On Friday I was on a mini road trip out and about in the Peel Region of Ontario's Greenbelt as part of my job. We had identified some locations for the placement of our Greenbelt road signs and now that the snow is gone, I was checking them out to make sure they were still viable. Being a definite Toronto downtowner and not owning a car, it's a rare occasion when I make it out of the city. It's one of the things that I love about my job actually, that it gives me the opportunity get out beyond the expanse of concrete and Toronto-centrism (of which I am totally guilty at times too) and experience some of the many other fabulous things that this province has to offer.
It's funny that I've lived in Ontario almost two decades and yet still often identify myself first as an Albertan. I wonder if that's anything to do with the fact that I can get out of Calgary and into the Rockies at a moments notice, whereas here it just seems to take forever to get beyond the signs of civilization and out into the beyond. If anything, I might be identifying with the viewpoint of many Ontarians, and Canadians, that Toronto is the "centre of the universe". I live in Toronto, but it's rare that I connect the place to the rest of the province. My bad.
I'd heard of the Cheltenham Badlands (http://www.ontariotrails.on.ca/trails-a-z/cheltenham-hills/) before, but never had a chance to see them. Bombing across Old Baseline Road on Friday, I suddenly saw the dirt on my left change colour and the landscape shift. Spotting a Bruce Trail sign and a spot to pull over, I did so quickly, and had my breath taken away by the gorgeousness of what I'd stumbled upon. The eerieness of the landscape was strangely beautiful, and reminded me of the badlands in Alberta where a lot of dinosaur discoveries have been made. My husband is also from Alberta and has never experienced the Cheltenham Badlands. I'm looking forward to bringing both him and my son back when the weather is warmer.
It gave me pause - looking out over the landscape and thinking about how lucky I am to work in a job that allows me to experience natural beauty like this firsthand. How lucky I am to live in a place like Ontario that has also recognized that the breakneck pace of sprawl isn't good for anyone and that even while so many people in the GTA are focused on the busy-ness of their lives, that they should still have a place they can escape to.
I've been taking it for granted. It's time for that to stop.
I’m making a pledge to get out into the Greenbelt, even just out of the city, once a month. Which means I’ll need suggestions on things to do and see with my family. I invite you to send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll write about my experiences here.