Tag Archives: camp

Whoa, was that an earthquake?

Whoa, was that an earthquake?

Have you every experienced something for the first time and it wasn’t anything like you thought it would be? We all have right? I guess there’s a certain amount of expectation when it comes to new encounters and usually it doesn’t quite match what we’ve created in our heads. How about when you didn’t think it would happen and it did, even though it was a possibility? Does the surprise and shock influence the reaction? Definitely food for thought. Gee, who would of thought I’d start this post on such a deep and philosophical note?

Hey kids, I’m back! Yes, it’s been a while and luckily, it’s still summer, thought it is slipping by with alarming speed. It sucks to know that in a month I’ll be back at work…ugh! Why does summer vacation go by so quick when you’re old? When I was a kid, it seemed to go on forever. More food for thought right?

Anyway, so what have I been up to you might ask? Well, it has been a busy month since I last wrote. Right after school ended, the family and I left for a 10-day trip to California. I’d never been there before, so it was going to be quite the experience for me and the boys (my wife had been there a few times). The flights there were uneventful, though we had to get up at a ungodly hour (2:30am) to be at the airport on time for our 5:00am flight. Thank Jesus the airport in Thunder Bay is only 10 minutes from our house!

Our first stop after landing was nearby Venice Beach, where I was immediately sucked into a street performance because they needed some “rich, old white guys.” Not sure I quite fit that bill but it was fun, nonetheless. The next days were filled with visits to Universal Studios, Newport Beach, Pasadena, Hollywood, Santa Monica, La Brea Tar Pits, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Malibu. We did do some off-beat things, like when my wife decided to get a tattoo and the boys wanted to visit Norman’s Rare Guitars in Tarzana. It was all great, including the weather, except for one thing; the traffic. Holy crap the traffic is nuts in LA! I’ve been to some big cities like Minneapolis, Chicago and Toronto, but nothing prepares you for that. There are a ton of cars on the road, the lanes are narrow, and it’s constantly jammed. One day we went to Jo-Anne’s cousin’s for dinner and the 60km trip took us 2 hours. God it’s crazy!

Venice Beach, July 2019.

Harry Potter World, July 2019.

Newport Beach, July 2019.

Pasadena City Hall, July 2019.

Beverly Hills, July 2019.

Rodeo Drive, July 2019.

Santa Monica Pier, July 2019.

Warner Brothers Studio, July 2019.

La Brea Tar Pits, July 2019.

Norm at Norman’s Rare Guitars, July 2019.

Malibu Pier, July 2019.

Hollywood Sign, July 2019.

Los Angeles, July 2019.

While we were there, we got to experience something unusual for us; earthquakes. Not I’m not trying to be callous about this, since they are serious and often tragic, but it was an interesting experience. The first quake happened on July 4th when we were at Newport Beach. We didn’t feel anything, but when we got back to the hotel and wifi, we were bombarded by messages asking us if we were okay. It was news to us! However, at 4:00am the next morning we were awakened by a little shake, which turned out to be an aftershock. It actually took us a minute to register what it was. Then later that day, when we were at Jo-Anne’s uncle and aunts for dinner, there was another quake. It was nothing like I expected; suddenly the dining room light started to sway. Again, there was a delay registering what was going on, especially since this wasn’t a violent shaking quake, but rather a “roller.” Being naïve and inexperienced, our first reaction was “cool.” It was probably not to best comment to make, but we’ll know better for the next time.

So, what have you been up to since you got home Dave? Well, the answer is pretty simple…camp! The weather so far this summer has been pretty decent, which makes the time out there much more enjoyable. However, it’s not all swimming, BBQ and cold beers (I’m not much of a drinker anyway). Having a camp (cottage, cabin…whatever you call it) is like having another house. There are a million things to do, besides the clean up that has been ongoing after many years of neglect. I have a to-do list that is like 12 points long! The only unfortunate thing is that I have not been home much to take care of things around here, which means I’ll have to get to it in the fall. I know, poor me, right?

Camp sunset, July 2019.

As you can imagine, things have been quiet on the railway front. The only exception is what is becoming an annual presentation at the Chik-Wauk Museum. They asked me to come back again this year and I gladly obliged. I decided to speak about a topic many people had heard about in the area, but probably knew little about, which was the ghost town of Leeblain. Even though it’s been a while since I’ve visited the site, I decided it was something people would enjoy learning the history of. There was a lot of pre-presentation interest on social media, which I hoped would make for a good-sized crowd. In the end, almost 60 people came to hear this fascinating story, which essentially packs the nature center at the museum. I thought it went well, especially considering my attention has been on other topics in the last few years.

Chik-Wauk Museum, July 2019.

The only other quasi-railway news I can report is that I’ve taken up some hiking related to the PAD&W. Doing field work on the railway during the summer has become virtually impossible in recent years. The PAD&W was abandoned 81 years ago or more, and most sections of the former grade are so overgrown it is very difficult to navigate them, let alone try and find things in the bush. The only worthwhile times to attempt field work is in the spring and fall. So, the question becomes is what do during the summer months especially since camp is an hour in the wrong direction? The answer is simple…find another railway to hike!

Just south of camp is the former grade of the Canadian National Kinghorn Sub-division which once carried trains from Thunder Bay to Longlac, some 190 miles away. The line was built between 1912-1914 by Canadian Northern, the same company that bought the PAD&W back in 1899. This was one of the last sections of their transcontinental rail network, which unfortunately did not survive the financial impacts of WWI. Canadian Northern was merged with Grand Trunk to form Canadian National, and then this section became known as the CN-Dorion SD. It remained that way until 1960 when it was merged with the Kinghorn SD. CN abandoned this line in 2007 and removed most of the rails.

Anyway, parts of the grade are a stone-throw away from camp. Last year the boys and I rode our bikes along a section near Pass Lake, which is about a 15-minute drive to get to. It is easy to travel and very pretty with some rugged terrain and nice scenery. On that trip I took photos, but no video, though I vowed I’d explore sections in the future. So, fast-forward a year, and I decided it was time to do some exploring. The way I figure it is that some railway grade is better than no railway grade, and besides, it really gives you some good comparison data when you’re researching railways.

So far, I’ve done two hikes in the last couple of weeks, with hopefully a couple more planned. Our travels last year took us east of Pass Lake, so I concentrated on going in the other direction. The first hike was from Pass Lake to the site of a 2258-foot trestle that was built in 1912-1913, which is known as the Pass Lake Trestle (originally the Blende River Viaduct). I passed along some neat rock cuts on this 4km section, but what really surprised me was that there was over 700 metres of rail left in place east of and up to the trestle. It’s a really weird sensation walking along a grade that still has ties and rails and trying to figure out why they weren’t picked up (probably being lazy).

Kinghorn Sub-Division, July 2019.

Kinghorn Sub-Division, July 2019.

Kinghorn Sub-Division, July 2019.

Kinghorn Sub-Division, July 2019.

Kinghorn Sub-Division, July 2019.

Kinghorn Sub-Division, July 2019.

Kinghorn Sub-Division, July 2019.

Pass Lake Trestle, Kinghorn Sub-Division, July 2019.

I just did the second hike a few days ago and walked from the trestle about 2.5km west. This section didn’t have the same amount of rock cuts but did have some lengthy embankments that probably took some work to construct. Made for a nice morning walk in any case!

Pass Lake Trestle, Kinghorn Sub-Division, August 2019.

Pass Lake Trestle, Kinghorn Sub-Division, August 2019.

Kinghorn Sub-Division, August 2019.

Anyway, I think it’s time to move along. I’ll likely be back before school starts up again to vent about vacation ending and having to go back to work. Until then…

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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in Hiking, History, Railway, Travel


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Goodbye old friend…

We have all been there. We have all had to say goodbye in our lives; many times, it’s a temporary good bye…sometimes it’s a forever goodbye. It’s never easy whatever the case, but certainly the forever kind leave an indelible mark on our soul. We are impacted by the departure, but also by the memories we shared with those that are leaving. It is a part of life that we cannot change or stop; the best we can do is make the most of the time that we are given.

Welcome to summer kids! I know it’s been a really long time since I last posted, but I’ve been busy. Another school year has come and gone and now I’m reveling in the glory of summer vacation. The month of June was nuts and I’m glad to finally start to de-stress. This is not to say that I’m sitting around doing nothing, but having that mental weight lifted is a huge relief. I can’t believe though that a week and a half has already gone by, but who’s counting?

The only downer of late has been the weather. Shocked? Me, rant about the weather? Never! Seriously though, the mother nature is really ticking me off (I so wanted to use a different metaphor, but this is a family-friendly blog). After that ice storm in April, things have not been the same. June was an absolute disaster and the beginning of July has been much of the same. Maybe disaster is a bit harsh, but I am so tired of this crap. The weather has been so unsettled; we just can’t seem to get any consistency. It seems as though every second day we get precipitation. I really hope we turn a corner soon and get a bit more “summer” like conditions soon.

One of the reasons I’m so irked by the weather is that I have been spending most of my time at camp. I feel bad for the boys since spending time indoors is not what you want to be doing, and our summer is so short to begin with. My time has been consumed with a fairly large project, which is the construction of a new storage shed. I’ve never built a shed before, but last year I had never built a dock before either. It’s going well, though I put in some long hours this past weekend and I am still feeling the after effects. I may have over did it as well, as my tennis elbow is flaring up again and it’s quite annoying. Hopefully I’ll have the door and shingles on it this week, so then I can slow the pace of construction down.

Camp, July 2017.

Storm clouds at camp, July 2017.

With all the excitement going on, my railway work has taken a big backseat. The only thing that I’ve done is begun the process of overhauling my web-based information. I’ve had an online presence for the railway for almost 10 years now, and launched six years ago. That site has become a bit dated, but since I’m not very proficient in web design, I decided that the easiest thing to do is to migrate all that info on to this page. Therefore, you’ll notice several new tabs at the top, which marks the start of the process. There’s still a lot of work to do, so it will be a while before it’s all complete. Please bear with me.

Probably the biggest piece of news is my upcoming lecture on the 23rd. I will be making my fourth appearance at the Chik-Wauk Museum for a presentation on the Gunflint & Lake Superior Railroad, which will be very similar to the one that I did this past January at the Thunder Bay Museum. I hope it generates a lot of interest south of the border as well, since this topic encompasses the history of both countries. With my hike back in May, I have quite a bit of new information to discuss. If you’re looking for something to do in a couple weeks, why not take a drive up the Gunflint Trail to have a listen.

While I’m there, I decided to spend the night and take the opportunity to do some field work. I haven’t quite made up my mind as to what I want to do, but I guess I’ll have to fairly soon. I’m either going out on Gunflint Lake and shoot some video or make a return visit to what I believe to be the site of Camp 8. I need to do both, but it will really depend on what I think is the higher priority. It also might rest of whether I have the family with me or not. I’ll let you know in a few weeks.

So, back to the title, which refers to saying goodbye. Recently, I too had to say goodbye to an old friend, one who has been a big part of my railway research over the past number of years and has been featured in this blog. Thirteen years ago my wife and I adopted a dog, the first dog I ever owned. Rather quickly, Loki became one of our family and a loyal companion; he came with me on almost all of my railway hikes until he was hobbled by old age. Last October he was diagnosed with a tumor and the vet gave him months to live. We knew we were on borrowed time and made sure we enjoyed what time we had left with him. He made it another 8 months. Right up to the end, Loki was still soldiering on, including coming to camp. Unfortunately we had to let go of him on June 26th. I guess it’s fitting that in a few days it will be the 10th anniversary of the passing of my father, who obviously had a profound impact on my life as well. They both loved the outdoors, so I truly hope they have found each other and are enjoying a long walk together.

Loki, July 2004.

Anyway, I need to move along. As I mentioned, I’ll be back in a few weeks to report on how the presentation and field work went. Until then…

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Posted by on July 11, 2017 in Hiking, History, Railway, Writing


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Dave’s Outdoor Adventures-Episode IV: You get what you ask for!

Ask and you shall receive right? Yup, it’s funny how things tend to go that way, except when you ask for a million bucks! It’s usually the more simplistic things that we get simply by asking. The real question though is whether we want it or not; or better yet, does everyone want it or not. To use the adage, what is good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander. Cryptic? Please, read on.

So here we are in July and summer is upon us. The kids are on holidays, and things are good (well, except one thing but you’ll have to read the next paragraph). It’s too bad that it’s already the middle of the month and the days are just flying by…thankfully I’m making each one count. We’ve been sending most of them at camp, which I know the kids appreciate. I grew up spending most of my summers at camp and it helped make me the person that I am.

Well, I guess it would not be a typical post without a rant about the weather and boy do I have a rant. Remember the title? Ya, especially the part about getting what you ask for? So what’s the problem Dave? You see, in about the middle of May, people around here were complaining how dry it was and how we needed rain. What do you think happened? Yup, we got rain…a lot of rain. How much rain you ask? A crap load! We set a new record for the wettest June in history here in Thunder Bay with just under 200mm of precipitation coming down.

This has had a huge effect on me, more specifically on my railway work. It’s hard to get out hiking when the ground is so saturated. How wet is it? Well, let’s put it in perspective. Most of my hiking takes me to the boundary waters, so I usually monitor the weather station at Seagull, just west of Gunflint Lake. Since my last hike at the end of May, 250mm of rain has fallen. That amount is the same as the cumulative total at this time last year, compared to 390mm and counting this year. Sometimes people just need to keep their pie hole shut!

You know who else needs a punch in the face? Climate change deniers that’s who. The amount, duration and intensity of the precipitation we have received is a clear indicator to me that climate change is alive and well. Our weather patterns are so bizarre and are nothing that I have experienced in my forty something years. Every time I think we’ve turned a corner and things will dry out and get back to normal, there is another big dump of rain. The ground is so wet that the water does not soak in but rather sits there for days. My backyard has not dried out yet, and it’s been 5 or 6 times that I’ve been left with huge puddles of water in all the low spots. Grrrr!

Backyard flooding, July 2016.

Backyard flooding, July 2016.

With all of this rain we’ve received and my inability to go hiking, it’s left me a lot of time to spend out at camp as I mentioned. And it’s not that there’s a shortage of things to do out there. The better part of the last four weeks have been taken up with removing the old dock that was built circa. 1995, and replacing it with a new structure. For good measure, I also threw in a swimming raft for the kids, which has turned out to be a big hit. It was a lot of hard work, and the bugs ate me alive the entire time (thanks to the rain), but I’m pretty proud of the finished products. Carpentry is something that I really enjoy and I’m becoming more proficient at it as I get older.

Camp morning, June 2016.

Camp morning, June 2016.

Completed dock, July 2016.

Completed dock, July 2016.

The work isn’t done however. My wife Jo-Anne has been focussing on the inside of the camp, adding new curtains and a fresh coats of paint. I still have a ton of cleaning up to do outside, that is after I redo part of the basement walkout with stone. It will take us several years to get things where we want them, but it will get there.

With everything going on, things have been very quiet on the railway front. As I mentioned already, hiking is out of the question since the ground is so wet and many low areas are inundated with water. I’m hoping to get out in August, that is if the weather cooperates and allows things to dry out a bit. I’d really like to try and follow the route of the Gunflint & Lake Superior along Crab Lake. I guess I’ll just have to play the wait and see game.

In the next few weeks I am going to have to put a bit more time into the railway as I have a number of important events coming up. In just under a month I’ll be at the Chik-Wauk Museum doing my first ever full-length presentation on the Gunflint & Lake Superior Railroad. That means I have a lot of work to do to get the slideshow ready for August 14th.

Speaking of August 14th, my presentation for the Northern Great Plains History Conference is also due that day. This is probably the biggest history conference in the northern Great Plains area and I’m excited to be a part of it. I’m also rather nervous. For me this is the big leagues, a conference full of university professors and well-published authors. I’m just a high school history teacher and a part-time historian who is rather new to all of this. I am sure I’ll be okay, but there will be definitely be a lot of butterflies beforehand!

Anyway, I think it’s time to go. I’ll try to be back soon…hopefully there will be something to new talk about in the near future. Until then…


Posted by on July 12, 2016 in History, Railway, Research


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If they don’t find you handsome…

They should find you smart? Reliable? Funny? Come Dave, tell us! What, you couldn’t think of any other adjectives? I’ll give you a hint; it’s from a TV show. Still stuck? Maybe you aren’t Canadian, because most people who live in the top half of North America would know it. Need another clue? The guy who quoted it was the King of Plaid, the man who introduced duct tape as the handy-man’s secret weapon. If you didn’t recognize Red Green from The Red Green Show, you need to watch some syndicated TV. The program was a parody of other shows, notably home improvement ones, and the most memorable quote from Red himself was, “If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy!” Consider yourself educated.

So here we are in May; it’s kinda one of those good thing bad thing situations, this year anyway. Why what do you mean Dave? Well, I’m very happy that it is now May and we’re that much closer to summer, but that also means my leave is going by very quickly. Sigh. Thankfully I’ve been enjoying every minute of it.

Now, one of the things that has brought immense joy to me is the weather. I know I gripe a lot about it, but when you have as long as a winter as we do, I think there is a good excuse. Anyway, conditions have done a complete one-eighty since my last post; it’s like someone finally remember to flick the switch and turn the heat on. The snow went away very quickly, the ice has left the lakes and the grass is starting to turn green. Hallelujah!

April 2016.

April 2016.

The only blemish on this otherwise great situation is my health. No, I’m not dying, but there was a point that I felt like I was. What is ironic is that you often have a short memory; it was at this time last year I was complaining how sick I was. Thanks to our friends at Facebook and their handy “You have memories to look back on” feature, I looked at my post from April 2015 and read about how awfully afflicted I was. Talk about déjà vu!

One thing that has me feeling better though is the fact that our school trip to Europe is less than a year away. Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s coming up that fast! While there has been some ongoing planning, things will start to get more hectic in the fall. I know I have been on similar trips twice already, but this is the big one. The commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge will be one of the most important events in recent Canadian history. Estimates put the number of people who will be attending in the 10,000 plus range. It will be an amazing experience.

Despite being somewhat handicapped by whatever plague I mean virus I contracted, I have not stopped making effective use of my time off. There are a lot of projects that need to be completed around the house and there is a ton of work to do out at camp. The ones at camp will have to wait until we get closer to summer, but we did get a bit of a head start last week. Meanwhile at home, a lot of my efforts have been dedicated to completing our basement office.

Camp, April 2016.

Camp, April 2016.

Back in March, Jo-Anne and I finally installed some bookshelves we ordered from Ikea, which allowed us to empty some boxes of books that had been in storage for many years. The next step was to try and hide two big, ugly filing cabinets that need to be in the room; some spray paint and some fancy wheeled platforms I whipped up took care of that while still allowed them to be moved around. The desk was going to be another story.

My wife spends time browsing Pintrest for ideas (shocking), and she came up with the plan of using kitchen cabinets and a simple countertop to make a desk. We were going to buy pre-finished cabinets, but then we came across a truckload sale of unfinished ones at Home Depot. The trick was that I now had to add panels to the sides and then stain and seal them. I really enjoy carpentry, and I’m getting pretty decent with fine detail work (except baseboards…I flipping HATE baseboards and trim). Anyway, things went great until it came time to stain. So I’ve learned that staining wood a very dark black-brown colour is not easy; it made me want to drink. I’ve put off the varnishing until I’m back from Toronto…I think I had enough stress for a while.

So with all of this time spent trying to be the next Bob Villa, I have not had a lot of time to work on any railway stuff. I also learned a long time ago that it is important to step away at times, take a break and come back refreshed. My last foray was about three weeks ago, when I made my last trip to the Thunder Bay Museum. While I did not uncover a whole lot of material, the quality made up for the lack of quantity; in actuality, my discovery was a game-changer.

Back about a month and half ago when I was transcribing letters from the Arpin Papers, I came across references to a “Camp 8,” which by all appearances was situated along the Gunflint and Lake Superior Railroad. It is commonly known that the principal camp of the Pigeon River Lumber Company was Camp 4, located on the southwest shore of Gunflint Lake. I wasn’t really sure what to think until a couple of things fell into place.

On my visit to Duluth during March break, I had chance to sit down with Lee Johnson, whom I’ve known for a number of years now. Lee is the head archaeologist for the Superior National Forest and during the course of our conversation, Lee described a site he located while battling the Ham Lake Fire in 2007. It sounded a lot like a camp of some sorts. The second piece came while searching the newspapers at the museum; I found an article that described “Camp 8” in the Gunflint Lake area. Hopefully I’ll be able to confirm a location in the next few months.

This week I’ll be departing from my brothers wedding in Toronto. I do have some research time scheduled for Thursday morning when I will be visiting the Archives of Ontario. I have three things to take a look at; one related to the PRLC and the two others are of the PAD&W. I’ll provide a full re-cap in my next post.

Anyway, I should get rolling…I need to finish packing and I have a busy day ahead. I’ll be back soon enough with the latest news. Until then…


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Posted by on May 3, 2016 in History, Railway, Research, Travel


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