Upper Wellington, about a kilometre down the road.  Follow Upper Wellington to Concession Street and turn right.  Park in the first parking lot on the left.  From the parking area, go to the right where you’ll see markings and signs for the Bruce Trail side trail.  Follow the side trail down and around to the left and to the stairs.  Continue on the stairs until you come to the sidewalk and stone barrier immediately adjacent to the road.  You’ll find the magnet again inside the guardrail at the top where it connects to the stone barrier.

Just some comments on Mohawk College and Auchmar Estate…

Mohawk College which you saw on your right is a large college with five campuses – you drove past the Fennel campus.  Mohawk College teaches an impressive 10,000 full time and 40,000 part time students each year (and they offer fantastic photography courses, if I don’t say so myself). 
Auchmar Estate prior to renovations starting

Auchmar Estate, though closed at the moment for renovations, is architecturally significant as one of Hamilton’s most impressive 19th century estates and for its exemplification of Gothic Revival style architecture. The focal point of the property is the ‘Manor House’, a long, ‘H’ shaped villa completed in 1855. Like the home of a Scottish laird the house features a rough-cast stucco finish, clustered chimneys, and various Gothic details such as pointed arch windows and label moldings. The interior is similarly styled in the Gothic taste with the ballroom displaying a highly decorative, plaster, strap work ceiling and corridors featuring vaulted ceilings with plaster ribbing. Interior woodwork repeats the Gothic motif with slender shafts and foliated plaster capitals lining the corridor walls and the pointed arch incorporated into doorway frames and door panels. Auchmar is a designated historic site and is currently owned by the City of Hamilton.

You’ve now made it to the Niagara Escarpment as it crosses Hamilton.  You can’t really go anywhere in Hamilton without facing the effects of the Escarpment.  The City has grown up and around the Escarpment and has faced some interesting mobility challenges because of it.  In the past, there were actual railways that climbed the Escarpment, and even special short rail lines that went directly up the Escarpment! For example, the Eastend Incline Railway operated from 1895 until 1936, carrying passengers from Wentworth Street below the Escarpment to Upper Wentworth Street at the top of the Escarpment.  Today, the Wentworth Stairs exist in the spot where the Eastend Incline Railway operated and have 500 steps – the greatest number of any of Hamilton’s stairs.

Today, these different modes of traversing the Escarpment are all bisected by the Bruce Trail.  If you’re a southern Ontario letterboxer – or a hiker in general – you’ve likely already hiked sections of the Bruce.  The Bruce runs from  Tobermory in the north all the way down to Queenston. As it travels through Hamilton, it runs right through the City along the Escarpment and many people, including myself, use parts of it to get back and forth to work.

In Hamilton, the Niagara Escarpment is fondly known as the “Mountain” and there are a number of roads called “accesses” that can get you from the bottom to top or vice versa.  The roadway you are looking at now is called the Jolley Cut access.  There are also the Sherman Access, Kennelworth Access, Claremont Access, etc.  As mentioned, there are also a number of stairways for pedestrians and cyclists for access in addition to the roadways. You can get an amazing view of the City from any of these gorgeous heights!

As you’re traveling by car next down the Jolley Cut, you can get an amazing view of the geology of the escarpment and to the left you’ll see the different layers that you would see in the cross cut of the Jolley Cut. Have a look at this chart before you go.

Box 3 – McMaster University
Leaving the parking lot, turn right onto Concession and then go to the right onto the Jolley Cut. At the bottom of the Mountain, turn left onto Charlton Avenue East, then left onto Queen Street South, then turn right onto Aberdeen Avenue.  Follow Aberdeen for about a kilometre and turn right onto Locke Street South.  Continue a few streets down then find a nice parking spot to pull over to read the following.

You had traveled along Aberdeen Avenue and likely saw some amazing landmark homes.  Aberdeen Avenue ends at the Chedoke Golf Course that we had seen from above earlier.

You are now on Locke Street.  This historic area is home to many antique shops and has recently developed into a very artsy neighbourhood.  Feel free to take some time to explore…

Ahead, keep your eye out as you approach the highway for the Cathedral of Christ Our King. This beautiful building can be seen from both directions traveling across Highway 403 in Hamilton.  In the tower is a set of 23 bells, the largest of which is called the “Bourdon” and was donated by a past Prime Minister.
Box 3 – Continued
Continue up Locke Street and turn left at King Street West.  Keep your eyes peeled for the Cathedral as you cross the 403.  Continue following King Street through the Westdale neighbourhood all the way to the McMaster University Campus – be careful to stay on King as a number of lanes force you away if you’re not careful.  Once you’ve reached the campus, you’ll be forced to either turn left or right at Forsyth – go left. Follow this road down and around the medical school buildings.  Turn right at Main Street West, then immediately right again on Cootes Drive.  Merge right off of Cootes and turn left at the residence building. Follow this university road up to Bates Residence and stay to the left in this pay & display parking lot.  You’re not staying long, so ignore the fare. The lot is the shape of a donut with a spoke out the top with a drive that says “Private Road”.  Go to the parking spots closest to this private road.  On the side facing the residence, there is a lone light post in the centre – you’ll find this magnet under the skirt stuck underneath the metal platform the light stand is on.

McMaster is a huge university wedged between the Westdale neighbourhood and the Royal Botanical Gardens.  McMaster is well known for its academics and its medical school.

Westdale is one of Canada’s first planned communities.  If you look at satellite images for the area, you’ll see that it’s been designed in an oval and spoke pattern, with shops located in the centre.

Box 4 – the McQueston Bridge
From the parking lot, turn right onto Westaway Road, then left onto a round road to get you back onto Cootes Drive.  Turn left onto Main Street West then left again onto Longwood Road South.  Follow Longwood for a distance, past the residential area, until you see an entrance to the left for Princess Point.  Go in and park as close to the entrance as possible – remember to get a ticket.  Although this will be the longest walk for the day, you will still only need a dollar’s worth of parking.  Follow the path over the bridge with the wood boards.  After the bridge, follow to the left and stay on the asphalt trail – watch for speedy cyclists.  You will walk for a while until you get to the fishway. (If you’re here in spring, you’re in for a show!).  At the fishway, the path goes to the right and you will see multiple bridges overhead.  Keep following the path under the bridges and you will see a set of stairs on the right.  Go to the second landing (the first landing is a perfect square, the second is oddly shaped).  Face the wall.  You will find this magnet on the bottom at the left attached under the vertical metal piece perpendicular to the wall.

Okay, confession time.  When I first came to Hamilton, I couldn’t figure out what a coote was.  Cootes Paradise – the small lake/marsh area at the very west end of Lake Ontario – must be home to many of these… cootes.  Was it a type of bird?  Fish? Insect?  No, none of the above.  Cootes Paradise was named after Captain Cootes of the Kings Royal 8th Regiment of course.  Silly me.  (Don’t get me started about what I thought the ticats were.  Let’s just say I did NOT think they were a pro sports team).  Cootes Paradise is part of the extensive Royal Botanical Gardens property and home to a huge range of biodiversity. 

The bridge currently above you is the McQueston High Level Bridge over which York Street travels. (York Street – called that originally because it took you to York, now called Toronto.  Just as Dundas Street in Toronto takes you to the town of Dundas, and Kingston Road in Toronto takes you to the city of Kingston).  Although you can not see it from this vantage point (feel free to climb the stairs to the top where you will be at bridge level), this bridge has four massive columns with niches in the sides facing the road. These niches were meant to house statues of famous Hamiltonians… To this day they remain empty.  I’ll let you ponder the implications while you retrace your steps back to your car.

Box 5 – the Waterfront
Turn left out of the parking lot and follow this road (Macklin Street North) all the way to where it ends at Main Street and turn left.  Go back over Highway 403 (you’ll see the cathedral again!) and through the downtown area.  You’ll pass Hamilton’s newly renovated City Hall on the right.  Just after City Hall, you’ll make a left turn onto James Street South. After you pass King Street, look on the right for the Lister Block which is also being restored.  Continue along James, past LIUNA Station on the right and then turn left after that onto Strachan Street West.  At the intersection with the large mast, go straight through onto Harbourfront Drive.  Follow the drive as it curves to the left and then turn right into the second parking area and park.  If you go to the right, you can take an amazing stroll around Bayfront Park.  In the summer, you can swim or sail from here.  However, for the stamp, go to the left.  Stay to the path and go past the gazebo.  When you see the marking for 200 on the trail, stop.  Look to about 10 on the clock.  You will see a cedar and a lamppost, with a chainlink fence running behind it.  You will find the magnet on the bottom of the fencepost between the tree and the lightpost.

If you continue along this trail and look off to the left, you’ll see the McQueston bridge again from afar this time. Actually, the trail you are now standing on connects directly to the trail you took near Princess Point.  Hamilton is well known for its extensive trail system, particularly along the water.

From the other side of the park, you’ll see the Burlington Skyway bridge which travels over Burlington Bay connecting Burlington to Hamilton. The Hamilton Waterfront also harbours the HMCS Haida, a World War II destroyer ship, of which you can take tours.

Box 6 – Dundurn Castle
From your car, head back out the way you came, and turn right at the mast onto Bay Street North.  Follow Bay south to Cannon Street West where you’ll be forced to turn right.  Cannon soons turns into York Boulevard.  Follow York until you see Dundurn Castle on the right and park in its lot.  From the lot, walk to the right behind the estate and pass the kitchen garden.  Keep going and you will pass a closed up white building on the left.  A little further and you will reach an open oval-shaped area surrounded by trees.  Turn left into the oval and travel to very end.  Once there, you’ll see a small foot path – going a few steps into the tree line on that foot path, you’ll see a large fallen tree crossing the path. Look to the left up this tree; you’ll find the final box tucked into and under the vee of the tree covered in bark.  Please rehide well!
Dundurn Castle is not actually a castle, but is rather the impressive estate of Sir Allan McNab,
one of Canada’s first premiers.  During the War of 1812, the British established a post on the property.  Feel free to explore the grounds before setting off.  I highly recommend the tour of the interior of the property – the tour guides are in costume and the buildings are beautiful.  If not, at least go see the gift shop so that you can see some of the interior of the horse stables.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip through the City of Hamilton.  To get back on your way, turn right out of the parking lot and you will cross the McQueston bridge and find signs to get back on Highway 403 which will take you wherever you need to go. I hope you enjoyed the beautiful architecture, the sweeping vistas, and learned about some of the wonderful things that Hamilton has to offer. Hope to see you again soon!


Still here...

Life has somewhat interfered with my letterboxing.  I ended up having to move one city over after my roommate decided to move in with her boyfriend, and days after I moved, I was offered a new position over an hour away.  So now I'm on the move yet again.  This will be the fourth move in two years.

This after a tree decided to take out my car - along with three others this past Labour Day weekend.  The insurance wrote off the car and I had to find another... I'm cursed with cars.  The  check engine light is already on in the new one.  Sigh.

Because of all that, letterboxing has moved down on the priority list.  Nevertheless, I still managed to make it to BoxON this year in Rockwood - had a fantastic time - and carve an enormous stamp for planting.  It has been divied up and planted, and I'm just working through the lengthy clue.  Hopefully, I'll be able to post it as a pdf here, which is my preference, not sure if I can do that with Blogger.  Stay tuned.

Happy Autumn, everyone!