Moments like these do not come along very often. They are ones that are often engrained in our memory, reminisced upon for years to come. I certainly remember similar occasions from my youth, and they do bring with them comforting, warm thoughts. I hope that this past weekend does likewise, though my perspective is a bit different this time. I definitely glad I took the time to do this and I will mostly likely do it again!
Okay, so I guess enough of the cryptic stuff. It’s been a good weekend…really good. I got a chance to get away from all the stressful stuff that has been going on in my life and decompress a bit. I spent quite a bit of time on the railway, which as you know is my happy place. Most importantly, I got to be a dad for a few solid days. I do miss seeing my wife, but sometimes a guy just needs to spend some time away with his boys; a man’s weekend if you will. This fall has been so busy I haven’t really seen a lot of them, which is very unfortunate. As I indicated in my intro, these are the events that get remembered. I look back on with great fondness the times I spent with my dad all those years ago and while it does make me a bit sad that’s he gone, it makes me truly understand what a dad really is.
Fall is particularly special for me. One of my most cherished memories of my childhood father-son time is warm evenings spent hunting in the area around South Gilles. The fall colours, the blue skies and the crisp air make me think back to those years long ago. I certainly hope that the boys will remember those same feelings when I’m gone. I can’t wait to do this all again next year…if my wife lets us!
So this was my long-winded way of saying it was a great weekend. I think the boys enjoyed it and so did I. We spent Saturday along the Gunflint Narrows Road, looking for the elusive turning wye along that section of railway that seems to defy discovery. I did see a few things that were optimistic, but I failed to make the “big” breakthrough. I got myself a nice sloppy booter though!
After a few hours of slogging through the tall grass in the swamp, I turned my attention to the railway further south where it bridged the Cross River twice. Unfortunately, owing to all the rain we received this year, I wasn’t able to do much since the river level was so high. I’ll have to try again next year.
We headed back to our great cabin for lunch (it was just renovated) and then drove back up the Gunflint Trail to the Chik-Wauk Museum. Noah had never seen the museum, so I thought he might like taking a look at it. Also, I had to drop off a new copy of my railway poster. Seems as though someone took a liking to it, and stole the previous one! I guess that’s a positive theft. While we were there we took the opportunity to look at some of the trails around the site and snap some pictures of the beautiful scenery.
From the museum it was back to the lodge for a quick stop over and then we were back on the Gunflint Trail, east this time toward the Gunflint Lodge. I had decided that we would eat dinner one of the days at the Lodge’s fantastic restaurant and Saturday became that time. We left a little early so we could stop at the Gunflint Lake Overlook, which is just north of the lodge. There are some trails in the area, and I wanted to see which one would give us a nice vista of the lake. We wandered around for a bit, and finally found the West End Trail (which is part of the Borderland Route) that brought us to the spot. Too bad the clouds had rolled in otherwise it would have made for some awesome photographs!
Supper at the lodge was great as usual, and I probably ate way more than I should have. Ethan decided that he could handle a three-slice clubhouse sandwich; no he couldn’t! Dad had to help him out, which I know isn’t the best plan for watching your waistline, but I hate to throw away food I paid for. I guess it worked okay though, since I did burn it off the next day.
Back at Cross River we spent the evening passing time in the lodge playing some games and watching a bit of TV. When we headed off to bed, it was drizzling a bit which made me nervous for what we’d experience the next day. Fortunately it wasn’t too wet when we woke up and it was a very beautiful morning on the lake.
Sunday’s hike was going to be along the railway grade that forms part of the southern arm of the USFS Centennial Trail. This was the part of the area I explored in the spring with Ethan and John. Noah had never come hiking in Minnesota so this was going to be a new experience for him, and I also wanted to do a bit of investigating along this stretch of the railway.
I always love to hike on this part of the Centennial Trail as it passed through some amazing work that was done on the railway, such as rock cuts and embankments. I particularly like the 200 foot north-facing rock cut that is very cool and damp, since it sees very little sunlight during the day. I also used the opportunity to shoot some new video of the railway through this area, which I hope to upload once I get caught up on stuff from the summer.
When we reached the intersection of the Centennial and Kekekabic Trails, we paused a bit for lunch. Then I tried to do a bit of sleuthing, using the boys to help me piece together what happened with the railway grade in the area, where it forms another switchback. I’m not completely clear on the situation, but it certainly helped clarify a few things and I did shoot some video that I can analyze at another time.
From there it was a three kilometre walk back to the truck, highlighted by Noah stepping on a snake and scaring the hell out of everyone. We did stop at a few of the test pits along the way so Noah could have a chance to see them. In all it was a great day and a heck of a lot of walking, 8km in total! I was certainly tired and so were the boys.
That evening it was a well-deserved meal of barbequed chicken and steak; I really appreciated the opportunity to sit down and have a nice quiet dinner with the boys. They were very excited for that night’s activities, since I had promised them that instead of our usual weekend movie night, we would do “football” night. The Cowboys were playing the Redskins in the late game, and we had chips and bottled cream soda ready to go. I think they quite enjoyed the evening and the snacks (and staying up a bit late), which made me a happy dad. The icing on the cake was the ‘Boys beating the ‘Skins in a very close game (I didn’t see the end as the boys had to go to bed).
The next morning I was up early to start packing for home. I was able to catch the sun rising over the lake, which was very beautiful. We all ate an amazing breakfast at the lodge, bid goodbye to John and Rose, and made our way home. It was sad to leave, but great to be home. My wife Jo-Anne had already started Thanksgiving dinner and wonderful scents emanated from the kitchen. The great feast was really the culmination of a fantastic weekend.
So I’ve had a week to digest everything that went on during the long weekend. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time to reflect on all the great things we have in our lives…I certainly have a lot to be thankful for. My wife, my boys, all things in my life…they are all blessings. There are times that I do take everything for granted, but deep down I’m glad to have them all. I’m excited to do the boys’ weekend again next year, and I’m sure Ethan and Noah are too. Hopefully the weather will cooperate like this year and allow us to make more great memories.
Anyway, I need to go. Hopefully the end of the football seasons will allow me to write more often, maybe even next week…we’ll see! Until then…