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Links to the land resonate with Bill and his readers

In part two of reflecting back on 2021 by Back Roads Bill he shares the most important of all the stories you told him were important and for him

Last week,  there were five stories that made the shortlist of 51 Back Roads Bill stories identified by Village Media readers and myself.

This week there are four stories on the list that resonated the most with you and this writer.

It is an opportunity to share more, the emotional link to these weekly compositions. It was another COVID year to remain outside safely.

The stories reflect upon the determination to get to unique locations such as the search for the red rock and the fighter jet/bomber crash stories from the year before, all based on “sense of place” and natural and cultural values for visiting and putting a story together. It's important to write a story in a way that triggers an emotional reaction that can be appreciated.

The map and the photos are important to develop the context and the storyline.

Romeo and the ghost town. A cemetery story (8 photos) – April 22

This story has a timeline that evolved over a number of years. I had made this promise to Romeo a number of years back and I had to return to this location that has some challenges, to remain true to my word. He was an ordinary person with a heartfelt story and an attachment to an important place within his lifeline and for a lovely reason.

I liked this one sentence that linked me to Romeo, “We know about “meant to be,” “destiny,” and “happenstance,” I believe in all three and especially on that day.”

I still have work to do: “In the poem, The Cremation of Sam McGee, the Canadian poet Robert A. Service writes, 'A promise made is a debt unpaid.'

The poem is the tale of a Yukon musher keeping a promise he made to cremate his friend rather than let him be buried in the ice and snow. I did promise Romeo I would return and try to have the site cleaned up.” Can you help?

This story told me about my own destiny and the relationship with family, and where the spreading of ashes would be naturally appreciated.

The hermit of Whitewater Lake – June 30

It was time to get outside and away from the COVID madness and I went north to a destination that had been on my mind for a few years. I had to visit the remote location of where Wendell Beckwith had lived a remote existence. He was an inventor, master woodworker, and free-thinking scientist.

The lede set the scene:

You first notice the sound as a low rumble in the distance, it is distinctive. You see it skyward, it grows larger, and the drone increases, always in harmony, the Pratt & Whitney engine echoes its presence.

The big red floatplane swings around for a landing. The silver, yellow-tipped prop stops and the working antique effortlessly glides to the dock. This 1956 historic Beaver will be the taxi to find what remains of the hermit of Whitewater Lake.

Within this piece, I reflected on the value of wilderness and my need to visit such remote places. I am not Waldo Leopold or Henry David Thoreau but I understand what such experiences mean to our emotional state when we access the true wilderness and ponder what it means to one’s being.

The summary affected me:

It is one of those back roads destinations that cause you to wonder, to reflect. Did I see a little of Wendell within myself? It was time to paddle again, to wander on.

So many adventures to consider, time is running on.

How far can you drive in Northern Ontario? Road trip time – July 14

It was another opportunity to get outside and look at the geography of Northern Ontario and where others live beyond the mall.

The context was made clear: “Are we there yet?” In this context, 'there' is the most northerly point in Northern Ontario on a legal road.

If you don’t like to be in the car for extended periods of time this travelogue might make you woozy. But this trip is not so much about the bragging rights but our geography. “

It was a similar commitment I made when discovering and making my way to the geographic centre of Ontario. This epic drive to the far reaches of Northwestern Ontario was a whirlwind tour of the Canadian Shield and beyond small-town Canada; it was where the road ends for a conventional vehicle.

This was the trip summary. 

In total, I spent 46 hours and 14 minutes in the car for a 3,074 km trip. We took two naps and there were two time zone changes during the trip - one there and one back. Actually, on Highway 599 you weave back and forth between the time zone boundaries several times. Don’t tell mom. 

This trip told me we live in a vast and magnificent land and that others remain in remote locations.

Breaking a trail in search of the place a great Leaf fell (10 photos) – Dec. 1

This was a recent challenge and an attempt to put some story closure to the Bill Barilko story.

I liked the descriptive lead

There is a saying about having good or best intentions. But, even when the journey doesn't lead to the intended destination, it can be a good trek.

It is 5 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 9 and the car’s dash display says it is -30° C. We leave Timmins but when passing the Bill Barilko billboard on Highway 101 East in South Porcupine the headlights only slightly illuminate this city’s hockey legend’s young man’s vibrant smile; the face along with the clenched fist, the gesture of a winner.

And the summary paragraph: 

It is the traditional novel theme of Man versus Nature. Bill Barilko and Dr. Henry Hudson, their spirits are still 4.2 km away; ours will have to return. The Maple Leafs most likely will not win the Stanley Cup this year…again. When things go wrong or don’t turn out the way you pictured them in one’s head, you just have to go with the best intentions defence.

No matter how well you plan and persist you are you sometimes just don’t make it.

There you have it, four 2021 stories that make up my personality and profile complemented by a desire to learn more about our natural and cultural heritage.

Thanks for all your weekly feedback. This is my avocation to submit these stories and this year was a COVID challenge of getting out and about safely, but being outside is the place to be.

Now it is time for new 2022 prose, next week’s initial story will feature a ghost!

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Bill Steer

About the Author: Bill Steer

Back Roads Bill Steer is an avid outdoorsman and is founder of the Canadian Ecology Centre
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