#917: The Dangerous Walk of Death

RECORD STORE TALES #917: The Dangerous Walk of Death

Some of my fond childhood places no longer exist.  What I would give to see some of those places again, as they were in my memories.  Hi-Way Market, the old Record Store at the mall, or my grandpa’s old place in Guelph.  Scant photos exist today.

I did find a couple of pictures from one old place that is no longer as it was.  And that place is called the Dangerous Walk of Death.

One of the fulfilling activities at the cottage was to go for a long walk.  If you said “I’m going for a walk,” it could mean you’d be gone for hours.  There was so much to explore in just our little subdivision.  If we walked to the north, there was a river and sometimes we’d walk along the riverbed and explore it inland.  To the south was another river and the Dangerous Walk of Death.

My dad and sister discovered this place.  There was a road to the south we called the “K” road.  Today it is Kuehner Street.  It had developments on both sides and came to an abrupt end after several cottages.  It ended at a trail, and that is where our fun began.  When we were very young, I used to scared my sister by telling her that “Henry the Hermit” lived in the very woods that our little trail crossed through.  (I also convinced my cousin that sharks could swim up through the pipes into the toilets.)

When you entered the trail, you were immediately swallowed by the trees and things got dark quickly.  It was a narrow space but you never passed anyone else.  You had to walk single file.  It seemed to be our place and our place alone.

If you traced this trail all the way to the end, there was a clearing where an old abandoned cottage once burned down.  Then, the river that my dad dubbed “Dead Man’s River”.  He called it that for good reason.  Snapping turtles were known to make their home there.  We were careful not to step in the waters of Dead Man’s River.

Today there is a quaint little walking bridge that takes you over to the next subdivision.  In our day, it was only possible to cross when the riverbed was dry.  But crossing was not the way to the Dangerous Walk of Death.  To embark on that journey, one had to follow the river inland.

Once again, my dad and sister found the inland path.  It had obviously been purposely cleared by someone many years ago.  It ran parallel to the river, through the deep forest.  Dad used to tell us that many of these trails were original indigenous hunting grounds.  He was probably right.  Artefacts were found by an archaeological team several years ago that proved the original inhabitants used to fish there.  We were acutely aware that we were on very old land when we went on our walks.  The wilderness had probably not changed that much and it was easy to imagine stepping back in time and bumping into a tribe of fishermen and hunters.  They would have had a different name for this place.

Inland we walked, through different kinds of terrain.  There was one area we called “stump land”.  You had to watch your step, and walking there at night was foolish.  Many times did one of us trip in our journey through stump land.

In the middle of stump land was a very small clearing with a large rock in the middle of it.   Sitting Rock.  This was our stopping point.  It was quite scenic.  The sun would dance through the trees making spectacular patterns of light on the ground.  Fortunately I have a picture of this very place as it was in the mid-90s.  An ex-girlfriend and I made a trip to the lake in August 1995 and took this picture.  A much skinnier me is seated upon the rock.  My Jann Arden “Insensitive” hat, a free promo from the Record Store, sits on my melon. And there I am on my mossy seat.  I used to think this would be a cool spot to film a music video — me on acoustic guitar.  Once, I sketched a picture of how cool I’d look playing acoustic guitar on top of Sitting Rock, me and my mullet and a guitar I couldn’t play.  In the real photo, to my right you can see the trail behind.  But this was not the place to turn back.  Greater challenges and better views were ahead.

Following the trail further inland, you would reach a spot that appeared to be the end of the line.  However if you pushed through the overgrown branches, you would find a sparsely wooded area that went steeply uphill.  Watch your step that you don’t go over the Cliffs of Insanity.

This was the end of our odyssey.  Here the trees cleared again and you could look down upon the river below.  I do not have a picture of the view from here, but I do have a picture of us crouching at the edge of the cliff.  The only hint of the chasm beneath are the trees behind us.  You can tell from the distance and height of these trees that there must be a large gorge behind.

Here we usually turned back.  In younger and more adventurous years we kept venturing inland through the woods until we finally hit the main road.  Then we would walk back home.  But that way was far longer and stank of anticlimax.  Our pilgrimage’s natural end was at the cliffs and I’m glad I at least have a partial photographic document of this walk.

If Sitting Rock is still there, then it is inaccessible and on private land.   These photos could be the only ones that exist of our old stomping grounds.  And before us, the ones that lived off this land.

22 comments

  1. They bulldozed a lot of my old hangouts spots for suburban development. I guess instead of nature, we get convenience. Still sad to see.

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    1. Right now as we speak, new houses and cottages are being built in the forests I used to wander. Sadly those days are gone. We used to just go into the woods and walk for hours. Now you’re in someone’s back yard.

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  2. Such a cool journey sir! I enjoyed that a lot. We had some woods behind our house that we played in all the time whether hiking or riding our bikes. There is now a major road that goes through it and a subdivision or two. So sad.

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    1. They paved a trail in some woods were I used to walk, and added a bridge to get across the creek. You used to have to walk across a slippery pipe. I preferred the danger! Less people were around to bother me back there then.

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  3. Wow, I really enjoyed that. Growing up in Sudz, there was always a trail or rocks to climb. Up the hill from my mom’s house was a separate school that had a mount (called Scout Mountain I think) in its “back yard” and we’d go climbing there every day in the summer practically. The views at the top were spectacular! My mom did not like that we’d go back there…I also have other stories about off the beaten paths. If there was a path going into the woods, I was game.

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    1. We (my sister and I) used to literally explore every path. If it forked, we’d make a note to go back and explore where the fork went. One afternoon we went searching for horse trails. We’d spotting horses in the woods before and we wanted to find the trails. We did and it took a whole afternoon to get back home!

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      1. That was my friends and me. We’d get into trouble all the time for wandering off and our parents not knowing where we were. No regrets, tho. We’d get all cut up and scraped, and came home dirty. But, that was being a kid!

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        1. Always! Whether it was skinned knees from tripping and falling, or grass stains on the jeans! We came home sweaty and happy each time. Sometimes with stories to tell. “We saw a big frog!” Or we’d come home with cool sticks and rocks we picked up.

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    1. I only did this one time because I brought my girlfriend with me. I wanted to have some pictures of us. Her daughter took the pictures. I normally threw out all ex-girlfriend pictures but I kept the ones from trips.

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  4. Exploration is key, as a kid. And the imagination of youth lends so much to what was, probably, fairly normal terrain. Living up in this area, we’re still surrounded by places like this so maybe I take it for granted, I dunno. Cool you have your memories (and a few photies).

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    1. Back then I didn’t even own a camera. I’d buy a disposable. I was dating this girl (and incidentally we are still friends!) and I wanted some pictures of us together. So I bought disposable cameras when we went on trips. So I do fortunately have some nice pictures from the weekend we came to the lake in ’95. She brought her daughter and the daughter took pictures of us which was nice.

      We never thought of “just taking pictures” of the scenery back in those days. Why? You could just walk out into the woods to see the scenery. You couldn’t post the pictures for others to see. They just ended up in a photo album. And film was expensive — we tended to use it on taking pictures of people not trees!

      LOL…hindsight is indeed 20/20. If I had known I would have taken pictures of every damn tree and shrub.

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      1. So true, pics of people not trees.

        I love taking pictures (our poor children are sick of me lol). Every time I’m out now with the old 7Dii, I take lots of each. I got a 55-250mm lens and it’s loads of fun.

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        1. The Canon 7Dii is quite old now, but it was pro gear in its day and still takes awesome pics. That lens is a zoom lens. I can go right up nostrils lol.

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