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Goodbye old friend…

We have all been there. We have all had to say goodbye in our lives; many times, it’s a temporary good bye…sometimes it’s a forever goodbye. It’s never easy whatever the case, but certainly the forever kind leave an indelible mark on our soul. We are impacted by the departure, but also by the memories we shared with those that are leaving. It is a part of life that we cannot change or stop; the best we can do is make the most of the time that we are given.

Welcome to summer kids! I know it’s been a really long time since I last posted, but I’ve been busy. Another school year has come and gone and now I’m reveling in the glory of summer vacation. The month of June was nuts and I’m glad to finally start to de-stress. This is not to say that I’m sitting around doing nothing, but having that mental weight lifted is a huge relief. I can’t believe though that a week and a half has already gone by, but who’s counting?

The only downer of late has been the weather. Shocked? Me, rant about the weather? Never! Seriously though, the mother nature is really ticking me off (I so wanted to use a different metaphor, but this is a family-friendly blog). After that ice storm in April, things have not been the same. June was an absolute disaster and the beginning of July has been much of the same. Maybe disaster is a bit harsh, but I am so tired of this crap. The weather has been so unsettled; we just can’t seem to get any consistency. It seems as though every second day we get precipitation. I really hope we turn a corner soon and get a bit more “summer” like conditions soon.

One of the reasons I’m so irked by the weather is that I have been spending most of my time at camp. I feel bad for the boys since spending time indoors is not what you want to be doing, and our summer is so short to begin with. My time has been consumed with a fairly large project, which is the construction of a new storage shed. I’ve never built a shed before, but last year I had never built a dock before either. It’s going well, though I put in some long hours this past weekend and I am still feeling the after effects. I may have over did it as well, as my tennis elbow is flaring up again and it’s quite annoying. Hopefully I’ll have the door and shingles on it this week, so then I can slow the pace of construction down.

Camp, July 2017.

Storm clouds at camp, July 2017.

With all the excitement going on, my railway work has taken a big backseat. The only thing that I’ve done is begun the process of overhauling my web-based information. I’ve had an online presence for the railway for almost 10 years now, and launched padwrr.ca six years ago. That site has become a bit dated, but since I’m not very proficient in web design, I decided that the easiest thing to do is to migrate all that info on to this page. Therefore, you’ll notice several new tabs at the top, which marks the start of the process. There’s still a lot of work to do, so it will be a while before it’s all complete. Please bear with me.

Probably the biggest piece of news is my upcoming lecture on the 23rd. I will be making my fourth appearance at the Chik-Wauk Museum for a presentation on the Gunflint & Lake Superior Railroad, which will be very similar to the one that I did this past January at the Thunder Bay Museum. I hope it generates a lot of interest south of the border as well, since this topic encompasses the history of both countries. With my hike back in May, I have quite a bit of new information to discuss. If you’re looking for something to do in a couple weeks, why not take a drive up the Gunflint Trail to have a listen.

While I’m there, I decided to spend the night and take the opportunity to do some field work. I haven’t quite made up my mind as to what I want to do, but I guess I’ll have to fairly soon. I’m either going out on Gunflint Lake and shoot some video or make a return visit to what I believe to be the site of Camp 8. I need to do both, but it will really depend on what I think is the higher priority. It also might rest of whether I have the family with me or not. I’ll let you know in a few weeks.

So, back to the title, which refers to saying goodbye. Recently, I too had to say goodbye to an old friend, one who has been a big part of my railway research over the past number of years and has been featured in this blog. Thirteen years ago my wife and I adopted a dog, the first dog I ever owned. Rather quickly, Loki became one of our family and a loyal companion; he came with me on almost all of my railway hikes until he was hobbled by old age. Last October he was diagnosed with a tumor and the vet gave him months to live. We knew we were on borrowed time and made sure we enjoyed what time we had left with him. He made it another 8 months. Right up to the end, Loki was still soldiering on, including coming to camp. Unfortunately we had to let go of him on June 26th. I guess it’s fitting that in a few days it will be the 10th anniversary of the passing of my father, who obviously had a profound impact on my life as well. They both loved the outdoors, so I truly hope they have found each other and are enjoying a long walk together.

Loki, July 2004.

Anyway, I need to move along. As I mentioned, I’ll be back in a few weeks to report on how the presentation and field work went. Until then…

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Posted by on July 11, 2017 in Hiking, History, Railway, Writing

 

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Dave’s Outdoor Adventures-Episode V: The weather incongruity

Have you ever studied statistics? You know, the math stuff, where they deal with probability among others (I know they are separate disciplines, but dependent on each other)? Thankfully I never had to; my wife Jo-Anne, the math teacher, is likely thinking the same thing. Math was certainly not my thing, which is why I became a history teacher. Anyway, it’s always interesting to look at the chances something will happen. Usually there is algorithm that will explain it all. However, there are matters that cannot be reduced to or rationalized by a mathematical equation. Such is life though, and it’s what keeps our world interesting. You’re confused right? Perfect.

So, here we are in August. Summer is unfortunately flying by way too quickly! It will be back to work soon…sigh. Anyway, as I have since I went on leave in February, I am doing my best to make each day count. I’ve managed to get a lot accomplished and will continue to do so for the next three weeks.

As you might have guessed (or maybe not), my cryptic introduction dealt with nothing other than the weather. I normally don’t pass up an opportunity to complain about it, usually because it’s irritating me. It’s funny, the older I get, the crankier I become…just yesterday there was a meme on Facebook that said “The older I get, the more I identify with Red Foreman.” How true. Anyway, this time I actually can’t complain; the weather lately has been decent.

After record-breaking rainfall in June, and a continuation of that at the beginning of July, things have calmed down in the last few weeks. The temperatures have gone up, at times it’s been very hot, and it has not really rained. Actually, today was the first prolonged precipitation we had, though it depends where you were. We probably had about 10mm here at camp, but there was only 3mm at Gunflint. The ground has dried out considerably, and I’m going to try a hike in the next few days. So from one extreme to another!

Now speaking of camp, I’ve still been spending a lot of time there, maybe even while I write this. I’ve completed all the construction work for this year, so my efforts have been dedicated to general yard clean-up, which is going to last for several years! As I mentioned the weather has been great, so the family and I have spent a lot of time in the lake enjoying the warm water. Let’s hope it lasts.

Camp sunset, July 2016.

Camp sunset, July 2016.

Camp sunset, July 2016.

Camp sunset, July 2016.

Camp morning, August 2016.

Camp morning, August 2016.

Even though I have not been out in the field in quite a while, I have managed to squeeze in some railway work lately (well, maybe it’s more than just squeeze). A few weeks back I paid a quick visit to the library to view some obituaries on microfilm that I came across by accident. As it turns out, I made an important discovery. Thomas I. Roberts was the Canadian customs sub-collector at Gunflint from 1902 to 1907. I had always wondered why he left the job; I guess he did with good reason, since he sadly died of cancer. It was an important breakthrough, and maybe it will help me track down a photograph of him.

Much of my railway time has been devoted to preparing for a pair of upcoming presentations. This coming Sunday, August 14th, I’ll be speaking at the Chik-Wauk Museum about the Gunflint & Lake Superior Railroad. This is going to be my first full-length lecture on this topic so I am a bit nervous. It appears there are quite a number of people interested, so hopefully there will be a good turnout at the Chik-Wauk’s new Nature Center.

I’ve also had to prepare for my co-presentation on John Paulson, which will take place at the Northern Great Plains History Conference in September. My slideshow has been submitted to the session chair and I’ve booked the hotel in St. Cloud, MN. I must say that I am very apprehensive about this conference. I’m just a high school history teacher who does research on the side, and I will be in the company of many historians and academics. I think I will be fine, but there is a bit of fear of the unknown.

As I mentioned earlier, I am planning my first hike in months for Monday. I will be at Gunflint for the presentation at the Chik-Wauk, I decided to spend the night with John and Rose at the Cross River Lodge. I will be attempting to locate the grade of the Gunflint & Lake Superior along Crab Lake, which I was unable to do earlier in the summer due to the rain. I think the weather will cooperate and let me complete this important piece of fieldwork.

Anyway, I better get rolling. I’ll try to post next week after the presentation and hike. Until then…

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2016 in Hiking, History, Railway, Research

 

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Dave’s Outdoor Adventures-Episode IV: You get what you ask for!

Ask and you shall receive right? Yup, it’s funny how things tend to go that way, except when you ask for a million bucks! It’s usually the more simplistic things that we get simply by asking. The real question though is whether we want it or not; or better yet, does everyone want it or not. To use the adage, what is good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander. Cryptic? Please, read on.

So here we are in July and summer is upon us. The kids are on holidays, and things are good (well, except one thing but you’ll have to read the next paragraph). It’s too bad that it’s already the middle of the month and the days are just flying by…thankfully I’m making each one count. We’ve been sending most of them at camp, which I know the kids appreciate. I grew up spending most of my summers at camp and it helped make me the person that I am.

Well, I guess it would not be a typical post without a rant about the weather and boy do I have a rant. Remember the title? Ya, especially the part about getting what you ask for? So what’s the problem Dave? You see, in about the middle of May, people around here were complaining how dry it was and how we needed rain. What do you think happened? Yup, we got rain…a lot of rain. How much rain you ask? A crap load! We set a new record for the wettest June in history here in Thunder Bay with just under 200mm of precipitation coming down.

This has had a huge effect on me, more specifically on my railway work. It’s hard to get out hiking when the ground is so saturated. How wet is it? Well, let’s put it in perspective. Most of my hiking takes me to the boundary waters, so I usually monitor the weather station at Seagull, just west of Gunflint Lake. Since my last hike at the end of May, 250mm of rain has fallen. That amount is the same as the cumulative total at this time last year, compared to 390mm and counting this year. Sometimes people just need to keep their pie hole shut!

You know who else needs a punch in the face? Climate change deniers that’s who. The amount, duration and intensity of the precipitation we have received is a clear indicator to me that climate change is alive and well. Our weather patterns are so bizarre and are nothing that I have experienced in my forty something years. Every time I think we’ve turned a corner and things will dry out and get back to normal, there is another big dump of rain. The ground is so wet that the water does not soak in but rather sits there for days. My backyard has not dried out yet, and it’s been 5 or 6 times that I’ve been left with huge puddles of water in all the low spots. Grrrr!

Backyard flooding, July 2016.

Backyard flooding, July 2016.

With all of this rain we’ve received and my inability to go hiking, it’s left me a lot of time to spend out at camp as I mentioned. And it’s not that there’s a shortage of things to do out there. The better part of the last four weeks have been taken up with removing the old dock that was built circa. 1995, and replacing it with a new structure. For good measure, I also threw in a swimming raft for the kids, which has turned out to be a big hit. It was a lot of hard work, and the bugs ate me alive the entire time (thanks to the rain), but I’m pretty proud of the finished products. Carpentry is something that I really enjoy and I’m becoming more proficient at it as I get older.

Camp morning, June 2016.

Camp morning, June 2016.

Completed dock, July 2016.

Completed dock, July 2016.

The work isn’t done however. My wife Jo-Anne has been focussing on the inside of the camp, adding new curtains and a fresh coats of paint. I still have a ton of cleaning up to do outside, that is after I redo part of the basement walkout with stone. It will take us several years to get things where we want them, but it will get there.

With everything going on, things have been very quiet on the railway front. As I mentioned already, hiking is out of the question since the ground is so wet and many low areas are inundated with water. I’m hoping to get out in August, that is if the weather cooperates and allows things to dry out a bit. I’d really like to try and follow the route of the Gunflint & Lake Superior along Crab Lake. I guess I’ll just have to play the wait and see game.

In the next few weeks I am going to have to put a bit more time into the railway as I have a number of important events coming up. In just under a month I’ll be at the Chik-Wauk Museum doing my first ever full-length presentation on the Gunflint & Lake Superior Railroad. That means I have a lot of work to do to get the slideshow ready for August 14th.

Speaking of August 14th, my presentation for the Northern Great Plains History Conference is also due that day. This is probably the biggest history conference in the northern Great Plains area and I’m excited to be a part of it. I’m also rather nervous. For me this is the big leagues, a conference full of university professors and well-published authors. I’m just a high school history teacher and a part-time historian who is rather new to all of this. I am sure I’ll be okay, but there will be definitely be a lot of butterflies beforehand!

Anyway, I think it’s time to go. I’ll try to be back soon…hopefully there will be something to new talk about in the near future. Until then…

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2016 in History, Railway, Research

 

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Oh the irony!

Irony [ahy-ruh-nee]; the use of words to convey a meaning that is opposite of its literal meaning. Yes, everyone probably knows the dictionary definition of the word Captain Obvious. However, not everyone is aware of the cryptic insinuations that usually permeate my ramblings, and if you are a regular reader you are well aware of this. So what’s so ironic Dave? All in good time!

So I’m four days into my summer vacation…boy does it feel awesome. It’s like this huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I like waking up and not having to think about assignments that need to be marked or anything else. Not that I don’t love my job, I do, but it is a mentally and emotionally draining profession. Summer is a time to step back, relax and recharge the battery. I’m really looking forward to some time with the family and some time doing railway related stuff.

Now speaking of family stuff, I just got back from a couple days in Duluth, Minnesota with the wife and kids. And that brings me to the irony part of the blog, which is probably still not making sense to anyone. Yesterday was an important day…if you’re Canadian of course. Yes, it was Canada Day, the most patriotic holiday on our calendar and I spent our national birthday in the United States of America. Yup, God Save the Queen and Maple Leaf Forever. What kind of patriot am I? Well, one who tried to make his wife happy by going shopping with her that’s who!

Freighter Kaye E. Barker leaving Duluth, July 2013.

Freighter Kaye E. Barker leaving Duluth, July 2013.

Freighter Kaye E. Barker leaving Duluth, July 2013.

Freighter Kaye E. Barker leaving Duluth, July 2013.

We had a good time; the weather was nice and there are always things to do. The only unfortunate part about living in a place like Thunder Bay is that there are no large neighbouring Canadian cities within a reasonable distance (Winnipeg is 8 hours away), so the 3 hour drive to Duluth doesn’t seem so bad. The only part that bothers me is the highway itself. Huh? Do tell Dave.

Well, the road is very picturesque, a photographers paradise (one day I’ll have to do the drive slowly in the fall). However, Highway 61 from the Canadian border to Duluth lacks one thing-passing lanes. From the border to Grand Marais isn’t too bad, and from Two Harbors to Duluth is divided highway. The problem lies in the section between Grand Marais and let’s say Silver Bay. The road is very winding and makes it difficult to pass people. Of course this is the part where you get caught behind someone driving substantially below the posted speed limit and this brings me to another point.

Cruise control…my little rant for the week. Really? Yes, really. So I’ve done a bit of driving in various parts of northern and southern Ontario, northern New York state, Minnesota and Wisconsin over the past 10 years. I’m pretty positive that cruise control is a fairly standard feature on almost all vehicles these days. I’m very compulsive about using my cruise control; I love to set it, take my foot off the gas and just zoom along. The question I must ask is why don’t people use it? Studies tell us that it saves gas, but I’m constantly finding people who are obviously not using it. Speed up, slow down, speed up…you get the point. Drives me bananas! Nothing worse than having to jam on the brakes because the car in front of you is going below the speed limit, only to watch them speed off moments later (then catch up to them again). Please, people, press that little button on your steering column and save my sanity!

So I do have to wrap things up for today. I’m off to Iron Range Lake tomorrow for what will be my last hike until August. I have not seen this area for three years and did not shoot any video of it. I’m also on a quest to try and find the location of the Addie Lake siding and water tank (which was close to Iron Range Lake…go figure). I will definitely have some good pictures and info for next week. Until then…

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2013 in Hiking, History, Railway, Travel, Writing

 

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Dreaming of Summer

So why am I dreaming of summer you ask? You may reply that it is May, which is close to the northern solstice, and that means we’re pretty much there aren’t we? Well, reality is that we’re not quite there, and I really want it to be. Yes, this is very selfish of me, totally blowing off the month of May and we’ve just started it. I did write last week that I needed a break; the end of the year burnout is starting to set in and I’m getting tired. But truth be told, I really want to be on vacation so I can do all the things I enjoy doing…not that don’t like my job. However in a contest of what brings me more satisfaction, going to camp, hanging out with the family and hiking the railway is so much more fun! So let the countdown begin…only 38 more school days left!

Unfortunately my reality is that there is so much left to do before the end of June…I shudder a bit just thinking about it. Soon it will be time to start the process of timetabling teachers for next year, which is always good for a few headaches. And this year my term is up for my Curriculum Chair appointment, so I will have to undertake the somewhat stressful process of re-applying and re-interviewing for this job. I sent out an email this morning regarding our spring football camp, which will take up time and energy alike. Throw into the mix graduation, exams and all the little things that go on at this time, I will certainly need the vacation!

Well, I guess I should talk about some happy things instead of complaining and being so depressing. I was in Europe when this happened, so I never did mention that I was approved for my deferred salary leave in 2016. Yay me! So my wife and I will be off from February to June of that year…I am so pumped. In case you’re wondering, this is not at the taxpayer’s expense; my school board will be garnering 12% of my salary for the next 3.5 years which will be my pay while I am on leave. It means a bit less pay over the next few years, but that semester is going to be sooooo nice!

Library and Archives Canada.

What am I going to do you ask? Travel, hang out, go back to school…actually I’m going to do some research. I think I mentioned this fact way back when I applied for the leave in January, but in case you’ve forgotten or have not read that post, here is my rationale. My main goal is to finish all this railway research that I have been doing for the past 18 years so I can complete the book that I started writing many moons ago. I need to travel to Ottawa to visit the National Archives as there are a ton of files that I need to peruse related to the railway. I also need to pay a return visit to the Archives of Ontario in Toronto as they have a file related to the sale of the railway in 1899 that requires more intense scrutiny that I gave it the first time around. Once that is complete, I will have to spend some time at the Brodie Branch of the Thunder Bay Public Library going through about 30 years’ worth of microfilm. So to answer the question, I will be very busy on my semester off!

Chik-Wauk Museum.

Another reason why I am anxious for summer is that it means hiking season. I do manage to get in some walks during May and June, but unfortunately I’m restricted to the weekends. I like being able to go whenever, especially whenever the weather is most conducive. I started tentatively hashing out my big hiking trip for the summer, which involves spending several days on Gunflint Lake to complete some of the field work left over from last year. I have the presentation at the Chik-Wauk Museum on August 5th; the plan is to try to complete the field work in the days immediately following. Hopefully the weather cooperates; last year it was heat exhaustion one day and a monsoon another.

I’ll probably get some good images; they’ll make a good addition to the new Facebook page I set up. It was a bit of an impulse decision to create the page, but I’m glad I did. Getting “likes” on the page has been more challenging than I expected, but it’s only been a week I guess. One of things that I am groping with is what content to include on the page; what do I put on there without repeating what is on my website? Maybe this will make a good question for the page.

Anyway, need to run. Until then…

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Hiking, Miscellaneous, Research, Writing

 

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