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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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.

Happy Birthday Morris, whoever you are!

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Happy 86th Birthday Morris, whoever you are.

Last night we drove from Timmins to Barrie for a little getaway with Granny Canuck and Mrs. Canuck to stop at Casino Rama in Orillia and take in some good restaurant eats and a little minor shopping.    A mandatory Barrie food stop for the traveling crew is “The Mandarin”.

Yes, it’s a Chinese buffet filled with fried food, sugary sauces and overeating indulgence like you’ve never seen before and we enjoy every calorie.  While we were having dinner, the usual banter of staff danced about to sing happy birthday to an elderly couple sitting close to our table.  We clapped with our sticky fingers and sang with the rest, only to find out the gentleman’s name was Morris, having dinner with his lovely wife and turning 86.   Once the excitement died down, I looked at my Mom and instantly knew what she was thinking.

Over the course of many years, we have all taken turns to pay it forward to unsuspecting dining couples, drive-thru customers, and coffee-goers.  One of my fondest memory is an elderly couple in their turquoise 1960’s Thunderbird behind us in the Dairy Queen drive-thru on a Sunday afternoon.  We paid for their ice cream and drove away.  A quick look in the mirror we could see the sheer surprise and delight on their faces as they were told their ice cream was on the silver vehicle driving north.

Tonight, we asked our server to make sure we picked up the tab for their dinner.   Normally we get to sneak out and leave them wondering; but in this case, the server who wasn’t too sure of our intentions pointed directly at us when they asked who paid the bill.  We all turned 50 shades of red and tried to sneak out; but before we could Mrs. Morris came to our table with tears of joy in her eyes and hugged my Mom.  On our way out, we shook the hand of our new friend and made our way to the hotel.

This isn’t a challenge to anyone to pay it forward, I’m not posting for a pat on the back, I’m posting because as I posted before, it’s the little things in life.  My Dad would sometimes do this, as cheap as he was.  Tonight we did it for Morris and Mrs. Morris to make his day a little extra special and a story he will remember long into his 90th birthday.

We did it in part for ourselves, the little thing that reminds us of Dad.  He would be even happier knowing it was two seniors.  After all, they get a 20% discount.

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.