Kinda sounds like the intro to a Beatles song doesn’t it? You know the one. Sadly it was 10 years longer, I don’t remember the exact date and has nothing to do with a Sergeant. Okay, maybe I’m reaching a bit here…or maybe a lot. It was worth a shot though! In any case, I just realized that something really significant happened to me all those years ago.
Hey kids, I’m finally back! I know, it’s been a really (really) long time, like almost three months long time. Can I say I’ve been busy? And maybe there’s some laziness and procrastination thrown in there too? Anyway, it’s good to be back. I’m sure you’ve all missed me right? Hopefully? There’s certainly a lot to update you on, so buckle up.
Well, it’s October, so that means we’re well into the new school year. There was obviously a lot of discussion and consternation regarding the start of the year, particularly how it was going to work and what it was going to look like. It took a long time for the government to figure out exactly how things would look (which I won’t comment on) and even then there were some differences across the province. Our board adopted a hybrid quadmester system for high school, which allows us to meet the government criteria for student cohorts. Instead of 90 day semesters with 4 classes, students take 2 classes for 44 days. This means teachers are teaching all day for 2 quadmesters, and half day for the other 2.
So I’m one of the lucky people starting off with 2 classes, Grade 10 history and Grade 9 geography. I haven’t taught geography in 14 years, so it’s like I’m teaching something brand new. We teach one class in the morning in person and the other online in the afternoon. The next week the schedule flips. In the school, we have to wear level one medical masks at all times, and wear eye protection when we’re within 6 feet of the students. We can only remove the masks when we’re in our rooms by ourselves.
No sugar coating here…it’s exhausting! The online part is brutal. It is so hard trying to teach virtually as you get zero clues if the students are actually learning anything. I certainly don’t blame them though, as it’s a terrible way to learn and there’s not much we can do to make it any better. All we can do is our best and hope that things get better soon.
With all the safety measures and precautions in place, one big victim of the Covid situation has been football. This is the first time since 2000 that I have not had high school football and it certainly feels weird. I do have to say that there is no way I could manage coaching with my current teaching schedule…I’d be losing my mind! I do feel bad for the kids, particularly my oldest, Ethan, who potentially loses a year of ball because of this. There is football running, flag football, which my other son Noah is participating in. It is definitely not the same, but at least it is something for the kids to do and get them out of the house.
I would be remiss without saying something about the weather, which is one of my usual things to rant about. I actually cannot complain, as we had an absolutely beautiful spring, summer and fall. It was hot, sunny and dry. That was up until two weeks ago. I think we got more rain in a couple of days than we got all summer and the temperatures have just bottomed out. As I write this, I’m sitting here looking at the patches of snow on the ground. It’s October! I was hoping to squeeze in another hike this season, but this might have dashed those hopes. I’ll have to see what things are like in the next week or so, but I have a feeling I am done for 2020. I hope this weather isn’t a foreshadowing of things to come this winter.
Speaking of hiking, there is a lot to talk about. Boy have I done a lot of hiking this year! I definitely exceeded my own expectations by a mile and I have done so many hikes (or more appropriately hike and bikes) since my last post, I don’t think I can talk about them individually. I did 14 separate hikes since the 20th of July, covering most of the former Canadian Northern/CN Kinghorn line from Macdiarmid to Pass Lake, some 52 miles in total. That’s a lot of miles! And that’s only one way too, so you need to double that number for the true picture. As well, I needed to get to these places, so I put 4600 kilometres (yes, you read that right) on my truck doing it.
Over all those miles, I saw a lot of great and interesting things, and certainly learned a ton about the line and railroading. So see, it’s not just exercise, it’s educational too! One of the best parts was the scenery. If you read this regularly you’ll know I love the outdoors and I was totally in awe of some of the amazing sights I witnessed. Places such as Orient Bay are gems that I didn’t even know existed; it’s like I’ve been introduced to a whole new world. The only sad thing is that I wish I could have seen it by train, especially in the early years when it was just opened up.
In any case, I have now totally committed myself to covering all 147 miles of the line from Jellicoe to Thunder Bay. Why am I doing this you ask? You’re first guess is that I’m crazy. Possibly true, but no. Actually, I’m worried it will go the way of the PAD&W. Canadian National will hang to on the grade until all the infrastructure is gone and it will no longer be usable as a trail. It is a daunting task however; I have divided the line into 42 separate hikes, of which I was able to complete 17 so far this year. I figure it will take me 3 years to complete. My main emphasis is to record on video the entire length and so far I’ve made 64 4K videos, amounting to 12 hours of footage. Just so you’re aware, every minute of 4K video is about 1 gigabyte of data, so these files tend to be huge.
I can’t wait to explore more of this line…I feel like a giddy little kid! Maybe it’s just because this line is what the PAD&W used to be in the past, but I never had a chance to experience it. I’ve definitely immersed myself in its history, and as with the scenery, have found it quite fascinating. As such, I’ve created (or rather updated) an information packed page on this website about the line and the places along its length. Click on the CNoR/GTP tab to take a look at it.
The last hike I want to talk about is probably the most important. In late September, the boys and I took a ride to North Lake to do a little bird hunting, but there was (obviously) an ulterior motive; I guess it’s the proverbial two birds with one stone analogy. The boys wanted to go hunting, and I figured why not in a spot where I know there are birds and where I could walk a little bit of the railway. Any excuse to get out on the PD is a good excuse!
As we walked the old grade I was hit by a bit of nostalgia; it was almost 30 years ago that I was first introduced to the PAD&W. It was Thanksgiving weekend in 1990 and I was all of 16 years old. It was going to be my first foray into moose hunting and my dad asked if I could tag along with some family friends to their newly acquired camp at North Lake. I had never been to the area before, or even had a clue where it was. It was a strange new world for me. Right from the moment we drove in to the camp, I began hearing about the old railway that use to run through the area and saw some of the remnants for myself. Over the next few days, I had a chance to explore more of the old grade, particularly around where North Lake Station was located. When I returned the next year the local snowmobile club had opened up the rest of the grade right to the end of Gunflint Lake. You could now walk all the way to Trestle Bay, and with a short boat ride, even explore the line west of the former 1000-foot trestle site.
That was the beginning. I never would have imagined that one chance trip 30 years ago would ignite a lifetime passion. It just amazes me how things in our lives begin and play out. Had I not begged my dad to go moose hunting, I likely would have never been drawn into all of this great history. Good thing for moose hunting huh?
Well, I better move along. With the change in the quadmester soon, I should have more time to write, so I won’t take so long to write another post…hopefully. Until then…