Smokey Hollow is one of my favourite hiking spots.
I came across it years ago in a book of maps of hiking trails in southern Ontario. It was a dot on a piece of paper on Mill Street just north of the Burlington border.
It turned out to be much more than just a dot.
The waterfall is arguably the premier attraction; Grindstone Creek cascades down a dramatic drop.
Once you descend several flights of natural and man-made stairs, the noise of traffic disappears and tranquility dominates.
It was here that I saw my first and only wild trillium to date.
Coincidentally, Smokey Hollow was one of the first spots the Burlington Post team consisting of photographer Eric Riehl and myself recently visited on a walking tour for our feature on the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System.
The walking tour idea was mine — any chance to trade in high heels for Sorel boots is welcome.
David Galbraith, longtime head of science at the Royal Botanical Garden, and John Hall, co-ordinator with the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan, served as our guides, taking us to stunning sites like the Grindstone Estuary marshlands, Kerncliff Park, Clappison Woods and Smokey Hollow.
As a nature lover, I had been to all these sites before, but the historical background and ecological significance shared by David and John elevated my understanding of why protecting these lands through the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System initiative is so important.
Smokey Hollow is an example of how an area can recover after human impact.
In the 19th century, Grindstone Creek was the site of industrial mills, which are now gone. The site has potential for further naturalization, as well as trail enhancements. The trail is particularly rich with wildflower species.
The Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System, formally established in 2013, is a partnership between nine partner agencies. It encompasses approximately 9,000 acres of natural lands at the western end of Lake Ontario. Of that number, 4,700 acres are permanently protected while 4,300 acres are privately owned. Included in the 1,500 documented species of flora and fauna is more than 60 species at risk, including the endangered Jefferson salamander.
I encourage everyone to read my feature on the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System at http://bit.ly/1z1h4Woand experience these precious lands.