Some years it feels as though winter will never end. Some years it doesn’t. Living in northern Ontario you get used to cold weather and long winters. Seasons like spring and summer are a welcome respite that people long for. When they don’t arrive when they’re supposed to, it feels like a gigantic gut punch. This year put us down for the count.
Hey kids, I’m finally back. I know I say that literally every time I write this blog, but this time I not lying. This has been the longest stretch that I have not had a written post since I started this site back in 2011, as it’s been over 13 months. I know, I’ve been very remiss. My excuse? I’ve been busy? Never heard that one before, right? The last year has been rather crazy, especially the last number of months. Between Covid and everything else going on, I just haven’t been inspired to write. And when I am and have the time, I get distracted with something and then forget. My apologies!
So, one of the things that really messed with me was the ever-changing schedule with school because of Covid. We were in person, then online, then at home…it was quite the gong show! Thankfully I’ve had some time to recuperate. In February, my wife and I started another leave (sabbatical if you will) which will last until September. On our last one in 2016, we took time to travel with our kids and tend to projects around the house and camp. This time has been rather different, with Covid and the War in Ukraine influencing our plans. We did do a lot of work around the house, and I did manage to get some railway work in, which I’ll talk about later. As we roll further into spring, I can finally get out to do some hiking which I’ve been waiting patiently (or more correctly very impatiently) for.
Speaking of spring, I certainly have to have a big rant about the weather. I usually do, but this time it’s the real deal. We had, as far as I can remember, the worst winter and spring ever. Literally! After a relatively mild start to winter, we got hit with a storm right after Christmas and it just didn’t stop. It was almost one snowstorm after another, and when it wasn’t snowing, it was cold. Usually we have periods where it warms up at points in January and February, but that never happened. When March rolled around, there was hope that things would improve. Mother Nature teased us with a few days of warm temperatures during the March break, but then quickly slapped us back into reality. The next week we were hammered by a storm that dropped 51 centimetres of snow (at my house at least). Every week after that for the next month, we got snow mid-week. We broke the record for the most snow on the ground at this time of the year since they started recording that data in 1955. This past week the weather has finally started to turn with sun and temperatures near normal. A lot of the snow has gone, but there are still patches hanging around where it was deep or shaded.
Unfortunately I can’t say the same thing about the snow situation at camp. I’m actually writing this as I spend my first weekend out here and while there’s been a lot of melt, there’s still a ton of snow. I don’t think I’ve seen this much snow at this time of the year. We have a basement door that opens out to the lake side and it is still blocked by a snow drift 5 feet high. I was hoping to dig the door out this weekend but it will have to wait a bit. I even had to bring my bike inside the camp because there’s a drift about the same size blocking access to one of the sheds here that I store my bike in. They are calling for highs approaching or over 20 celsius this week, so with any luck it will put a dent in all this snow.
One of the things that I’ve been doing to occupy my time since I can get out hiking has been some visits to the Thunder Bay Museum to do some research. My book on the Pigeon River Lumber/Gunflint & Lake Superior Railroad is still way behind schedule due to all those Covid issues, but I’m trying get it finished. I was able to locate information to complete the end of the book, and hopefully next year I can get the visit to the Archives of Ontario and the Minnesota field work done. I need to win the lottery and do this full time!
Alright, lets get to meat and potatoes as they say. As I mentioned earlier I’ve been dying to get out hiking and I’m not kidding. Not to make light of something like this, but I really think that I was suffering from some depression being cooped up in the house. Last year I did my first hike on April 15th. This year we’re about 3 weeks behind and I didn’t do my first hike until May 4th. I feel like I’m under the gun because I am trying to get in as many hikes as I can before the leaves come out.
I had a crazy hiking season last year. I biked and walked 350 kilometres, drove 12,000 kilometres to those hikes and created 134 videos. There was definitely a lot to see and do, especially since I wanted to really work in the drone I bought. With that in mind, one of my biggest projects was a very ambitious video on the Blende River Viaduct, which most people know as the Pass Lake Trestle. It’s just a short distance from camp, so it was easy to make numerous visits. Those trips produced some great photos and a video that I am very proud of. You can see more of my videos on my YouTube Channel.
This year will be less ambitious, but still there’s a lot planned. My goal is to finish exploring the Kinghorn, of which I’ve covered about 80% of its nearly 200 miles. I also want to redo certain sections that I did back in 2020 because my knowledge of the line has increased greatly since that time. The big highlights will be two trips, one to Jellicoe later this month and a week-long one in August to Geraldton. Fingers crossed Mother Nature cooperates!
Anywho, it’s time to get rolling. I’ll try to write again soon, but I can’t make any promises. Hopefully it won’t be May of 2023! Until then…