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It’s been that long?

Have you ever been doing something, anything and suddenly become aware that a long period of time has gone by without even noticing? Like say years. Years Dave? Yup, years. So what has prompted this line of thought you ask? Well, it was actually something I saw on Facebook. There were a number of posts a few days ago regarding an event that occurred in 2007, which was a very significant year for me for a bunch of reasons. Confused? Please, read on.

Welcome to May kids! Speaking of time flying by…wow, where did the year go? In any case, I’m back to my usual posts after all the travelling related ones I did last month. May means that the school year is almost over and it’s getting to that crazy time with a million things going on. I’m trying to get my classes all planned out to the end of the year, mark, prep for football spring camp…wow. Sometimes I wonder how I manage to juggle all of this stuff at the same time, and that’s in addition to everything going on at home. Oh well, it will be summer holidays soon enough and some even better news arrived last week. My wife and I have been approved for another semester leave starting in February 2022. Yay!

I guess I would be remiss in not mentioning the weather. I know, I always gripe about the weather, but this time it’s for real. Up until a few weeks ago, it had been a gorgeous spring. And then the wheels fell off. It started with quite a bit of rain one day, then some snow and then a massive ice storm. Ice storm? Yes, you read it right, ice storm. In April? Yup, and it was so bad the schools and the city were shut down for two days. Craziness! The last time that happened was in 1996, when I was still in university. The snow and ice melted quickly and things are relatively back to normal, but that made things around here a rather soggy for a while.

Ice storm, April 2017.

Ice storm, April 2017.

Alright, so I should rewind the clock 10 years and discuss what happened way back in 2007. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that year for a number of reasons, some good and some bad. In July, my wife and I welcomed our second son, Noah, which obviously was one of the happiest days of my life. Sadly, only a few days later, my dad lost a very short battle with cancer. It’s extremely difficult to describe the overwhelming emotions you feel when confronted by joy and tragedy all at the same time. However, the passing of my dad helped push me back into my railway research and field work which at the time had been on the back-burner for a number of years. I guess it was my way of honouring him by making the most of every moment that I have. My dad loved the outdoors, and being in the fresh air brings back a lot of memories of our time together. I also have a living reminder of him in Noah, as he shares so many personality traits with his grandfather.

Another event that took place in 2007 was one that I overlooked at the time. That year the bush was very dry after several years of relatively dry conditions. Back in 1999 there was a massive windstorm that hit our area, a derecho, which toppled millions of trees in the border areas. The lack of moisture and all those trees turned some places into a tinderbox. The spark came in early May, when a human caused fire broke out at Ham Lake, approximately 3 km southwest of Gunflint Lake. When it was finally extinguished, it had burned over 30,000 hectares on both sides of the border.

My first visit to the burned areas took place a year later, when I went to Gunflint Lake for the first time since 2000. It was also my first time driving to the Canadian side of the lake, coming down from Northern Lights Lake. It was quite the harrowing journey, as the road was in in terrible shape and a burned culvert over a deep stream had been replaced with a rather sketchy alternative. The burn zone was quite extensive, and without the trees the true character of the “Shield Country” (Canadian Shield) was visible. However, I was able to see a lot of things that had previously been hidden in the foliage. I wish I had explored more than year when all the vegetation has just starting to grow back.

Gunflint Lake, August 2008.

PAD&W grade, Gunflint Lake, August 2008.

Beach at Leeblain, August 2008.

PAD&W grade, Leeblain, August 2008.

PAD&W rock cut, Gunflint Lake, August 2008.

One positive thing that came of the fire was the construction of the Centennial Trail in Minnesota. Portions of the railway in the area had been exposed by the fire, along with a number of the mining sites that had been worked back in the early 1890s by John Paulson and his associates. The US Forest Service decided to convert portions of the grade into a trail, along with interpretive stops at key railway and mining features. It opened in the fall of 2009 and I was able to visit it in the summer of 2010. It was my first trip to that area since my initial exploration in 1998. It was a very different place after the blowdown and fire; however, I was able to see many new things, such some of the test pits I missed the first time.

Akeley Lake Shaft, August 2010.

Mine shaft, August 2010.

PAD&W rock cut, August 2010.

PAD&W rock cut, August 2010.

PAD&W rock cut, August 2010.

Sadly there were some negative consequences to the fire as well. Areas that were previously hidden and relatively free from human interference were now much more accessible. Places that had been neatly tucked under the umbrella of trees were now exposed and becoming overrun with new vegetation. Some physical traces of the railway and mining operation, particularly those made of wood, were unfortunately consumed in the conflagration.

The biggest victim of the flames was one of the most important and well-known historic sites in the area; the corduroyed wood trestle on Gunflint Lake. I’ve mentioned this spot before, as it was one of the greatest legacies of the Gunflint and Lake Superior Railroad. It was constructed sometime around 1904-1905 and was used by the railroad to climb the very steep ridge on the south side of Gunflint Lake.

The elevation change from where the railroad passes Camp 4 on the lake (1543 ft.) to where it crests the ridge is nearly 200 feet. Logging lines typically did not want to expend large amounts of capital on construction as they are generally temporary in nature. Therefore, the Pigeon River Lumber Company had to build something that was cheap but functional; the structure they designed was simple yet ingenious. They began the ascent nearly a kilometre to the east, just south of Camp 4 by climbing a ridge that parallels the lake. Upon reaching the Crab River, which spills over the big ridge to form Bridal Falls, the line turned south. A lengthy rock cut was blasted alongside the river the lower the grade, but there was still a sizable chasm that needed to be spanned. Rather than build a trestle or rock embankment, the engineers simply stacked logs (presumably non-valuable species) in a corduroy fashion until they had the correct angle and topped it gravel. The grade was atrocious, somewhere from six to ten percent (two percent is considered bad for a railroad), which necessitated the use of a special Shay locomotive to negotiate it. However, it was a sight to behold; a narrow embankment of logs, little more than ten feet wide, towering some twenty to twenty-five feet above the ground and covering more than four hundred feet.

G&LS Corduroy Trestle, August 1997.

G&LS Corduroy Trestle, August 1997.

G&LS Corduroy Trestle, August 1997.

I saw the corduroy trestle during my first visit to the G&LS back in 1997 and was amazed at how well it had aged. I am glad that I had the opportunity and that I documented it as well (watch the video here). The 1999 blowdown caused some damage to it, but it was the fire that sealed its fate. It ripped through the area, scorching some spots and leaving others untouched. The corduroyed logs caught fire, the flames smoldering deep inside the stack of logs for months afterwards. The Forest Service hoped the winter would extinguish the embers, but it continued to flare, even buried in snow (read a story here). There was no other option than to dynamite the structure to put out the last vestiges of the fire; the great corduroy trestle which had endured for more than 100 years (and no doubt would still be around) was forever lost.

Corduroy Trestle burns, Ham Lake Fire, May 2007. (T. Kaffine/USFS)

Article from the Cook County News-Herald on the trestle, March 2008.

With all the excitement of the past month, I haven’t really had any time to do railway stuff. I can’t remember the last time I even looked at the one of the chapters of the book. In any case, it’s almost hiking season, which has me excited. I’m scheduled to go out next week, so hopefully the weather cooperates until then and the ground continues to dry up. It’s always a gamble going out at this time of the year; it’s the best time to see things in the bush, but it still can be a bit wet. I’m hoping that I can finish locating the route of the G&LS as it winds it’s way south of Gunflint Lake. It’s a long and difficult hike, so my fingers are crossed that everything goes well.

Anyway, it’s time to go. I’ll be back in a few weeks with details from the hike. Until then…

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Posted by on May 10, 2017 in Hiking, History, Railway

 

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It’s a good thing I left the snow tires on…

April showers bring May flowers right? Wrong! Horribly wrong. More like April snow brings spring misery. For the love of God it needs to stop snowing! Snow? In April? Yes, unfortunately…the truth hurts. We’ve had more snow in the last 3 weeks than the rest of winter combined, or at least it seems so. Winter wonderland is great in December, but not now. Speaking of December, remember that brown Christmas I wrote about back then? Ya, well we’re paying for it now. Climate change deniers need a kick in the head. Ugh!

Hey, so I’m back. Maybe a little testier than usual, but if you just read my rant, you’ll understand. So yes, it is now April and the weather blows. My apologies for the somewhat profane language since this is a family-friendly blog, but hopefully it’s understandable. I am just so done with winter! Since my last post we received a huge dump of snow during March break (my deck had over 40cm or 16in on it). It will then warm up for a few days, melt that snow, and then we will get more to replace it. It is a frustrating vicious circle. Good news is on the horizon though; even though today is supposed to be 2C for the high (normal are around 7-8C), it is supposed to be in the double digits by the end of the week. Here’s hoping. Maybe I will listen to my wife and move somewhere warm and buy one of those much cheaper we keep seeing on House Hunters!

Results of a snowstorm, March 2016.

Results of a snowstorm, March 2016.

Snowstorm, April 2016.

Snowstorm, April 2016.

So besides the climatological issues, things are good. I am certainly enjoying the time off, though it is flying by way too quickly. This week is already the middle of April! I know I always complain that it goes by quick while I’m at work, but time typically moves more quickly when you’re on vacation. What that all means is that it’s time to start moving past winter and thinking ahead to all the stuff goes on in spring and summer…if the snow ever goes away.

One of the things that is starting to gear up again is football. Yes, football…in the snow. Okay, I’ll stop! Anyway, Noah just started skills and drills, which will last throughout the month and as usual I am helping out. Even though it’s a while away, planning has already commenced for our annual spring camp, which will be held in again in June. In preparation for that, I’ll need to finish filming and editing our recruiting video, which always takes up a bit of time.

I guess the one thing that the weather has not hindered is my work on the railway. In actuality, I’ve been quite busy with it since the last post. I finally managed to complete transcribing all the Arpin Papers from my visits to the Cook County Museum last summer. The end result? Thirty-one landscape pages of details from those letters, organized by date and who the letter was addressed to. And unfortunately I’m not done yet; a few of the early letters from 1900 are very difficult to read, so I’ll have to go back and see if I can decipher them from the original documents. That however will give me a chance to go to the Grand Marais Library while I’m there to look up a few things.

As I reported previously, I have been spending a lot of time at the Thunder Bay Museum examining digitized newspapers. They have been a great source of information, both about the Pigeon River Lumber Company and the PAD&W. There are still many years to look through, but I think I will wrap things up for now with one more visit this week. I have a feeling I will still have to do some manual searching at some point.

Since we’re on the topic, I’ve already begun planning my research trips that will be coming up rather quickly. At the beginning of May I will be in Toronto for my brother’s wedding and I’d like to get to the Archives of Ontario for a few hours. They have some photos I’d like to look through, as well as an early plan for the North Lake Station location and an Order-in-Council related to the PRLC.

However, it is a lengthy excursion to La Crosse, Wisconsin and Chicago that will take the most time, and planning. I’ve already mentioned that the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Archives holds the personal papers and records of PRLC vice-president Frank P. Hixon. Email inquiries have indicated there are extensive records at that facility; I have a feeling that I will have to go back in the future, possibly next summer.

Chicago is a regional repository for the National Archives and Records Administration, and they might have records for the Gunflint Lake customs house. Unfortunately I will not know what they have until I look through their files. I’ve never been to Chicago before, so my wife and I will be spending a few days there once I complete my archives research. I know it won’t be enough time to do the Windy City justice, but it’s better than not at all. I’m sure I will be able to get there again in the future.

In the meantime, I was able to do a little research a bit closer to home yesterday. The drive to Gunflint Lake never disappoints, even though the scenery was a little snowier than I would have liked. Bruce and Sue Kerfoot, always the cordial hosts, were gracious enough to take time out of their busy schedules to chat with me again about the local history. Bruce’s knowledge of the area is amazing and he has a lot of experience exploring many of the historic sites, whether by himself or with the First Nations people who used to live at Gunflint. I’m looking forward to going back as soon as possible, hopefully when I get back from Toronto.

Gunflint Narrows, April 2016.

Gunflint Narrows, April 2016.

Bottom end of a switchback, April 2016.

Bottom end of a switchback, April 2016.

Gunflint Lake, April 2016.

Gunflint Lake, April 2016.

I do have one trip to Gunflint already planned for the summer with a very familiar agenda to it. I have been invited once again by the kind folks at the Chik-Wauk Museum to come and give a lecture on a piece of local history. If you recall I’ve been there twice in the past, in 2012 and 2014. I decided to talk about my current research, especially since a lot of people are not very acquainted with the Gunflint and Lake Superior Railroad and I thought it would provide a refreshing change. Previously, lectures were held on the museum porch, but they have a newly constructed facility at Chik-Wauk which will bring everything inside and allow me to include a visual component as well. The date of the presentation is Sunday, August 14th and you can visit their website for more information.

Anyway, it’s time to move on. Shockingly, it’s snowing again, so I have to go clean off the deck for the sixth or seventh time in the last few weeks. I’ll be back soon with more news and hopefully in a better mood. Until then…

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2016 in History, Railway, Research, Travel

 

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The Final Countdown

You and I know exactly what you’re doing right now…there’s no use denying it. As you’re reading this, the opening bars to the song by the Swedish band Europe are coursing through your head. Yes, no, maybe? Not a rocker? Could you be thinking about F-14 Tomcats screaming through the sky in the 1980 movie starring a grizzled Kirk Douglas and the USS Nimitz? No? Okay, I guess you’re stumped then. You’ll just have to read on…

So here we are in a new year, 2016. It’s hard to believe that Christmas was a month ago; time continues to whip by. The passing of the holiday season also marked another birthday for me…I’m officially one year older. In my mind I don’t really feel 42, but I’m starting to wonder about my body. It feels as if I’m falling apart at times. I know I’ve written about it before, but it’s as if it’s gotten worse. Aches and pains, a nagging tennis elbow…I’m wondering what else will “break” in the near future.

With January rapidly coming to an end, it means that the current school semester has almost run its course. That, as you should be well aware, brings with it some great news. When this school semester is done, so am I! Words cannot express how excited I am to be on sabbatical until next September. I have a lot planned, both on my own and with my family. My goal is to make each day count as I probably won’t have an opportunity to do this again.

Since I brought up my sabbatical, I guess I should talk about a little about what I’ll be doing while I’m off work. My whole intention when I took this leave was to spend most of it working on railway stuff. I do have a few other things on the agenda, such as a nice cruise with my family, but the majority of my time will be dedicated to that pursuit. I have had to modify some of my plans, particularly scrapping a trip to Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, but that’s the way things go.

Well, what exactly will you be doing Dave? Now that you asked, there’s quite a number of things on my list, but I’ll stick to stuff in the immediate future. Since February is pretty booked up with a football clinic in Minneapolis, a football tackling clinic and our cruise, I’m mostly focused on research. I’ll be visiting the Lakehead University Archives, the Thunder Bay Museum and the Thunder Bay Public Library.

I also have a whole bunch of organizing to do, as there’s a pile of copies that need to be filed in their appropriate folder. I’ve managed to get a little investigating in over the last month and that has led to quite a bit of new information accumulating. If you missed it, I also managed to get a few new videos up on YouTube, the first in more than a year. You can check them out here and here.

To be filed, January 2016.

To be filed, January 2016.

At some point next month I’ll begin work on a project that has been kicking around for a few years. Back in 2014 I was contacted by a professor at Minnesota State University who was interested in the life of John Paulson, the mysterious man behind the iron mine near Gunflint Lake. We spoke about possibly doing a paper, and that has also morphed into a presentation at the Northern Great Plains History Conference in St. Cloud, MN in September. I’m not sure how that’s going to work, since the conference is smack in the middle of my busiest time of the year; I’ll have to do some creative maneuvering for sure.

Anyway, I should wrap things up. For the record, the final countdown is 7 days folks! I’ll be back soon enough with more news. Until then…

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2016 in History, Railway, Research, Writing

 

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When will you make it end?

Ah those iconic words from a great historical movie. Stumped? It’s about one of my favourite periods in history, the Renaissance. Got it yet? Charlton Heston? Painting? Come on, you should have known it’s from The Agony and the Ecstacy! Yes, that 1965 movie with Heston playing Michelangelo and Rex Harrison playing Pope Julius II which depicts the painting of the Sistene Chapel. As Michelangelo labours to finish the ceiling and months drag into years, the Pope constantly asks “When will you make it end?” His enigmatic response is always “When I’m finished.” That’s awesome, but the big question is what the hell does all of this have to do with anything? Please, read on!

Well, we’ve almost reached the end of February and I’m tired already. Why? Take a big guess! If you said the weather, you win the year’s supply of Monarch cake mix (who remembers that one?). God, I’m so tired of this crap! Today’s title is more like a plead to God, “when will you make it end?” This past weekend was Family Day long weekend and my wife decided that we should go to Minneapolis with the kids since we’ll be away during the Match break. We were supposed to leave on Thursday after school, but we got a huge dump of snow that day and it was impossible to drive (so I spent the evening cleaning the snow). We left at 6 the next day and drove straight through to Minneapolis and spent an enjoyable weekend there. Unfortunately there was another big storm on Monday and had to drive home right through it, white knuckling it the whole way. After I got home, I had to clean snow again!

Winter snow, February 2014.

Winter snow, February 2014.

I guess it all isn’t bad, since the temperatures are supposed to go up to more seasonal values, but I think everyone is experiencing some form of Seasonal Affective Disorder. It just seems that winter is dragging on and on this year. Thank God there are a few things that will break up the routine over the next little while.

So we are now into our third week of new the semester and things are moving along fairly well. The classes are good and keeping me busy as usual. Last week was our annual open house for Grade 8 students and I was busy setting things up for the department display and for the football program. Talk about double duty! The event was well attended and it was good to be able to chat with a number of future students and their parents. Hopefully it will translate into some solid numbers for our school next year.

Speaking of football, things are starting to pick up again on that front. Last week we started our offseason weighting program, BFS (Bigger, Faster, Stronger). I didn’t have a chance to supervise on my usual Wednesday shift because of open house, but I was there this week. We also have a number of our Grade 9 players trying out for the Thunder Bay Minor Football Under-16 team, which is pretty exciting news. Planning continues for our June trip to the UMD team camp which is always a great experience.

With March just around the corner it means that I’ll be heading to Europe very soon. This week was our final meeting with all the travellers and their parents. It’s great to see the kids so excited! For many of them this is their first trip overseas and I know it will be an awesome experience for all of us. I’m still a bit nervous, but as I said before I just want everything to go as smoothly as possible. We are now less than 15 days from departure!

With everything going on at school and with football, I really haven’t had a lot of time to devote to railway work. The long, dreary weather has really made me look forward to spring and a chance to get out and do some hiking. I already have a number of locations and dates in mind, but everything will depend on the weather.

Almost one year ago the Silver Mountain and Area Historical Society was incorporated in the province in Ontario. We’ve come a long way in that time, but there is still a ton of things that we need to accomplish to become really fully functioning. At the end of March we will have our 2014 annual general meeting, so I have a lot to do in the meantime. The big priority is to get the winter edition of our newsletter out to the membership, which I should have done by the end of next week. After that, I’ll working on the agenda for the AGM.

Anyway, I should get going. Lots to do, and obviously god isn’t amused by my post; we’re expecting another big storm that may dump upwards of 30cm of snow on us! I’ll be back in a few weeks before we leave for Europe. Until then…

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2014 in History, Railway, Travel, Writing

 

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Oh, December…

Yep, December…what a fickle mistress you are! You can be warm and inviting, or frigid and heartless. Which one will you be this year? Sometimes you can’t make up your mind (though it seems like you are leaning a particular way), much like your name. Even though you are the last month of the year, we really know your name means otherwise. Despite all of this, I still do appreciate you; well, maybe without the double-digit negative temperatures! You bring with you a season of giving, happiness and holidays. And beyond that, comes a new year, an opportunity for renewal and new hope. So here’s to you and what may come!

So here we are in December…and none too soon. As you can tell, I haven’t really gotten back into the routine of writing; things are still pretty busy. This is unfortunately only my third post since July! My schedule is a bit better than it was, so most of the explanation behind my lack of writing is laziness, though I can say there is a bit of burnout as well. A lot has gone on since my last rant, so I’ll attempt to fill in the blanks here with as much brevity as possible.

I guess for starters, football season has been over for a month. It was another very successful campaign for our team, though we wished it would have ended differently. We finished third in the regular season, and upset the number two team in the semi-finals. So for the second time in three years, we advanced to the SSSAA (Superior Secondary Schools Athletic Association) Junior Football championship. Our competition would be our sister school, the St. Ignatius Falcons. The boys played hard, but unfortunately our season-long injury situation caught up with us (5 starters were out) and we fell 7-0.

Now you may be asking what I’m doing with all the extra time I have. Well, obviously it’s not writing! For the most part, the last several weeks have been about catching up on everything that had gone on the back-burner since September. It’s been a bit of a struggle, but I’m slowly making some headway, especially with my marking. I’m hoping to have pretty much all of my outstanding assignments cleared up before we break for Christmas.

One of the things that has been keeping me hopping is the preparations for our March break trip to Europe. We depart in 85 days! It’s hard to believe it’s coming up that quick. I know the kids are getting pretty excited, and though there’s some stress associated with the planning, I’m eager to go as well. I did manage to convince my wife to come along, even though she’s a very nervous flyer. It will be nice to share the experience with her.

The railway front has been fairly quiet as of late. With football and everything else going on, there hasn’t been a lot of time to devote to it. I did fit in a presentation a few weeks back to one of the local Gyro clubs, but that’s about it. Probably the biggest news is the forthcoming publication of my first article on the town of Leeblain. It just went to print last week, so hopefully I’ll have copies in my hands by the end of the month. Obviously I’m pretty excited to see the culmination of a lot of hard work!

I would imagine that the next few weeks will be about catching up on posting some of the pictures and video that I shot over the summer and fall and never was able to post on the net. I can’t believe that I’ve fallen that far behind. I did however receive some great photos via email. J.T. (James Thomas) Greer was a logging contractor that established a cutting operation along the railway during the winter of 1915-1916. His work along North and Gunflint Lakes during this period is an interesting chapter in the history of the railway. Several famous photos were taken of the train stuck in the snow on Iron Range Hill (the steepest grade on the line-2%) on its way to North Lake. I was sent two photos of this event from a relative of J.T. Greer; they make an awesome addition to my collection.

Stuck in the snow, Iron Range Hill, 1915-1916. (M. Wilson)

Stuck in the snow, Iron Range Hill, 1915-1916. (M. Wilson)

Stuck in the snow, Iron Range Hill, 1915-1916. (M. Wilson)

Stuck in the snow, Iron Range Hill, 1915-1916. (M. Wilson)

Anyway, it’s time to get rolling. As I mentioned in my intro, it seems as though December has made up its mind as to which way it is going. In the last week we’ve received a few big dumps of snow and now the temperature has dropped considerably (-40C with the wind at night). It certainly makes for an interesting start to winter. I’ll have more updates in the coming weeks. Until then…

Early winter snow, December 2013.

Early winter snow, December 2013.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2013 in 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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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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