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May 2012

Trail marker trees

May 25, 2012 | Sarah | Comments (5)

Have you ever been hiking and come across a strangely-shaped tree? One that has a distinct elbow-shaped bend in it, so that the trunk grows up a short ways, then across and up? If so, there is a chance that First Nations people may have purposely shaped the tree long ago, in order to point the way towards a natural spring or safe river crossing. I read a very interesting article last week about trail marker trees. The article interviewed botanist Paul O'Hara, who recently found four trees like this in Oakville.  Ancestors of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation likely created these particular markers. 

Paul has been exploring the woods of Southern Ontario all his life, and studying the plants and trees there for over 20 years. For the past three years, he has been researching trail markers, and has written an article for Field Botanists of Ontario.  You can read it here: Download Markers-P.O'Hara.

I contacted Paul and asked him if any of these marker trees might still exist in Toronto's ravines. Here is his response:

O'Hara: "No, haven't found any marker trees in Toronto ravines.  There could be, but the woods in the city are of such low-quality and most of the development runs right up to the ravine edges that it would be hard to see any remaining.  Maybe there might be a couple remaining on the upper reaches of the Humber, Don or Rouge?  There certainly would have been some in the city historically."

Paul told me that marker trees in Toronto may have guided travellers along the Carrying Place Trail, a route that connected Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe and other lakes farther north. Trees also likely served as natural signposts along what is now Davenport Road.

O'Hara: "The east west pathway along Davenport Road (the ancient Lake Iroquois shoreline trail) is the same pathway that intersects where I found those markers in the article. The ancient trail ran on the level ground below the hill where some protection from the elements could be found."

Just imagine: 8,000-10,000 years ago, the space where this library sits and everything up to Davenport would have been submerged beneath icy glacial waters!

Sugar maple markers

Sugar maple markers, Burlington, Ontario. Photo © P. O'Hara, 2012

Here are some books for further reading and exploring:

Nature Hikes

Nature hikes: near-Toronto trails and adventures, by Janet Eagleson (2009)


Great Country

Great country walks around Toronto: with reach by public transit, by Elliott Katz (2006)



Walking into Wilderness: The Toronto Carrying Place and Nine Mile Portage, by Heather Robertson (2010)


Colbert & Sendak

May 15, 2012 | Tony | Comments (0)



With the recent passing of Maurice Sendak last week, much has been written and said about the famous children's author.  I certainly remember as a child, being read most of his books in school.  Oddly enough, when I first heard of his passing, the first thing that came to mind was an appearance he did on the Colbert Report about a couple of months ago.   For those not a part of Colbert Nation or familiar with Stephen Colbert, he plays a caricatured version of a conservative political pundit on a satirical news show. 




Colbert interviewed Sendak looking for advice on how to get in on the "racket" of children's books.  Colbert even pitches his own book idea which Sendak surprisingly states, "the sad thing is, I like it."  I wasn't sure if this was just a gag or if this book was going to get published.  Sure enough, it was real and it was released on May 8th, which coincidentally was the day Sendak passed away (It was revealed that the release date for the book was set in February).  All proceeds are to go to charity.  I checked the library catalog to see if Toronto Public Library would be picking up the title, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that many copies were ordered for the Adult collection.  This is clearly a satirical book for adults.  It even got a write up this past weekend in The Globe & Mail.  If you're interested in placing a hold on the book you can do so here, or you can check out the video of the interview below.

Video of Stephen Colbert interviewing Maurice Sendak in January 2012

Lillian H. Smith library, in the heart of the Discovery District, Chinatown and Kensington Market, is a district branch of Toronto Public Library. Learn more about your local library & community, and while you're at it, drop us a comment. If you are visiting us in person, look for the bronze gryphons guarding our door.