Friday, March 18, 2011

Winter Walk Off- A Walk to the Credit River

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.


  1. I have thoroughly enjoyed this journey along the Credit River, sprinkled with some history of the area! This is the second coyote sighting you've blogged about and I find myself surprised that they actually exist in such a heavily travelled area. Of course, I don't know all the back roads and trails surrounding you where they could make a home for themselves. I too, would be concerned about my dogs, especially my Toy Manchester Terrier who weighs a mere 8 pounds. Have fun at Canada Blooms ~ I hope to get there tomorrow!

  2. Hola Jennifer, how lovely to live near this wonderful Credit river and go for a walk with your lovely dogs, so pretty!!!!!!!

  3. That was just so much fun! Thank you for taking me along with you and the dogs. Thanks also for sharing the history or your area...wonderful.

  4. A delightful walk! Thanks for taking us along. We have a river nearby as well and visiting always manages to make me slow down just a bit and enjoy. Glad all ended well with the coyote.

  5. Jennifer, what a lovely walk you have in your neighbourhood. I like the difference in photos from just a couple weeks ago. The sheets of ice are beautiful. Have a wonderful time at the show.

  6. Loved the historical aspect of the walk. Does the river ever flood? I wonder that no one has made a home out of the old woolen mill. It could become an artist's co-op, with studios and a gallery area...hummm. I would love to see some of your art work; do you paint, sculpt or what?

  7. What a great walk and one so close to your house! I enjoyed, and would love to have seen the coyote but held my breath reading. We are close to Canada so I know all about Tim Norton coffee but had not heard about the timbit - how fun. Hope you have a wonderful time at the garden show.

  8. Thank you for taking us to your walk along. Nature has made beautiful formation near the river.

  9. What a great walk! I would go picnic there (at the river) a lot if I lived that close. Very interesting buildings, too. Loved the history behind all it. Thanks for taking us along and for the great explanations.

  10. I am so glad you entered this in my little Winter Walk Off, especially with such lovely photography. Your dogs are beautiful too, and I also like the history of your village. Thank you for joining in, and I should have a wrap-up post in the next day or two.

  11. How beautiful! I love the old mill and the river seems like a perfect picnic/thinking spot. What happy, happy dogs!

  12. One more - I love how you describe your valley as a souffle that has fallen in the middle. Fabulous imagery!! :o)

  13. Thanks for your comments everyone.
    Lisa, We regularly hear coyotes howling just west of we live, usually when we walk the dogs late in the evening. Just before Halloween we heard them yapping closer than they usually come to town and saw a fox run out onto the road in front of us to escape them. The two weeks ago I noticed large footprints in the snow just behind our house (an open lightly wooded area). The coyote sighting was 100 feet west of the little church and right here in our little village. Has a coyote been prowling around the outskirts of town? Maybe. But to put this sighting in perspective, though we hear coyotes regularly, we have only once in the ten years we have lived here, actually seen a coyote (the other night).
    Egretta Wells, I believe the river may have flooded its banks in the past, but not since we have lived here. Our house sits not far above the water table and so we have 2 sump pumps that run 24/7.
    I have heard that the mill can not be redeveloped until the city installs city sewers in the village. We are all on septic systems at the moment. It would be a truly wonderful spot for a gallery,museum or artist's studios.
    With regard to my background as an artist, I have a fine arts degree and worked for years and years in the art department of a wallpaper company. Then more recently, I worked as a graphic designer for a high-end kitchen cabinet company. Most recently I have begun to move away from corporate/commercial art and have begun to explore a role as a fine artist.

  14. Jennifer, the dogs are lovely. Are they Shelties, Collies? We have a lot of coyotes and they sometimes walk down my alley! I am spooked by them since I have a little terrier.

    The river area is captivating and you must love this area during the spring and summer.


  15. I enjoyed your walk very much, and I love your icy photos! Your companions are charming! And yes, I was quite chilly after the tour of the river and old town, and Timmy's coffee was just what I needed. I'm not sure I could become even an honorary Canadian, however. Today our temp was in the 80's!

  16. I really enjoyed seeing your area. Wonderful walk, lovely views. You have a handsome trio to walk with. Thanks for taking us along, seeing your neighborhood.

  17. What a lot of nice photos! The river is lovely in all forms. I would love to have one in walking distance.

  18. Loved the walk with the boys. So nice to see signs of spring. Happy Spring to you!

  19. This was a nice walk with the dogs, except for the coyote. You were lucky he ran. The river really is a pretty place for a walk. Hope your Canada Bloom trip was nice. I did not get a chance to go this year and am depending on all the Canada gardeners to give me the scoop.

  20. I can kick myself! Yes, ouch, just did...I'd composed a lengthy comment and, believe it or not, managed to erase it instead of upload it! What a klutz!

    Now, I'm feeling too fed up with myself to attempt it all over, I'm going to be a great deal 'briefer' (is that a word?)

    I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful walk and loved having the companionship of your adorable boys! How do you keep them looking so smart? Brushing their beautiful coats must take hours!

    I really loved every aspect of this post and all the details you so carefully and thoughtfully highlighted. Giving us the historical perspective added to the richness of the experience and rounding it off with coffee and a donut was the cherry on top for me!

    It must have been quite a scary moment when you were suddenly and unexpectedly confronted with that fortunate none of the boys decided to give chase!!!

  21. Thanks everyone for all your comments! Eileen, My dogs are shetland sheep dogs or "shelties" for short.

  22. What a fabulous walk, lovely winter-lit pictures. Sad to see so many interesting old buidlings shut up and unused.


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