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I just want to go hiking with my dog!

I just want to go hiking with my dog!

Has it been a year already? Yup, it’s been longer than that unfortunately. Twelve months ago no one could have foreseen what has transpired in that time. Sigh! Like me, you’re all likely suffering from Covid fatigue, and it has certainly turned the spotlight on mental health. I know I am struggling at times like everyone else, and there are moments I just want to do one thing…

Hey kids, I’m finally back! I know it’s been another long stretch since I last wrote, but as I’ve already stated, it’s been tough to keep motivated. Hopefully all of you have been keeping safe during this difficult time. I feel like a hermit in my house, but I’m a firm believer that we need to stay the course to get through this pandemic. I find it quite frustrating that there are still people who cannot fathom that this is real and continue to flaunt the health requirements/mandates such as masks and physical distancing. Obviously, they do not know their history, since pandemics have been around since the beginning of time and will continue to do so in the future. But I digress.

So, you’re probably wondering how school is going? Well, it is, kinda. Since my last post, we’ve gone through quite the stretch. The lockdown the province started in late December became a stay at home order, which affected a number of things, primarily work. With that order in place, we were told to work from home the first week in January. Then, later that month, we began working from home in the afternoons to minimize the number of people in the building. That lasted until mid-February. For the most part, cases here in our city were relatively low; then they exploded. The local health unit shutdown the schools for two weeks starting at the beginning of March. Guess what? We’re still at home! Two weeks became four, then six. The provincial government pushed the spring break to mid-April, so we’re supposed to return to school on the 19th to start the new quadmester, but that might be in doubt. Cases of the new variants have gone through the roof and the whole province has moved into the “grey” zone (which we are already in). What that means for schools after the break no one knows.

I must say it has been a huge challenge teaching from home. It is nice rolling out of bed and doing my lessons in shorts and a t-shirt. However, it is an awful way to teach. The kids are shutting down and there’s not many ways to make virtual learning more exciting. And it’s tough for us too. As a teacher, you feed off of the interaction with the students, which is non-existent when you’re staring at a bunch of black tiles. At first the kids at least responded, but now they don’t really speak either, so I spend my day talking to myself. The good news is that this was my busy quadmester, and I only teach one class for the fourth quadmester; I can breathe a bit heading into summer.

Okay, you know I’m going to bring it up so I might as well get to it…the weather. The weather has been relatively okay. Really? Ya, really. We did have a brutal 10 day or so span in mid-February where we were beset with the dreaded polar vortex. I don’t think I remember that many consecutive days of such frigid temperatures, like -30C frigid temperatures. Yuck! Since then, it’s been pretty good. It actually seemed like we would have an early snow melt with some warm weather the last few weeks, but unfortunately, we’ve had a bit of a setback with some snow and chilly temperatures. It has bounced back up this past weekend, so hopefully the snow will all disappear sooner than later and we can get on with spring.

Polar vortex cold, February 2021.
Early spring thaw, March 2021.
Early spring snowfall, March 2021.

Speaking of spring, it can’t come soon enough. With the Covid situation, I haven’t been out hiking since early January. Now, that doesn’t mean I’ve been idle. I’ve been working hard updating this site again with a lot of new information, so please look around. I’ve also been doing a lot of plotting. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a busy hiking season planned, fingers crossed! I’ve revised my list and have 28 hikes of various sorts that I’d like to do…so, ya, I’ll be staying out of trouble. I just want to get out there with Luna!

I’m also looking forward to better weather and hiking because I have a new toy. I’ve been diligently saving my pennies and I finally was able to buy myself a drone. A drone? Yes, because I don’t do enough on my hikes taking pictures and video that I needed also to be able to take them from the air, right? I know, it seems a bit much, but there are so many places that I want to get photos and video from a different perspective or just can’t get from the ground. One in particular is the Blende River Viaduct. While some people are crazy enough to cross it, it is fenced off and I’m not crazy. Therefore, my only option is from the air.

My drone is a DJI Mavic Air 2, which has some really cool features including HDR video and a 48 megapixel camera. Here in Canada you have to register any drone over 250 grams with Transport Canada and take either a basic or advanced flying exam. I’ve registered the drone and done the basic exam, so all I need is more flying time. Unfortunately, I cannot fly it at my house, since I live close enough to the airport that I’m within restricted airspace. So, I have to go to camp to do any flying for the time being. As the weather warms I’ll be out there more often, so I’m sure I’ll get more flying experience soon enough.

Drone shot, April 2021.

Anyway, I think it’s time to move on. As usual I’ll be back as soon as I can with the latest news. Until then…

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2021 in Hiking, History, Railway, Research

 

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A new year, a hope!

A new year, a hope!

Almost sounds like it would be a title for a great movie doesn’t it? I should come up with a plot and write a movie based on it don’t you think? Maybe it would make me famous and rich, and then I could do all my history stuff fulltime. Why didn’t I think of this earlier? Talk about completely missing the ship or what!

Hey kids, I’m back! I know, I know, I was supposed to be back a month ago, but I have an excuse…I was busy. Never heard that one before, right? It’s a well-worn rationalization, but that’s all I got. In all honesty, I haven’t been my usual insanely busy self, but rather it’s how I’ve chosen to spend my time. I have not been writing because I’ve been working away on this website. There are no dramatic changes, but there’s been some important updates to some the sections and the menus. Take a look around!

I guess I would be remiss if I did not wish everyone a Happy 2021! I don’t even have to say how challenging the last year was and how hopeful the entire population of the planet is for things to improve moving forward. Speaking of the current situation, myself and a good chunk of the population of the province of Ontario find ourselves at home under lockdown. This latest stay at home order began December 26th, and lasts, at least for us in the northern part of the province, until January 11th. This means, like in the spring, I am teaching from home. The distinction this time however is that we’re expected to deliver “synchronous” learning, that is teaching real time. It’s been going well, though it is somewhat weird teaching from my dining room dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. Our internet connection is taking a beating as well, with two teachers and two kids working from home. We’ll be back in the classroom soon, but it’s doubtful the Covid restrictions will end anytime soon.

So, it is January if you’ve lost track of time like many have. That means we’re well into winter and that means it’s usually time for a rant about the weather. However, I really don’t have much to say. What, really? I know, shocking isn’t it? Well, truth be told it hasn’t been too bad. In my last post I complained about some early snow, but after that things settled down and then some. We had some fantastic weather in November and December, including a record breaking +20C day in in the former. Since then it’s been seasonal or above seasonal, with only 10cm or so of snow. We’ll see what the rest of winter has in store for us…hopefully we don’t pay for it in the spring and summer. I have a lot of hiking to do!

With the continued Covid issues, work to complete my book on the Pigeon River Lumber Company and its operations at Gunflint Lake continue to sit in a holding pattern. There are a few things I’ll be working on in the next few months, but the really important stuff that needs to happen, some field work in Minnesota and a trip to the Archives of Ontario in Toronto, have to continue to wait. It is very frustrating, since I’d like to move on from this project, even though it has been very enjoyable. I have some other plans, but I don’t want to bounce around too much without fully completing this first. I guess we’ll see how things pan out in the next year.

In my last post, when I was complaining about the weather, I mentioned that I was doubtful I’d be able to squeeze in any more hikes, but fortunately the weather gods took pity on me. The warm up we had after that early snowfall allowed me to complete two more hikes, but that was not the end of it. Although I decided to put the bike away until spring, I figured why stop exploring? With that in mind, I did 6 more “mini” hikes sans bicycle before the end of the year, plus a few more since the new year started. I consider these to be reconnaissance for the real explorations, or using the proper Commonwealth term, a “recce” (pronounced rekke). One of the most time-consuming tasks of my hikes is stopping to check out spots and then entering the data into my GPS. This way, most of that work is now out of the way and I can then concentrate more on the photo and video part. I’m not the biggest fan of winter, but if I have to be outside to get some fresh air and exercise, why not do it on a railway line?

CNoR/CN grade, October 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, October 2020.

Wolf River Bridge, October 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, October 2020.

Bridge, October 2020.

Insulator, October 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, October 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, October 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, October 2020.

Rails, October 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, October 2020.

Coldwater Creek Bridge, October 2020.

Flanger sign, October 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, November 2020.

Telegraph pole, November 2020.

Luna, November 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, November 2020.

Switch, November 2020.

Rails, November 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, November 2020.

Mackenzie River Bridge, November 2020.

Culvert, December 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, December 2020.

Culverts, December 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, December 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, December 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, December 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, December 2020.

Crossing sign, December 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, December 2020.

Selfie, January 2021.

CNoR/CN grade, January 2021.

CNoR/CN grade, January 2021.

CNoR/CN grade, January 2021.

Those extra hikes I was able to complete in the fall has helped me to almost complete my documentation from Red Rock to Pass Lake. There is one section left to do around Ancliff Station, while I would like to redo 3 sections from Pearl to Pass Lake since they were not done with the full bike effect. Meanwhile, those “recces,” including one at Ancliff, has prepared me to cover the reminder of the line right up to the outskirts of Thunder Bay. All told I travelled nearly 5700 kilometres and recorded over 800 minutes of video…I have no idea how many photos in the process. Probably way too many!

I have a very ambitious 2021 hiking season laid out, as I hope to get in at least 19 separate hikes. Some of these will take me much farther out to the east on the line, particularly around places like Macdiarmid, Beardmore and Jellicoe. One of the more interesting ones will be around Macdiarmid and the large tunnel just south of the community. A few weeks back I learned in a social media post that there were purportedly workers killed while constructing the tunnel; intrigued, I began to dig into the circumstances. As it turns out, the rumours were correct, and the workers were even buried nearby. I plan to incorporate this tragic event into my videos, which adds a very important human and personal element to the story.

Anyway, it’s time to move on. I’ll try to get back a little sooner next time, but I make no promises! Until then…

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2021 in Hiking, History, Railway

 

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