Friday, January 18, 2013
The Train Ride
We checked out of our hotel room by around 8:30 this morning, and by 9 we were settling into our seats and chug-a-lug-ing along, Cochrane fading behind us.
I've always gotten carsick (or bussick, trainsick, or airsick) if I try to read, play a game, draw etc. inside of a moving vehicle. So that means I spend most trips staring out the window, napping or listening to music. I'm ok with this. And in this case, there was lots to see. I noticed that the further north we went, the fewer deciduous trees there were. And even the conifers are different. Unlike the typical, triangular, christmas tree shape we often see down here, these trees are really tall, really skinny, and have little in the way of branches or foliage until you get to the almost comical plume on the top of a skinny neck of trunk. Paired with the olive green colour, it gives the impression of passing through a forest of asparagus. I tried to capture a few of those trees in my sketch book:
Besides the foliage, whenever I'm staring out the window on a long trip I'm always hoping to catch a glimpse of the wildlife. The closest I got this time was a single crow. That's ok though. I still knew the critters were out there. The snow told me their story. I knew who had been by: birds, foxes, coyotes, rabbits, moose and bears. Sometimes I even knew what they'd been up to. Piles of logs along the verge of the forest that were cris-crossed with predator's paw prints were clearly a winter hide out for small furred mammals, and a grocery store for larger ones. And anybody who's ever kept a wood burning fire knows how much mice love wood piles. Snow is a very good story teller, you just have to learn to listen with your eyes.
I was surprised by how inhabited the rail line seemed to be. Not that there were towns or streets of houses, but every so often the trees would open up and there would be a single home, or small cluster of buildings, often with rough painted, plywood walls, and looking in rough repair. The only way into or out of where they live is by the train. And it doesn't stop at each place each time. My guess is the people call ahead if they want to get on the train, and let them know they'd like to stop before they get underway? I can't imagine living with that level of isolation. It must be a lonely existence.
Years ago a fella who lived in one such place at the mile 26 marker passed away. His house caught fire, and he succumbed to the smoke making multiple trips back into the house to bring out litters of puppies from the over 200 stray dogs he was caring for. The Moosonee puppy rescue along with several other rescue groups came in to rescue any of the dogs that they could catch, but several had grown too feral and fearful and darted into the bush and had to be left behind. We saw evidence of that today. Near mile 26 there were the telltale goofy, meandering footprints that only dogs leave behind. Their wild cousins are all about economy of movement, but dogs are like pups gambolling about. It was neat, but also sad, to see that confirmation of something I'd read about. But, Jean Luc died in May of 2010, so if the dogs are still there, they must have found a way to adapt and survive. Kudos to their adaptability.
After about 6 hours the train pulled in to Moosonee, and there the real fun began... But more on that later. For now, dinner.