My Hometown: Exploring Toronto’s Green Spaces

Escaping the city streets into hidden green spaces is easier than it seems in the big city.

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Toronto skyline
Photo: Richard Woolsey

The Instant Tranquility of Toronto

As a fan of hidden gems and a true admirer of nature’s perfection and beauty, I want to tell you a secret about the big city of Toronto.

Toronto has approximately 10.2 million trees, with a tree and shrub canopy that covers 26.6 per cent of the city, according to a study called “Every Tree Counts: A Portrait of Toronto’s Urban Forest.” Not a bad chunk of urban forest compared to other big cities in North America.

In Toronto, even the most densely populated area are blessed with havens of cool, moist, green forest. In many locations, you can take just a few steps right off a subway train and find yourself in the trees, absorbing the sounds of the wild along with a welcome silence.

Mostly hidden from street level, these green spaces are walked, hiked, biked and deeply loved by many visitors and seasoned Toronto city slickers. Toronto’s ravines offer easy access to instant tranquility any time of year, free for everyone.

I try and explore as many of these wonderful spaces as I can, three or four times a month, with a couple of friends who have dogs. We all head out together, with sandwiches and lots of water for the dogs.

I tend to go to the ravines closest to where I live, but there are many more that I have not seen or experienced…yet!

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Ravine in Toronto
Photo: Richard Woolsey

My favourite things to do when exploring Toronto’s ravines are to simply walk or sit and listen. It’s amazing that in only a few steps from the crazy streets you can suddenly be in a place where you feel the crackling of twigs under your feet, see a tiny spotted chipmunk disappear in a blink or hear a big-winged dragonfly buzz by. Don’t panic, dragonflies don’t sting! In the summer, I like getting in the water. There are some deeper pockets or water, like little round pools. I sit in them and just relax.

Even during winter, I love to go out and explore. Once, on a particularly cold day, my friend Larry and I were walking on the ice in a ravine. The ice began making cracking sounds—and we fell through, right up to our shoulders!

Oddly enough it was fun and the water didn’t seem all that cold. Laughing, we got out and started running for home. As it became colder, our winter clothes started turning to ice!

As cities grow and cement replaces greenery, I wonder if we shouldn’t ease up on all this expansion and try a little “less is more.” This natural world hidden within Toronto whispers and breathes all around you, caressing your senses from every angle, telling you it’s okay to slow down in Canada’s biggest city. It calms and soothes the speed of our modern day minds. Enjoy its splendour with good people and smiling dogs and countless free walks, any time of year, in Toronto’s many tranquil hidden ravines.

Originally Published in Our Canada

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