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Monthly Archives: April 2013

It’s a miracle!

Well, I guess that’s maybe a bit of an exaggeration. However, I cannot deny that I certainly feel like it is…and I’m not the only one. Probably everyone in the 807 feels the same way. Confused? Have you read this blog before? If not, you better back track and catch up. Just kidding. I’m obviously referring to the weather, which has been a constant topic of conversation for me in the last little while. So the miracle is that spring has finally arrived…a month late! We’re finally seeing some double digit temperatures, melting snow and today the precipitation is rain instead of snow (though we may get a little snow later in the week as the temps are supposed to drop). Who cares though, as the end has arrived and it couldn’t come soon enough.

Beautiful evening, April 2013.

Beautiful evening, April 2013.

So today is the last day of April. Wow! That means there is only 2 months left of school…some days I wonder if I’m going to make it that far. Holy burnout Batman! I am really feeling it now, but that could be the bit of a cold that I am currently nursing. It certainly isn’t helping the situation. There are just so many things going on right now it’s hard to keep up. Between family, work, football and history stuff, my head is spinning. After 15 years of teaching, I should know that this time of the year is especially crazy. But, it is easy to forget when you’re in the moment.

The warmer weather and the end of the school year are making me think of football. Come again? Football? Isn’t that a fall thing? Yes, it certainly is, but times they are a changin’. Football, like many other sports, is becoming a year-round endeavour. The season ends in November, but soon after Christmas we start with our off-season workout schedule (which I supervise once a week). In a few weeks the coaches from the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) will be coming up for a weekend camp which requires us to give out equipment. Finally, I’ve already started planning this year’s edition of our annual spring camp, which takes place in June. Hard to start thinking about x’s and o’s when there’s still snow on the ground 😉

The railway has been very busy as usual, but I was thinking that I haven’t done much research in a long time. I did manage to squeeze in a presentation over the weekend. I always love to talk about the railway, and never pass up an opportunity to promote it and my work. About a month ago I was contacted by a gentleman named Dave who asked if I could come and speak to a men’s group he belongs to. So I found myself up early on Saturday morning (it was tough to get up at 7) and making my way to St. Paul’s Anglican Church. Everything went well, especially since I only had 45 minutes to deliver information that usually takes more than an hour.

As has been the norm lately, most of my time has revolved around the Historical Society. We have a board meeting coming up in a few weeks and there’s a lot to prepare before that happens. I’ve been working with a former student to overhaul our website, and also trying to get the spring edition of the society newsletter ready to send out. Wow, holy craziness! And that is in addition to the work on the North-Gunflint Lakes Historic Corridor (what we’re calling it)-hopefully I’ll have some news about that by the end of the week.

My final news this week is in regards to my article on the ghost town of Leeblain. My work is currently being reviewed, while I unsuccessfully attempt to find a mapmaker. I’d love to include a map with the article, but I’ve never created a digital map in my life. I’ve been struggling to find someone who can help me out, but my search so far has come up empty. I may have to bite the bullet, put my geography minor to the test and try my hand at cartography. I fiddled around a bit last night, making some headway but also dealing with a lot of frustration. Why can’t anything ever be easy?

Anyway, time to go. I’m tired and need to get some sleep….lots of work to do! More to say next week as usual. Until then…

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2013 in Hiking, History, Miscellaneous, Railway, Writing

 

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I survived Snowmageddon!

Snowmageddon? Snowpocalyse if you prefer. Whatever you want to call it, it was bad…really bad. I know that I’ve been writing a lot about the weather lately, but this is the icing on the cake. We have been getting snow steadily for the last few weeks, but no one could have foreseen what happened on Friday. They were calling for a serious dump of snow, but usually the predictions are way off; not this time!

The forecast predicted up to 30 cm between Thursday night and into Friday. I was out at our annual school board Quiz Night on Thursday night and was shocked by the amount of snow that fell during the evening. It continued to snow overnight and there was quite a pile in the morning. I broke my vow not to shovel in April as I had to clean a path at the end of the driveway where the plow had gone by. I didn’t touch the rest of the driveway as I felt confident there would be no issues. Even though we were heading to the same place, my wife wanted to take her own vehicle to meet up with her friends. Unfortunately that plan went amuck when I got her van stuck in the drifting snow as I attempted to back it out; she would have to come 4x4ing with me!

Our Professional Development day was supposed to consist of mass and a speaker in the morning, followed by a technology presentation in the afternoon. The weather however continued to deteriorate as the morning wore on. It was “interesting” driving to our lunch destination, where we heard that buses had been pulled off the streets and police had put out an advisory to stay off the roads. I (and many others) attempted to navigate our way to our sister high school for the afternoon session, but found white-out conditions, blocked roads and stranded cars. At that point we were advised to go home.

By the evening the storm had subsided, so I headed out to clean the snow. It took me a while even with the snowblower as there was at least 30cm in most spots, higher in others with the drifts. There was a layer of wet, heavy slush underneath the new snow, which made everything more difficult. My wife’s van (aka the Loser Cruiser) was still stranded like a beached whale in the driveway; no amount of pushing would free it, so I had to yank it out with my truck.

Early morning snow, April 2013.

Early morning snow, April 2013.

White out lunch, April 2013.

White out lunch, April 2013.

Digging out, April 2013.

Digging out, April 2013.

The day after, April 2013.

The day after, April 2013.

So needless to say I’ve had enough with the snow. Some went away over the last few days, but to my chagrin, I woke up to a few fresh centimetres this morning.  The temperatures are supposed to climb though, reaching a high of 17 on the weekend. 17? Seriously? So we go from snowstorms and below zero temps to shorts weather in less than a week. Inevitably I’m going to be complaining on the weekend about how hot it is…can’t we just pick a season and stick with it?

So 500 words later, that is the scoop on our weather. Let’s talk about some other stuff shall we? So early last Friday morning, in the throes of the lovely blizzard, I met with my counterpart from St. Ignatius to discuss next year’s trip to Europe. We want to students to do some research before our cemetery visits (Bergen-op-Zoom, Beny-sur-Mer, Bretteville-sur-Laize), so it was imperative that we were on the same page. I think we have all the plans ironed out, so it’s now just a matter of explaining it to the kids. I have a meeting scheduled for next week and I’m pretty excited to start talking about the trip.

The railway front has been typically busy. Unfortunately my desire to go hiking continues to get delayed, but hopefully with the arrival of warm weather it will just be a matter of time. My next two adventures will take me to North Lake (probably on the May long weekend) and hopefully to Minnesota. Let’s hope that those warm temps melt everything fast!

Last Wednesday the board of the Silver Mountain (and Area) Historical Society gathered for what was supposed to be a Skype group call, but due to technical issues, it ended up being a rather crude conference call (we’re going to meet in person next time). It was a great opportunity to discuss some important issues and plot our direction for the next few months. There are some exciting things happening and I can’t wait for it all to unfold.

I my previous post I mentioned that I would be speaking to a gentleman from the Ontario Heritage Trust regarding our attempts to preserve sites along the North-Gunflint Lakes Historic Corridor. The phone call could not have gone better. He was very understanding and provided me with a lot of information about what we can do. He was very familiar with some of the people who I am working with in our area and clarified a number of things regarding the Ontario Heritage Act.

I am really looking forward to working with all of these great people and pushing this project forward. There is a lot of history in that area and I hope we can preserve as much of it as we can. From what I am beginning to understand, this is a realistic possibility. There is something important in the process that’s supposed happen soon, but I don’t want to say anything until it’s actually confirmed; you’ll have to wait for the news.

Anyway, time to go…lots of things to do. Hopefully I’ll have some good news (and good weather) to pass along next time. Until then…

 
 

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Okay, now it’s just getting stupid.

That about sums it up. I (and pretty much everyone in the 807 area code for that matter) am tired of the ridiculous weather we’ve been experiencing of late. It actually sucks. For every step we take forward, we end up taking two back. Is this a sign of global warming? Well, it has to be something. I can remember as a kid being out at camp (we’ve had this discussion before-cottage, the lake, whatever) and getting snow in May. However that was very isolated and it disappeared fairly quickly. This is a completely different animal.

Confused? Well, it is now April 16th, the winter snow still has not disappeared, and every time we get a nice day that melts some of it, we’ll get a dump of fresh stuff and have to start all over again. That was the case on the weekend. Then yesterday we got a pile of snow, so much so that they cancelled the rural buses to our school (the day becomes a write off, since many of the “city” kids don’t bother to come). Our normal temps should be above 10C, but we’re not even close to that. Everyone is wondering when spring will show up; I think there are a lot of cases of SAD out there, myself included.

Melting snow, April 2013.

Melting snow, April 2013.

Blizzard, April 2013.

Blizzard, April 2013.

Forecast, April 2013.

Forecast, April 2013.

Okay, so enough about the weather, though ranting about it makes me feel better. Ya, take that Mother Nature-you’re being a real cranky @#&%^! Let’s focus on the positive though. We’ve successfully arrived at midterm, which means the end of the school is approaching. Hard to believe exams are only 9 weeks away. Wow…it’s going by quick and there is so much to do! I’m not sure if the craziness outdoors is keeping the kids in check or driving them batty like the rest of us. I know I’ll certainly be glad when it’s all over.

The railway front has been fairly busy this past week. Once again a lot of the focus has been on the Silver Mountain (and Area) Historical Society. We’ve been trying to plan a board meeting ahead of a society general meeting and it’s proving quite an undertaking. We have six directors, spread out over a wide geographic area and with quite different schedules. Trying to find a convenient time for everyone is not very easy to do. We are gathering tomorrow night with a fairly lengthy agenda. It’s going to be both busy and exciting.

Speaking of the society, I did receive a much awaited email yesterday. I spoke last week about a letter that I sent to the Ontario Heritage Trust regarding property for sale along the North-Gunflint Lake Corridor. It was mixed news however; unfortunately the Trust does not manage land outside of southern Ontario. However, the gentleman who emailed me graciously offered to speak with me about other possibilities for land preservation. I will be calling him tomorrow afternoon, so hopefully it will provide some useful leads.

To go back to the topic of this blog, the current weather issues are having a detrimental impact on my planned hiking schedule. Last April 29th I did my first railway hike of the year; at the rate we’re going at, I’ll be lucky to get out by the middle of May. I was hoping to walk portions of the grade in Minnesota on the first Saturday of next month, but that seems a bit ambitious. I’m very anxious to take another look at the double trestle near the first switchback located just off Tuscarora Road (County Road 47). Fingers crossed I’ll be able to get there at some point before the trees fully leaf out.

Anyway, I have a thousand and one things to do right now, so I should get rolling. Definitely more to say next week. Until then…

 
 

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Enough already!

Yes, I’m angry. I’m angry and I’m tired. Confused? Well, I’ll explain. I’m referring to something that is on the mind of pretty much every Canadian right now, in particular the people living here in northwestern Ontario. Still confused? The weather-I’m talking about the freakin’ weather. Mother Nature can be a fickle mistress at the best of times, and at the moment she’s being downright nasty (I did want to use another word, but this is a family-oriented blog). It’s now the 9th of April and I’m tired of seeing snow. Go away already! It is bright and sunny today, but the temps are hovering around 5C, which is about 3 degrees below normal. We need it to warm up more and melt what’s left of the snow…maybe some warm rain will help (as opposed to the snow we’ve received in the past few days). So my fingers are crossed and I’m holding my breath and I’ll let Mother Nature try to redeem herself.

Fresh snowfall, April 2013.

Fresh snowfall, April 2013.

Morning "blizzard," April 2013.

Morning “blizzard,” April 2013.

*Gasping for air* Okay, so I can only hold my breath for so long, but you get the point. I’ll be anxious when we finally get some spring weather; the sooner the snow goes, the sooner hiking season starts! I already have a hike planned for the beginning of May, so I hope I can keep to that timetable. I guess it will be a wait and see game.

Today is April 9th; one year ago I was in France celebrating the 95th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. I can’t believe that it was that long ago. It was actually a miserable day. I spent the whole day on my feet, in varying degrees of precipitation, from mist to pouring rain. It made me really appreciate the sacrifice of the 3600 Canadians who died in the course of the battle. I have started looking forward to our trip next year and how excited I am to go back. Maybe the weather will be a bit more cooperative in 2014!

Vimy Ridge Memorial, April 2012.

Vimy Ridge Memorial, April 2012.

The major news on the railway front in the past week revolved around the Silver Mountain (and Area) Historical Society. Thanks to the graciousness of my fellow Co-President Shelley Simon, the society was able to share a booth with the Silver Mountain Station at the annual Thunder Bay Home and Garden Show. The event was held on the grounds of the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition (CLE), and we were located in the Sports Dome venue.

Shelley manned the booth all three days; with my wife in Winnipeg for the weekend (watching her “boyfriend” Jon Bon Jovi in concert), I could only chip in for part of the day on Saturday. That certainly was enough, for I was pretty beat afterwards. However, it was very worth it. We had a lot of visitors to the booth and they were very interested in the society; hopefully it will lead to more memberships. You can read more about the weekend here.

Society banner, April 2013.

Society banner, April 2013.

Visitors at the booth, April 2013.

Visitors at the booth, April 2013.

My final piece of news involves our attempt to preserve some of the history in the North-Gunflint Lakes area. Most of the land along that part of the border is crown land, but there are a number of privately owned parcels. Two of those parcels are for sale, and have been for quite some time. The society would love to have land revert to the province so they are open for all to use. Therefore this morning I mailed a very important letter.

The Ontario Heritage Trust is an organization committed to preserving the province’s rich cultural history. This includes such things as buildings and land. My letter was directed to their land acquisitions branch, hoping that they would consider purchasing the land for preservation purposes. Now I get to play to waiting game to see if I get a response, and if so, what the tone of the answer will be. Hopefully I won’t have to wait too long.

Anyway, time to move on. As usual, more to say next week. Until then…

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2013 in History, Miscellaneous, Railway, Research, Writing

 

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Damn you insomnia!

That’s kinda harsh isn’t it Dave? Well maybe, but it sure as hell deserves it. I’m tired! Isn’t it always the case that when you need to be up early, you can’t sleep? I even went to bed early, 10:20 to be exact. But could I sleep? Nope! The worst part was that I was coming off a four day weekend…I should have been nice and relaxed. It was after midnight and I was still tossing and turning. Then one of the boys woke me up at 4:00 with a bathroom break and the other shortly after with a bad dream. So I tossed and turned until 5:45. So now I’m tired, drained and probably cranky…thanks for nothing!

Anyway, Happy Easter! I should be a bit more excited, but you know. It was nice to have the extended weekend, but as usual it flew by. It’s now a long seven week wait for the May Long, and there is so much to do in the meantime. A ton of things are coming up with work, family, football and the railway; so many that I can’t even think straight. It’s going to a crazy month and a half-don’t I always say that?

School is as busy as ever, especially since mid-semester is just around the corner. I’m struggling mightily to keep up, particularly with the marking. Doesn’t help when you have days like today and your brain is a pile of mush, making concentrating oh so tedious. I know, I know, more complaints. That’s okay, even though it doesn’t feel like spring outside (a rather chilly -4 today), it’s coming. The snow is gradually receding and soon everything will be a wonderful shade of blah. But change is in the air…I can smell it (well, besides the usual spring stench of dog poop).

It has been a very busy week again on the railway front (cripes I sound like a broken record don’t I?). Last week I received some really good news from my contact with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. I don’t really want to say anything yet, as things are not set in stone, but there has been some positive movement in our efforts along the Boundary Waters. I spent a good chunk of my free time this weekend working on some stuff related to that, so I’m hopeful that things work out in our favour.

Now speaking of this project, this weekend is the first big public splash for the Silver Mountain (and Area) Historical Society (it just flows so much better without the “and Area”). My fellow society co-president Shelley Simon has a booth at the annual Home and Garden Show for the Silver Mountain Station and we will be sharing space. Last week we ordered the display materials for the show such as a banner, brochures and business cards. Let’s hope the get here on time! If you have a chance, drop by and visit the display (we’re in the Dome).

My last blurb for this week is about an interesting picture I received by email yesterday. During my visit to Gunflint Lodge a few weeks ago, owner Sue Kerfoot showed me a photograph of the old US customs house at the east end of Gunflint. I obviously asked her for a copy and she mentioned that she had other old photos of the area. The one she sent me was of her husband Bruce`s grandmother, Mae Spunner, on a railway speeder in the late 1930`s. The interesting part of the photo is that is shows that there were still rails on Gunflint past the presumed date of their removal (1915). Bruce told me that the rails were finally removed by his parents around 1945. I can`t wait to see more!

Handcar, Gunflint Lake, late 1930's.

Handcar, Gunflint Lake, late 1930’s.

Anyway, enough for now; see you same time next week. Until then…

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2013 in History, Miscellaneous, Railway, Research, Writing

 

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