They can’t all be gems.
It’s fair to say that I’ve driven on most of the paved roads in Northeastern Ontario, all the way from North Bay to Thunder Bay. But there are still a few spots I haven’t explored.
I’ve always wanted to see the area north of White River, especially Hornepayne, a town located northeast of Lake Superior.
Don’t ask me why, but it’s always bugged me that I’ve never been there.
This past summer, I happened to be in the neighborhood (meaning being within 100 km) so of course I had to check it out.
Junior Bear already liked the place, as the town logo had BEARS on it. .
Hornepayne’s population is about 1000. It’s basically a railway town out in the bush.
You know you’re in Northern Ontario, when you have to worry about finding the next gas station within 60 miles.
I’ve never seen gas stations this far apart in the Lower 48, except maybe the Utah desert or Death Valley.
Of course, there are the mandatory closed-down buildings and failed businesses. The economy of Northern Ontario has seen better days, and Hornepayne is no exception.
Some of the residential areas were nicer…
…where I came across this park with brightly colored playground benches. I guess this was the towns’ attempt to cheer up the place.
Though, as one of my Facebook friends pointed out: “This is the most pathetic park I have ever seen”.
I kinda felt sorry for it.
A sign invited people to sit in the big chair, for a “Kodak Moment”.
I doubt any of todays’ kids would even have a clue what that means, but Junior was happy to oblige.
The other stretch of road I saw for the first time was Highway 560 the between the Watershed Car and Truck Stop and Temiskaming Shores, north of Sudbury.
The Watershed Truck Stop is not much to look at. It’s just a modest coffee shop/restaurant with a dirt parking lot and some gas pumps.
But it’s actually quite a significant landmark. It’s the only place to get gas and coffee in the lonely 300 km between Subbury and Timmins. It’s always busy.
It’s called the “Watershed” because it’s located at the approximate boundary of the arctic watershed (i.e. the point north of which all the lakes and rivers all drain into Hudsons’ Bay instead of the Great Lakes).
Heading East on Highway 560, I found a lot of ugly clear-cuts.
Of course, there is logging everywhere in Ontario. But further south, at least it’s somewhat hidden. There’s usually a buffer of forest between the logging operations and the highway or lakes, in order to preserve the semblance of untouched wilnderness. .
But once you get up past Sudbury, they don’t’ even bother. It’s like logging companies stopped pretending to care.
“Here are the clear-cuts, folks. DEAL WITH IT ! “
aNext was the town of Shining Tree. I don’t even know what the population is. It’s so small Wikipedia only has two sentences about it.
The village is basically a fishing lodge surrounded by a few buildings.
Though it has a school that appears to be in use and surprisingly quite well-maintained for such a small local population.
I wonder who goes to high school here? How big would the graduating class be? Two?
Next was the slightly larger town of Gowganda.
It has a major motel and some fishing lodges. And lots of cottages around a lake.
By this point, things were starting to feel more crowded.
There were more cottages and more motels. I was south the Arctic watershed and back in the Great Lakes drainage basin. And the gas stations were more frequent.
I only had 43 km to get to Elk Lake, where the forest petered out and farmland started again.
Even though I was still “way up north” compared to Toronto standards, that “northern feeling” of wilderness and remoteness was gone.
I was returning to civilization, and it was time to go home.
(Which was still 6 hours away).
Today in Ontario we had a partial solar eclipse. In fact, it covered most of North America.
Nothing spectacular where I was Just a tiny wedge of the sun disappeared.
And of course it just happened at sunset so I literally only had maybe 15-20 minutes to see the whole thing before it disappeared.
But I wanted to catch the event on camera. But I don’t have welders glasses, or a tripod, or fancy camera filters.
So I just used some binoculars and safely projected the image of the sun on a piece of paper taped to my car window.
This is the low budget approach.
And it takes a LOT of patience to hold the camera with one hand, the binocs with the other, and line everything up. The image of the sun from the two eyepieces jiggles all over the place. (Like I said, I dont’ have a tripod).
But if you take a few dozen pictures, a few will turn out okay.
Here you can see the progression of the eclipse. The black dot in the middle is a large sunspot named “Active Region 2192“.
The lines on the top of these last two photos aren’t smudges or mistakes. Those are the branches of the trees, as the sun was just dipping below the horizon.
This is the school I went to in Montreal from Grade 3 to Grade 6. It was totally in French. It was called “École Marguerite Bourgeois” but we all called it “Margy-Boogy”for short.
My teacher in Grade 3 was a miserable nun…this is where I learned my Catholic Guilt (but that’s a whole other story).
Half of Margy Boogy’s population were Special Ed kids, who stayed in one side of the school. Us regular students occupied the other side.
The Special Ed kids were referred to as “Mentals” and you definitely didn’t want to be caught alone on the wrong side. There was a definite border: the “Mental Side” began once you crossed threshold and entered into the older wing of the school.
And the Mentals were terrifying. They roamed around the schoolyard in groups. At recess or at lunch, you had to make sure you stayed away from their territory, or you might get beat up.
Sometimes they would zero in on a kid and pick on him at random. You never know when it might be you, or your friends. You might just get shoved around and bullied, or you might get a black eye. This was a constant threat you learned to live with.
The teachers had no control. I remember seeing a small kid lying on the ground screaming in terror while two bigger Mentals beat him up, right in front of two teachers. I don’t’ know what was worse…watching the kid get beat up, or the fact that the teachers just stood there watching and did nothing.
Another time, I saw one of these kids (maybe 10 years old) ask a teacher for some cigarettes, who gave them to him. I couldn’t believe it…I thought adults were supposed to be responsible. It’s like these teachers had given up and couldn’t be bothered any more.
Even in our part side of the school, the teachers had no control. Our English teacher was having a hard time handling one of the bigger kids (who was borderline Special Ed himself). He was disrupting the class for the nth time and she lost it. I remember her grabbing him by the arm, red-faced and screaming, with tears screaming down her face. And the kid just stood there laughing in her face.
Soon after that, she was replaced and never came back.
Some of the male teachers had a better handle on things, if you want to call it that. They came up with creative ways to torture the kids without actually having to touch them.
Like making a bad kid face a wall, stand a few feet away form it, and lean into it, with their forehead smooshed up against it. The kid had to stand there with his hands behind his back, so that his forehead took all his body’s weight and he squirmed and moaned until he could take no more. Meanwhile the teacher just sat at his desk like a prick and kept scolding the kid, while the rest of us had to watch.
The same type of crap happened on the bus: our bus driver used to lose his temper all the time. To be fair, though, I could hardly blame him because some of these kids were BAD.
Like one little shit, who was so disruptive that one day, the bus driver pulled over and stopped so that he could literally kick the kid off the bus. Of course, the kid thought this was a game and he ran up and down the aisle, jumping over seats, dodging the red-face bus-driver who couldn’t catch him. Poor man, I though he was gong to blow a gasket.
Which he actually did, one day. After months of dealing with such demon-spawn, one day the bus driver stopped the bus and lay back in his seat, all pale-looking and tired. We were stuck there for an hour until one of the older kids Grade 6 kids found an adult to got help.
It turns out the bus driver was having a heart attack, right then and there, in the bus. Eventually somebody else came by and drove us home.
As for our bus driver, he was replaced, and never came back.
I was 8 at the time. This is what I learned school was like.
People often say they have fond memories of their school days, but to be honest, I don’t.
In fact, to this day, I still have anxiety dreams about Margy-Boogy, even though this all happened 40 years ago.
Even seeing this Google Map photo gives me the creeps.