3 Spots To Get Away From It All (without leaving Hamilton, ON)

You guys. I have a lot on my plate. And I know you do too. I’m really trying to be mindful about how hanging out on my phone doesn’t serve me when I’m feeling overwhelmed and burdened by my to-do list. I already know that there’s little else that works better for me when I’m feeling stressed out than getting out in nature, so what am I doing scrolling Instagram when I’m feeling that way anyways? When I first moved to Hamilton I had lots of free time on my hands and so I spent it getting to know the access points to nature in our fair city and I feel determined to get outside this summer as much as I used to.

Here are my top three spots for getting into nature without leaving the city:

Princess Point in Westdale by  Jim Smith

Princess Point in Westdale by Jim Smith

Princess Point

  • Where: Where Macklin St. N. meets Longwood Rd. N. in Westdale. 

  • Why: Princess Point is an easy to access part of Cootes’ Paradise Nature Reserve with trails that meander along marshlands and tracts of Oak Savannah, an ecology unique in Canada to this part of Ontario. If you’ve got a canoe (maybe you do!), it’s a great place to go for a paddle. Princess Point is considered a “Nationally Important Bird Area” (that’s an official title!) and if you make it to Sassafras Point by taking the Wild Ginger Trail, you can nibble on the end of a sassafras leaf, one of the original ingredients for root beer. 

  • When: If you’re into birds, go first thing in the morning. 

  • Getting there: Walk from Westdale north on either Macklin or Longwood to the end of the street. Take the 06 Aberdeen bus to the Princess Point Loop if you’re taking HSR. Ample parking available. 

  • Cost: Parking is $1-2/hr, otherwise it’s free free free. 

Christie Lake Conservation Area

Christie Lake Conservation Area

Christie Lake Conservation Authority 

  • Where: On Hwy 5 just west of Hwy 6 in Dundas

  • Why: Part of the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA), this is where Spencer Creek widens in the Christie Reservoir and the swimming is excellent! The water is much warmer than Lake Ontario but because it’s a creek there’s a flow to the water that keeps things feeling nice and fresh. Add to that inexpensive canoe/kayak rentals, mountain biking, hiking, and a nice long beach - why aren’t you there right now?  

  • When: Weekend daytime can be nuts, but evenings and weekdays tend to fairly empty. It’s just a 12 minute drive from James St. N., which makes it a lovely spot for a mid-week early evening summer hang. 

  • Getting there: Most will want to drive. The adventuresome might choose to bike. 

  • Cost: Free if you have a HCA membership ($115/12 months), $10/car + $5/person. 

Smokey Hollow Waterfall in Waterdown by  Joe deSousa

Smokey Hollow Waterfall in Waterdown by Joe deSousa

Smokey Hollow Waterfall 

  • Where: Off Mill St. S. in Waterdown

  • Why: There are bigger waterfalls in Hamilton but this has got to be one of the most beautiful. Grindstone Creek flows into a fast flowing fall that tumbles into the most lovely meandering stream alongside a gorgeous section of the Bruce Trail. Walk along the path to the left of the waterfall down the escarpment past big jutting rocks until you reach the valley floor. The forest opens up and the trail is flat for much of the next few kilometres.  

  • When: The parking lot is small so you may want to go on a weekday or weekend morning/evening.

  • Getting there: Besides driving, the Aldershot GO bus #18 passes right by or ride your bike along York Blvd and Snake Rd. 

  • Cost: Free!

What's it like to get community acupuncture?

Lots of people who want to know what we do at Inland Island Community Wellness Centre are most curious about community acupuncture, in part because it's not something they're familiar with. I wanted to share with you my first experience of receiving community acupuncture as a patient, years before I became a practitioner and opened Inland Island. Hopefully it will give you a good picture of what to expect and how good it can feel! 

One of the practitioners at Six Degrees working their magic

One of the practitioners at Six Degrees working their magic

Back in 2012 I was dealing with a heck of a lot of stress. I was in school 40+ hours/week, working a part-time job, living with my partner and trying to maintain a relationship with him, and commuting for at least 3 hours of my day every day. Things weren't bad - almost everything that was stressing me out I had taken on by choice in one way or another - but I was having trouble coping with all I had committed to. And then I lost a really good friend in an accident and any semblance of balance I had been maintaining flew out the window. I started to feel anxious, tight chested, have poor digestion, insomnia, incredible PMS, etc. You get the picture. 

A friend  was offering a PWYC gentle yoga class at Six Degrees in Toronto on an evening I actually had free so I went to check it out. The class was wonderful, but the community acupuncture space next to the studio kind of bowled me over. Soft and peaceful music was playing as five resting people lay back in recliners, staring at the art on the walls or napping. It looked blissful. I wanted to badly to sit in one of those chairs too. What a difference from the impersonal and clinical rooms I was used to receiving acupuncture in.

I went back a week later for an appointment with one of the acupuncturists (known as "acupunks" in community acupuncture parlance). I checked in at the front desk, paid anonymously in advance, took some bed sheets from the shelf at the entrance to the acupuncture room, and chose a recliner that was calling my name. The acupuncturist came over with the intake form I had filled out and crouched by my chair. "Hey," she said, "how ya doing?" I, of course, burst into the quietest tears I could muster and unloaded all that I had been carrying around. She listened, she nodded, she agreed that it was a lot, and then asked to look at my tongue and take my pulse.  A few minutes later, the needles were in and I lay back and finally, I relaxed.

There were other people having treatments too, but I didn't pay attention to them. I didn't feel called to at all, I felt utterly and completely in my own body. I think that's one of acupuncture's gifts; it can be a tool for practicing mindfulness, something that often happens during a treatment to the receiver even without the intention to do so. For some reason, I feel like that part of the modality works even better in a community setting vs. being in a private room. In a space filled with others who are totally relaxed, it somehow makes it easier to get there yourself. Those of us who play the role of acupunk will tell you there is 100% a certain kind of energy that you can feel in the room when multiple people are getting poked (by acupuncture needles, obviously) at the same time. It's special. 

I have been going to community acupuncture for years since, and I am just so so excited to be able to offer community acupuncture to the lovely people of Hamilton. You gotta try it!