Bike maps need a grain of salt. How to find the entrance to the Taylor Creek path? It's easy from the east end, where it starts just north of Victoria Park subway. But the western end is tangled up in the various ravines mixed up with the 4-lane monster Bayview "avenue' and the Don Valley expressway, snaking through, trying to straighten out Nature. Another false start. Last time I was with Ryan and he was impatient with my bungling, so we ended up at the tacky waterfront. It's an industrial wasteland now, and soon will be glistening high rises and manicured greenery. Yuck.

I finally realized I had to tackle the kilometre-long Bayview expressway for Crothers Woods and search 'up there'. Now that i'm writing this, I see my mistake. Good thing I'm not heading some expedition into the wilds. I should have taken the trail north from the three-way junction of the trails. Anyway, what a workout, but there is a nice bike lane, and it's actually beautiful if you can erase the asphalt from your view. And what a feeling of victory reaching the summit. (A car driver wouldn't give the hill the time of day.)

Success. a poky gravel lane and a big wooden map. It required some rights and lefts until rail tracks, the river, and ... ta-dah! And I had to dodge another bike zipping the other way at the crossroads. I mused: we're only going 20 kph and lots of grass shoulder. You make up the rules of the road as needed. Courtesy is usually enough. Later two old gay cyclists were delicately tiptoeing down the middle of the path where puddles stretched across, afraid to bike through the puddles. I slowly went around them through the puddles, and one whined to the other: there goes another one without a bell. As if my splashing wheels weren't a less jarring warning. the Ding! of the bell (which I have for going around corners downhill) irritates me. I felt like muttering 'get a life' but that would be a lead-in for more cattiness. 

I continued, my bike wheels fresh and clean, crossed a bridge to find a parkette with the memorial stone to Sauriol. Another ta-dah! I paused to snap a photo.

Charles Sauriol (1904 –1995) fell in love with the Don valley in the 1910s as a boy scout. He managed to buy a large chunk of the ravine land of the east Don, hoping to turn it into a park. The city had different ideas as it expanded and cars took over our lives in the 1950s. They expropriated his land to build the expressway, but he continued to work as a member of the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, and was responsible for much of the Don valley's conservation. A forgotten hero, though his many books on the Don's history are in the library. Opening one is like travelling back to the 1910s--20s when Toronto was a sleepy 500,000, one tenth the size of the current flashy, big-time TO.

'Ask me anything. I see you look lost,' I was greeted by a 50ish lean jogger, I'm pretty sure Jewish. Smart, articulate, interested in people, polite. He encouraged me to seek out trails in the Sauriol conservation area (which actually begins north of Eglinton). I didn't get that far but found a great apple tree behind a hideous warehouse.

I asked there about a road and an Indian told me to park my bike and just go on foot, looking for a path. Too complicated, so I continued until I found the gravel road down into the ravine which I delighted in last time coming from Scarborough. I had wanted to revisit the hidden, tattered remains of a bridge to nowhere and the river, but I had already gone up, down, up, down, up down ravines and the valley. I cut my losses and headed through a maze of side streets to St Claire East which magically materializes out of forest, continuing from the west side of the Don valley. The tensest part of a trip, maneuvering through the city, cars and trucks on the attack, as I search for the key to the magical world of the past, before our Roman Roads began tearing up nature in search of gold.

Another bit of suburbia, looking for the lane down to rejoin the Taylor creek path. My third ta-dah! My map reading seems to improve. I walked down the nice incline, past a Chinese couple, I nodded hello to the husband and he nodded politely, his wife not making eye contact. Very different from westerners. I thought about Confucius and the goal of social harmony. Time for an energy bar.

It's much better just walking for the best parts. And stopping to admire the majestic vaulted trees and brilliant purple wild flowers, all together, like a choir of angels. So much more beautiful than a manicured lawn and artificial plantings. And then a spooky swamp with bullrushes.

I'm sitting now by the creek, though the bank is steep, with only a small level bit. The water is crystal clear, sparkling. Our heavy rain yesterday was rushing past me now. A tough-looking labrador retriever jumped down the opposite bank, played with a ball, then gracefully went back up. No sweat. Perched on on the hairs of my hand, a tiny winged insect stretched out its wings, longer than its body, probably shaking off the last shreds of its pupa, and leaped away, twisting in the wind, and poof!

I climbed the bank to set off, and saw a group of Asians admiring the swamp. It's as if we have stopped to comtemplate a great work of art in God's art gallery.

Back to reality. It's cool and overcast, the sun peaking through cheerfully. A smoke and on my way to Victoria Park subway. More lovely winding path coming to an end with my last long climb up the valley wall. A crowded train, but another Asian man gave me his seat. I noticed he wasn't bothering with a mask. Yes! The mindless regimentation really irks after 4 hours of freedom. 13 stops, up the lift at Spadina from 3 to 2, and another lift up from 2 to 1. Clearly the lift at Vaughn was in strict keeping with whatever TTC logic there might be in that.

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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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