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God my legs hurt!

It simply amazes me the things that the human body can do…what a wonder of engineering we are! The body’s ability to take abuse and then bounce back is astounding. Unfortunately, there is always a price to be paid for such resilience, and it usually involves pain. It’s just a not so subtle way of saying to you that you’re a dumbass for putting yourself through some sort of self-imposed torture. I’m seemingly a poster-child for this type of stupidity!

Needless to say it has yet again been a very busy week, and it appears that it is shaping up to be even worse this week. How can it be the second of week of the new semester and I’m already burnt out? Maybe work, a new class, open house, football and railway stuff might have something to do with it. Hopefully next week is a little more sane.

So much of my stress has been generated by the new class that I am teaching which is an online, “eLearning” class. I spoke about it last week, but I haven’t really been able to get a real sense of it until yesterday when it officially began. It’s not that it’s overly difficult, but the content is new and it’s a very different medium than I’m used to. Probably most of my headaches stem from the fact that I am a worrier and I am constantly wondering if I am doing a good job or handling things correctly. Hopefully I will feel more comfortable as the semester progresses.

There are two big events on tap this week that will be absorbing most of my attention (and unfortunately leaving very little railway time). Tomorrow is our school’s annual open house, an opportunity for us to showcase our fine establishment to next year’s new students. It all over in an hour or so, but it takes quite a while to set everything up. There is also the challenge of trying to incorporate new ideas and keeping things fresh; no wonder I feel like I’m totally bagged! I’m sure it will all be fine, but I will be glad when it’s done.

Immediately after the open house is done I have to rush home and pack for another out-of-town excursion. On Thursday after school, myself and my fellow football coaches will be departing for Minneapolis to attend the annual Glazier Football Clinic. Glazier is probably the largest provider of coaching clinics in the US; the event in Minneapolis alone has over 150 sessions delivered by coaches from many different levels right up to pro. I’m looking forward to some great information on 3-5 defenses and linebacker play.

If you read last week’s babble you’ll know that the big event in the past week was the presentation I gave at Gunflint Lodge. I had been invited by Sue Kerfoot to give the talk back in September, so it was a long time in coming. I was very excited for the event, but as I normally am with things like this, very nervous too!

I decided to leave from home early on Saturday morning as there was a chance of snow and I wanted to take my time in case the roads were bad. It’s about a 2 hour, 45 minute drive to Gunflint on a good day, so I figured I’d have plenty of time to get there. I had time to burn lest I arrive too early, so I stopped in Grand Marais to snap some photos of the harbour. Pulling in to Gunflint I stopped for the first time at the lake overlook just off of the trail and got some good shots of the narrows between Ontario and Minnesota.

Grand Marais Harbor, February 2013.

Grand Marais Harbor, February 2013.

Gunflint Narrows, February 2013.

Gunflint Narrows, February 2013.

When I arrived at the lodge my cabin wasn’t quite ready, so I chilled out in the Red Paddle Bistro, sent some emails, updated my Facebook and had a bite to eat. The lodge is quite the beehive of activity, even if it is winter. There were a lot of people coming and going, heading out on the lake to snowmobile or snowshoe. It made me think of how we take our surroundings for granted too often and how people pay a lot of money to experience what we have.

Gunflint Lodge, February 2013.

Gunflint Lodge, February 2013.

After lunch and settling into my cabin, I decided that since I had an entire afternoon to kill by myself that I would walk across the lake to Gunflint Narrows and take a poke around the railway. I don’t normally hike the railway in the winter as it difficult to get around (I like to walk) and the snow covers things on the ground that I want to see. It’ been a long time since I’ve walked over a frozen lake so therefore forgot how the ice can play tricks with you; it make stuff look “just over there.”

Cabin 20, Gunflint Lodge, February 2013.

Cabin 20, Gunflint Lodge, February 2013.

So I began my little journey in good spirits, happily trudging along the snow covered ice between the fishing shacks and snowmobilers. The going was a bit tough, as there were a few inches of snow on top of the ice that made each step a challenge. My GPS told me that the Canadian shore was a scant 1500 metres away…child’s play! That’s the distance I cover when I walk the dog and I’m not worse for wear. As I tromped along I became acutely aware of how much colder it was on the open expanse of the lake, and how my legs were becoming tired punching into the snow. However everything was tempered by the beauty of my surroundings; the high, rocky hills were more defined in the snowy landscape.

Gunflint Lake, February 2013.

Gunflint Lake, February 2013.

When I finally reached the shore I quickly covered the 70 or so metres until I reached the railway grade. I thought I’d walk a bit east until I reached the supposed site of the “town” of Gunflint and then head west toward the Narrows. Along the way I happened to notice something in the bush I’d never seen before…an old truck. For a few minutes I was puzzled as to how it could have got there until I realized someone could have done what I just did and cross over the frozen lake!

Abandoned truck, Gunflint Narrows, February 2013.

Abandoned truck, Gunflint Narrows, February 2013.

Three hundred metres farther west I arrived at the narrows, unfortunately disappointed that the current between Gunflint and Magnetic Lake had prevented ice from forming; I would have to settle for snapping some pictures from the Canadian side only. However, the side effect of a dry fall and the cold winter was the lake level was the lowest I’d ever experienced. I was able to walk out very far into the channel and take some really neat pictures and video. Many of the bridge pilings, which are normally under water, were clearly exposed by at least 6 or more inches. Very interesting to see!

Gunflint Narrows, February 2013.

Gunflint Narrows, February 2013.

Soon it was time to head back to the lodge, but I did not relish the thought of the walk across the lake. It was just as cold as the way out, but the distance seemed a lot longer. By the time I made it back, I was pretty pooped. I only walked about 4k, but I had to work each step of the way…and there’s not even that much snow. My legs were a bit rubbery when I reached my cabin and I was glad there was some time to relax before dinner. The warm shower I had was the perfect remedy for my ailments.

Creeper deer outside the window, February 2013.

Creeper deer outside the window, February 2013.

After a bit of relaxation in the lodge and a great prime rib dinner, it was time to prepare for the presentation. The talk was going to be held in the Conference Center, which was just across the road from the lodge. The air was a bit crisp outside, but I was sure sweating trying to get everything set up. I was scheduled to go on at 7:30, but people started rolling in at 7:00 and so I was kept busy chatting. That helped get my mind off of things.

All in all, everything went very well (or at least I thought it did). There were about 30 people or so in attendance and they all seemed very interested in what I had to say. There were a lot of great questions afterwards and hopefully I did a decent job of answering them. I had a great time and the folks at the lodge were just awesome. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll get a return invite at some point!

Anyway, I guess it’s time to move along. I’ll be back next week with some new revelations. Until then…

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Posted by on February 12, 2013 in Hiking, History, Miscellaneous, Railway, Research, Travel, Writing

 

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The Tale of Two…Locomotives?

Writing a blog on a weekly basis isn’t as easy as it may outwardly appear (or maybe it is and I’m just not that talented). Though I may struggle a bit with the content, by far the most difficult part is trying to come up with a witty, clever title. Sometimes I hit and sometimes I miss (I’d like to more of the former, but in reality it’s probably more of the latter). This week was no exception. I had no idea what to call this week’s post, and then it hit me; I think it is very reflective of the week I’ve had. Besides, if Dickens can create something so popular why can’t I do likewise?

Obviously it has been a very busy week once again…but what’s new. We are down to our final full week of classes before the start of exams and there is so much to do. I’m slowing chipping away at my backlog of marking and I hope to be cleared up by next Monday. My exams are in and the students have been given their exam reviews. Most of the teaching is now complete and we will be focussing on exam prep. Where has the semester gone?

Things have been extra hectic as this Friday some of our students will be travelling to our feeder school Pope John Paul II to speak to them about coming to St. Patrick. Normally we send a contingent of football players to plug the program and hopefully do some recruiting. I’ve always sent along a highlight video of the previous season to show; problem is that it is not ready yet. I was supposed to work on it over the break, but as I mentioned it took a backseat to my Leeblain article. I’ve only got a few days to finish putting everything together! I should be working on it right now, but you know…

So, what’s been going on with the railway? Well, there are quite a number of things on the go. Last week I mentioned that my Leeblain article may have earned me another speaking gig, this time at the Thunder Bay Museum. There is nothing confirmed right now, but I may have the privilege to kick-off the 2013-2014 lecture season this coming September. I’ve never had the opportunity to speak at the museum, so I am really hoping that this goes through. It will certainly go a long way to promoting my work on the railway and our efforts to preserve the remains at Leeblain.

On the topic of lectures, I need to get cracking on preparations for my February 9th presentation at Gunflint Lodge. I am looking forward to this event, as the lodge is a beautiful place and it’s located in one of my favourite areas. I have not visited Gunflint Lake in the winter, and so it should be a great experience. Hopefully we get more snow; this past week has been another wild temperature ride. On Friday it was +3C with rain, and Monday dawned at a crisp -19C. We lost a lot of snow with the rain and it would be nice to get more before my visit.

Alright, so what’s with the locomotive thing? Well, it has actually been an ongoing situation for quite a while now; I even wrote about it last June (ironically in that post I was complaining about how hot it was). The story involves the most famous locomotive on the PAD&W, affectionately known as the “Black Auntie.” Her nickname stemmed from the fact that there was reputedly the image of a woman on her firebox door which apparently resembled a local Madame by the name of Julia Ann Roy.

So the issue lies with the fact that accounts of the type and appearance of the Black Auntie do not jive with historic information. Traditionally the Black Auntie was describe as a 0-4-0 locomotive; however documents suggest that rather it was a 4-4-0 “Rogers” type engine. There is a photo that purportedly shows the Black Auntie on an excursion in 1890-1891. However it lacks the necessary detail to make a thorough analysis. So I sent for an image of PAD&W #1 from Library and Archives Canada and what I received completely baffled me (unfortunately I cannot post the image as it is property of LAC).

Black Auntie, 1890/1891.

Black Auntie, 1890/1891.

The engine in the photo is appears to fit the historic description of a 4-4-0. There are some similarities with the excursion photo, but the archives engine looks longer and newer. The Black Auntie was heavily damaged in a January 14, 1891 engine house fire and needed extensive repairs. Could this account for the differences between the two? A plausible explanation. Compounding the whole issue is that there is another photo floating around that may also be the Black Auntie, but it looks nothing like the other two (and the front of the engine is not visible to see if there are leading trucks-the small wheels at the front).

Unknown PAD&W engine, unknown date.

Unknown PAD&W engine, unknown date.

I have ordered some additional images from the Archives that will hopefully aid in this investigation. This mystery has been absolutely frustrating; the more I dig, the more confusing it gets. I can certainly appreciate how challenging it can be for others who are doing similar types of research. I hope that I will discover some information that will help solve the curious saga of the enigmatic iron horse.

Anyway, time to run. More enlightening news and facts next week. Until then…

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in History, Miscellaneous, Research, Writing

 

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