Part XI - The Trestle Falls
The last time I stayed at Windy Lake I remember being less than delighted by the musical stylings of a CPR air horn, each time a train passed during the night over the nearby crossing adjacent to the park. This time I wasn't sure if there were simply no trains that night - or if I just slept soundly through it all. Either way - I had a fantastic sleep and was ready to do some exploring. I made my way toward a trail near a section of the park that is within a few "boat-launch stone throws" from the tracks. After crossing them, I made my way to a sand pit and dune area where we used to ride our dirt-bikes. I remember a large pit that had steep sides and I aimed to seek it out. It was a bit challenging to find - but eventually I prevailed. There was no mistaking it. It had changed from what I remembered though - as a teen. An ORV trail was now carving through it - and these strange green things called trees were growing on the top. My friend Curtis (see Part IX) was the only one brave enough to attempt to conquer it with his beat up Yamaha IT175. Then again - he was the only one in the group on a bike with enough power to have a fighting chance. I recall some pretty dramatic moments as we heard his 2-stroke ring-dinging somewhere off in the distance as he prepared for his run - and then the distinct sound of it shrieking with every gear change - followed by a feverishly high pitched howl that grew increasingly more intense and frenetic as he closed the gap from his starting place somewhere off in the distance. We would all stare at the foliage marking the entrance to the pit - watching nervously and in suspense - as we heard him approaching. When would he come shooting through the trees? And then it happened - he suddenly appeared - blue smoke rocketing out his end pipe like a crop-duster spraying DDT - and the bike sounding like it might self-destruct at any moment - dancing - on the edge - skipping along the top of the loosely graveled - pit runway. How he managed to maintain any semblance of control on this beast was anybody's guess. We were awed. Yet still smart enough to scramble for cover. But he rarely wrecked. More typically - we were treated to a fine wobbly rooster-tail as he shot his way straight up - like Cedar Point's Top Thrill Dragster shooting toward the sky - but with an occasional miscalculation that saw him sailing over the lip and disappearing followed by a hard low-travel suspension bottom-out crunch on the plateau above.
The route Curtis took better resembled what can be seen to the left of the ORV tracks. As I'm writing this a funny thought just crossed my mind. I wonder. If I reach 90 years of age, would I be telling the same kind of stories to a younger generation about these really simple engines that used to be featured on some dirtbikes - that operated on a mixture of gas and oil, puffed blue smoke, idled unevenly, and made funny ring-dingy sounds. Oh - and made abrupt, crazy power like the "on-off" character of a light-switch?
I continued up the connecting trail that used to be Curtis' personal runway and turned right when it intersected with a more prominent roadway. I believe this road used to be a former alignment of the "Old Cartier Road" as it was called. I could still see some remnants of the guard-rails that lined the highway at one time. It looks like it's now a snowmobile/recreational trail and featured a new crossing. The sign on the bridge read "Windy Creek". However, we used to refer to this speckled-trout stream as "Lord's Creek".
Just past the bridge, I found the grown-in trail that we used to climb down to access the falls. We used to call this section just above the falls "The Slide" - because the rocks were so slippery - you could sit down up stream and let the current carry you over the smooth rocks below - before bailing out before the drop. Not sure why we didn't call it "Leach Lane" because it seemed inevitable that some na´ve participant would be enjoying the fun when all of the sudden they'd scream like Janet Leigh after discovering a small version of the facehugger from the first Alien movie irreversibly attached to the skin between their toes.
And here is the falls. We used to sit under the rushing water, and sometimes move the rocks around and lie in the pools below. When the lake was still too chilly to swim in - this was the place to go. I made a lot of memories here.
I remembered a trail on the left-hand side of the creek - so I waded through the water to the other side and saw that it was still there - though it was heavily grown in now. There used to be so many kids running around this spot growing up. Now - I imagined that this trail was hardly used. Parents were more likely to keep their kids indoors - to shelter them from all the bad stuff that would likely kill them outside. I wouldn't be surprised if this place was off-limits to most kids now. Too bad. We had so much fun here. And we did get hurt at times. We learned much from those encounters though....
A short distance down-stream was the culvert and CPR embankment. I climbed to the top and snapped a few photos of the boat-launch from this perspective. You can see Windy Lake and Tower Bay hill in the background. I wondered about how many great views like this existed along the rail-line - that only rail employees were privy to.
Right after this shot was taken, I decided to walk along the tracks back toward the trail leading to my campsite. I wondered when the next train would be passing by. It might be hard to believe - but just after this fleeting thought - I heard an air-horn - and a train approaching. It felt like I was an unwitting participant in a corny "Just-For-Laughs" T.V. gag. I decided to vacate the tracks before the train helped me vacate my bowels. You can see my haste in the nicely spaced sandal prints dotting the embankment. I captured of a photo of the lead engine.
After the train had passed, I climbed back up to the tracks and used them as a guide as I steered my feet back toward my campsite. Before I got there, it slowly began to rain - so when I reached the site, I packed all my gear inside the tent. That meant that the tent itself would be the only thing packed wet. I hoped that it was sunny when I reached Ivanhoe Lake so I could let my tent dry in the midday sun. As I climbed back on the bike for my last destination before returning to Thunder Bay I reflected on the events of yesterday and this morning. I felt a warm sense of comfort and satisfaction in having returned home to explore some special places. In life - anything can happen. I sometimes wondered if I'd ever visit these areas again. Now I didn't have to wonder. And it felt good. Yes - you CAN go back. At least to visit. And recounting the memories made it all worthwhile.
As I was writing the above chapter - I suddenly recalled something that I bet many kids growing up in a small town - had to endure. The ridicule of those living in a city. Every now and then you'd meet someone who'd seriously wonder why you'd ever want to grow up in a small town. I remember being asked "How about if you wanted to go out with your friends to see a movie?" Clearly they were left with the impression that you were being severely deprived in many ways based on where you lived. And I remember trying to defend myself - but really missing that well-timed, knock-out-punch-of-a-retort that would leave them stunned. Ironically - the answer was lying all around me the whole time. We had the nicest beach in the area where we could swim and even drink the water straight from the lake, a canoe club to sign-out canoes, and nearby cross-country ski trails that were - and still are - well-known across Ontario. I skied down to the nicest alpine ski area in the Sudbury Region on winter weekends, wore out lots of felt playing at a well-kept tennis court down the street, and swam at an indoor pool in our community center during the winter (I'd eventually serve as a lifeguard there). We even had a hockey arena and a Junior B team, an outdoor skating rink, a curling club, and the list goes on. People from the city came here in droves during their free-time! It's hard not to laugh once you develop the wisdom and emotional maturity to see past such a na´ve and ridiculous question. It was a great place for kids to grow up.
Stay tuned in to Part XII.