Hamilton, Ontario

Hamilton is home to waterfalls and gorgeous trails. Check out the various trails the city has to offer from more serious hikes to casual and leisurely strolls. Many of the trails can be accessed for free or with just the fee of on-site parking.


Shunpiking with Mother

By Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Emily Jane Hills Orford  pottery"Happy Mother’s Day,” we all announced in unison as we traipsed into the kitchen for breakfast. Dad was busy fussing around the kitchen as if he did so every day. Mom tried to help, but he shooed her away.

My sister and I quickly offered our assistance while the boys sat with Mom at the table. Gran entered with her cheery “Good morning,” and an added, “Happy Mother’s Day,” which she addressed to Mom. “Why are you wishing my Mom a ‘Happy Mother’s Day’?” I asked. “She’s not your mother.” “But she is a mother, isn’t she?” Gran asked back, taking a seat at the table while we finished preparing breakfast. “Happy Mother’s Day,” Mom patted Gran’s hand. “She’s Gran, not Mom,” I argued. “But she is my mother,” Mom explained.

Settled at the table, we shared grace and passed around the cereal, toast and other items, chatting as we enjoyed a family breakfast together. “What are we doing for Mother’s Day, Dad?” I asked when there was enough silence at the table to be heard. “Well. We’ll go to church like we always do on a Sunday morning and this afternoon we’re going shunpiking.” He took a sip of his coffee allowing his eyes to glance around the table at the stunned silence. “What?” we asked in unison. “We’re going to church,” Dad repeated. “Not that.” My sister shook her head. “You said something about shunning.”

Mom and Dad laughed, presumably sharing a private joke. Gran ate her toast quietly. She wasn’t sure what was going on, but she knew with four young people demanding answers, she would soon find out. “Shunpiking?” Dad quirked an eyebrow as he took another sip of coffee. “The London Free Press is having its first ever Shunpiker Mystery Tour.” “But what’s a shunpiker?” I asked. “A shunpiker,” Dad explained slowly, enjoying the rapt attention of his young audience, “is someone who takes pleasure in exploring the backroads and finding new hidden treasures, rather than take the express routes and highways.” “But we do that all the time,” I pointed out. “You always take the backroads and avoid the highway. Every time we go to visit Gran in Simcoe, or Grandpa in Galt, you avoid the highways and take the slower, longer routes. So, why do we have to take a Shunpiker’s tour?”

Noticing the unison of nodding heads amongst the young people, Dad shrugged and explained, “To find new hidden treasures. And to have some good quality family time on Mother’s Day.” “I’m looking forward to it,” Mom piped up. “I noticed the information in yesterday’s paper. We start at the London Free Press building.” “Where are we going?” my sister asked. “We don’t know yet,” Dad chuckled. “That’s the mystery of it. The paper’s editor, Mr. Heine, has been an avid shunpiker for years. He’s even written about his shunpiking experiences around the world. He wanted to introduce the idea to our community while, at the same time, raise public awareness to all the hidden treasures in small communities around us. We pick up the tour map and info when we check in this afternoon.” The boys yawned. “Sounds dull,” they said. “I have to practice,” my sister pointed out. “I want to read,” I moaned. “But it’s Mother’s Day,” Mom pointed out. “Time to do something special with your mother.” No one could argue about that.

Later that day, we piled into the station wagon. I sat alone in the rumble seat under the back hatch. My sister and brothers sat in the back on the bench seat, Gran between the two boys so they wouldn’t start bickering. Mom and Dad were in front. No seatbelts. This was 1969.

Dad drove down Waterloo Street, slowing when we reached the T-junction at York, pulling up behind the long line of cars. “Looks like Londoners are catching onto this shunpiker idea.” It was a slow progression around the corner to the London Free Press building, where a kiosk was set up by the curb, where packages were handed out to people leaning out of their cars. We finally received our package and, while Dad proceeded on down York Street, Mom pulled out the instructions and read it aloud.

“We’re to continue driving along York, past the Western Fairgrounds,” she explained.

It didn’t take long to make our way out of town. The steady line of cars in front and behind us wove like a snake along the two-lane paved, and sometimes gravel, roads. Although Mom, Dad and even Gran, knew a lot of the backroads, the afternoon passed quickly as we discovered something new at every turn in the tour. We entered the Mennonite community just outside Aylmer, and I marveled at the horse and buggies that plod slowly and carefully along the side of the road. We stopped at a Mennonite bakery where Mom and Gran purchased some fresh baked goodies for munching in the car and to enjoy later at supper.

Although I had hoped to spend the afternoon reading and my siblings had hoped to do other things, it was a good family outing, one that became a tradition each year on Mother’s Day weekend. For Mr. Heine’s wish to share shunpiking adventures with his community has become an annual event in London, this year being the 50th anniversary of that first tour in 1969.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford has published several books, creative nonfiction stories mostly about her family. Growing up in Toronto, then Hamilton and finally London, Emily-Jane has lots of family stories to warm the heart. In her most recent novel, “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost: A Piccadilly Street Story”, the author returns to her roots and the fond memories and dreams, growing up in a haunted old Victorian mansion in London. For more information about the author, check out her webpage at: http://emilyjanebooks.ca