Finally got around to seeing the High Park Cherry Blossoms - made a whole day of it. Here's some info on what as saw - and did!
Well, things went well - my feet felt fine when I woke up! - so we went on a big adventure: Toronto.
One of the layers of my big homemade Google map of places I wanted to go was just “cherry blossom locations”.
I came up with a pretty full list of sakura tree locations from around the GTA, including all of the usual suspects:
Trinity Bellwoods Park, Toronto Island Park, York University, Woodbine Park, Exhibition Place, Centre Island, University of Toronto, and more.
Absolute chaos, but something I wanted to see at least once!
It was the end of April when I made the map, so cherry blossom trees were definitely on my mind.
From that point, I kept an eye on Instagram, checked in on the bloom cam - a livestream of the high park blossoms - and kept an eye on various news outlets to suss out the progress of the blooms.
By Wednesday morning, it was looking like the High Park Cherry Blossoms would be hitting the full bloom by this weekend, and as of yesterday - Thursday - the weather conditions were looking good!
Between the bloom progress, the weather, and my legs working, we were a go to see High Park for the first time!
Planning for High Park
Obviously, this is not the only place to see cherry blossoms in the city of Toronto, but it definitely seems like a rite of spring to go see the flowering of the sakura trees, there - specifically.
It’s one of the most popular places to enjoy this beautiful aspect of the arrival of spring; by all accounts it’s one of the best places for not only seeing the trees, but taking photos among them.
I had never been to High Park at any point, much less during cherry blossom season. I had very little odea of what to expect, logistically.
All I knew is that in late April and early May, the area gets closed off to traffic and becomes a *ZOO* of people.
Google maps showed me that it was a big park, but I couldn’t find much about the walk itself - how far to the trees, if there were any steep inclines, etc.
I tell you, it’s BIZARRE to be just 2 years since I was training hardcore for a figure skating competition, and worrying about if a slight incline in a road will do me in.
Anyway, due to everything I’d read made it pretty clear that we’d want to go on a weekday, and EARLY, so that’s what we did - we left the house before sunrise, not really having any idea what to expect, even as far as parking.
More on that in a bit, though!
About High Park & The Sakura
Anyway, before I get to our actual walk, a bit of info about High Park, to appease the Google gods 🙂
High Park is a 400 acre park in Toronto, just west of Downtown, right off Lakeshore Rd. It’s a giant mixed-use park, with outdoor play areas, art, education, gardens, sports facilities, a restaurant, a zoo, and more.
It’s wild to have just a MASSIVE expanse of nature in such a densely populated area - I love the GTA!
The cherry trees are actually a very small part of the park - about 100 trees. Many of these trees were part of a gift of trees from Japan, thanking Toronto residents for their support of Japanese refugees after the second world war.
The Japanese ambassador initially gifted the citizens of Toronto with 1000 Japanese Somei-Yoshino Sakura trees, back in 1959.
Since then, the Sakura Project was created to plant even more sakura as a symbol of friendship between Canada and Japan.
Peak blossom happens in early spring - a special time of year in the park. People flock from all over to see the grove of beautiful pink flowering trees.
Our Epic Walk
Ok, “epic” may seem weird, but this was by FAR my longest and most challenging walking day since learning how to walk again and regaining some mobility after having my tendons completely destroyed by Fluoroquinolone Toxicity, so let me have my hyperbole 🙂
Because it’s a bit of a drive into the city, we planned a whole morning of it - we’d go into Toronto, aim for High Park first, and see what the situation was.
If we couldn’t find parking or there were too many people, we’d head to one of the other big blossom viewing spots, etc.
I was super excited to show my husband the little swan enclave and rock formation I’d seen yesterday, so we decided to start our big day out in Burlington - sunrise by the lake!
It was even more beautiful at the crack of dawn, and we were treated to a glorious sunrise.
Distance walked: I forgot to put the tracker on, but this leg was probably about 1 km of walking, total.
We made it to High Park without much incident. We had NO idea what the parking situation would be - street parking can be wild to deal with in Toronto as it was, and we weren’t sure how time of day / people working at home / etc would impact it.
After being routed down some residential streets, we lucked into parking RIGHT outside of the entrance to the park, on Parkside drive. I couldn’t believe our luck!
There was police presence at the gate, I kind of wanted to double check that we weren’t in a no-parking area, because I was just that shocked.
We snarked about a sign we saw, warning people to stay off the trees - I can’t believe that people have to be told to not be jerks about it, but there’s ALWAYS news about people climbing the trees, breaking branches for photos, etc. Ugh.
With the map, we were quickly able to figure out where we were going.
Walking to the Trees
We headed up Centre rd, taking a left at the parking lot for the Grenadier Restaurant. A short walk on West road, and we’d be among the beautiful cherry blossoms!
The walk was a bit rough - pretty steep, for my newly-liberated tendons. It wasn’t long before my both Achilles, my calves, AND hamstrings were screaming at me. Pushed on, telling myself that it would be easier - downhill - on the way back.
It was a pretty walk to the flower viewing area. There was a carved tree, some rustic stairs, a bunch of little trail entrances, hillside gardens, and more:
Even though we arrived shortly after sunrise, there were a fair amount of people - including several photo sessions.
It was such a nice atmosphere, the beautiful blossoms, all of the couples doing engagement photos, even a couple young women in prom gowns, I’m assuming doing grad photos.
We wandered around, looking at trees and trying to stay out of photos. We checked out Grenadier pond - just behind the grove of trees, and took in the fresh air for a bit before heading out:
The Way Back to the Car
My feet were in pretty rough shape, but I’ve been looking at all of this as “do what I can, while I can”, and I have no idea if/when we’d be back... so I pushed through.
We wandered back along a side trail, rather than the main road we’d walked up, going through an off-leash dog park in the process.
As we neared the entrance, I decided to overshoot, to go look at a pond and what looked to be some sort of a statue. Also wanted to check out what looked to be castles (??) that we’d noticed on the way in.
The statue was a Polar bear made of recyclables:
... and the castles were part of one of the most epic playgrounds I’ve seen in a long time:
After screwing around a bit, we made it back to the car... which was right where we left it. (HOW did we luck into legit parking!?)
Distance walked here: 3.57 km / Total distance walked so far today: ~ 4.57 km
Humber Bay Park East
It was still pretty early, so I wanted to take a quick break and then go somewhere else, and walk some MORE. FREEDOM!
There’s a big bridge I’ve always wanted to see up close, along Lakeshore, so we aimed for that general direction. Humber Bay Park east was pretty close to it, and on my map, so we decided to go there.
Unfortunately, most of it was closed off for construction. We got a bit of a walk in - can’t wait to go back after construction, I bet the views are amazing from the actual park!
Distance walked here: 0.85 km / Total distance walked so far today: ~ 5.42 km
Because it was peak season for cherry blossoms, we swung by Kariya Park on the way home.
Not much of a walk anymore - I remember when this was CHALLENGING, earlier on in my recovery - but it’s such a pretty park:
Distance walked here: 0.4 km / Total distance walked so far today: ~ 5.82 km
Jack Darling Memorial Park
I had packed a lunch in case we were out a long time, and it was nearing lunchtime when we left Kariya park.
We decided to go sit by the lake to eat our lunches (Tuna salad sandwiches, mine on Carbonaut bread!), as the end to our morning adventure.
So, we headed to Jack Darling Memorial Park, which was where we’d gone a few days ago - it’s next to Rattray Marsh Conservation Area. (My post about THAT whole walk!).
We managed a few bites before deciding that it was TOO COLD with the wind coming off the lake, and finished lunch in the car, LOL.
Distance walked here: 0.8 km / Total distance walked so far today: ~ 6.62 km
REALLY hoping that there won’t be much fallout from this. I’m sure I’m being stupid and reckless with how far I’m pushing it, it just feels really good to be mobile again.
I really want to make the most of it while I have it.
I keep readings posts from other floxies about how they thought they were fully healed, then had another crippling flare and setbacks.
It makes me worried that all of this is temporary.