Monthly Archives: September 2012

Sick as a dog!

So, who the heck came up with that expression? According to our friends at Google, it could be traced to one of two things. First, it might have been used to emphasize the severity of the illness…don’t really see that but whatever. Another explanation is that since dogs eat anything and everything, they often get sick. Having cleaned up dog puke on more than one occasion, I could definitely relate to that. Anyway, whatever the meaning, that is my current state of health. I could feel it coming on last week, probably due to the fact that I’m pretty run down and tired. Colds suck!

Despite my illness and complete lack of energy, I dragged my sorry butt to school today as I could not afford a day off. Yes, I am total control freak and cannot contain the urge to teach my classes myself. However, that was not my motivation on this occasion; if you immediately thought football, you got the correct answer. We play our first game against our sister school St. Ignatius on Thursday and there is still a ton of preparation to be done. I figured that our kids leave it on the field every day, so as the head coach, I need to set the example. Kinda ironic that football (both high school and tyke) is probably the reason why I’m exhausted and sick.

Last week’s scrimmage went well, actually better than we anticipated considering that 75% of our guys have never played a snap of football. There were lots of mistakes, which we knew would happen, but they are eager and enthusiastic. We are very thin at some positions, so we have a lot of guys backing up all over the place. I was blown away today when one of my linebackers, who learned the guard position yesterday, told me he’d play anywhere I put him. Love it! One of the big reasons why I do this…probably going to make that kid a team captain.

My classes are still going well, though I can’t believe it’s almost the end of September. One month down! Tomorrow I’m submitting our proposal for the 2014 history trip…fingers crossed! We selected the “Canada’s Battlefields” tour, which would take us to the Netherlands, Belgium and France over 10 days. It will be nice to see some new places like Amsterdam and the Scheldt, and re-visit places like Ypres, Vimy and Juno Beach. Another visit would allow me to see more of these sites than I could during the Vimy trip. It’s a waiting game now.

Cloth Hall, Ypres, Belgium, April 2012.

So all this insanity has once again left little time for me to do any railway related work. I did spend some time penning my response to MLA’s Mauro and Gravelle regarding the development on Gunflint Lake, which I hope to send out tomorrow. Hopefully it leads to greater protection for the rare historic treasures in that area.

Now the visit to the Paulson Mine is still on my mind, so I did play around with maps again, trying to formulate a plan of attack. I really hope that the hunches that I’ve come up with pan out. Locating the grade along the second switchback west of the mine has been a huge source of frustration and head scratching. I guess I’ll find out soon enough. With any luck I’ll have some good footage to add to the YouTube channel, which has seen some great additions over the last few weeks.

Paulson Mine from the Kekekabic Trail, June 2012.

Anyway, my brain is pretty much mush right now, so it’s probably time to wrap things up. More football and railway updates next week. Until then…

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Posted by on September 25, 2012 in Hiking, Miscellaneous, Research, Travel, Writing


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Cry havoc, and let slip…the Dawgs and Bandits?

Yes, sometimes I even surprise myself with my cleverness. Literary genius? Definitely not. Obviously this week’s title is a play on the famous phrase from William Shakespeare’s tragedy Julius Caesar. The big question remains however, is where does the other part come from? Well, you’ll just have to keep reading!

It has been yet another busy week, and my exhaustion has not dissipated; rather, I can say that it has become magnified. Is it Christmas break yet? I would certainly not wish away the fall for the respite that the holidays offer, but things are a tad bit crazy right now. Between work and football, I feel like I can’t stop my head from spinning.

My classes have certainly been going well and I am definitely back into the swing of things. It is almost like I never left. It sometimes amazes me how after 14 years in the classroom things have become second nature to me. It is also weird that I don’t think of myself as veteran, experienced teacher, but I am. Young at heart? I think a lot of it has to do with the passion I have for teaching and for history. I hope some of it rubs off!

Now speaking of history, work is progressing on the planned 2014 excursion to Europe. Last week I had an interest meeting which attracted 12-13 kids; I’m sure there were many who did not know about it despite my multiple announcements. The plan is to travel with our sister school St. Ignatius and hopefully we have enough kids to fill a bus. We haven’t yet decided on an itinerary, but that will be taken care of this week. Probably France, Belgium and the Netherlands…sounds like an awesome adventure!

Stone of remembrance, Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery, Cintheaux, France.

So, what are these dawgs and bandits you speak of Dave? I’ve used it in the title, so it must be something of significance. Well, it is actually. Since 1999 I have coached high school football, and for the past 10 years of that time I have been the head coach of our school’s junior team (JV for any American readers). I currently coach the linebacking corps, as well as serving as the defensive coordinator. In our 3-5-4 defensive scheme (3 down linemen, 5 linebackers and 4 defensive backs), the outside linebackers are called dawgs and the left/right inside ‘backers are called bandits. Linebackers are the heart of this blitzing defence, thus the need to unleash them! We play our first scrimmage on Thursday, so we’ll see how things pan out.

I’m currently getting a double dose of coaching, as I’m taking on a pretty substantial role with the boys Tyke football program. They were direly short of coaches, so I volunteered my services and experience to teach these 5, 6 and 7 year olds. It is certainly a challenge! We have not set any teams yet, so it is mainly just fundamentals for now. Introducing offensive and defensive schemes to them should be quite the interesting endeavour.

Needless to say that with all of these things going on, that any railway work has been put on the back-burner. I’m just too tired to concentrate on such things as writing. I’m hoping to get back to my Leeblain article at some point in the future. Leeblain however is on my mind. Even though I’m very busy with other things, I’m still working on the historic preservation at the site of this ghost town. I’ll probably have more news to report in the next few weeks.

I did spend some time working on some railway related stuff on Saturday. I’m still planning to head to Minnesota to visit the Paulson Mine in a few weeks. In preparation for that trip, I decided to do a bit of research. Despite several explorations, particularly this spring, I have been unable to clearly determine the exact route the railway took near the mine. My attempts this spring were frustrated by the new forest growth, so I’m hoping that with the dropped foliage I will be more successful.

To aid in my quest, I pulled out a historic map that was included in U.S. Grant’s geological survey of the area. Using the data on the map, I tried to plot some likely locations for the railway. For now I am optimistic as to what I’ll find. They say success is built on failure, and I’ve failed a lot in this regard. Maybe my luck will change this time…I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Paulson Mine area, Minnesota.

Anyway, I better get rolling. As usual, there will be more to say next week. Until then…

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Posted by on September 18, 2012 in Hiking, Miscellaneous, Research, Travel, Writing


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Man I’m beat!

That pretty much sums it up. I am dead tired! Now you’re probably wondering how I could be in this state since school only started a week ago. Well, I guess it’s like the proverbial 0 to 60. A week and a half ago I was relaxing at home and now I’m putting in 11 hours days. Yesterday I was so exhausted I had no energy to even write this blog…I guess it will be a Tuesday night affair for the foreseeable future.

So the explanation behind my current physical and mental state is simple-I’m doing a heck of a lot of stuff. Tuesday I was back at work, and Wednesday was the first day of classes. By Thursday we were holding our first football practice and Saturday was the boy’s initial Tyke football practice. I try to put everything I have into what I do, and I guess it takes a lot out of me. Yesterday I went from the classroom to the football field, and then another football practice; hence my lack of energy to write. I’m hoping that my body adjusts to this new schedule soon; otherwise it’s going to be a long few months.

Anyway, enough about my sad sob story. It has been a good return to work, and I’m certainly (trying) to get into the swing of things. My classes are good, and I’m looking forward to working with this group of students for the next five months. Likewise it has been a good start to the football season, though I am concerned about the less than stellar player numbers. We have not had a numbers issue in quite a while so it is a bit baffling as to why we are suddenly faced with this issue. There are some students planning on coming out over the next few days so I hope things turn around. We play our first scrimmage next week so there is a lot to do in a very short period of time.

I’ve also jumped into some other extra-curricular planning. Based on the success of this spring’s Vimy Ridge trip, we’ve decided to plan a return to Europe for 2014. That year will be the 70th anniversary of D-Day, so I would be nice to see Normandy to commemorate that event. We’re having a meeting tomorrow, so I hope there will be enough interest to get the wheels turning. There’s no decision yet as to where exactly we will go, but definitely Juno Beach and Dieppe are at the top of the list.

German bunker, Nan White Sector, Juno Beach.

Needless to say all of this has left me with little time (or energy) to devote to the railway. I was hoping to get more work done on my article on Leeblain, but other than looking a few things over, I didn’t write anything new. I did get a little research done, as requires much less mental effort than writing. What I turned up was quite amazing. I found a document about Fort William in 1893. It spoke about the optimism surrounding the railway soon after its construction, particularly with the impending shipment of iron ore. Most importantly, it contained a map showing the route of the line and its initial stations. Very neat to see!

Railway Map, 1893.

Railway Map, 1893.

Now this work stuff has really cut into my “me” time, so I really won’t be able to get to hike the railway anytime soon. Besides, I do need to catch up on some projects around this house. I am planning my next hike though, and I hope it will be productive. I’ve been asked by fellow railway historian Elinor Barr to take her to the Paulson Mine. It has been several years since I visited the site, so it will be nice to get back. While I’m there I can shoot some new video for the YouTube Channel! I’d also like to try again to locate some traces of the second switchback on the railway near the mine. If you remember, my efforts were thwarted back in June, so I’m hoping that with the leaves down I will be more successful.

Anyway, I know this is a bit short of my usual babble, but I need to go to bed. I’m beat! So, until next week…

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Posted by on September 11, 2012 in Hiking, Miscellaneous, Research, Travel, Writing


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But I don’t wanna go back!

No this is not the end of summer, please don’t send me plea from my children; it’s actually mine. It’s quite unfortunately that summer is already over…didn’t it just start? It is amazing how quickly time flies. I’ll probably be saying the same thing in 10 months when it is June. The only solace I take is that I have yet to hear that annoying back to school Staples commercial. No, it’s not the most wonderful time of the year; if you don’t want you kids any longer, why do you think I do?

Anyway, tomorrow I go back to work. At least I get to be eased back with a PD Day tomorrow. However, I know that day two will be hell, as I’m never tired on the first day, but rather the second. Going back to work is inevitable, but you know where I’d rather be!

Beach at Leeblain, August 2012.

My schedule is not too bad to begin the year; two Grade 10 Canadian Histories (Academic and Pre-AP) and a Grade 12 World History. I know I’m dreading it right now, but give me a day and I’ll be right back into the swing of things…it’s like riding a bike. My love and enthusiasm for teaching will come flooding back. I can’t believe that I will be entering my 16th year in the classroom…damn I’m getting old!

September also brings with it the start of football. We’ve already held our usual pre-season meeting and I’m certainly looking forward to getting out on the field. It is always a bit of a crap-shoot when it comes to the composition of the team; we do have a core of returnees, but we don’t know who will be coming up from Grade 8 and who did not play last year in Grade 9. I guess we’ll get an indication at Wednesday’s lunch meeting.

The last few weeks have been a very good and a great way to wrap up the vacation. I spent a good part of it in the states with the family (and unfortunately a technical glitch with my laptop prevented my usual blog post last week). I know the boys really enjoyed the time in Duluth and Minneapolis and so did I. I spent lots of time hanging out with Ethan and Noah, and in some cases, trying to keep my lunch down. The boys love the rides at the amusement parks and the propensity is for the ones that make me want to puke. Case in the point, the Splat-o-Sphere at Nickelodeon Universe; I spent this particular whirl with my eyes closed lest I blow chunks in front of a bunch of kids. Maybe I’ll get better with time!

Sunset in Bloomington, August 2012.

Upon my return, I made plans for one final summer hike on the railway. I had been itching to get back to Leeblain since my last visit in early August. This trip would be different though, as I was planning to take the boys with me on the long drive to Gunflint Lake. The 146km journey is certainly very interesting, and I forgot how brutal the last 30k was.

When we arrived, we met up with fellow researcher Harold Alanen. As an amateur archeologist, Harold has spent a lot of time around Leeblain looking for Native/Voyager artifacts. We were joined near the railway siding by a few Minnesota friends, John and Joel. John was my host on my Minnesota trip and it was good to see him.

After getting myself (and the boys) ready, we headed north 130m towards the northern rock oven. As we arrived, I happened to glance into the bush just before the oven. I immediately recognized the flat slabs of rock that make up the ovens. Calling everyone over, I charged into the deadfall to identify the “mystery” fourth rock oven. I say mystery because Harold had previously indicated that there might be another oven in the area. However, when he failed to locate it on a previous trip, I was a bit disappointed. I cannot believe that I had never seen this oven before, especially since the brush was thinner before the 2007 fire. Needless to say I am ecstatic over this great discovery.

Rock oven, Leeblain, August 2012.

From there we moved to the ovens closer to the town and eventually said goodbye to John and Joel. Then it was time to go to work. One of my main goals for the day was to locate the 1100 foot spur that branched off somewhere near the ovens. The spur was probably removed after Canadian Northern took over in 1899 as it is not shown on the 1911 map. Google Earth told me that the gravel pit across from Leeblain looked very angular and the distance from the end of the pit to the grade was nearly 1100 feet.

Our first search took us along the eastern side of the pit, where it became obvious that there were no traces of a rail line. As Harold fetched his metal detector, I had a hunch that maybe the spur was in the pit (throwing the gravel into cars beside you would be easier than throwing it uphill). In the northern (drier) end, I noticed a slight mound running down the middle of the pit. Harold arrived on scene with the detector and we immediately began to find spikes, bolts and other bits of metal.

Leeblain Spur, August 2012.

The southern part of the pit is flooded, so our only recourse was to move farther north toward the main line. It was clear that the grade here had been disturbed by the logging following the 1999 blowdown, but the general outline of the spur could be made out. We continued to find items, including piles of spikes and even what appeared to be part of a handwheel. I even found some pieces of coal! It was a very productive day and I’m hoping that Harold and I can team up again to locate more items in the area.

Leeblain Spur items, August 2012.

The boys wanted to spend some time on the beach, so that gave me some time to shoot some video of the “mystery” oven. I then chilled out while Ethan and Noah played for a bit; I wish I could have stayed a lot longer…and so did the boys! The drive home would take 2.5 hours, so we had to get rolling early. We were actually making good time until it happened.

As we neared the intersection of the Gunflint Road and Highway 588, it noticed a slight vibration in my truck. I just assumed that my boat rack was loose from the rough road. The vibration got worse and I suspected something was up; it was at the same time that Ethan shouted, “there’s black stuff flying up from the tire!” My driver-side rear tire was a smoking, shredded mess. I lost 40 minutes putting the share on, but Harold happened to drive by and gave me a hand. I’m now on the hunt for some replacement tires; thankfully I have no hikes planned for the immediate future.

Blown tire, August 2012.

Anyway, I better rolling since I need to be up early. As usual I’ll have new stuff to report next week. Until then…

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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Hiking, Miscellaneous, Research, Travel, Writing


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