Landscape & Urban Design, Nature, Toronto, Day Trips

Toronto East - Portlands, Cherry Beach, and the Leslie Spit

We've been meaning to get out east for some time, and this weekend we finally pulled up our shorts, got on our bikes and went. 

I worked on Saturday, so was already partway there. We called up our friend Ricardo - who's getting married next weekend! - picked up some beers and headed through the Portlands to Cherry Beach to watch the supermoon rise.

The Portlands are, to my mind, one of the last remaining uniquely cool places in Toronto. I say that because it hasn't yet become overripe with hipsters or condo developers, though in the years coming I am positive that will change. It feels a bit to me like the north banks of Amsterdam; aging brick warehouses, shipping channels, large-scale industrial infrastructure dotting the views; contrasted with unbothered nature, access to clean lakefront beach, and the feeling that you're in cottage country rather than the middle of Canada's largest (and at times, stinkiest) city.

We stopped at the new Corktown Common in the Lower Donlands to admire the best efforts Toronto has ever given to a public space. In one sense, I find it incredibly depressing - will they take these lessons and apply them elsewhere in the city? I highly doubt it, given my recent experiences with projects at work, where city planners and so-called "urban designers" do their best to destroy any remaining shred of design decency in favour of maintenance-free municipal sod and AODA code-compliant handrails. Toronto, your municipal departments are the reason you can't have nice things.

Anyways, get out east before eye-burningly ugly condos dwarf the Portlands completely...

Jed's training for a marathon in the fall, so the next day we biked to Rooster Coffee for a morning pick-me-up before we commenced on a joint 30km run / cycle through the Don River valley, back down to the Portlands and out to the Leslie Spit - otherwise known as Tommy Thompson Park. The spit is a man-made construction and testament to the extremes of both heedless disregard for city history and culture - the spit began as a dumping ground for demolished historic buildings to make way for 'new, modern development' - and respectful consideration for the presence of nature in the city; the spit is now a nature / bird preserve with protected coastal marshes, sand dunes, and wildflower meadows.

Our last stop before heading home was Clarke Beach - home of Toronto Windsurfing Club. A cold swim was the perfect end to 30km in the hot hot heat.