Last week I wrote that I drove to Mississauga to attend Stephen Caulfield’s Dross Walk, but that I got the date wrong so did my own little Jane’s Walk around the Absolute Towers and Cooksville Creek.
Today was the Brampton Cycling Advisory Committee’s first community bike ride and the day dawned cold and wet. We had many fewer attendees than actually registered, but I really can’t blame them – I would have stayed home had I not been volunteering to sweep the 15km ride. We still had 16 people come out to brave the elements and enjoy ice cream afterward. Do sign up for our future rides – there are nine more – I am sure the weather can only improve.
If you haven’t read the description of the Dross Walk you really must follow the link and read it all, it is very entertaining. Here is a small excerpt.
“Walk the Dross. We’ll be thinking about the future and how this aesthetic nightmare would make a great set for a zombie movie (or home for actual zombies). This is not for babies or wusses. Please visit Malton before Dross Walk in order to build skills required for coping with hallucinatory landscapes.”
As we drove down the 410 it was overcast with sleet and gusty winds: perfect for the Dross Walk. I realized I had forgotten my umbrella. Oh well, too late.
We arrived a few minutes before the appointed time and spotted Stephen standing “in front of the shut down Goodwill in the plaza beside the payday lender”. We were a few minutes early so I ran over to McDonalds for coffee to brace myself for the promised headache.
Coffee in hand, we set off, down a set of crooked stairs, our first stop under a sign for Gardin bicycles, to hear about Joe Gardin who had the Italian passion for cycling, and set up part of his factory in Mississauga for bicycle manufacturing.
Across the street was Metal Works (not pictured), a recording studio owned by a member of Triumph and Mississauga’s downtown peeking over this industrial wasteland.
We stopped to talk by this sign.
At Central Parkway and Mavis Road we found this small plastic bouquet of flowers, a reminder of how dangerous Mississauga’s streets can be for cyclists. Despite having a Cycling Advisory Committee for ten years, in places like this, nothing changes much for cyclists. A female cyclist was killed here in 2007 and an elderly male cyclist killed in the same spot in 2014. A ghost bike placed here by Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists in September 2015 has been removed by the city.
Here, Stephen tells us, is a business that buys scrap metal from the garbage scavengers that we often see after garbage is put at the curb, before the region comes to pick it up.
Next we saw the site of the Mississauga train derailment on November 10, 1979, which led to the largest peacetime evacuation in North America, with over 200,000 people evacuated. That record stood until the New Orleans evacuation following Hurricane Katrina. The train was carrying explosive and poisonous chemicals. I lived in Mississauga a few kilometres from the explosion and we decamped to my aunt’s home in Peel Village in Brampton. I have fond memories of missing school, going shopping, bowling and to the movies. The accident could have been much worse, explained, Stephen, if not for the brave actions of the train’s brakeman, Larry Krupa, which allowed the un-derailed part of the train to be moved away from danger, preventing those cars from becoming involved in the fire. The city was re-opened on November 16. Stephen, who works at a car dealership adjacent to the tracks recently unearthed a piece of track and a railway spike from the explosion.
The mascot for the walk was the kildeer and it was like a treasure hunt finding the photocopies he had posted along the walk. We also encountered two real kildeers in the Rogers Cable parking lot.
Having finished my coffee I began looking for a garbage can, but had to walk more than a kilometre before finding one in front of a Canadian Tire at Mavis and Dundas. Despite the unpleasant landscape and many coffee cups blowing around I couldn’t bring myself to drop mine.
At Dundas Street we found the edge of Lake Iroquois, a prehistoric, proglacial lake that existed at the end of the last ice age 13,ooo years ago. It was an enlargement of Lake Ontario that formed due to an ice sheet blocking the St. Lawrence River which caused water levels to be about 30m higher than present day. Casa Loma sits on the Lake Iroquois shoreline as do the Scarborough Bluffs.
There was some beauty in the Dross Land – crabapple trees were in blossom, but the view was blighted by wires.
If you look closely through the brush you can see Wolfedale Creek, tamed by concrete and polluted by nearby industries.
Many properties where there used to be manufacturing are now warehouses or service industries.
We saw an ash tree completely stripped of its bark, having been infected by the emerald ash borer. Earlier in the walk we saw a city works yard full of mulched ash trees with more arriving daily according to Stephen. “It’s like an urban logging operation”.
We saw a mountain of asphalt awaiting recycling from both Mavis Road as we walked south, and Wolfedale Road, as we walked north. It’s hard to get a sense of the scale here, but there were roads leading up the pile for trucks to dump their load.
A battered truck parked in a corner parking lot was full of iPod Nano arm bands, wet and rusting.
As we approached the end of the walk, again, we could see Mississauga’s towers rising in the background behind this industrial wasteland.
I have driven these roads before, but never walked the sidewalks. It wasn’t a place I ever thought to walk and probably won’t walk again. However, the company and the information shared, made for a pleasant afternoon in the Dross Land.