If we stood together on my front porch and I turned to you and said, "Let's walk over to the river." you would probably give me a puzzled look. No river appears within eyesight, or for that matter within earshot of my front steps. Yet it is very close at hand, slipping discreetly by.
We live in a valley ringed with hills, like a souffle that has fallen in the center. The Credit River flows through the deepest part of the valley, largely unseen behind a screen of scrubby bushes and deciduous trees. Even the telltale sound of rushing water is all but obliterated by the constant sound of the traffic speeding past our house.
Come on, lets go for a winter walk down to the river. The boys want to come of course. When aren't they up for a walk!
Two weeks ago, we had a sudden melt as the temperatures climbed above freezing. The ice on the river cracked into large ragged sheets. Then rain fell and the sudden run-off sent the sheets of ice sailing down river on the rapid current.
When the rain finally stopped, the water level fell rapidly beaching large icebergs all along the shore line. Some of these icebergs are as thick as two or three feet and must weigh hundreds of pounds, yet the river seems to have tossed them all along the shoreline as if they were light as feathers. Look closely at the picture of the sheets of ice on the right. Do you see the horizontal bands? These were formed by successive layers of freezing river water. Don't they remind you of the rings of growth in a tree trunk?
The rain returned earlier this week. Pummeled by the mild rainfall, the discarded ice bergs began slowly to melt.
On this, the day of our walk, the sun has finally slipped quietly back into town. Most of the snow has disappeared. There is finally a kiss of warmth in the late afternoon air. Look up to your right! How nice of the moon to watch over us as we walk along the river bank.
Look directly across from our position on the riverbank and you can see what remains of the old bridge that used to cross the river (see photo on the top left) In the arial shot, the old bridge is indicated by the small red rectangle. The modern bridge now runs north ( it's the larger rectangle in the arial shot).
Lets cross the road again and head down a back lane to the old mill. The village of Huttonville owes its existence both to the river and this old mill.
The private lane rarely has traffic and so we can let the dogs off the lead.
The old McMurchy Woolen Mill closed in 1953 and now stands forlornly empty, with its window covered with rough planks and its doors bolted shut. I always find myself thinking, that this old mill would make a great place for artist's studios or perhaps a gallery. A mill just north of us in the small village of Glen Williams was renovated for just such a purpose.
The Mill operated until 1953, when a competition from larger mills and a
general slump in the textile industry made it no longer viable.
This is an historical view. We have always puzzled over the photographer's vantage point. Where was he standing when he took the picture?
I used to think that this was the same vantage point, but look at the upper windows on your left. The tops of the windows are curved, whereas the tops of the upper windows in the old photo are straight across. In the modern shot, the land drops far below the windows. It is hard to imagine mill workers hanging casually out the windows to have their picture taken here.
We leave this mystery for now and keep heading down the mill lane.
Even the more weathered buildings in the lane way seem oddly beautiful in the late afternoon sun.
Coming next into view next is the old grist mill. At one time, it also produced electric power for the area. Above is a picture of what it looked like in the early days:
Here it is today, all boarded up and idle. The water channel leading to the mill is now an empty gully.
Its getting late and we want to make one more stop. The dogs need to go back on the lead, so we can head up through town to to our neighbor's house. Here, we can see the broad river plain and the dam that used to channel the river's water to the mill further down stream.
This is where we hear the coyotes howling and dancing around in the late hours just before bedtime. I wonder, do they like to hunt the deer that come to graze here in the orchard and open plain?
Only last night, Hanna and I were walking dogs late in the evening, when we saw a coyote emerge from the lane 100 feet in front of us. I stopped dead in my tracks and whispered a warning to Hanna. He was big-almost the size of a doberman pincher and just as long and lean! Something must had spooked him, for he ran out from the lane way and on to the main road in front of us.
Coyote snack food
I was terrified the dogs would see him and create a fuss. Coyotes have been known to go after domestic dogs in area parks. Rusty in particular is no match for a coyote- he is more of a bite sized coyote morsel than anything else!
Frightened, Hanna whispered to ask me if we should run back the other way towards the house. The coyote must have heard her or perhaps the dogs, because he turned and regarded us carefully for a few seconds. My breath caught in my throat for that instant. Then, gratefully he turned away from us. Coyotes are generally shy, nocturnal creatures by nature. I was glad he lived up to their reputation.
Despite his size, the coyote was light on his feet as he ran. He virtually skipped away, heading north up the street and away from us.
The sun is setting and it's getting late. Are you cold? How about we go for a coffee? Our treat! We'll head over to the local Tim Horton's.
Take a sip of that hot coffee. Don't you feel warmer now? We Canadians have Timmy's coffee running through our veins. Have a timbit! (Translation: a Canadian donut) You've earned it with all that walking.
Your an honorary Canadian now, eh!
Les at Tidewater Gardener is hosting a meme called "Winter Walk Off". Les is encouraging people to get outside and go for a walk, documenting their journey as they go. The challenge is open until March 19th, which is the last day of winter. To see more winter walks visit Tidewater Garden here. Many thanks to Les for hosting this blog event.
Up early next week will be highlights from the country's largest gardening show-I am off to Canada Blooms today. Ah, spring is surely here now!
Have a great weekend everyone!
Historical Photo Credits: Thanks to the book "From the Wolf's Den to Huttonville and the Pioneers Who Made It Possible" published in 1996 by the Huttonville Book Committee. Publisher: Ampersand Printing.