1 – The Road
This is a record of two crazy bush historians.
Okay, sorry for the redundancy. If they’re bush historians, naturally they’re crazy. They’re the sort that run around the bush looking for historical evidence.
You must understand that the boreal forest of Northern Ontario is not kind to historians. There are numberless wild trees and unleashed waters and hordes of vines and brambles to entrap the ankles of the unwary. But, we are crazy, so my brother John and I set out to search for Taradale last week.
We started from Manitouwadge, which is a village at the end of the Road to Nowhere. When you reach The Wadge, most travellers, if they are wise, turn around and retrace their tire tracks. The less wise explore the Caramat Industrial Road and its branches, most of them unnamed. The first inkling of impending trouble was a sign that said Road Washed Out in 67 Km. Well, naturally we had to check that out. You can’t trust all signs you see in the bush.
In normal times, the Industrial Road —unpaved, untamed, and unappreciated — is graded occasionally, so that adventurers can travel from a paved road that borders Lake Superior to another paved road closer to Hudson Bay. These days, nature is allowed to take its course. For the first few miles, we would have had a smoother ride in the churning drum of a cement truck.
Then the road improved. We could concentrate on the blind hills and dogleg curves and the trenches that opened up unexpectedly where run-off had eroded the right-of-way.
We found the washout as advertised. Eight feet deep. The four-foot-diameter culvert a hundred feet downstream. The raging river had done its work. Now the gentle stream burbled over the cobbles. I was impressed . . . I could see the burbles.
Nearby, a railway track crossed the road. This is the transcontinental line of CN Rail. Operational in 1914. Operational still, several times a day. We chatted up the section gang charged with keeping the track operational.
Taradale? said Bobby. Sure, I know Taradale. Passed it on the way to work.
Bobby is an Aboriginal who lives in the bush at a wide space in the tracks called Hillsport. To live in Hillsport, it helps to be crazy. A guy after our own hearts. Bobby rides the rails to work. We don’t.
We turned around. We had to find the trail to Taradale.