Thursday, May 09, 2013

Every spring, there's this narrow window of opportunity when the sakura cherry trees in High Park bloom in a burst of colour. Swarms of people teem through the park, gawking and clicking photos as they take in the seasonal spectacle. And as short as the blossoms last, and as crazy as the park can get, it's still well worth stealing a bit of time to seek out some beauty.
Crowds stream through High Park every year, captivated by the cherry blossoms.
The weekends, of course, are a bit of a madhouse when the trees are in bloom, so I found some time during the week to head in. The sakuras bloom usually during that first run of consistently warm weather, and last a week and a bit, pending any strong wind or rain storms. You have to seize your moment before their gone. Too many people drive, especially considering how transit friendly the park is. The Carlton/College streetcar terminates in High Park, and High Park subway is right across the street from the park. If you were to drive, I'd recommend parking in the nearby neighborhoods and walk the 10-15 minutes into the park. Cycling is also a pretty popular option.

Impromptu picnic - grabbed some roast chicken, cheese, salad
 and assorted nibbling bits from  the nearby Loblaws and shops on Roncesvalles Avenue.
I grabbed some food from local grocery stores (and a cider or two from the LCBO) and walked in from High Park subway on Tuesday late-afternoon. I find the area down towards Grenadier Pond tend to be a little less hectic than the sakuras at the top of the hill near Grenadier Cafe, so I strolled down and found plenty of space. Groups were picnicking, some doing sunset yoga, and a group of adults playing hide & seek tag. There was plenty of space to spread out take in the scenery. Twilight in High Park makes for a very pretty sight. Once I'd eaten, it was time to stroll the trails and snap a few photos.

Cherry Blossom canopy

Sky full of sakura

In bloom.
People take advantage of the blooms to stage some inventive portraits.
Cosplayer photoshoot - original version of Psylocke from "X-Men", the perfect costume colour scheme for cherry blossoms
Picnic in the park
Cherry glow.

A little peace from the crowds.
Tips for enjoying blossom season:
- if you want to enjoy yourself, number one tip is to go during off-peak hours.
- plan ahead: there aren't enough washrooms to keep up with the demand. 
- there's food onsite at the Grenadier cafe, but I find it's better to bring some food with you. If cooking isn't your thing, nearby Roncesvalles Avenue and Bloor West have plenty of shops to help you improvise an excellent picnic.
- remember to clean up after yourself and pick up your trash: you'd think it's common sense, but yet...
- that being said, if you're picnicking, bring a garbage bag just in case the park garbage is swamped. 
- leave the car at home and take transit or bike. Seriously.
- don't be a dick and shake blossoms loose just to make it rain and DON'T BREAK OFF BRANCHES AS A SOUVENIR. You're damaging the park and shortening how long the blossoms will be around to enjoy.
- consider leaving screaming toddlers or your skittish dogs at home. The park is going to busy enough to cause a headache in this case, so why contribute to the stress.

- MOST IMPORTANTLY take a few moments, put down the camera, and just look around you and take in this unique, beautiful landscape we have in our city. Go on, I'll wait.

For some more info on the park and trees, check out High Park's website.

Torontoist has an interesting post on the origin of the sakura trees in High Park as well.

All photos here are mine, and can be found in my Flickr album: Cherry Blossoms in High Park (2013). If you want to use any of them, just drop me a line.