Saturday, March 31, 2012

Follow Your Gut

The other night I slipped away for half an hour to go for a walk.  I soon found myself in the field across the road with the intent to "go around the mountain".  I needed this hike, as I have a teething 13 month old at home and was about to lose my damn mind if I didn't get out of the house without the little monkey clinging to me.

Instinct took me in a different direction, though, and I managed to stumble across the beaver pond my husband's father recently told him about.

During the hike, I made my way through two older, long abandoned beaver ponds.

The first is visible from the road, and just has one tiny stream intersecting it.  The stream ran earlier in the month, but it's mostly dried up now - just soggy earth left.

The second old beaver pond is through the woods a little ways.  Walking through the forest I came upon a knee high ridge.  This ridge would have been the old dam.  The field was intersected with many different streams, all seeming to go in different directions and ending in dead ends.  Like a maze.

At the southwest corner of the field I spied where the water was entering the field, flowing over some rocks.  I hiked in that direction and was rewarded with a cool, dark babbling brook.  I continued walking upstream.  The brook is narrow and shallow, with a few deeper pools here and there, filled with rocks.  It's bordered on both sides by a narrow flood plain, and then steep banks.

As I walked on I thought perhaps this would lead me to the beaver pond my husband told me was back here.

I was right.

A short way further up the valley, I came upon the beaver pond.  It was about 6:45 in the evening and the shadows were deep and dark, the sun being so low as to just barely hit the bottom of the valley. 

The photos that I have of this place do not do it justice.  It's bordered all around by high, steep banks.  Vibrant moss grows on rocks and trees.  I felt as if I had stepped into a fairy tale.  In the middle of the pond, an enormous tree has fallen.  The pictures do not accurately show how huge this tree really is - there's nothing I could have put beside it to show scale. 

So entranced was I with my find that I didn't even stop to see if there were signs of recent beaver activity.  I think that the pond has been abandoned though.  Because of the fact that water flows freely from it, and the fact that no animals signs stood out to me, I guess that the beavers that called this pond home have moved on. 

I really want to go back - and soon.  I want to follow the stream farther up and discover it's source.  I want to visit the pond when the light is better and take some great photos.  I want someone to accompany me to stand beside the big tree!

This hike was proof again that my gut tells me everything I need to know - and when I listen, I am richly rewarded.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

These Grey Days

Here's the problem with an early blast of summer in March - when the weather settles down again into normalcy,  it can suck the life right out of you.  It's grey, it's cold, it's blah.  This morning there wasn't even a hint of colour on the horizon.

Today's high is forecasted to be 6C, and when we awoke it was hovering around 0.  We went out for a quick walk and it started snowing.  We were not impressed.

All of this is part of normal end of March weather, I guess, but I don't have to be thrilled with it. 

I'm desperate to get outside for walk and hikes (my husband just told me about a beaver pond his dad found in the woods behind his house), but the biting wind and rain and snow keeps us indoors - at least for today.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Swords School

The school is located approximately one kilometre south of the general store. As with most schools at the time, it probably housed grades 1 - 8 in one room.

As mentioned in a previous post, Maple Lake Station was established in 1894 when the Booth Railway brought lumbering to the area.  Ludgate Lumber Company put up the general store and three workers' houses directly to the south of the rail and in 1904 a school was built to service the children.  Maple Lake Station became Swords in 1925 to avoid confusion with another Maple Lake Station.

The building of the school was funded by a Mrs. George Waugh.  The school closed in 1936 as a result of decreasing attendance, but reopened in 1941 when attendance increased.  The school closed for good in 1958 and left in the care of the Maple Lake Club.

I wandered up there yesterday morning with my son, Henry.  The schoolhouse has been restored and is used as a community centre today.  Remnants of it's past life still exist though.  On the south side of the property, near the border between lawn and forest is the water pump.  I imagine children lining up at it on hot late spring days to get a drink of water. 

Behind are the outhouses.  One has been saved and restored for present day use, labeled "womens".  The other has been left to it's own slow decline into the earth below.  Beyond the outhouses is an expanse of forest.

I'm glad for the restoration of this building.  I believe it crucial to maintain and keep history alive in this way.  What else is left, after all?  After all who remember are gone, who's left to tell the story?  Sites such as this live on to pique our curiosity and make us dig deeper. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

From the Weather Book

March 18, 19
- misty mornings
- warm!  hot! 24C

March 20
- 27C
- peony and daffodil up
- grouse
- large crack opening in ice

March 22
- overcast/weak sun
- warm
- bones in the field

March 23
- rain, clouds
- most of lake open

March 24
- ice out!

March 25
- cooler, but still above seasonal
- windy evening

March 26
- cold -10C in morning
- cold, biting wind all day

Monday, March 26, 2012

If These Woods Could Talk

I live near the ghost town of Swords.  It's not much to look at, and you certainly wouldn't notice anything driving by except a big old white house.  It's one of those blink-and-you-miss-it kind of situations.

I've known about Swords for some time, but have only recently begun to research it's establishment and history.  I've passed by the old general store countless times, driving or running, and I have always been curious about the building.  I wasn't aware that Swords was actually designated a ghost town, or that it had such a rich history.

To start -

Swords was originally called Maple Lake Station, for obvious reasons.  The Ludgate Lumber Company began logging in the area in 1894, which led to the development of the town.  A school was built in 1904.  Houses and other buildings popped up as well.

The Sword family were a prominent family of the area, and soon the town changed it's name to Swords to avoid confusion with another Maple Lake Station.

Buildings that stand today include the general store and the school.  The general store is located 2.25 km south of my house, and the school about 1 km farther south.  Immediately south of the general store are two houses.  One was purchased in the last few years and work has been done to start restoring it.  All work appears to have halted, however, and the property is once again up for sale.  Immediately beside that house and a bit father back in the woods is yet another house.  There are plenty of outbuildings that have collapsed.

I have poked around these properties a bit, and they're fascinating.  I want to tell you their stories, present and past, and I will.  History will unfold as the present does.

I visited Swords yesterday with my Grandfather.  Some words that he spoke stuck with me, as they always do.  He said that the thing he feels the most when he sees places like the old Swords general store are people's stories.  The lives that have been lived.  Their memories, hopes and dreams.

People make a place what it is.  It's a ghost's town, and I wonder if there are any hanging about.  They're there, I'm sure, waiting in the woods to tell me their stories.  I'll tell you what I find out.

What's happened here?  What does the future hold for the ghost town of Swords and it's surviving structures?

There's much to learn.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bread and Butter Indian

When I was in grade 3, there was a book in our school's library that I read compulsively.  I tried reading other books, and did, but always found myself coming back to the old, worn and familiar, Bread and Butter Indian.  I'm not sure what it was about this book that drew me, but it's passages soothed me, and I loved the imagery.

Bread and Butter Indian  is a book about a young pioneer girl who makes a Native American friend in a time of unrest between new settlers and the Native Americans.  He appears soundlessly beside her, able to move through the woods without so much as cracking a twig on the forest floor.  I was drawn to this character.  I wanted to move through the woods (and life, really) with that much grace.  I wanted to be strong and silent.

The title comes from the snack that the young girl made in the book.  White bread and butter, sprinkled over with sugar.  If you've never tried this- do, it's really good.  How divine was it to be reading Bread and Butter Indian while eating the very snack that Barbara was making in the book?  That was perfection to my 8 year old self.

I thought of this book yesterday while on a rare alone hike.  I went back through the field and forest to the small falls.  I'd never been back that far before, and I wasn't disappointed.  A weak sun made an appearance as I explored the riverbank, and I was filled with happiness and excitement over having such a place to visit.

As I made my way down along the creek, and back through the woods, I was throwing caution to the wind, and going off-trail.  I knew the general direction of the road, and really, now that I know more of the geography back there, it's not hard to get lost.  What is  hard, for me, anyway, is to move through the forest with any amount of coordination or grace.  I`m quite sure that anyone witnessing my progression through the forest would immediately think I`d been injured, or was in need of some sort of physical therapy. Bread and Butter Indian I am not.  It`s no wonder I never see any wildlife.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Early Bird Catches the....

...well, in my case, sunrise.

I've mentioned before that the most dramatic of skies over Maple Lake in the morning can give way to an otherwise nondescript day.  The sun is poking out now, but all morning has been dreary and overcast. 

This morning's progression -

Someone mentioned to me that my last post was proof that I consistently got up too early...joking, of course.  It got me thinking, though.  If I didn't get up that early, I might be fooled into thinking that we sometimes have strings of endless grey days.  I know better.  Even on the greyest of grey days, I can think back to sunrise, when even in an overcast sky, the emerging sun will catch the clouds and water droplets in the air, reflect and make magic.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Collection of Sunrises

Each of these photos were snapped on different days. 

I love waking in the morning and being greeted by such amazing skies.  It doesn't matter to me whether the sunrise is purple, pink, blue, orange or yellow cream; I find renewal and inspiration in every single one.