By Katrina Angel (89-90)
The Pee Pond Bridge was built during Trails Weekend 1996. The previous passage across the pond, on the Coopers Loop trail between Moore and Mislaid Lakes, was a beaver dam. However, nature was doing its work and the dam was soon to be impassable, so a new crossing was needed. Trails Weekend, complete with many ready hands, provided the perfect opportunity for such a large-scale project.
Ab Morrow (75-87,92-99), Camp Ranger, had the bridge designed, and materials were ready to go. Using the camp truck, lumber and other supplies were driven up the Hurst Lake road, along the road to Moore Lake, to the Mislaid cut-off. From there, we carried 16-foot long stringers to the Pee Pond – not an easy task on the trail working around trees. Once we reached the Pond, we saw that a tree had fallen across the pond essentially where the bridge was to go. A few other trees standing in the area provided opportunity for a much simpler construction. The decision was made to drop a second tree, from the other side, and to use the two logs as the base of the bridge. Kevin Bell, who is now the current camp ranger, had just acquired his own chainsaw, and was more than happy to put it to use. Some of those 16-foot boards were used as a frame on top of those logs, but the rest needed to be carried back out to the trucks. One design challenge was getting onto the bridge, as the log base was fairly high off the ground. The solution – a fully accessible wheelchair ramp!
I’ve attended many Trails Weekends, and the ’96 Bridge Build has to have been my favourite to date. Typically, we break into groups and work on various sections of trail over the weekend, mostly clearing and flagging. In ’96, we were all working together, which lead to the kind fraternization that has made us all love our time at HSR. The weather also cooperated, giving us warm sunny days, warm enough to strip down to a t-shirt when working. The evening socializing, of the kind not to be seen in HSR again (and most likely rightly so), only added to the fun. There is also a satisfaction that comes with building something solid, and big. You can say “I built that”, where as there isn’t anything particularly awe-inspiring about “I cut back those branches and put that trail marker up”.
But time has taken its toll. Just as the previously used beaver dam rotted out, the logs that formed with base of this bridge were in the water, and also rotted with time. Inspected during Trails Weekend 2009, it was clear that the bridge would not be passable for much longer. Plans and discussions began for replacement of the bridge, including options for how to build and fund it. By Trails 2010, a plan was in place to replace the bridge in 2011.
However, the current bridge was not expected to survive another winter’s effects. Saturday morning of Trails Weekend, a fairly large work team was sent to Pee Pond to flag a temporary trail around the pond, to bypass the bridge. The idea was to make the Coopers Loop trail to Mislaid still useable until the new bridge was completed. The team decided to spilt into two and work from opposite ends to meet in the middle. We expected tough work creating new trail, where none has been before. To our surprise, we found the area fairly clear and the two teams met up fairly quickly. We realized that extending the trail around the pond would only add a few minutes of hiking time, and eliminate the need for replacing bridges over time. Back at the Hub at lunch, the idea was pitched to Kevin Bell, who had final decision as Camp Director. As expected, Kevin was happy to not need to be replacing bridges every 15 or so years. A smaller work team returned to the area to create a now-permanent trail, while others moved on to other needed projects.
When the new trail was complete, only one task remained – ensuring the bridge was fully impassable, so as not to pose a hazard to hikers who might choose a rickety bridge over a bit of a walk. As much fun as demolition is, it is still a little painful to destroy something that you had a hand in building, and that holds such warm memories. But, unless we had some way to set up a camera to capture video of people falling in the drink so that we could laugh at them, it needed to be done. Let me tell you, pulling apart a wobbly bridge without falling off or having it collapse underneath you is not the easiest task. We had a few close calls, but we all managed to stay above water. In order to maintain enough structure for us to get across, we pulled off as many decking boards as deemed possible. With the water rotting the logs and often frame from underneath, it was the structure held together by the decking boards which was holding the bridge together in many areas. As we worked our way closer to shore, we removed more boards and frame sections. The terminal section was completed rotted, and thus ceremoniously demolished. The final section removed was the wheelchair ramp. It is expected that the water freezing around what remains will complete the demolition.
We had a great time working on the bridge again, 14 years later. Once again, it gave a group of us the pleasure to work together closely, and tease each other, all day long. A member of the demolition team, Jonathan Pereira (10), who had been an SIT this past summer, pointed that he was one-year old when the bridge was built. It is amazing he remained dry, after a comment like that. The weekend gave a young’en like Jonathan, and an (apparently) old-timer like me a chance to get to know each other. The evening socializing gave current and recent staff members and alumni additional time to hang out together. I have to thank the bridge for giving me two wonderful weekends of friendship and camaraderie. Comparing our experiences at HSR in the ‘90s to now would be like comparing apples and softballs, so it is not fair to compare the ’96 Bridge Build to recent weekends. I can say that the ’10 Bridge Demolish year will go down as my favourite Trails Weekend of the new era of HSR volunteering.
I hope to see you there in 2011.
See also the main 2010 Trails Weekend posting.