Deeper into the Cave

Manitouwadge is a forest community. In the upper right, the highway runs south to prosperity.

What could I possibly find to write about in someone else’s backyard?  I was still searching for a subject to write about.

An old-time logging sleigh was a marvel of engineering for heavy loads.

The logging sleigh was there, in pieces, exposed to the elements as the artifact has been for several decades now.   John and I captured the name of the company that manufactured said artifact, and its factory location.  We could google it.  Turns out it was the Otaco company from Orillia – I am not kidding.

It was an interesting backyard.  It extended far into the ungroomed wilderness.  A lot of backyards in this country do that – they often become indistinguishable from the bush.

Grant's sleigh presents a formidable re-assembly project. It did not come with horses.

Grant called us into his kitchen.  He gave us generic plans for a logging sleigh that he had found by googling.   He explained his current project.  He spends countless hours, without pay, scouring the bush for the remnants of logging camps, some dating back to the ’30s. He photographs the ruins, GPSs the locations, and collects artifacts.  He has prepared a huge map with dozens of camps marked on it with red dots.  He is, like so many volunteers, preserving history.  He is keeping alive the spirit of the Cave.

The spirit of volunteerism is living in Manitouwadge.  But the pool of live souls is shrinking, as it is everywhere.  John and a group are now creating a community garden, but at their last meeting, only two souls showed up.

In Geraldton, dozens of community groups have withered and died.  Others are just withering.  A few hardy souls are keeping the spirit alive.

On Sunday morning John took me on a walking trail in the heart of the community.  He will soon be conducting nature tours there, for free.  When I arrived Friday night, my first impression of Manitouwadge was that it was smack in the middle of the bush.  Literally.  The bush encroaches from all sides, and stands of trees have invaded the residential areas.  If there were ever a forest fire looking for a community to ravage, this would be it.

I girded myself for the homeward-bound trail.  John gave me a care package in the event I ran into trouble.  As it was, I met only one vehicle before I hit Highway 11, hours later.

I had all afternoon, so I said to myself, Why not?  Why not check out Hillsport.  It was in my backyard.

People in Manitouwadge and in Caramat and in Geraldton will likely tell you that Hillsport is miles off the Industrial Road, perhaps a hundred miles, for all they know. 

For the record, let me state that Hillsport is only 23 kilometres off the Industrial Trail.

And it is not a ghost community.

Although it is haunted.

(Continued in Chapter 6)

About EJ Lavoie

Writer and independent publisher with website www.WhiskyJackPublishing.ca
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