The Joy of Shortcuts

The shortcuts that really interest me are the informal ones that develop naturally through use over time.

June 16, 2011 | | Back Issues | Community | Departments | Headwaters Nest | In Every Issue | Summer 2011

It was with great anticipation that I saw a new shortcut emerging this spring. I have often run by the intersection of Highway 10 and Fourth Avenue, looking across to Island Lake in the misty morning. A bridge appeared on the east side of the highway more than a year ago… but there was no way to get to it. At least, no way that didn’t involve crossing the highway without a walk signal, going through a swamp and only then making my way to the bridge.

I finally see that a route into the park is emerging and that the bridge to nowhere will soon be connected. Screenings have been laid and a walk signal installed. Now it is possible to enter the trail system safely from the west side of the park, as well as the north and south entrances.

Shortcuts abound in our everyday lives. Some are formalized, such as the one under construction at the conservation area. But the shortcuts that really interest me are the informal ones that develop naturally through use over time.

As children, we experimented with impromptu shortcuts every day. I lived in Brampton for a short time when I was growing up and I benefitted from being able to whip through the central park zone of Peel Village to get to the other side in five minutes flat. By car, it would have taken ten.

Children will take the natural shortcut, every time! Why go around something when you can go over it? Children traverse creative routes over benches and road blocks, hopping, skipping and crawling over whatever gets in their way. You may tug on their hands and say, “Don’t climb on that! It’s not your property!” But where there is a will, there is a way.

As your child’s world grows and expands, the shortcuts become more purposeful. Witness the teenagers sneaking through backyards to get to high school on time. Their morning commute is cut by two-thirds if they slip unnoticed over fences instead of taking the usual pedestrian route. Homeowners either shake their fists in dismay and set their dogs on these transient teens, or else welcome the passers-through by building a gate – one that will often be mysteriously fixed with a string that hangs over the other side for entry later in the afternoon when school gets out.

Laneways may be the ultimate shortcuts in our rural towns. The historic lanes that parallel our main streets are a sneak peek into our past. They hold the secrets of days gone by when carriages pulled up behind stately homes and horses would be bedded for the night. Now these laneways act as perfect shortcuts for stroller pushing and dog-walking off the main drag. When I peek over fences and into garages converted to home studios, I feel that I am seeing a more personal and gentle side to my town.

Urban Parkourists have taken short-cutting to a hard-edged athletic art form. Practitioners of Parkour, or l’art du déplacement (the art of moving), move through the urban landscape in the most efficient way possible. Their amazing physical abilities are something to behold and are not for the faint of heart. Tumbling, flipping, running, jumping, vaulting, rolling. Skateboarders also seek out creative routes and even make travelling over concrete fun once again.

Some of us never lose our passion for shortcuts. I still get a thrill of satisfaction when I scale a split rail fence quickly and efficiently, something I learned growing up in the hills. While I may not jump down from the top rail anymore, it hasn’t lost its appeal. My son wiggles and worms over (and through) the rails, aiming to perfect his approach. Little stone piles, wooden stepladders or stumps may seem to be positioned at random, but for the shortcut taker, their intended purpose is perfectly clear.

The Joy of Shortcuts ~ Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong

The Joy of Shortcuts ~ Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong

Caledon Day!

Offering up something for everyone, Caledon Day is a must-attend community celebration of outdoor art exhibits, fresh food and live entertainment. Caledon families will especially enjoy the Kid Zone, co-ordinated by the Caledon Public Library (look for the marquis tent beside the Trans-Canada Trail entrance). Children will be entertained with a magic show, airbrush tattoo artists, face painting, balloon sculpting, crafts, storytelling, a bouncy castle and more. If you get tired and need to take a time-out, you can always take the stroller out to the Trans-Canada Trail for some quiet. The fourth annual Caledon Day takes place on Saturday, June 18. Activities begin at 11 am with fireworks lighting up the sky for the grand finale at 10 pm.

Camp close to home

Your little one is ready to graduate from the backyard camp-out to a true campsite experience, but you still might need to dash home for the favourite but forgot-ten stuffed animal? Or you don’t want to fight traffic to go up north? Your best option is Albion Hills, operated by Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. Just off of Highway 50 north of Bolton, on the banks of the Humber River, you can hike, bike, pitch your tent and experience a true camp experience close to home. Albion Hills offers individual serviced and unserviced sites, as well as on-site trailer rentals. Book early in the season using the online service: [email protected]

Keep us up to date

Ahhh… summer in all its glory… sun-kissed skin, long evenings and sandy, dirty feet tucked into light sheets at the end of the day, perhaps cleaned up with a run through the sprinkler the next morning. Isn’t it grand? Summer brings all sorts of interesting and engaging events to the hills, and we post as many as we receive to our online calendar at Keep the information coming by emailing me at [email protected]. We will continue to bring you the best coverage for families living in the hills.

About the Author More by Bethany Lee

Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.

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