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Alamosa Park

Surface: Wood chips

When scouting out playgrounds this spring, I’ve been most tempted by playgrounds with easy access to a ravine.

It’s partly my own desire to have a quick plan B on hand in case the playground is too crowded for comfort; a paranoia that will probably linger until COVID is far into the rearview mirror. But it’s also partly because my kids love – LOVE – exploring Toronto’s many valleys and creeks and rivers.

And so it was when we visited Alamosa Park.

Perched at the entrance to a lovely section of the West Don Valley, the playground at Alamosa Park is more of a launchpad than a destination itself. There isn’t much room for equipment, but there are some nice pieces by Landscape Structures, a company whose arching, vaguely insect-like equipment my kids always enjoy. We had a good play, but the kids’ eyes kept wandering down the hill, and it was clear that they were looking for an adventure.

Eventually, we made our way down to the West Don. This far north, the Don is more creek-like than river-like: not too deep, not too far across, and with some gentle meanders that provide perfectly tiny beaches for tiny people. They spent so much time playing in the sand and saying hello to passing ducks that we didn’t explore much of the rest of that section of the valley, which includes a train bridge that the kids probably would have enjoyed as well.

But we did see something even cooler than a train: a bat.

When it first appeared, just a few feet above our heads, I thought it was just a bird that wasn’t very good at flying. But then it kept going back and forth, and as the sun was right overhead, the lighting was just right to see its telltale shape. It must have been catching insects – it even did a couple of impressive dives to snatch something off the surface of the river – but we were surprised to see it in the middle of the day.

And that pretty much sums up these ravine adventures; no matter where we go, we never know what we’re going to see. And if there’s a nice little playground to begin and end the adventure with…even better.

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