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Mother nature sucks, but lunch was epic!

Cryptic? Of course; you wouldn’t expect any less of me! I think the title pretty much sums up the state of affairs around here. It has been a crazy, depressing and frustrating past seven days…I’ll try to express it all in words!

So I might as well start off with the crappy part, namely…wait for it…you probably know it already…the weather! Yes, the weather. The stupid freakin’ weather. If I talk about it anymore, people will start to think I have some serious issues (maybe I do-I did say Mother Nature sucks). I can’t help it though, it’s really starting to make me (and everyone else) rather crazy. What is driving most of this angst is that I cannot go out and do what I want to do, which is hike.

So if you read this blog with any regularity you’ll know that I’ve been dying to get out hiking for the past month. First it was the cold, then snow, and now rain. Obviously I did not get to do my planned hike in Minnesota for the long weekend; I unfortunately spent it cooped up in the house all 3 days (well, accept for a few hours on Saturday morning). Remember this time last year when we had that biblical flood? Well, let me tell you a story!

So the forecast called for some rain this weekend, which here in Canada is the traditional start of the summer camping/outdoor season. Then the rain was upgraded to a lot of rain; then it was a flood. Talk about déjà vu! We had a huge deluge last May 28th, and they were talking about rain in the same proportions. So it rained most of Saturday, Sunday and off and on Monday. I thought it was over, but we’ve gotten another big dump of rain today. Fortunately there has not been the widespread flooding that we had last year, but are some flooded areas and road closures. I’m not sure of the exact count, but we’ve had something like 70-80mm of rain so far…I guess hiking in this area is out for a while.

Backyard flooding, May 2013.

Backyard flooding, May 2013.

Backyard flooding, May 2013.

Backyard flooding, May 2013.

Anyway, now that we’ve passed the May long weekend we’re on the downward slide toward the end of the school year. It’s going to be a crazy, hectic 23 days. Teaching, football and graduation will make it all interesting. On top of all of that, I have 6.5 days that I’ll be out of the classroom for various workshops; that’s more than a quarter of the remaining time. Insanity! I will do my best to keep my feet firmly planted.

Now one of things that will help is that our crew at work will try to squeeze in one more epic lunch before the end. Yes, you heard it, an epic lunch (hence the title). This is something we came up with last year and we have continued the tradition of excellence. What is it you ask? Well, it’s what it says, lunches of epic proportions. It was mostly inspired by the YouTube videos of Epic Mealtime. So we try and find culinary challenges to complete, which are usually not always to healthiest choices, but it makes for good time and company. So far we’ve done the 6 foot sub, 3-65” pizzas, Taco Time tacos and burritos, Chinese chicken balls and bonbons, chicken wings and the McDonald’s triple double (double Big Mac, quarter-pounder & cheeseburger). What’s next? Some dirty bird (aka KFC)?

The challenge revealed, May 2013.

The challenge revealed, May 2013.

About to dig in, May 2013.

About to dig in, May 2013.

Things have been very busy on the railway front, mostly with the historical society. We had a board meeting last week to plot our strategy for the upcoming months. A lot good stuff is coming up for the summer. At the beginning of July there will be a Horseback Riding event with proceeds going to the society. In August, the Silver Mountain Station will be hosting the 2nd Annual History Day, which brings together local historians and writers and allows people to learn more about the history of the area.

We’re also starting our first ever membership drive, which we hope attracts more people to the society. To help publicize our efforts, our website is undergoing a major overhaul, and we’re having an advertising poster created (much like the one for the railway). It’s a pretty exciting time, and we hope that society grows and prospers. Be sure to join us if you’re interesting in preserving history!

So as I mentioned earlier, my plans to go hiking last weekend were derailed by the weather. I am hoping to try again this weekend. It might be a bit wet, so for the first time ever I may have wear my stylish rubber boots in the bush. Let’s hope it’s not too bad. I am very glad however that my oldest son, Ethan, has decided to join me. It’s awesome that I can share my love of the outdoors and history with my boys, and teach them to appreciate what we have around us. My youngest, Noah, will soon be six and I imagine he will be joining us on longer hikes soon enough.

Anyway, time to roll; lots of stuff to do in a short week. Hopefully I will have good news to report next week. Until then…

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Hiking, History, Miscellaneous, Railway, Writing

 

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The waiting is the hardest part!

Yes, I do know the irony. And no, I wasn’t trying to be smart like I normally am. I’m not really a fan of Tom Petty anyway; the boys and I have really been into The Who lately 😉 But the point is true regardless…I hate waiting. Seriously! But unfortunately it is a huge part of life. What bothers me the most is when there is a big hurry to get something done (or that you perceive there is a big hurry) and then you end up waiting. Like the old army adage “Hurry up and wait.” I’ve certainly been doing a lot of waiting lately and it is driving me nuts. What am I waiting for pray tell? Read on and find out!

So today is the 14th of May…craziness! Already halfway through May and it seems like we just started the month. School will be over before I know it and so many things left to do. This is one of those good/bad waiting things. I’m definitely looking forward to summer (never said that before), but there’s a lot of stuff to do before then. The break will certainly be appreciated!

One of the things keeping me busy is football. Yes, we’ve been down this road before-football is now an almost year-round sport. I spent Friday night at a clinic delivered by the coaches from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. For several years we had travelled down to Duluth to the player’s camp they do at the end of June, but lately our school schedule has prevented us from doing so. To bridge the gap, the coaches have been coming up to work with the kids over a weekend (they did a session for the coaches for the first time this year). Coach Weise and his staff were and continue to be a great bunch of guys (though it did make me laugh every time the defensive coordinator talked about having 11 guys on the field).

Today we had a meeting to promote our spring camp to our Grade 9’s. Pretty decent turnout, but we hope to pick up a more kids. We’ll be visiting our feeder school Pope John Paul II in a few weeks to deliver the message to the Grade 8’s who plan to come to St. Patrick in the fall. I love doing it all, but it makes for a much busier schedule.

So things have been busy again with the historical society. I’ve been patiently waiting (maybe not patiently) for a few things to fall into place with one of our projects, but success has been somewhat elusive. I’m starting to find out how frustrating these things can be, and no matter how much you try you cannot make them go any faster. Here’s to hoping that it gets better in the near future.

We have a board meeting on Thursday and I hope I’ve got everything ready to on my end. Big topics of conversation are going to be our membership drive to attract new folks to our organization and also an upcoming overhaul to our website. I have a former student working on it, the same one who did my site for the railway. This will be a great way to help promote the society and the work we are doing. I also have another former student working on a poster for us; he did one for the railway and it turned out awesome. Can’t wait to see what he does on this one!

b's poster

Obviously the biggest highlight of the forthcoming week is going to be my planned hike in Minnesota. I am dying to get out walking on the railway, but alas the weather may have the final say…grrrrrr! The forecast was for sun on Saturday, but now it appears there will be rain. I hope things change before then as I do not want to postpone for another week because…

So my hike will take me along the railway about 3.5km west of Gunflint Lake. I was in the area last fall, but I have not looked at this piece specifically since 2011. That year was the first time I walked the portion the line where it leaves the Gunflint Trail/Cross River and forms a switchback on its way to the Paulson Mine. On that occasion I discovered that there were two large trestles on either side of the switchback instead of just one. I want to re-photograph the line and get some better video of this very interesting section. Come on Mother Nature, lend a guy a hand!

Cutting, Minnesota, May 2011.

Cutting, Minnesota, May 2011.

Cutting, Minnesota, May 2011.

Cutting, Minnesota, May 2011.

Rock cut, Minnesota, May 2011.

Rock cut, Minnesota, May 2011.

Anyway, time to go. Hopefully I’ll be back next week with some good news and experiences from Minnesota (or crabby because it rained all weekend). Until then…

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Hiking, History, Miscellaneous, Railway, Writing

 

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You’d think I’d have figured it out!

So sometimes I astound myself by how dumb I am. It’s really amazing, since I’m a reasonably intelligent, nearly 40 year old guy who graduated from university and has spent the last 15 years educating young people. And it’s not as if I’m one of those book smart, common sense dumb people either…I’m pretty astute (or I’d like to think so). So why do I do the things I do? Why do I go and jinx things? I guess in this case it was the exuberant optimism born of months of pent-up frustration. Huh, say again? Please, read on.

Last week I made the mistake of raving about how spring had arrived and how I didn’t care if we got any more snow since winter was now over. Bad mistake! Yes, a week ago I was in shorts and the weather was gorgeous. Unfortunately it didn’t last and we got a lovely dump of 15cm of snow on Thursday. So, again, we had to start all over again with the whole melting thing. The last few days have been very warm (nearly 20C) and we’ve recovered and then some. Now, I don’t want to go and jinx things again; we are supposed to get some precipitation later in the week, but I imagine that it will be rain. The only downside to this warm weather is that it reminds me that I have a lot to do outside, and everyone knows how much I love yardwork!

Snowfall at work, May 2013.

Snowfall at work, May 2013.

Thursday the 2nd, May 2013.

Thursday the 2nd, May 2013.

Monday the 6th, May 2013.

Monday the 6th, May 2013.

So now that we’ve entered the month of May, school is beginning to wind down for another year. Only six weeks left! Surprisingly I do not feel the same burnout that I was experiencing in previous weeks…a weather boost? Could be; I’d venture to say that the sunny, warm weather has made everyone a tad bit happier.

Last Thursday I held the first meeting in quite a while for our Europe 2014 travel group. It was nice to get together with the kids again, and to see their excitement for a trip that is now exactly 10 months away. Working in conjunction with my colleagues at our sister school St. Ignatius, the students will be responsible for a little light research before we leave. We are planning to visit several cemeteries on the trip (Bergen-op-Zoom, Beny-sur-Mer and Bretteville-sur-Laize among others) and they will be honouring a particular soldier interred at that location. Just a little way we can pay our respects to those who fought and died for our country.

As has been the norm for the past little while, things have been very busy with the Silver Mountain (and Area) Historical Society. We have a board meeting coming up on the 16th, and there is so much to do in preparation. I spent a lot of my time trying to make contact with and arrange some partnerships with some other like-minded groups and societies. Through my friend John Schloot I think we’ve secured an in with the Gunflint Trail Historical Society (GTHS), who are our neighbouring organization to the south and with whom we share some mutual history. A similar group is the Cook County Historical Society (CCHS) in Grand Marais, but I have yet to hear back from them.

Last week while surfing posts on Facebook, I came across a link that intrigued me. On the Friends of the Boundary Waters page (whom I have followed for some time), there was a post about a conference here in Thunder Bay. The meeting was held by an organization known as the Heart of the Continent (HOCP), which is a bi-national forum that brings together people/groups interested in preserving the natural and cultural heritage of the area. Obviously I missed the conference, but it spurred me to contact both HOCP and the Friends of the Boundary Water. I just received replies from both groups today and I hope this is the start of some important partnerships.

So as I sit here on my deck and write on this beautiful evening (I actually had to retreat inside as I could not see the screen), my attention turns to the warming weather and the prospect of going hiking once again. Next weekend is the Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada, and if the weather holds, I plan to spend at least a day of it travelling to Minnesota to hike the railway. What a way to show my patriotism to the monarchy on the former queen’s birthday…travel to what once was a British territory that rebelled against colonial rule! *Shrugs shoulders* I’m praying the ground will have dried up sufficiently to make my trip worthwhile. Fingers are crossed!

Anyway, I think it’s time to wrap up. Hopefully I will not have to come back next week and eat my words again…I’m growing rather full. Until then…

 
 

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It’s a miracle!

Well, I guess that’s maybe a bit of an exaggeration. However, I cannot deny that I certainly feel like it is…and I’m not the only one. Probably everyone in the 807 feels the same way. Confused? Have you read this blog before? If not, you better back track and catch up. Just kidding. I’m obviously referring to the weather, which has been a constant topic of conversation for me in the last little while. So the miracle is that spring has finally arrived…a month late! We’re finally seeing some double digit temperatures, melting snow and today the precipitation is rain instead of snow (though we may get a little snow later in the week as the temps are supposed to drop). Who cares though, as the end has arrived and it couldn’t come soon enough.

Beautiful evening, April 2013.

Beautiful evening, April 2013.

So today is the last day of April. Wow! That means there is only 2 months left of school…some days I wonder if I’m going to make it that far. Holy burnout Batman! I am really feeling it now, but that could be the bit of a cold that I am currently nursing. It certainly isn’t helping the situation. There are just so many things going on right now it’s hard to keep up. Between family, work, football and history stuff, my head is spinning. After 15 years of teaching, I should know that this time of the year is especially crazy. But, it is easy to forget when you’re in the moment.

The warmer weather and the end of the school year are making me think of football. Come again? Football? Isn’t that a fall thing? Yes, it certainly is, but times they are a changin’. Football, like many other sports, is becoming a year-round endeavour. The season ends in November, but soon after Christmas we start with our off-season workout schedule (which I supervise once a week). In a few weeks the coaches from the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) will be coming up for a weekend camp which requires us to give out equipment. Finally, I’ve already started planning this year’s edition of our annual spring camp, which takes place in June. Hard to start thinking about x’s and o’s when there’s still snow on the ground 😉

The railway has been very busy as usual, but I was thinking that I haven’t done much research in a long time. I did manage to squeeze in a presentation over the weekend. I always love to talk about the railway, and never pass up an opportunity to promote it and my work. About a month ago I was contacted by a gentleman named Dave who asked if I could come and speak to a men’s group he belongs to. So I found myself up early on Saturday morning (it was tough to get up at 7) and making my way to St. Paul’s Anglican Church. Everything went well, especially since I only had 45 minutes to deliver information that usually takes more than an hour.

As has been the norm lately, most of my time has revolved around the Historical Society. We have a board meeting coming up in a few weeks and there’s a lot to prepare before that happens. I’ve been working with a former student to overhaul our website, and also trying to get the spring edition of the society newsletter ready to send out. Wow, holy craziness! And that is in addition to the work on the North-Gunflint Lakes Historic Corridor (what we’re calling it)-hopefully I’ll have some news about that by the end of the week.

My final news this week is in regards to my article on the ghost town of Leeblain. My work is currently being reviewed, while I unsuccessfully attempt to find a mapmaker. I’d love to include a map with the article, but I’ve never created a digital map in my life. I’ve been struggling to find someone who can help me out, but my search so far has come up empty. I may have to bite the bullet, put my geography minor to the test and try my hand at cartography. I fiddled around a bit last night, making some headway but also dealing with a lot of frustration. Why can’t anything ever be easy?

Anyway, time to go. I’m tired and need to get some sleep….lots of work to do! More to say next week as usual. Until then…

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2013 in Hiking, History, Miscellaneous, Railway, Writing

 

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I survived Snowmageddon!

Snowmageddon? Snowpocalyse if you prefer. Whatever you want to call it, it was bad…really bad. I know that I’ve been writing a lot about the weather lately, but this is the icing on the cake. We have been getting snow steadily for the last few weeks, but no one could have foreseen what happened on Friday. They were calling for a serious dump of snow, but usually the predictions are way off; not this time!

The forecast predicted up to 30 cm between Thursday night and into Friday. I was out at our annual school board Quiz Night on Thursday night and was shocked by the amount of snow that fell during the evening. It continued to snow overnight and there was quite a pile in the morning. I broke my vow not to shovel in April as I had to clean a path at the end of the driveway where the plow had gone by. I didn’t touch the rest of the driveway as I felt confident there would be no issues. Even though we were heading to the same place, my wife wanted to take her own vehicle to meet up with her friends. Unfortunately that plan went amuck when I got her van stuck in the drifting snow as I attempted to back it out; she would have to come 4x4ing with me!

Our Professional Development day was supposed to consist of mass and a speaker in the morning, followed by a technology presentation in the afternoon. The weather however continued to deteriorate as the morning wore on. It was “interesting” driving to our lunch destination, where we heard that buses had been pulled off the streets and police had put out an advisory to stay off the roads. I (and many others) attempted to navigate our way to our sister high school for the afternoon session, but found white-out conditions, blocked roads and stranded cars. At that point we were advised to go home.

By the evening the storm had subsided, so I headed out to clean the snow. It took me a while even with the snowblower as there was at least 30cm in most spots, higher in others with the drifts. There was a layer of wet, heavy slush underneath the new snow, which made everything more difficult. My wife’s van (aka the Loser Cruiser) was still stranded like a beached whale in the driveway; no amount of pushing would free it, so I had to yank it out with my truck.

Early morning snow, April 2013.

Early morning snow, April 2013.

White out lunch, April 2013.

White out lunch, April 2013.

Digging out, April 2013.

Digging out, April 2013.

The day after, April 2013.

The day after, April 2013.

So needless to say I’ve had enough with the snow. Some went away over the last few days, but to my chagrin, I woke up to a few fresh centimetres this morning.  The temperatures are supposed to climb though, reaching a high of 17 on the weekend. 17? Seriously? So we go from snowstorms and below zero temps to shorts weather in less than a week. Inevitably I’m going to be complaining on the weekend about how hot it is…can’t we just pick a season and stick with it?

So 500 words later, that is the scoop on our weather. Let’s talk about some other stuff shall we? So early last Friday morning, in the throes of the lovely blizzard, I met with my counterpart from St. Ignatius to discuss next year’s trip to Europe. We want to students to do some research before our cemetery visits (Bergen-op-Zoom, Beny-sur-Mer, Bretteville-sur-Laize), so it was imperative that we were on the same page. I think we have all the plans ironed out, so it’s now just a matter of explaining it to the kids. I have a meeting scheduled for next week and I’m pretty excited to start talking about the trip.

The railway front has been typically busy. Unfortunately my desire to go hiking continues to get delayed, but hopefully with the arrival of warm weather it will just be a matter of time. My next two adventures will take me to North Lake (probably on the May long weekend) and hopefully to Minnesota. Let’s hope that those warm temps melt everything fast!

Last Wednesday the board of the Silver Mountain (and Area) Historical Society gathered for what was supposed to be a Skype group call, but due to technical issues, it ended up being a rather crude conference call (we’re going to meet in person next time). It was a great opportunity to discuss some important issues and plot our direction for the next few months. There are some exciting things happening and I can’t wait for it all to unfold.

I my previous post I mentioned that I would be speaking to a gentleman from the Ontario Heritage Trust regarding our attempts to preserve sites along the North-Gunflint Lakes Historic Corridor. The phone call could not have gone better. He was very understanding and provided me with a lot of information about what we can do. He was very familiar with some of the people who I am working with in our area and clarified a number of things regarding the Ontario Heritage Act.

I am really looking forward to working with all of these great people and pushing this project forward. There is a lot of history in that area and I hope we can preserve as much of it as we can. From what I am beginning to understand, this is a realistic possibility. There is something important in the process that’s supposed happen soon, but I don’t want to say anything until it’s actually confirmed; you’ll have to wait for the news.

Anyway, time to go…lots of things to do. Hopefully I’ll have some good news (and good weather) to pass along next time. Until then…

 
 

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Okay, now it’s just getting stupid.

That about sums it up. I (and pretty much everyone in the 807 area code for that matter) am tired of the ridiculous weather we’ve been experiencing of late. It actually sucks. For every step we take forward, we end up taking two back. Is this a sign of global warming? Well, it has to be something. I can remember as a kid being out at camp (we’ve had this discussion before-cottage, the lake, whatever) and getting snow in May. However that was very isolated and it disappeared fairly quickly. This is a completely different animal.

Confused? Well, it is now April 16th, the winter snow still has not disappeared, and every time we get a nice day that melts some of it, we’ll get a dump of fresh stuff and have to start all over again. That was the case on the weekend. Then yesterday we got a pile of snow, so much so that they cancelled the rural buses to our school (the day becomes a write off, since many of the “city” kids don’t bother to come). Our normal temps should be above 10C, but we’re not even close to that. Everyone is wondering when spring will show up; I think there are a lot of cases of SAD out there, myself included.

Melting snow, April 2013.

Melting snow, April 2013.

Blizzard, April 2013.

Blizzard, April 2013.

Forecast, April 2013.

Forecast, April 2013.

Okay, so enough about the weather, though ranting about it makes me feel better. Ya, take that Mother Nature-you’re being a real cranky @#&%^! Let’s focus on the positive though. We’ve successfully arrived at midterm, which means the end of the school is approaching. Hard to believe exams are only 9 weeks away. Wow…it’s going by quick and there is so much to do! I’m not sure if the craziness outdoors is keeping the kids in check or driving them batty like the rest of us. I know I’ll certainly be glad when it’s all over.

The railway front has been fairly busy this past week. Once again a lot of the focus has been on the Silver Mountain (and Area) Historical Society. We’ve been trying to plan a board meeting ahead of a society general meeting and it’s proving quite an undertaking. We have six directors, spread out over a wide geographic area and with quite different schedules. Trying to find a convenient time for everyone is not very easy to do. We are gathering tomorrow night with a fairly lengthy agenda. It’s going to be both busy and exciting.

Speaking of the society, I did receive a much awaited email yesterday. I spoke last week about a letter that I sent to the Ontario Heritage Trust regarding property for sale along the North-Gunflint Lake Corridor. It was mixed news however; unfortunately the Trust does not manage land outside of southern Ontario. However, the gentleman who emailed me graciously offered to speak with me about other possibilities for land preservation. I will be calling him tomorrow afternoon, so hopefully it will provide some useful leads.

To go back to the topic of this blog, the current weather issues are having a detrimental impact on my planned hiking schedule. Last April 29th I did my first railway hike of the year; at the rate we’re going at, I’ll be lucky to get out by the middle of May. I was hoping to walk portions of the grade in Minnesota on the first Saturday of next month, but that seems a bit ambitious. I’m very anxious to take another look at the double trestle near the first switchback located just off Tuscarora Road (County Road 47). Fingers crossed I’ll be able to get there at some point before the trees fully leaf out.

Anyway, I have a thousand and one things to do right now, so I should get rolling. Definitely more to say next week. Until then…

 
 

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Enough already!

Yes, I’m angry. I’m angry and I’m tired. Confused? Well, I’ll explain. I’m referring to something that is on the mind of pretty much every Canadian right now, in particular the people living here in northwestern Ontario. Still confused? The weather-I’m talking about the freakin’ weather. Mother Nature can be a fickle mistress at the best of times, and at the moment she’s being downright nasty (I did want to use another word, but this is a family-oriented blog). It’s now the 9th of April and I’m tired of seeing snow. Go away already! It is bright and sunny today, but the temps are hovering around 5C, which is about 3 degrees below normal. We need it to warm up more and melt what’s left of the snow…maybe some warm rain will help (as opposed to the snow we’ve received in the past few days). So my fingers are crossed and I’m holding my breath and I’ll let Mother Nature try to redeem herself.

Fresh snowfall, April 2013.

Fresh snowfall, April 2013.

Morning "blizzard," April 2013.

Morning “blizzard,” April 2013.

*Gasping for air* Okay, so I can only hold my breath for so long, but you get the point. I’ll be anxious when we finally get some spring weather; the sooner the snow goes, the sooner hiking season starts! I already have a hike planned for the beginning of May, so I hope I can keep to that timetable. I guess it will be a wait and see game.

Today is April 9th; one year ago I was in France celebrating the 95th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. I can’t believe that it was that long ago. It was actually a miserable day. I spent the whole day on my feet, in varying degrees of precipitation, from mist to pouring rain. It made me really appreciate the sacrifice of the 3600 Canadians who died in the course of the battle. I have started looking forward to our trip next year and how excited I am to go back. Maybe the weather will be a bit more cooperative in 2014!

Vimy Ridge Memorial, April 2012.

Vimy Ridge Memorial, April 2012.

The major news on the railway front in the past week revolved around the Silver Mountain (and Area) Historical Society. Thanks to the graciousness of my fellow Co-President Shelley Simon, the society was able to share a booth with the Silver Mountain Station at the annual Thunder Bay Home and Garden Show. The event was held on the grounds of the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition (CLE), and we were located in the Sports Dome venue.

Shelley manned the booth all three days; with my wife in Winnipeg for the weekend (watching her “boyfriend” Jon Bon Jovi in concert), I could only chip in for part of the day on Saturday. That certainly was enough, for I was pretty beat afterwards. However, it was very worth it. We had a lot of visitors to the booth and they were very interested in the society; hopefully it will lead to more memberships. You can read more about the weekend here.

Society banner, April 2013.

Society banner, April 2013.

Visitors at the booth, April 2013.

Visitors at the booth, April 2013.

My final piece of news involves our attempt to preserve some of the history in the North-Gunflint Lakes area. Most of the land along that part of the border is crown land, but there are a number of privately owned parcels. Two of those parcels are for sale, and have been for quite some time. The society would love to have land revert to the province so they are open for all to use. Therefore this morning I mailed a very important letter.

The Ontario Heritage Trust is an organization committed to preserving the province’s rich cultural history. This includes such things as buildings and land. My letter was directed to their land acquisitions branch, hoping that they would consider purchasing the land for preservation purposes. Now I get to play to waiting game to see if I get a response, and if so, what the tone of the answer will be. Hopefully I won’t have to wait too long.

Anyway, time to move on. As usual, more to say next week. Until then…

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2013 in History, Miscellaneous, Railway, Research, Writing

 

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Damn you insomnia!

That’s kinda harsh isn’t it Dave? Well maybe, but it sure as hell deserves it. I’m tired! Isn’t it always the case that when you need to be up early, you can’t sleep? I even went to bed early, 10:20 to be exact. But could I sleep? Nope! The worst part was that I was coming off a four day weekend…I should have been nice and relaxed. It was after midnight and I was still tossing and turning. Then one of the boys woke me up at 4:00 with a bathroom break and the other shortly after with a bad dream. So I tossed and turned until 5:45. So now I’m tired, drained and probably cranky…thanks for nothing!

Anyway, Happy Easter! I should be a bit more excited, but you know. It was nice to have the extended weekend, but as usual it flew by. It’s now a long seven week wait for the May Long, and there is so much to do in the meantime. A ton of things are coming up with work, family, football and the railway; so many that I can’t even think straight. It’s going to a crazy month and a half-don’t I always say that?

School is as busy as ever, especially since mid-semester is just around the corner. I’m struggling mightily to keep up, particularly with the marking. Doesn’t help when you have days like today and your brain is a pile of mush, making concentrating oh so tedious. I know, I know, more complaints. That’s okay, even though it doesn’t feel like spring outside (a rather chilly -4 today), it’s coming. The snow is gradually receding and soon everything will be a wonderful shade of blah. But change is in the air…I can smell it (well, besides the usual spring stench of dog poop).

It has been a very busy week again on the railway front (cripes I sound like a broken record don’t I?). Last week I received some really good news from my contact with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. I don’t really want to say anything yet, as things are not set in stone, but there has been some positive movement in our efforts along the Boundary Waters. I spent a good chunk of my free time this weekend working on some stuff related to that, so I’m hopeful that things work out in our favour.

Now speaking of this project, this weekend is the first big public splash for the Silver Mountain (and Area) Historical Society (it just flows so much better without the “and Area”). My fellow society co-president Shelley Simon has a booth at the annual Home and Garden Show for the Silver Mountain Station and we will be sharing space. Last week we ordered the display materials for the show such as a banner, brochures and business cards. Let’s hope the get here on time! If you have a chance, drop by and visit the display (we’re in the Dome).

My last blurb for this week is about an interesting picture I received by email yesterday. During my visit to Gunflint Lodge a few weeks ago, owner Sue Kerfoot showed me a photograph of the old US customs house at the east end of Gunflint. I obviously asked her for a copy and she mentioned that she had other old photos of the area. The one she sent me was of her husband Bruce`s grandmother, Mae Spunner, on a railway speeder in the late 1930`s. The interesting part of the photo is that is shows that there were still rails on Gunflint past the presumed date of their removal (1915). Bruce told me that the rails were finally removed by his parents around 1945. I can`t wait to see more!

Handcar, Gunflint Lake, late 1930's.

Handcar, Gunflint Lake, late 1930’s.

Anyway, enough for now; see you same time next week. Until then…

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2013 in History, Miscellaneous, Railway, Research, Writing

 

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Can’t win for trying!

We’ve all been there. Trying hard to do something and it’s just not working out the way you want it to. Oh the frustration! What is going on you ask? Well I’m sitting here watching my eLearning website spin its wheels and refuse to load. This is supposed to be my eLearning period, and I’ve got a ton of stuff to do since I’ve been out of the school the past couple of days, but I cannot get into the Learning Management System. Grrrr! I’ve written in the past about technology and how great it is, when it works. And right now, it’s not working for me. I guess it gives me time to write my blog, but that’s not really what I need to be doing right now.

So things are humming along as we push into the end of March and the Easter break. I’m back to 100%, which has made dealing with all the usual craziness a bit more bearable. It’s hard to believe that it’s almost April…where does the time go? Soon it will be mid-semester, and as the weather warms it will be harder to keep the kids focus. Hang on and keep pushing forward right?

The railway has been very busy yet again, with what seems like a million and one things going on. One of the biggest pieces of news from the past week was the completion of the new logo for the Silver Mountain Historical Society. We are truly excited! The logo allows us to move forward and really begin to market and promote the society. You can read more about this exciting event on the SMHS blog.

Silver Mountain Historical Society logo.

Silver Mountain Historical Society logo.

Progress continues to be made in our attempts to preserve the sites at Leeblain, albeit at a much slower pace than I would like. I never worked on anything of this nature, and certainly never worked through government bureaucracy which can be a tad bit frustrating. I am sure things will move ahead in the coming months, but am anxious to get some safeguards in place before the area is even further disturbed.

Now speaking of Leeblain, I did receive some great news from the publication committee at the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society. They have agreed to publish my article on Leeblain! I could not be more thrilled at this news…I am finally going to be published! I can then truly call myself a “historian.” Not that I am all about the title or anything; to me it’s more about the acknowledgement of all the work I’ve done on the railway over the years.

To go along with the article, I will also be presenting a lecture at the Thunder Bay Museum in September. I’ve actually been asked to kick-off the 2013-2014 lecture series…what a great honour! I’ve waited a long time to be able to speak at the museum, to be able to share the work I’ve done on the railway. I’ll be sure to write all about it when the time comes.

On Saturday I had the opportunity to head down to Gunflint with the family (not that I needed an excuse anyway) to meet with Gunflint Lodge owner and long resident Bruce Kerfoot. I had been looking forward to this for quite some time, as Bruce was away when I did my presentation back in February. Growing up on the lake, Bruce’s experiences and those of his mother Justine (who was a legend in the area), are important to my research. I really wanted to pick Bruce’s brain!

Back in January Bruce had sent me a map of Leeblain and it had radically changed my understanding of what that town had really been like. Bruce’s explorations and excavations at the site in his younger years revealed more buildings than I knew existed. Then again, all I had to work with was a map that was surveyed in 1911, nearly 20 years after the town was founded. His information has provided me with a wealth of information, and a whole pile of work to do when I next visit the area.

My conversation with Bruce also enlightened me to some of the other history of the Gunflint area. He told me about logging camps that I never knew existed! Of most interest to me however, was the information regarding the removal of rails along the Canadian side of the lake. I had come to the conclusion, based on some historical documentation and maps, that the rails west of North Lake had been removed circa 1915. However, Bruce emphatically stated that his parents removed some of the rails, at least to the eastern end of the lake, during World War II. This radically changes my interpretation of how things unfolded with the railway along this portion of the line.

While I was in the area, I did take a few minutes to snap some photos of the railway in Minnesota, particularly the area around the double trestle at Round Lake. It has peaked my interest again, and I’ve decided that I am going to try and get down to that area around the beginning of May to poke around and shoot some new video. Getting exciting for hiking season!

Railway grade, Minnesota, March 2013.

Railway grade, Minnesota, March 2013.

Double trestle area, Minnesota, March 2013.

Double trestle area, Minnesota, March 2013.

Railway embankment, Minnesota, March 2013.

Railway embankment, Minnesota, March 2013.

Anyway, time to wrap up; more to say next week as usual. Until then…

 
 

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Wait, it gets worse!

Remember back a few weeks ago when I was lamenting how middle age was catching up to me? I was so sore and tired? Ya, well I had to go and open my big mouth about it did I? I seem to do that a lot unfortunately. So since that ill-conceived tirade, I have since wrenched my back shovelling snow and then come down with the flu. Karma 1, Dave 0.

On that note, it’s good to be back. Once again I took a little break from the blog since I was away on vacation and there wasn’t a lot to talk about. Yes, as I’ve aptly described, it wasn’t a pretty second half of the week for me last week. We arrived home from the States to find the driveway nicely plugged with a dump of snow, and in my haste to clear some room to unload the “loser cruiser,” (my wife’s eloquent nickname for the minivan) I went a bit too hard too fast and tweaked my back. It kinda bothered me for a few days, but then I got the flu on Saturday and forgot all about it. So then I spent two days on the couch not eating and shivering…see the score sheet above.

Snow filled driveway, March 2013.

Snow filled driveway, March 2013.

Well thankfully I’m feeling a bit better today, though I thought that last night and after eating dinner had a rather unpleasant wait during the kids swimming lessons. Fingers crossed. But hey, on the up side, my back doesn’t hurt anymore!

So the little break from reality was good, but alas it is back to work. Fortunately we’re on the downward slide toward summer as the days get longer and warmer. You couldn’t tell that right now though, as old man winter refuses to go away. This time last year the snow was completely gone and we were basking in double digit temperatures. Right now there is still a few feet of snow and we are not expected to slip above zero until the end of the week. Gotta be optimistic right?

Just before the break we did pass an important milestone that I though was worth mentioning. The countdown to next year’s Europe trip is now less than 365 days…353 days to be exact! I can’t wait. Even though I visited some of these places less than a year ago, it’s still exciting nonetheless. There are some new places to see, and a whole new group of kids. They’re pretty pumped too! When I let many of them know that the trip was a year away, it solicited a lot of enthusiastic responses.

So the railway front has been somewhat busy, especially given the fact that I was away from home for several days. Last week we celebrated an important event, the 106th anniversary of the announcement of the construction of the station at Silver Mountain (and by default the one at North Lake as well). The Silver Mountain Station is one of the few remaining structures on the line, and last significant station. It was constructed in 1907 and the railway also built an exact copy at North Lake. To mark this event, I spent some time on Wikipedia creating two entry pages, one for Silver Mountain and the other for North Lake. It took me a bit of time to do, but I’m very pleased with the results. I think I’ll be doing a few more in the future.

Speaking of Silver Mountain, work is progressing along with the society. Our biggest news is the forthcoming launch of our new logo. I had an opportunity to preview it today, and hopefully we’ll have it in the next days. Then there will be a mad dash to get some stuff ordered (cards, banners, brochures) so we can start promoting the group. It’s going to be a busy April!

While I was away in Minnesota, I did not forget about the railway. Sitting there one night (the kids go to bed at 8, so I need something to do for a few hours), I had a brain wave. How about doing some research? One of my biggest frustrations is that Google has digitized all of these old documents, but because I live in Canada, I cannot access them. That’s just blatant racism…Canadians are people too Google! Anyway, I figured that since I was in the US, I could try downloading some of these elusive files.

I didn’t get everything, and the internet speed was a bit slow, but I did manage to pull in quite a few things. The most interesting was an account written in 1908 by a Richard Haste, and his experiences travelling through the “new” Ontario on a railway tricycle or jigger (I never knew it was called that). He and a companion started in the Rainy River area and using their hand-powered jigger, rode all the way to Port Arthur. They then hitched a ride on the train down to Gunflint and rode back. I was disappointed that they didn’t say more about the PD and there weren’t any photos, but it was neat nonetheless. Some really good research information in there too!

Railway tricycle or "jigger," early 1900's.

Railway tricycle or “jigger,” early 1900’s.

Anyway, I think it’s time to wrap up. I am travelling to Gunflint this Saturday for a meeting with Bruce Kerfoot at the Gunflint Lodge, so I’m sure I’ll have a bunch of things to say next week. Until then…

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2013 in History, Miscellaneous, Railway, Research, Writing

 

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