When the rivers and streams rushing to Georgian Bay encounter the steep, ragged edges of the Niagara Escarpment in the Grey County area, the water tumbles down in an impressive display. You can take a day trip, or plan a few, to visit the waterfalls in the area around Meaford. Just check out the guide at the Grey County tourism website, or begin with an armchair tour right here:
|Home|||||The Site|||||Blog|||||Three-Seasons|||||Q & A|||||Register|||||Map / Contact Us|
There's a surprising lot of interesting stuff going on around here, and this space is devoted to discovering and sharing it. We'll post regular updates on merchants, activities and events. Look in often and soon you'll see why Meaford calls itself "The other Big Apple".
posted October 14th, 2011
Waterfalls of Grey County offer beautiful scenery
posted October 7th, 2011
Tom Thomson Trail a successful vision
On Saturday, October 22, Doug Barber will celebrate his 65th birthday by running 65 kilometres along the Tom Thomson Trail. And he’s looking for others to join him. In addition to marking a birthday milestone, Doug is raising money for the Tom Thomson trail. The run starts at 8 a.m. at Owen Sound’s Soccer Complex and consists of a 6.5 kilometre stretch to Hibou Park, which runners will complete 10 times (five circuits).
For Doug, the run will probably be a breeze. Last weekend he won his age division at the Canadian national 50-km trail running championships. But this kind of commitment shows how, in a decade, the trail has grown from a notion to an exciting new way to enjoy the countryside between Meaford to Owen Sound.
Back in 2001, a group got together with the goal of creating a non-motorized, multi-use (biking, hiking and horseback riding), three-season (spring through fall) trail between Owen Sound and Meaford. There was no existing abandoned rail bed to follow, so the group had the opportunity to create their own route. “This has been an opportunity to build a trail from scratch, one that shows the best vistas, tackles fewer obstacles and passes through the best of our beautiful countryside,” says the trail’s website.
As much as possible, the 43.4 trail uses off-road routes, though much of it currently follows quiet country backroads, with conditions that range from easy to challenging, offering many options to start your route along the way. (The route doesn’t follow the Bayview Escarpment trail, a rugged hike through a nature reserve, but that doesn’t mean you can’t detour along it.)
Here’s a printable map.
posted September 2nd, 2011
A daytrip on the Georgian Trail
The Georgian Trail is a great way to take a leisurely cycling trip from Meaford to Collingwood, with stops along the way (It’s also popular for strolls, walking the dog, or cross-country skiing and snow shoeing in winter.)
Starting in Meaford at the bridge by the harbour, ride the trail through Meaford, past homes and the Knights of Meaford hardwood factory. Then it’s an easy grade (trains couldn’t handle too steep a hill), out of time between stands of trees. At the first road crossing as you leave town, you could venture off the trail for a quick look at the beautiful 1860s home known as Swarthmore Farm, built by Cyrus Richmond Sing, who was Reeve of St. Vincent Council at the time the rail line was built, and served as a Director of the North Grey Railway Company. Down an adjacent tree-shaded road lies Meaford’s scenic Lakeview Cemetery.
Back on the trail, you’ll parallel the highway, with opportunities to detour for refreshments at Grandma Lambe’s or Almond’s Fruit Stand. As you enter a small section of County Forest, you’ll pass over the steep banks of Workman’s Creek, named for Captain Workman, a pioneer who settled with his family at its mouth in the 1800s, followed soon thereafter by a gate which leads to the site of an old brick factory high atop Meaford’s clay banks (private property today).
Some seven kilometres into your ride, you’ll cross Christie Beach Road. If you’d like a dip in the waters of Georgian Bay at this sandy beach, cruise down the hill and jump in. Remember, you need to climb back up the hill when you’re done!
A couple more kilometres brings you to a sharp left in the trail. This detour was created during the construction of Lora Bay, an exceptional golf club and residential community with dramatic views of Georgian Bay. A stop at the Clubhouse might be in order to wet your whistle. But if you don’t stop here, Thornbury is a mere four kilometres down the trail, with numerous restaurants (and at least two ice cream vendors right near the trail.) On the way, you’ll pass the impressive 15th tee on your left, a par three to a green sitting 200 feet below, with a beautiful view of the sweep of Georgian Bay cradled in the trees.
After winding through Thornbury, you’ll emerge at a highway crossing. Cross carefully and continue on, or ride along the highway for a short bit to visit Peasemarsh, a secluded public beach. The trail continues past Georgian Peaks and past Craigleith Provincial Park, a small camping park on the shore, and Northwinds Beach, reputed to be one of the birthplaces of windsurfing.
Soon after, you’ll cross Blue Mountain Road. If you like, venture up into the resort area to see the sights and visit the Village. Or simply stay on the trail and continue on to Collingwood. The trail enters a fragrant lilac grove at the old train station at Blue Mountain Road, where you can stop to visit the Craigleith Heritage Depot’s exhibit. Beyond the lilacs, the trail cuts away from the highway through woodlands; past streams where beavers work to create their own little ponds; through stands of cedars; and past Cranberry Resort Golf Course before reaching the trailhead near Harbourview Park.
Rest awhile here, and head back the same way, take a different route along backcountry roads, or call up that friend who’s coming to pick you up to take you home.
Check out these images of the trial:
posted August 30th, 2011
Ghost trains of Meaford
At about 7 p.m. on November 14, 1872, the first locomotive rolled into Meaford along the newly-laid rail line between Collingwood and Meaford – built by the North Grey Railway Company. Until then, the village had shipped and received goods via ships and along the primitive roads of the time, and while various interests petitioned for a railway, it looked unlikely. According to Charles Cooper’s Railway Pages, it was Gooderham & Worts, the Toronto distillery, which may have finally spurred the development of the line.
The Northern Railway, which operated in Simcoe County, wasn’t convinced of the value in extending a line along the southern shore of Georgian Bay. But Gooderham & Worts had recently underwritten the construction of the Toronto Grey and Bruce Railway – arrowing northwest to Owen Sound to bring back the distillery’s primary supplies: firewood and wheat. To compete, the Northern gave authority to North Grey Railway, formed by politicians and business interests from Meaford, Collingwood and nearby communities, to build the line – with the ultimate goal of extending it to Owen Sound.
The first station stood on the west side of Sykes Street, near the top of “Station Hill”. (A small parkette now fronts the road here, with the rail yard long gone and a subdivision taking its place.) By the turn of the century, a new spur line to the harbour and a new station allowed more efficient access to industry and shipping. For years the railway served Meaford’s economy, brought in holiday visitors, and carried soldiers from the Meaford base overseas to the war in Europe, welcoming those that returned. But regular passenger service ended in 1960, and by then freight service had dropped to a train a day. The old station fell to the wrecker’s ball in 1965.
For two decades the line was essentially abandoned, but in a time when a growing “rail to trail” movement was converting abandoned rail lines across Ontario and North America, local residents showed considerable interest in turning the 32-kilometre line into something that could continue to benefit the towns along the way. The Georgian Trail would offer hiking, jogging, cycling, cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing to residents and visitors alike, whether they were touring a local leg or venturing the length of the trail. But the Georgian Cycle and Ski Trail Association had its work cut out for it. The rail line passed through two counties, two townships and three municipalities, and creating the trail would require considerable fund raising and volunteer time. But the group persevered, and within a mere three years the Georgian Trail officially opened. (As with the original North Grey Railway line, the section down to Meaford harbour took a little longer to complete – when your faithful blogger arrived in town back in 1992, you needed to venture up St. Vincent Street to access the trail across from Knights of Meaford.)
Next up, a tour of the trail.
posted August 20th, 2011
Scenic Caves Nature Adventure “tops”
One of the things that’s great about Meaford Haven is its proximity to attractions everyone else needs to travel far to experience. Hop in your car, and within a half-hour drive on scenic country roads, you’re at Scenic Caves Nature Adventures.
The site, high on the Niagara Escarpment above Georgian Bay, has attracted people for centuries. A huge standing rock, carved by erosion from the cliff at the site, was seen by the Hurons as Ekarenniondi, the rock that marked the path to the Village of the Souls, or the Afterlife. “Today, no-one disputes that the sacred Rock marking the trail to the Village of the Dead, which is at the same time Ekarenniondi, The Watcher and Oscotarach, the Head-Piercer, is the rock long so identified at the Scenic Caves,” writes Collingwood archeologist and historian Charles Garrad. “It is the only rock which meets all the tests implied in the legends,” he writes.
But with the arrival of European settlers to the area in the 1800s, the area was more noted for its vistas and the narrow caves that wind through the area. Locals would climb up to the site to picnic, and back in 1850 someone carved their initials in one of the caves – leaving marks still readable today.
The property eventually became a farm, which operated until an enterprising businessman purchased the property in 1932. Aflred Staples built wooden ladders and bridges and offered guided tours of the caves. An irrepresible showman, he called himself the “Man of Nature”, and performed feats and stunts to attract visitors, including crossing the ice of Nottawasaga Bay to Christian Island and walking from Collingwood to Chicago.
His daughter, Sandra took over the operation in the sixties, and ran it for the next quarter century with her husband, adding amenities and building a gift shop.
Then, in 1993, Collingwood businessman Rob Thorburn bought the property. Convinced it could be more than a homespun tourist attraction, he invested heavily in the property, adding attractions and activities to make Scenic Caves Nature Adventures a true tourism destination.
In the last decade, improvements have included:
The Nordic Centre A groomed cross country ski trail network that retains the feel of a backwoods ski route, with trees bounding trails that haven’t been cut wide to accommodate large-scale groomers. The Centre also includes snow shoe trails. Ski and snow shoe rentals and winter warmups make for a full winter experience.
The Suspension Bridge at Scenic Caves Ontario’s longest suspension bridge offers views toward Collingwood, Georgian Bay, and beyond to the Penetanguishene Pensinsula – from a vantage 300 metres above the Bay.
The Eco Adventure Tour The three-hour guided tour takes you across the suspension bridge, along a suspended pathway through the canopy of the trees, then down to the ground via exhilarating zip lines. (The adventure also includes the cave tour.)
posted August 5th, 2011
Bruce Trail a nearby bonus for Meaford Haven residents
We promised some more background on the incredible opportunity to hike near your Meaford Haven home, and we definitely have to mention the Bruce Trail.
The famous trail, which snakes along the “Giant’s Rib”, the Niagara Escarpment, for nearly 900 kilometres, has numerous nearby access points with a wide variety of terrain and magnificent views, and two of the nine Bruce Trail clubs base themselves here.
You can be on the trail within minutes of leaving your door, with access to four different hikes within eight kilometres of Meaford Haven and many more nearby.
The Beaver Valley section winds 113 kilometres from Craigleith to Blantyre (southwest of Meaford), through fields and forests and along the edge of rocky cliffs, and offers hikers expansive views of Nottawasaga Bay (part of Georgian Bay) and the Beaver Valley. The Beaver Valley Bruce Trail Club schedules numerous hikes throughout the year in this section.
Beyond Blantyre, heading west and north, you’re into the Sydenham Bruce Trail Club’s “domain”, which extends all the way up to Wiarton on the Bruce Peninsula. The group develops, maintains (and hikes) the 170 kilometres of trail (plus side trails) in this section.
In addition to its spectacular views and beautiful waterfalls, this section is famous for its ferns.
Visit the club’s websites to learn more about the different sections and help decide where you’d like to start. (And stay tuned for more hiking guides.)
posted July 7th, 2011
Hike the historical Trout Hollow Trail
When we first arrived in Meaford, we took immediately to exploring the winding trail down the Bighead River, accessible from the Bakeshop Bridge, right in the middle of Meaford. Within a minute of venturing into the woods, all traces of the town disappeared, and you could imagine yourself in the wilderness. The trail, worn by hikers and fishermen and kids on bikes, wound through dense cedars, lofty open hardwood bush, and sometimes right along the Bighead – lazy and inviting in the summer. The usual goal was the ruin of the old turn-of-the-(last)-century hydro dam about 2 1/2 kilometres down. Here, weathered concrete ruins, like old castle walls, leaned over the river and formed a small labyrinth.
Once, we saw kids from a family picnic on the other side jump off a section of the wall into a deep pool in the river. Another time, after biking down, we crossed and discovered a flat raised area, now overgrown with trees, that we figured must be the site of John Muir’s old cabin, built when the now-famous naturalist and environmentalist arrived here in 1864. Well, we were wrong. A few years later, an archaeologist working with a group known as the Friends of John Muir identified the site a couple of minutes eastward. Around the same time, another group, The Bighead River Heritage Association, embarked on further establishing and marking the trail to complete a 14 kilometre route from Meaford to the 7th line and back.
The inaugural hike of the Trout Hollow Trail included historical talks, an introduction to rare ferns of the region by the late Nels Maher, and somewhat unnecessary (but fun) assistance crossing the river from military Zodiacs.
Today, the trail is well-established and includes wooden walkways and stairs at some of the more challenging obstacles. Along the way, you visit the ruined dam, pass the site of Muir’s cabin and the old Trout Hollow sawmill, follow the old water race to the power station, and wander among the ruined grey walls of the old station.
The trail is mainly easy to moderate hiking with some difficult steep ridges. Access points at either end allow you to hike half the trail if you have a ride arranged. Be sure to wear hiking shoes, protect yourself during peak mosquito season, and keep an eye out of poison ivy.
posted July 6th, 2011
Why Meaford’s a hiker’s heaven
If you’ve been around Meaford lately, you might think that we’re obsessed with hiking and cycling trails. Two weekends ago, a ribbon cutting ceremony at Meaford’s Fred Raper Park celebrated the completion of the Tom Thomson Trail, a 43 kilometre trail system connecting Meaford to Owen Sound.
And then, last weekend, the scissors were out again for the grand opening of the Trillium Trail, which meanders through the woodland at Memorial Park.
And that’s just for starters. If you’re looking for great retirement activities, hiking and cycling have got to be two of the best. And if you’re in Meaford, you can take your pick from a variety of trails offering everything from challenging climbs to easy strolls, with views and vistas of Georgian Bay, rolling hills, dramatic crevasses, steep cliffs, flashing rivers and bucolic fields.
As well as the two recent additions to Meaford’s trails, you have the Georgian Trail which follows the old Northern Rail Line from Meaford to Collingwood. And it seems no matter what road you take, you’ll come upon access to sections of the famous Bruce Trail as it winds and doubles back through the beautiful Niagara Escarpment. Then there’s the wonderful Trout Hollow Trail along the Bighead River and the rugged trail through the Bayview Escarpment Nature Reserve (which is also part of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve).
We’ll dig out the hiking boots and give you a tour of some of these natural local wonders over the next few weeks, starting with Trout Hollow tomorrow.
posted April 29th, 2011
John Muir’s stay in Meaford’s “retired and romantic hollow”
A few days back, we mentioned that Meaford had an interesting link to the environmental movement. Back in the autumn of 1864, the wanderings of 26 year-old John Muir led him along the road from Owen Sound to a magnificient view of Georgian Bay and the tiny village of Meaford nestled below. (Now, theories vary on his actual route, but we’re going with Scott Cameron’s thesis that he hiked from Owen Sound.)
There, Muir met his younger brother Dan, and before long, the two presented themselves at Meaford’s Trout Hollow Mill and handle factory, seeking work and a place to stay for the winter.
John Muir would spend the next 16 months in Meaford at Trout Hollow. Instead of leaving at the spring melt with his brother, he signed a contract to produce 12,000 rakes and 30,000 broom handles for the Trout family business. While Muir’s passion for botany directed his wanders, he’d long had an inventive mind, and he now took a close look at the factory’s production process. Within a few months he’d so refined the process, designing new gizmos and automating tasks, that production doubled.
Like others in the years since who have discovered Meaford a perfect community to settle down in, Muir was captured by its beauty. “We live in a retired and romantic hollow,” he wrote in May of 1865. “Our tall, tall, forest trees are now alive and the mingled ocean of blossom and leaves waves and curls and rises in rounded swells farther and farther away… Freshness and beauty are everywhere — flowers are born every hour — living sunlight is poured over all, and every thing and creature is glad — our world is indeed a beautiful one…”
A couple of groups have helped to ensure Muir’s Meaford legacy remains. The Canadian Friends of John Muir have brought new light to his time in Meaford, and the Bighead River Heritage Association has developed and maintained the Trout Hollow Trail, an 8 kilometer hike along both sides of the Bighead River and through the hollow where Muir lived and worked.
The buds are getting ready to burst, and we’ll head down there soon.