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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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What a crazy time!

What a crazy time!

Crazy? Yup, super crazy. Now, before you jump to conclusions, I haven’t fallen off the proverbial rocker, though some days it feels like it. No, by crazy I mean intensely busy, but thanks for the concern. It’s good to know people out there are looking out for my well being. By all means though, keep reading to experience this masterpiece of prose that will tell you everything you need to know.

Hey, it’s summer kids…thank Jesus! If you somehow missed the introduction, summer vacation could not come soon enough. I am truly exhausted! The last couple of months have been a whirlwind of activity that has left me more drained than I’ve ever been. But aren’t you always tired Dave? Ya, ya, I know. However, in my defence, every year seems like it gets busier and I unfortunately get older. Not a good formula from my perspective.

So, what’s been keeping me going like “crazy” you ask? Well, what hasn’t? I’d say the usual trifecta; work, kids and life in general. Honestly, I don’t think that work has been any busier, but again it might have a lot to do with the mileage on the tires, if you get my drift. Additionally, for someone not known for changing my routine very often, I’ve embarked on a fairly major switch. After 18 years residing in Room 237 at the ole’ bricks and mortar on Selkirk Street, I’ve decided to change (classroom) addresses. It’s amazing how much stuff you accumulate in that time, so moving was not an easy proposition. However, I’m looking forward to starting September just down the hall in 227 and making it my home for the next 9 years.

Number two on the list are the boys. Wow, have they had a lot of things on the go. Ethan’s U16 football continued until June 8th, when they finally played their long-awaited game against the Manitoba Selects team. I thought the game would be close, but instead it was a 51-6 pasting by the Knights. Ethan played the whole second half, recording 5 tackles, which was a nice accomplishment since he didn’t have a lot of time to transition to the linebacker position. That same day, he also did his confirmation, for which my brother flew in from Toronto to be his sponsor.

Ethan U16 football, June 2019.

Ethan U16 football, June 2019.

Meanwhile, Noah spent the last two months playing baseball, his last year of major. He had a great season, especially considering he tore the ligaments in his throwing arm elbow in January. For someone who didn’t really want to pitch, he really came around by the last game. Now, we just need to work on that batting. Anyway, between both boys, we were going almost every day of the week to games and practices…it made for frenetic pace!

On top of all of that, we were trying to spend some time at camp. There are always jobs to do there, particularly following the winter close-up. Having spent most of my youth with my parents on Lake Shebandowan, I feel very comfortable being at camp…almost at peace. I find I sleep better and am more relaxed. Maybe just the simple act of being away from home puts me at ease. The funny thing is that I don’t spend a lot of time “relaxing,” since it’s like having another house. Well, if anything, it keeps me busy and it’s good exercise.

Camp, June 2019.

Speaking of camp, it’s ironic that I’m writing this at the lake, with the whistles from the trains rumbling over the Nipigon Sub-Division of the Canadian Pacific echoing through the area. That makes a great segue into the railway section of this blog, which is really the reason why I write it in the first place. Sadly, I haven’t been up to much lately, which shouldn’t be a huge shock if you’ve read the entirety of this post. I did spend some time over the last few weeks going through the chapters of the books, mostly doing proofreading and making sure they all fit together. However, I did do some major field work back in May, which I obviously didn’t have time to write about until now.

I last left you shortly before I was heading to Gunflint to do my usual spring field work. The plan was to hike in to Camp 8 again and spend some time exploring the area in more detail, and hopefully mark some important spots for further examination. I did have some company this time, as Ethan decided to join me (I think more so he could have a day off school).

We left immediately after school on Thursday and drove the roughly 2.5 hours to Gunflint. It was a beautiful day, and I was amazed how calm the lake was. Gunflint, which is 7 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, runs east west and is surrounded by high ridges, which channels the wind right down its length. That makes for some nasty conditions when the wind gets up. Anyway, after catching up with John and Rose at the lodge, we headed over to the Gunflint Bistro for some dinner, which is always a treat.

Gunflint Lake, May 2019.

The next morning was equally nice, and we left early to maximize our time at the logging camp (plus we would have to drive that 2.5 hours home when we were done). It takes about an hour and a quarter to walk the 5km into the camp, the most difficult being the last part where you are required to bushwhack through the thick growth and deadfall. The great thing about spring hiking is that while it might be slightly wetter, the bugs haven’t really come out (including the ticks) and it is a lot easier to see with the grass pushed down and the trees without leaves.

Gunflint Lake, May 2019.

Crab Lake, May 2019.

Crab Lake, May 2019.

Crab Lake Spur, May 2019.

Crab Lake Spur, May 2019.

Once we arrived at the camp, my first task was to try and mark some spots in a debris field located around the railroad grade just south of the camp. I am hoping to get the archaeologists from the Superior National Forest to help me examine the site and that wouldn’t happen until the summer or fall, by which time the grass would obscure any objects. As it was, I found it a challenge, since the grass was higher than I remember when I first found the camp back in 2017.

The next order of business was to try and exactly pinpoint the location of the 8 buildings that make up the camp. Since I don’t own or have access to a sub-metre accurate GPS, I tried to do it the old-fashioned way. Using some spots I could see on Google Earth, I attempted to triangulate the location of the southwest and southeast corners of two structures with a measuring tape and compass. It was a bit of a challenge, and the results were okay, but I figured that I’m farther ahead than without doing it.

While Ethan relaxed in the warm sunshine, my next order of business was to explore a few of the structures in a bit more detail. Over my several visits, I’ve been able to roughly guesstimate the purpose of each of the buildings, helped immensely by historical information of what a typical logging camp looked like. Some are easy, such as the outhouse, while others are a bit more challenging.

Last fall I found what turned out to be a bridle bit in one of the two eastern-most structures, which added more evidence to my assertion that these two were the stables. Exploring the second, I found a harness piece and a log dog, which was used to secure logs so they could be dragged by horses, which pretty much proved my theory correct.

Camp 8, May 2019.

Camp 8, May 2019.

Next, I moved on to one of the northern-most structures, which I deduced by the debris field around it, was the blacksmith shop. This was one of the most important places in any logging camp, since the blacksmith was responsible for undertaking repairs to the logging equipment and keeping the critical horses going. I was hoping to find some tools that would confirm my assertion, but instead I turned up a plethora of objects, such as horseshoes, axe blades and bolts. Not the evidence I was looking for, but I might be right in any case.

Camp 8, May 2019.

Camp 8, May 2019.

My last stop was the eastern-most structure, which I believe to be the cookhouse. It sits in a row with the bunkhouse and van (office), so its location makes sense. I was hoping to find things like cutlery or metal cups/bowls, but it was not to be. There was a lot of metal inside the confines of the berm line, but I am not an archaeologist, so I am not allowed to do any type of excavation besides brushing away leaves and deadfall and everything was several inches in the ground. There were however a ton of barrel hoops, which certainly provides a lot of proof to my theory.

After this, it was time to head back. On the way, I decided to follow part of the railroad grade westward. There was a section where I did not locate any traces of the line for nearly 300 metres back in 2017 and I wanted to try and fill in that gap. As I’ve written about before, this is never easy, since you have no idea where the grade is located (it’s not well-defined like a traditionally constructed railway). You’re essentially restricted to sweeping in a zig-zag pattern (like a 50-metre swath in the thick brush) with the metal detector hoping you find something, anything. The only good part is that when you get a beep, you’re pretty much assured it something significant since there couldn’t be anything else in the area. Happily, I did make two finds; the first was a couple of fishplates and the second a length of telegraph wire. Not bad!

Fishplates, May 2019.

Whisker Lake, May 2019.

I plan on heading back to Camp 8 in the fall to do more searching. Hopefully I can get some of the Forest Service folks to join me, especially since they are the ones who can really poke around and move things. This information is huge for my book and if we can get some work done in October, I can finish off that chapter over the winter. Fingers crossed!

Anyway, I need to move along since I have a busy few days ahead of me. Our summer is starting off with quite the bang, as we’re heading to California in a few days. My wife has family in the LA area, which she hasn’t seen in a long time, so we will be making the trip along with some of our friends. It should be an amazing experience, especially since the boys and I have never been there before. I’ll be back when I return, I promise! Until then…

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2019 in Hiking, History, Railway, Travel

 

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Marine Railroad, Little North/Little Gunflint Lakes, MN 2011

Okay, so I lied…I’m not out of videos. I just remembered I have one more to post.

So, our latest PAD&W video takes us to the creek separating Little North Lake (sjö i Kanada, Ontario) and Little Gunflint Lake. Here, in 1892, we believe that a short 50 metre (164ft) marine railroad was constructed to allow boats to be moved around the unnavigable waterway between the two lakes. The crews were using a small steamboat, the Zena, to transport supplies along the route of construction. This device allowed the Zena and smaller boats to transit the portage using rails, a small wheeled cart and a manually-operated capstan.

The railroad continued to be used and maintained by area locals until the late 60s/early 70s. It has since deteriorated rapidly, which has included damage from powerful storms. In the video you will find a link to a video shot years earlier in 1997.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2019 in History, Railway, Video

 

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Gunflint & Lake Superior Railroad IV

This week’s episode of our YouTube tour of the G&LS covers the section of line south of the International Boundary (MP 0.5). Here, as the railroad skirts the edge of Gunflint Lake, the grade sits on corduroyed logs and passes through a long rock cut.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2019 in Hiking, History, Railway, Video

 

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Gunflint & Lake Superior Railroad III

This week’s episode of our YouTube tour of the G&LS covers the area around the former US Customs House, located metres from the International Boundary. Featured as well is the site of the agent’s house, perched on a hill immediately south of the Customs House.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2019 in Hiking, History, Railway, Video

 

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Gunflint & Lake Superior Railroad II

This week’s episode of our YouTube tour of the G&LS covers the section of line where it crosses the International Boundary from Ontario to Minnesota. Telegraph wire, the former trestle crossing, spikes and pieces of rail are all featured.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2019 in Hiking, History, Railway, Video

 

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Gunflint & Lake Superior Railroad I

This week we are switching our focus from the PAD&W to the Gunflint & Lake Superior Railroad. The G&LS was a logging line that was operated by the Pigeon River Lumber Company from 1902-1909. While not part of the PAD&W, it branched from the railway at Milepost 79 and was an important source of business.

This episode covers the section of the G&LS from its junction with the PAD&W to the International Boundary. This piece of line lies entirely within Ontario and features several embankments and cuts.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2019 in Hiking, History, Railway, Video

 

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