This post, which is the realization of a dream long held by the Trainman, takes place over two separate visits to a beautiful old train bridge which Trainman had glimpsed multiple times from the highway, on our visits to our old hometown in the Annapolis Valley. The “Gaspereaux” Bridge, is the second to occupy this crossing, and was built in 1911. It went out of use sometime in the late 1990’s.
One daycare-free day, in late February, Mama Structure Sleuth packed up the little Trainman and made the road trip to the Gaspereau River so we could hike over the rusty old rails and check out the bridge.
This was also the first time that the Trainman had seen actual rails on a rail trail, as most trails have been sanitized and don’t really look much like a railway anymore. So, of course, we had to stop and touch the rust on the rails, check for loose railroad spikes and pick up chipped pieces of railroad ties. A rip-roaring good time for Mr. Trainy!
The best thing for the Structure Sleuth was that, at the site where we parked, we picked up a farm dog of some random description and he hiked the whole trail with us, only leaving us when we got back to the car. The amusing thing about this is that, back when the Structure Sleuth & the Papa element used to geocache this trail, we always found a farm dog in the same locale that would hike the entire day with us. Only, this was a different dog. Same farm. Same type of personality. Completely different dog. Go figure! Dog #1, who never had a tag on, had been deemed Frodo, so this new dog was called Sam while he walked with us.
There were a few points along the tracks where the weeds had turned into great clumps of vine or tall trees, so we had to leave the trail and walk in the ditch along side. Sam, however, seemed to know all the best routes around, and led us onward til it was safe to return to the tracks. How nice of him!
When we reached the Hortonville side of the bridge and could look down at the spot where the Gaspereau flows into the Bay of Fundy, the lil Trainman, though freezing cold, was just about as happy as a clam!
He wanted me to walk him across the bridge but Mama knew, from trying to cross this bridge 5 years ago while wearing older brother in a baby sling, that the bridge was not built for foot traffic and that some of the spaces between cross beams, –You go ahead and call them cross members and then you and I can have a long, boring discussion about the differences in term usage between European architects and North American ones, okay?– which appear deceptively close to each other in the photo, are totally large enough for a faulty-footed adult to drop right through down into the water. We made an attempt but only made it about 8 feet before we both freaked and turned back. Even our steady friend Sam wouldn’t go across the bridge, turning around even quicker than we had.
We enjoyed the view though and took some pretty pics of low tide and the clay banks, opened our warm thermos of broth and sat for a while. Eventually, bone chilled, we bid Sam farewell and headed to the Just Us Coffee Roasters for a nice fair trade cocoa and a muffin.
Not too shabby for a wintertime visit to the seaside.
Our return visit to finally tackle the opposite side of the bridge was made in the fairer weather of mid-May, with older brother, Skateboy, along for company.
We parked on the Avonport side of the Gaspereau, near a defunct railroad crossing that has been robbed of it’s telltale lights, and beside a derelict farmhouse that has always been attractive to the Structure Sleuth…still yet to be properly explored.
It being warmer weather, some of the weeds on the tracks had really taken on a life of their own but, the boys had fun picking up random branches and swatting at the offending weeds as if they had brain-powered weed-whackers.
As we walked, we all grew quite hot in the beating sun and took off our sweatshirts. One thing is for sure, the walk from the parking area on this side of the old railroad bridge is a much longer one. Though, it is also more interesting.
Along the way we found the trickiest geocache I’ve ever come across in these parts, also a great jumbled collection of sun-bleached animal bones from both sides of the rails and a magnificently twisted stretch of track that exhibits the main reason this part of the railway was abandoned…erosion by wind and sea.
Trainman was bit disappointed that normally-daredevil Mama would not allow him to “chug” along the uplifted parts of the track but, okay, some of the ones not pictured had ZERO ground beneath them. So, right… Tree climbing and skate parks? Yes. Chugging on dry-rotted, midair-floating railroad tracks above the highest tides in the world? Me thinks not.
A bit past the “twisty-bendy track,” as the kids named it, we reached as close as we could get to the edge of the bridge. On this side we weren’t able to get too close to it due, again, to excessive spacing between cross beams, but the Trainman was pleased with getting this close and being able to glimpse the other side, where we had sat with Sam on our visit back in February.
The walk back was filled with whines of “I’m thirsty” and “I’m tired” but, oddly enough, all of these complaints disappeared as soon as we drove passed a nearby playground.
Eventually everyone was rewarded with all-you-can-eat sushi at our favourite restaurant. So, a fruitful day trip, indeed.