Secret Trails and Hidden Ponds

Much has been said and sung about anticipation.  The journey, versus the arrival.  I’m no stranger to this concept either.  I’m sure if I did the math, I’d find I spent as much time studying maps and planning the journey, as I ever have experiencing the destination.  When the wife and I were mere youngsters, we’d roll out the topographical (topo) maps across the floor and plan our next holiday’s sortie into the bush.  It mattered not if the location was well known to us, because there’s something magical about a topo map.  It’s a portal to knowledge, to future prediction. Where’s the easiest passage from that lake to that one ?  The “topo” had the answer.  Is that a level peninsula or a rocky precipice to be reckoned with ?  The topo had the answer.  “Is that a meandering stream, or a raging, dangerous torrent ?” The topo had the answer.  I thought hard before spending 15 cents on a pack of gum back in College, but wouldn’t think twice before paying $15.00 for a topo.  I can think of a few instances where a topo likely saved my Life.  I also remember when failing to consult one, damn-near cost me my Life.

Is this not a wonderful World we live in today ?  I’m classed as an old guy, but when I hear other guys in my classification bitching about how much better the old days were, I like to suggest that perhaps they, not the days were better. ‘Cause we’re all no Hell to look at now I can assure you.  I recently got a shot of reality (surprisingly enough) from my neighbour (an old guy too).  He showed me his high school class photo which he’d found in an old box.  He challenged me to spot him in the old black and white photo.  I failed miserably as I never expected the old guy to ever have looked that good.  Then he gets kinda pensive, gazing at the photo and says “You know, back in those days, you didn’t have all the sex problems you have now.  No teachers messing with students, no students messing with teachers.  None of this date-rape stuff you’re always hearing about anymore.  None of that went on back then”.  I just sat there, solemnly nodding in agreement while he continued to gaze at the picture.  Then he says “ ’Course, take a look at that goddamn herd of cows” throwing the photo at me in disgust.  “Would you diddle one of those heifers ?  Hell, I know I wouldn’t” he assured me.  “Ya couldn’t a payed me for chrissakes”.  I considered asking if he’d met his wife in high school, but the line about the heifers had me laughing so hard I couldn’t form the words.  He never even cracked a grin.  He was dead serious !  He’d gone to high school with a herd of homely cows and he was some pissed about it !  “Just look at these high school girls today” he says.  They’re 16 and you’d think they were 25 year old models ! Now compare that to … “ he pointed at the photo in my hand like it was a steaming turd as he stammered, searching for just the right words.  “Those f-f-f-f***in’ things” he finished. Then he grabs the photo, takes one last disgusted look at it, and throws it in the beer fridge.   Why the beer fridge ?  Apparently, there’s a star-gate horizon in the beer fridge and anything put in it, inexplicably disappears.  “At least that’s what happens when I put beer in there” he explained for both his sons to hear.  The next week-end the beer fridge was fully stocked by someone from the other side of the star-gate I assume, and yes, the photo was gone.

Wandered off topic again, didn’t I ?  Oh well, what’re ya  gonna do ?

So, I ask you again, is this not a wonderful World we live in ?  Reason I ask is that the wife got me a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 awhile back.  Is that thing not the greatest ?  Yes it is!  I can look up topo maps of Jupiter if I want to.  It’s got GPS, and a nice big screen that I can actually see.  The map function on that thing is phenomenal.  I’m not plugging Samsung though.  I’m sure there are plenty others like it.  I mean the concept of the device itself is wonderful.  I sit and study the maps, topos, and especially the satellite views.  That’s my favourite by far !  You can actually see some trails through the bush.  You can even track the paths of tiny little streams through the undergrowth once you get used to it.  Just as a sideline – you’d be amazed at how extensive Google Street View has become.

Not a week goes by that the wife, the Ranger, or myself while driving, walking, standing, or sitting, doesn’t say “Oh !  Will you just look at that?  Southern Ontario is the most beautiful landscape in the World eh ?”  We admire gorgeous estates, rolling hills, fields of golden crops, babbling creeks, enchanted forests, and … ponds.  The next most magical thing after maps, are ponds.  As a kid, I used to see tiny pale blue flecks on a topo and I’d paddle across, and portage between, three lakes, then push my way through trackless wilderness to find that pond.  That was in Northern Ontario of course.  Unfortunately, in Southern Ontario, real estate with a pond is worth as much as lakefront property, and is jealously guarded as such.  You’ll see everything from a flawlessly manicured lawn within a centimeter of the water, to huge ugly fences with Keep Out signs hanging from them.  Either which way, to find an unoccupied, or unguarded pond in Southern Ontario is nigh on impossible.  So when I thought I’d located one, I audibly gasped loud enough for the wife to hear.  I pulled up the satellite view and searched for ATV tracks, out buildings, fences, trained giant killer toads, anything that would burst my bubble and bring me kicking and screaming back to reality.  There was nothing.  That pond appeared to be out in the middle of nowhere, with no one else aware of its existence.  That couldn’t be.  I backed off the magnification, and noticed a “No Exit” road that pointed toward it, but stopped quite a ways short of the pond.  I excitedly told Ranger of the discovery and we made plans to seek it out that Wednesday.  We used the GPS to track our position relative to the pond while approaching from the North.  As we approached, Ranger starts making noises about maybe seeing water through the trees just as we crested the hill.  As we came up directly East of it, I was shocked to see what appeared to be a trail running off to the West over a hill.  Shocked because, I’d driven this particular stretch of road maybe ummmmmmmm a gajillion times (!) and never noticed that trail before.  So, we parked the truck and headed up the hill on foot watching out for signage warning us to stay away.  There were none so we carried on.  The trail opened up into a beautifully canopied downhill walk which split off two ways.


One to the South and the other continued West.  We followed the West trail as the GPS positioned the pond ahead, and to the North.  I’d fallen behind while getting my camera ready when Ranger let out a sound of obvious delight so I rushed forward down the trail.


The pond was lovely with what appeared to be fresh mown grass all around it, but there was no evidence of machinery or cuttings.  As the satellite showed, there were no tracks of any kind, or any buildings. A gradual slope on the North end was obviously the source of the spring water filling the pond, as the ground was very wet at a very dry time of year.




Something else was bothering me.  There was something missing. A common denominator of any location of interest we’d ever found … garbage.  Not a single beer can, refrigerator, sitting room couch and matching chair ensemble, Lay-Z-boy chair, dining room set, mattress, box spring, 19?? Truck chassis, tires, mysterious sealed garbage bag, carpet, dead animal carcass, wire fencing … nothing but an Oh Henry wrapper (the garbage listed here is, seriously, a partial list of what we’ve found down some of these No Exit roads).  I reverently stuffed the Oh Henry wrapper in my pocket and snapped some more pictures.  Then I noticed the fish.  The entire floor of the pond was crowded with schools of fish, and they were all exactly the same size, and species.   We all know that that means.  Someone spent alot of money.  On our way back out, Ranger spotted a length of fly-fishing line tangled in a tree above our heads.

We then followed the South trail to the No Exit road we anticipated running into.  There were obvious tracks on the trails.  Who made them, who owns the land the pond is on, who maintains the grounds, who stocked it, and especially why it isn’t posted or guarded, I have no idea.  I think, much like everyone else who knows of it, we’ll make like we don’t know of it, so we can’t say where it is.


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