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Travelogue - the easier version (11 photos)

This week Back Roads Bill reminds us of easy road trips we can take this summer to wonderful northeastern Ontario destinations.

This is a travelogue sort of back roads story.

Since we are transitioning, with some freedom it is time get outside. It is also time to promote some Northern Ontario destinations that you can “easily” access. There are ten locations and some of the stories have multiple sites to enjoy.

The following vignettes have a summary for your consideration with a pic in the gallery and a Village Media link, for more information. Check out the map link within each story. Yours to discover as these are often beyond any signage, places that are not so well known. There is plenty of geographic diversity.

Devil’s Rock – what a view!

It may not be akin to Prudential Insurance’s long-standing Rock of Gibraltar logo but it seems to be headed that way. Community businesses are dispelling the notion that one of northern Ontario’s best and most accessible vistas is seldom seen, the dramatic drop is becoming iconic

Devil’s Rock on the west side of Lake Temiskaming near North Cobalt rivals the Barron Canyon in Algonquin Park and the Ouimet Canyon east of Thunder Bay. It is not just the sheer height of the cliffs that take your breath away. The 180°- plus panoramic view has an uninterrupted sightline in three directions.

You won’t see a sign on Highway 11 North urging you to “exit here” to Devil’s Rock. On the standard 1:50 000 topographic map, it is called ‘Devil Rock.’ Three very different businesses have branded some of their offerings utilizing the iconic vista.

You may have a copy of the Hardy Boys book.

Read more here.

White Pine Treasure Hunt – look up!

Tall trees make you look up. Those asymmetrical crowns are unmistakable. But what about those twisted ones that aren’t so straight?

Wherever you are in Northern Ontario the majestic white pine will speak to you. Where is the largest white pine anyway? You can now go on a treasure hunt to find the tallest or widest.

Trees are our largest plants and it is not hard to identify the white pine from near or afar. We learn to differentiate the white pine from its close cousins by its characteristic bundle of five long needles corresponding with the five-letter word, “w-h-i-t-e.” In the upper part of the tree the branches ascend, giving a broadly oval flat-topped outline which often becomes irregular, or asymmetrical, attributed to the effect of the prevailing northwest winds.

The easiest of the lot; one of the largest white pines in the province is located at Marten River Provincial Park.

Read more here

Potholes – watch your step!

Potholes, not the spring kind that affect the alignment of your vehicle but the glacial ones; Village Media readers may know the entire Great Lakes and beyond once drained eastward that’s a lot of water and there is geological evidence to prove it.

Recently, it seemed to be an anticlimactic Back Roads Bill expression, “Found it! But it’s not the one in the photo?” It would take yet one more day to find the elusive and mother lode of potholes.

Along with erratic boulders and striations, potholes represent present-day evidence of mega geologic events like the most recent ice age.

Read more here

Erratics - more than a boulder – erratic behaviour to embrace!

Humans sometimes exhibit erratic behaviour but rocks can do so, too. Stones, pebbles, boulders, scree and talus also demonstrate a numinous nature.

Most parts of Northern Ontario have been glaciated that is, ice sheets once enveloped the landscape. There are pieces of landform evidence of this momentous event.

Perhaps the most prevalent souvenir of the past is erratic boulders, large and small, mostly round-like. Why can’t erratics have an extraterrestrial source? After all, think of the house-sized boulders on the moon examined by crews of the Apollo missions.

Read more here.

Residential Schools – Take the time to remember and learn

Listening is the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process. Please listen.

When you walk around the wrought iron fence and through to the cemetery on the side of the hill you see steel stakes with grey metallic tags of the unknown, the sheen has gone but the numbers are very discernible.

They were not even an “Indian” in those times. They were numbers.

The trees make for a sombre place, the adjacent railway may remind you of the story and lonely death of Chanie Wenjack. Look up you can’t see the highway. The graves were purposely placed not to be seen, you will see the truth and why reconciliation takes time.

Bill McLeod is waning, he is in palliative care. He is the author of several regional history books including St. John’s (Anglican) Residential Schools, Chapleau, Ontario - 1907 to 1948.

Read more here.

Almost forgotten  Poet and the Peace Tower

It is a long way from the hamlet of Sultan, Ont., southeast of Chapleau, to the Memorial Chamber on the third floor of the Peace Tower in our Nation’s Capital.

What’s the connection?

The Peace Tower was designed by architect John A. Pearson; built not only to stand as a landmark but also as a memorial. The inscription around this arch is an excerpt from John Ceredigion Jones' poem The Returning Man: All's well, for over there among his peers a happy warrior sleeps.

Who was the poet of these most famous lines? is he buried in the near wilderness?

Read more here.

Two for one…heritage appreciation.

It is more than just a big, old black steel pipe on the side of a back road.

Further down the same back road, there is no heritage recognition for a horizontal, box-like, concrete structure with a multitude of broken windows.

Within the building perched high up on a cliff, a protruding pipe extended purposely 85 metres down to the Montreal River below; closer examination reveals that a multitude of pipes with aging cracks and rusty remains most people would not pay attention to, but we should. And someone is.

It is one of the greatest technological achievements in the history of Northern Ontario and its creation made a difference on a scale that is difficult to comprehend. And the energy-efficient concept is now back.

And for good measure a second close-by tour...

The future of some of the oldest industrial structures connected to Northern Ontario’s rich mining heritage is in jeopardy. This is an FYI timeline story with understandable and predictive reasons now in the present.

There are now two ‘Heritage Silver Trail’ sites that are barricaded to prevent public use. At the south end of Cobalt is the 'Glory Hole' it is a small open pit connected to underground workings. The pit drops down 250 feet (76.2 meters) and side tunnels trail out through the surrounding area. The bottom is now filled with cold, black water.

At one time there was a spider web of cables that supported a tin roof to protect the miners below. Along the walls of the Glory Hole, you get a rare glimpse of a cross-section of mine workings.

Read more here and here.

Why tourism started in Northern Ontario – there’s no sign

Friday, May 28 is the Dionne Quintuplets 87th birthday. Two survive, Annette and Cécile. The ‘Quintland’ nursery was recently torn down; heritage comes with a price although we are taught to appreciate it.

They are the first quintuplets known to have survived infancy. The identical girls were born just west of the village of Corbeil, east of North Bay, but most do not know the exact location. Will someone help?

They were born across the road from what is now Nipissing Manor, a retirement home on Hwy. 94, which connects Highways 11 and 17, between Corbeil and Callander.

There is no blue and bronze highway plaque to commemorate the location of what was the beginning of a Northern Ontario tourism industry and an economic development impact like no other, it was a natural resource of a different kind.

Read more here.

Hebrew Cemetery – take a stone

While other things fade, stones and souls endure even if it is the middle of winter. Once upon a time, there were many more Jewish people in Northern Ontario.

It is said that one of the first communal obligations is to provide for the dead. In the case of some Jewish settlers, the establishment of their cemetery took on a certain urgency and it is on the back roads.

Northern Ontario Jewish people from other communities are buried here at the Northern Chevra Kadisha, the only such dedicated Hebrew cemetery in the northeast. There are more than 100 burial plots in the cemetery including a war grave.

Krugerdorf was founded as a farming homestead in Chamberlain Township in the early 1900s, about 25 kilometres south of Kirkland Lake.

Read more here.

Spring water…finds

Spring is here and spring water is thereabouts.

There are not too many English words for water. We know the Latin word aqua as a noun and the Greek word hydro as a prefix.

There are various types of water. Well water, bottled water, distilled, polluted and spring water to name a few. Clear, sparkling spring water conjures up an image of the gurgling bubbly source where it originates.

Water is a basic necessity, needed to maintain a healthy body. We know about the effects of dehydration. About sixty per cent of your body is water, and you must constantly replenish the supply; no one seems to know what our intake should be.

Read more here

It has been a long haul for all. Out the door we go. Make this a treasure hunt and a checklist. It will take you some time but take the time for that dose of Vitamin N and some “renaturing.” I will look forward to hearing back from you on the back roads.