A Driving Tour around the Niagara Escarpment

Karel and I sat down at a table on an elevated platform that overlooked the restaurant. Various farm implements and even an entire sled were suspended from the ceiling and the mechanism of the old gristmill was still visible in a stairway to the basement. I enjoyed a tender trout filet with garden fresh vegetables and rice while my friend and tour guide savoured his mixed grill. After our meal we walked around the entire mill and admired the scenic pond that was home to a group of Canada geese.

I had the trout Karel’s mixed grill

Then Karel introduced me to another famous destination in Aberfoyle: the Aberfoyle Antique Market, which although closed today, holds more than 100 vendors of antiques during market days and has become an extremely popular weekend destination for collectors.

Geese congregate around the pond at the Aberfoyle Mill

One more nature area remained for us to explore: the Spencer Gorge Conservation area, north of the City of Hamilton. We parked our car at the entrance, paid the $5 day use fee by depositing cash in the self-serve box and started walking on the trail that would lead us to Dundas Peak. Just about 150 m from the parking lot we stopped to admire Tews Falls, a waterfall with a height of 41 m that is almost as high as Niagara Falls. The water level was pretty low since we have not had any significant rain fall in a while, but I could only imagine how picturesque this waterfall must be when the water level is higher.

Not much water at Tew’s Falls

A serene 20 minute hike with occasional views past the lush green trees into the Gorge took us to Dundas Peak, an elevated cliff with a platform of natural stone that provides a magnificent view of the Town of Dundas, the City of Hamilton and the Niagara Escarpment which encircles the entire area. The rocky platform is an overhang and with my fear of heights I made sure I stayed about two metres away from the edge since the edge of the rocks continues into a sheer vertical drop into the valley.

A view from Dundas Peak

After our hike down we drove just a few minutes to Webster’s Falls which is also part of the Spencer Gorge Conservation Area. Another waterfall was enchanting a group of children who were playing at the bottom of it. Picnic areas and grassy meadows surround the river on both sides and a unique stone bridge connects the parking lot with the waterfall.

Webster’s Falls

At the end of this 20 minute walk we continued on towards the Town of Dundas which dates back to 1847. John Graves Simcoe, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, named the town after Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, a good friend of his and a Scottish lawyer and politician who never even visited North America. Dundas still has a nice historic core that features an old Post Office and various other Victorian era buildings.

A close-up of Webster’s Falls

Karel proceeded to show me the remainders of the Desjardins Canal, a historic canal that was completed in 1837 and substantially promoted the growth of Dundas as a settlement, but was later overshadowed by the opening of the Great Western Railroad in Hamilton in 1854. Due to the railway’s stiff competition, the canal fell in disuse and in 1867 sediment blocked direct access to the town, making it unusable. Today, the canal has largely been forgotten, but there are some walking trails along the canal near Cootes Paradise, a large wetland area at the western end of Hamilton Harbour.

The Post Office in Dundas

It was now after 5 pm and our driving tour had come to an end. Karel drove me back to my vehicle and I thanked him sincerely for his time and for sharing his local expertise of the Burlington, Milton and Dundas areas. We resolved that there were so many interesting places that we had not seen and that we would do another driving tour in the area in the next few months.

Greenery at the Spencer Falls Conservation Area

I was also a bit tired, but in no mood to get on the Queen Elizabeth Expressway during rush hour no less. So I drove all the way south to Lake Ontario and had a quick peek at the Burlington Waterfront which has been beautifully developed in recent years. Since dark clouds were starting to roll in I decided to postpone my explorations of Burlington for next time and embarked on a slow relaxing drive back to Toronto next to the Lakeshore. The western waterfront of Lake Ontario is very scenic with multiple public parks and stately older mansions with beautifully manicured gardens.

Burlington, Oakville and Mississauga will also remain to be explored next time.

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