Tuesday, October 13, 2015

On the Toronto Carrying Place

The leaves say Time for Change

On a beautiful Thanksgiving weekend in southern Ontario, we went walking north of Toronto. The sun was bright, the temperatures shirt-sleeve, and the fall colours hitting their peak.

This tree above stands just over one of the branches of the Humber, hence not far from the Toronto Carrying Place, the ancient trail from Lake Ontario to the Holland Marches and thence on to Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay. After attending the Carrying Place seminar a couple of weeks ago, I've been reading about it in a couple of books:

The recent one is Glenn Turner's Toronto Carrying Place, built around an account of his own walk from south to north.  As he underlines while doggedly trying to follow the trail, most of it is absolutely gone under urban and suburban development and the habit of putting new roads on top of old routes.
"The Carrying Place was part of the centuries-old network of trade routes that led from the St. Lawrence Valley into the Upper Great Lakes and the Canadian Northwest. It was an alternative to the more traditional route up the Ottawa River and was particularly useful to the peoples living north and south of Lake Ontario. Though technically a portage, the Toronto Carrying Place was too long to easily carry a canoe. Travellers were more likely to abandon their canoes at one end, and make or obtain new canoes at the other end."
The slightly old account is my friend the late Heather Robertson's Walking into Wilderness, which starts at the same place but continues north of the Carrying Place itself to include the Georgian Bay end of the route. It offers less of the walking/canoeing experience and more of the broad historical context of south-central Ontario history and prehistory, the fur trade, etc.

Glenn Turner frequently notes how little the Carrying Place registers in the modern landscape north of Toronto -- an observation doubtless applicable many other places across Canada. We are lucky to have so much substantial, published local history to help out.
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