Heaven: A Visit to the Toronto Islands

Heaven. We all have different definitions of what's complete bliss, but for me it includes the sound of waves, the smell of sunwarmed sand and salt water, a vast expanse of moving water with no land as far as the eyes can see, and very few other people.

I've been off my day job for the month of August, but a miscellany of events conspired to keep me working for the first couple of weeks. I didn't really kick into mental vacation mode until a week ago, but when I did, it was with a vengeance. It was a beautiful day, sunny and hot (we haven't had a lot of those this summer) and I decided to exercise my newfound range and go to the Islands with my camera. This time, I was not headed for Ward's Island, with its quirky cottages. This time, I wanted to see a lot of water and so I returned to Centre Island. I haven't been there for a long time — there's a small amusement park and carefully manicured park area and when I go, I want unkempt and natural. But the north side of the island provides the best access to the view I wanted, so that's where I went. And was I ever glad I did.

Going into the ferry, I saw a couple of unexpected extra passengers, a charming moment that started the day off just right

Although I prefer the natural and unkempt look, I have to admit that Toronto Recreation and Parks has done a stellar job with Centre Island. There are vast lawns with signs like this

Both old and new trees, wonderful flowerbeds and all of it is surrounded by waterways crisscrossing through all of the islands. It's incredibly beautiful and wonderfully peaceful. I wandered around for a while, enjoying it all. And then I headed for the other side of the island.

Once there, I gazed for a bit at the beach — crashing waves! Actual sand! —  but quickly moved on to something special. There was a pier jutting out into the lake! I'm pretty sure that it's new  — I don't remember this being there the last time I visited (granted, this was 15 years ago or so). It's a wonderful addition, taking you unexpectedly far out onto the blue water. The end divides into two, which is another wonderful design element. It means there are less people on each "wing" and you're much more likely to hear nothing but the sound of wind and the cries of seagulls. A less brilliant design element is that the railings are composed of two wide wooden planks, positioned just so that someone in a wheelchair can't see above the top. I did sneak this photo in the gap between the planks

I also spent some time communing with a young seagull, who fervently hoped that I would share some food with it. Since I hadn't brought anything but a box of raisins, its hopes were dashed, but it took a while for it to realize this. In the meantime, I engaged in some avian portrait photography. Seagulls are taken for granted and not like very much liked. Getting up close and personal made me realize anew just how beautiful they are. The colouring of the young ones is a particular favourite of mine and thanks to my young friend, I got an up close view of the intricacy of the patterns that protect newly hatched chicks from predators. Thanks to the wind, I also got a better idea of just how soft these feathers are

It eventually got tired of trying to telepathically intrigue me to cough up food. So tired, in fact, that it yawned. Yes, yawned!. I had no idea that birds yawn! Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera ready, but take my word for it. Then it flew off and after consulting the map on my trusty smart phone (best investment ever), I decided to do the same (sort of) and take a walk along the coast, headed west. I'd never been in that area before, but I thought I might be able to see more beach and significantly more water than I could at the pier. Moving off the pier, I got another beautiful view of this area. As in so many other places on the islands, you can see the CN Tower peeking up over the trees, a reminder that the city is right there.

And then I moseyed off along the path. There was a lot of vegetation between me and the beach, but every now and again, there was a really good view. There was also a path leading into a protected sand dune, the last of its kind on Islands and I followed the dock as far as I could, but stopped before I reached the sand. I have recent experience with the incompatibility between wheelchair tires and sand. Nonetheless, sitting in the middle of this dock, hidden from the path, was so peaceful.

I continued moving west, peeking out at the sand in the water, enjoying the silence, only occasionally interrupted by someone else enjoying the area on a bike.


Mostly, it was just me, the sound of waves, the smell of sunwarmed stand, and blue water as far as the eye could see.


Okay, so I was missing the smell of saltwater, but this close to the lake, there was still that undefinable scent of a large body of water, which is so close I'm not going to quibble.

Much too soon, I was time to return to the docks for the ferry back. And on the way, there was another moment worthy of inclusion in my version of heaven. Because what's heaven without something that makes you laugh? In this case, a veritable herd of purple first years celebrating f!rosh. I love engineering students…



AlisonH said…
Very cool. So glad you got to go. Love the closeup of the juvenile bird who hoped you were gullible.

Ah, well, Gulliber's Travails.
AlisonH said…
He didn't write you off too Swiftly.

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