The Wetum Ice Road

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Our journey on the Wetum Road started today at 9:25 AM after an overnight to visit Granny Canuck in Cochrane.  Loaded up with groceries, a full tank of gas, lunch, and Reese our miniature poodle co-pilot, we start our venture to the tip of James Bay in our 4×4 Nissan Titan.

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Truck all loaded up and ready to go North!

Built in 2012 by Mocreebec and contract partners;  the seasonal winter road connects Moose Factory and Moosonee to Highway 634 and then onto Highway 11.  We start the real journey at Smooth Rock Falls and travel along highway 634 to Fraserdale.  After Fraserdale, the road continues to Abitibi Canyon and then on the Wetum road.  Up to this point, the road can be traveled in the summer as it’s used for maintaining the dams.

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KM 0 | 10:35 AM | Town of Smooth Rock Falls

Resetting the odometer to zero at the local Esso gas station for 1.19 a liter, we are now ready to tackle the journey onward to Moosonee.

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Esso gas station in Smooth Rock Falls, last gas station for 300 KM.

KM 49.4 | 11:13 AM | ONR Track Crossing

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Looking North, this is the tracks that take the Polar Bear Express train to Moosonee.

KM 79.8 | 11:45 AM | Abitibi Generating Station Dam Crossing

Providing 349 MW of power to the Ontario Power Generation grid, the dam was put into service in 1933.  If you would like to read more about the generating station, please follow the following link to Ontario Power Generation.

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Getting ready to cross the generating station.
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Looking down the Abitibi Canyon.
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Halfway across the generating station.

KM 126.9 | 12:21 AM | Turning onto the Wetum Road – 170 KM To Go

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KM 238 | 2:10 PM | Crossing The French River

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A little Lightroom touch brings out the beauty in a grey overcast day.

KM 241.6 | 2:18 PM | The Muskeg 

A large portion of the land in the James Bay Lowlands is muskeg or moss bog.  It is very similar to swamp land that is covered in a thick dense moss.  While walking on it, it’s very spongy and you can only travel on it during the winter months.  Want to learn more on muskeg, here’s the link to Wikipedia.

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KM 294.8 | 3:11 PM | Moose Factory

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Moose Factory in the distance as we cross the Moose River.

KM 301.4 | 3:32 PM | Moosonee

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Moosonee just off in the distance and our journey is complete.

From Smooth Rock Falls to Moosonee, our adventure was just over 300KM and around 5 hours.  We had a great time on the road, a few pit stops to let the dog out and stretch the legs, and two ‘hold on’ moments where the dog and 1/2 the cargo went flying.

I wouldn’t recommend traveling the ice roads if you’ve never driven on them before but if you’re in the area, want an adventure, hit me up!

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Kettle Smoked Trout

 

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Summer can come anytime!  Simple yet tasty, kettle smoked trout.

 

With a snow advisory of 15-20 cm of the white fluffy stuff, all I can do is pull a Clark Griswold and stare out the window and dream of warmer days filled with green grass, campfires and of course real kettle BBQ.

I don’t have as much as a recipe today but inspiration.  That inspiration starts with a simple idea, fish.  When discussing dinners and menu planning around the house we often pick a protein and build around that.

This dinner, in particular, was based on what was on sale for fresh fish at the grocery store after picking that as our protein.  Being at camp, it was an easy decision to roll out the Weber Kettle charcoal BBQ.  My wife gave me the BBQ about 5 years ago for our wedding anniversary.  I used it once or twice and put it in the shed.   It is now a daily staple at camp and I don’t think we used 1 tank of propane on the gas BBQ this summer.  Rather, we used over 6 20lb bags of charcoal and enjoyed the whole process.

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Getting the kettle BBQ ready.  The charcoal chimney; a DEFINITE recommend!

 

Setup is pretty easy with a bed of coals on one side of the grill, some soaked smoker chips, a layer or parchment paper so the fish doesn’t stick, fresh trout, salt and pepper and a little bit of patience.  Once the chips started to smoke, the lid goes on and check it every 10-15 minutes.  Typically I add a few more smoker chips 15 minutes in and depending on size and thickness of the filets you should be enjoying in 30 minutes.

Just in case you’re stuck in 10 feet of snow like me, here is a visual reminder that greener days are just around the corner.

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Mrs. Canuck and Granny Canuck enjoying the sunset from our seasonal campsite.

 

What is your favorite camping meal?

Mariposa Market – Orillia, ON

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No trip to the Orillia is complete without stopping at Mariposa Market for lunch or to grab something for the road home.  My Mom’s sweet tooth and love for bread, cookies, pastry and anything that is market fresh keep us coming back for more.

On the menu today, was French onion soup; which had a hearty and rich deep flavorful broth accompanied by a lukewarm bun.   I had a cauliflower creme soup and a ham and cheddar baked sandwich but the picture didn’t turn out and I was hungry.

If you are in the area, definitely take a stop and grab a bite or something for the road, you won’t be disappointed.

Blogging on the rails.

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My rotation is done in Moosonee and I’m sitting here on the Ontario Northland Train writing this blog post and will post it once I have the internet once again a little further south.

The train has been a vital part of Moosonee since 1932.  The construction was started in 1921 and construction was completed on July 15, 1932. Since it’s opening it has carried many a local passenger, tourists, groceries, cars and even homes.

Up until 2012, the ONR was subsidized by the provincial government where there was the discussion of privatizing the ONR.  While I prefer to keep my blog politics free,  an agreement was made after the ONR provided a report to the government to restructure and sell of ONTERA their telecommunication’s division.

I remember as a young boy traveling the train just before Christmas to visit my Nanny in Moosonee.  Three families would all cram into her 2.5 bedroom base house, the presents almost flowing into the kitchen and wake up to the smell of bacon, coffee, and cigarettes.  I can vaguely remember the Commodore 64 computer the family got that sparked my love for all things electronic.  After Christmas was done, we’d repack all our gifts in boxes, load them on the train, unload in Cochrane and drive back to Timmins.

Now, twenty plus years later, I continue this routine working in Moosonee.  In this case, we bring our clothes, foods that are difficult or expensive to get up there, like rye flour for pumpernickel bread.

If you would like to read a little more about the history of the Ontario Northland Railway, please have a look at the ONR Wiki.  If you have any specific questions, please let me know and I will try my best to answer or find someone that might have the answer.

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** Historical information provided from Wikipedia.

It takes 8-12 Hard Inches

Now that I have your attention, I’m talking about ice thickness before a light pickup can travel on it.

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A big part of living and working in the James Bay area of Moosonee, Moose Factory, Fort Albany, Kashechewan and Attawapiskat is the dependency on the winter roads.  The winter roads are vital links to get materials like lumber, fuel and other items that require a community to operate.

Having worked for James Bay General as the only I.T. person for 3 remote communities, the winter road was vital to part of my work.  I would leave Moosonee early in the morning with a coffee, sandwich, few snacks, winter gear, and a lighter, just in case.


I would prefer to drive as I was no longer tied to an airline schedule and could travel between Fort Albany and Attawapiskat as required.

The road between Moosonee and Moose Factory opens a whole new community to access from both sides. Moose Factory does not have a LCBO and Moosonee does not have GG’s a local general store that has just about anything you need.

This is a shot of the glare ice on the Moose River that will accommodate snow machines, vehicles, buses, transport trucks and fuel trucks.


April lends way to break up where the massive force of the Moose River tears the thick ice to shreds, but that’s another story for spring.