Thursday, March 20, 2008

Winter on the Islands

This happened almost a month ago (yikes!), but I want to post about it before winter melts away. If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you know how I love the Toronto Islands. But I'd only ever been there in the summer -- until the Saturday last month when Jude and I ventured over, hoping to go skating on the lagoon.

Most of the water that loops through and between the Islands freezes solid in the winter, and the Ward's Island locals keep a rink-sized patch cleared of snow. We found it, but couldn't skate on it because an all-day pick-up hockey game was in progress. We didn't mind, though; we stayed and watched a while. Maybe a dozen people were playing -- many in t-shirts, because the day was so mild -- and about twice that many were hanging out rinkside, watching, chatting, and drinking out of thermoses. Dogs ran around greeting everyone. For Island residents, it was clearly the place to be on a Saturday afternoon.

Winter Saturday on the Island

We walked along the trail till we got to the church. We could see Centre Island, the amusement park all shut down for the winter, the rides silent and still. But there were lots of sounds drifting over to us: barnyard animal sounds. Well, of course -- all the animals at Far Enough Farm were still there. "Let's walk over!" I said. "I want to see the lowing beasts."

We crossed the nearest footbridge. Centre was deserted, but the animal sounds were getting louder. We reached the petting farm and saw an enormous flock of ducks and geese. The ducks were all dozing peacefully on the ice, but the geese waddled up to check us out.

Goose parade

The doors of most of the barns and stalls stood open, and the animals -- donkeys, ponies, horses -- were outside enjoying the sunshine, but there were still no people to be seen, with the exception of one farm worker, busy at the far end of the horse corral, who waved to us. It was as if all the humans had left the park, and the animals had taken over. It was like downtown Buffalo on a Sunday, but with livestock.

We left the farm to walk along the boardwalk on the south shore, and look at the wild shapes the ice on the trees and rocks had taken.

The Islands are as gorgeous in the winter as in the summer, it turns out. If you're hoping to have lunch at the Rectory Cafe (the only year-round option), call first -- they're open on & off in the winter.

Full set of photos here.

Frosty horizon

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