Fall is always a transitional time for me, and this year fall hit me hard with new changes in my personal, professional and travel life. That being said, not all changes are for the worst, but can definitely take some time to adjust to. I’ve actually been more fortunate with the changes in my travel life, which kept me quite busy all September long, but October approached me with a rush of anxiety. Is it a quarter life crisis? Maybe. Apparently it is a thing! Either way, I was feeling a change of pace was needed and a day outside my crazy city was the perfect start.
I am one of the few Torontonians who owns a car. Working in Mississauga and needing to travel constantly across the city for meetings had led me to the purchase over a year ago: a 2012 white Mini Cooper with the ol’ school dashboard and the load-in size of a clown car. It’s actually almost impossible to fill all four seats and be comfortable, let alone fit anything in the trunk. Finding a resource to get out of the city with a group often leads to trains, bugging your few friends who do have cars (that can comfortably seat four or more), or begging a parent to borrow theirs. Toronto really isn’t accessible for getting outside the city for a day trip without bogging you down with hours of transportation if you’re without a vehicle...
This past Thanksgiving Monday, I partnered up with Parkbus to experience their bus service to the great outdoors. Parkbus takes you from downtown Toronto to parks such as Elora Gorge, Rattlesnake Point, Kelso, and Rockwood for day trips outside the city. They also do overnight trips to provincial parks like Algonquin. Parkbus is an initiative of Transportation Options, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering sustainable tourism and transportation in Ontario. Not only are they getting us city dwellers outside for a refresh, they also have a fabulous initiative coordinating trips for newcomers to explore their new home and the beauty it has to offer just outside the concrete jungle.
Although I woke up to rain Monday, feeling a little drowsy from the pressure such a forecast usually has on my poor head, the day was quite inspiring and the ultimate way to start off a new week. Wrapping myself up in warm clothes and my red rain jacket, I packed my lunch and headed to Dufferin and Bloor, one of the Parkbus pick-up points, departing at 8:30am for the Niagara Escarpment. My partner in crime for the day was the lovely Justine Yu, a fellow sustainable travel lover, Travel +SocialGood supporter and the Marketing and Communications Director at Operation Groundswell. And of course she was also styling a red rain jacket, making us look adorable and ridiculous as we jumped around together all day through Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area. We hopped on the bus, a typical yellow school bus (it totally brought out that childlike excitement you get on school field trips), and arrived at our destination within the hour.
Rattlesnake Point is a beautiful park in the Halton region. Its trails range from 3km to 10km with the most gorgeous lookouts from the Niagara Escarpment. By the time we arrived, the rain clouds were beginning to drift away, allowing the sun to peek through to warm us up and shine on the beautiful reds, yellows and oranges of fall. We had six and a half hours of exploration with our bus back to Toronto departing at 4:30pm. A perfect amount of time for adventure throughout the park. We kept to a slow pace most of the day, taking in the beautiful scenery as we strolled the trails. It was heartwarming to see so many families out on the trails; kids running around playing tag, dogs frolicking through the leaves, babies in slings giggling away. The day really restored my feelings of self-doubt and quarter life changes that seems to be happening just an hour away in the big city.
We explored a few short trails before making our way to Crawford Lake Conservation Area, another great find just on the other side of Rattlesnake Point. We couldn't help but slowly enjoy the hike. The forest was completely filled with tall, gorgeous trees currently in the midst of their seasonal shed. As we made our way along the trail, we stopped for lunch on the most adorable set of benches in the middle of the forest. We sat peacefully surrounded by nature with our shoes off and our lunch containers spread out around us.
Once we reached Crawford Lake, we checked out the visitors centre then began to wander on back to Rattlesnake Point taking an alternative route. This was followed by a rest in the sunlight on the edge of the escarpment; a snooze with a view.
4:30pm arrived quickly, and the day began to grow a little colder. Justine and I walked to the pick-up point and waited for the bus sprawled out in the grass. We were beaming ear-to-ear but extremely tired from our endless giggles and the life chats that are always shared with new friends. I couldn't have been more thankful for the day and wouldn't have really thought to get out there if it weren't for Parkbus. And with the nap I took on the ride home, there was no way that would have been doable with the Mini.
Coming home after an active day in the sunshine, away from some of the stress of the day-to-day grind of city living, I was feeling a lot more confident, in control and in tune with myself. It's funny how some fresh air and some beautiful scenery can completely reset your mind, body and soul.
I'm already looking forward to my next adventure with Parkbus in the Spring and can't wait to head over to parks such as Elora Gorge and Rockwood, two conservation areas I haven't seen in a while.
Thank you Parkbus for restoring my connection with nature and reminding me why it's always referred to as the GREAT outdoors.
Side note: I am no longer feeling so quarter life crises-like. Just one day outdoors helped reset my optimism.
Want to join in on a Parkbus adventure? Book your next trip with Parkbus by clicking here and check out other adventures on social media by using the hashtag: #parkbusgotmehere.