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Spanish River

A few years ago I joined a group of people for a snowshoe jaunt and weekend camp near the “Elbow” of the Spanish River near Sudbury. It was organized by the owner of Fox Lake Lodge, and by Sundog Outfitters, to see if there was potential for a winter business there. About a dozen of us, some local and some from as far away as Toronto, loaded up toboggans, donned snowshoes, and wandered away along the river. Leading the way was a gentleman slightly older than the rest of us, obviously familiar with the trail and quite at home on snowshoes. He set a good pace. My son Austin and I (both of us in harness and towing our rig in tandem) had to stretch out to keep up. I thought he was in his middle fifties. It turned out he was seventy-three; Bill B., of Espanola Ont.
Later in camp, snug in our wall tents with the wood stoves glowing, we learned more. Bill went into the bush as a logger in 1945, and stayed in the business his whole life. He’d documented these early days too, and brought along a whole shoe-box full of old snapshots. As he narrated the pictures, he told us stories about how it used to be, when men went into the bush for the entire winter, cut and sledded the logs to the river bank, and in the spring rolled them into the meltwater and drove them downriver to the mills. He’d seen the transition from the old horse-logging days to the modern way of clear-cutting.
Now I’m a tree-hugger I suppose, and Bill’s a logger, and you’d think we wouldn’t get along, but anyone who’s been taking pictures of trees for 55 years is all right in my books. I wrote this song to commemorate the trip, and to recall some of the scenes and people Bill sketched out for us.
And the trip was a success! The country is fine, and Sun Dog is open for winter business.


We’ve come to see the children of the ancient northern timber.
   Step out and haul away, we’re bound for Spanish River.
Listen to the silence of the forest in the winter.
Step out and haul away, we’re bound for Spanish River.
Following the footsteps of a thousand nameless men,
Who spent the winter lumbering; it wasn’t silent then.
The white pine was piled on shore, to wait the breath of spring,
And to the tune of axe and saw you’d hear the voices sing,
Step out and haul away, we’re bound for Spanish River.
Step out and haul away, we’re bound for Spanish River.

The icy wind that’s in your face would make a husky shiver.
Step out and haul away, we’re bound for Spanish River.
On my sled I’ve got my bag and tent and stove and dinner.
Step out and haul away, we’re bound for Spanish River.
There are those who still recall the days of giant pines,
And old Baptiste who ran the drive and men who strived,
To work the weary winter away, and dream of when in spring,
They’d come down to Sudbury town and make the taverns ring!   (with)
Step out and haul away, we’re bound for  Spanish River.
Step out and haul away, we’re bound for Spanish River.
It’s early in the morning and my tent is frosted silver.
Step out and haul away, we’re bound for Spanish River.
I light the stove and watch the firelight make the crystals glitter.
Step out and haul away, we’re bound for Spanish River.
We walk upon the Spanish shore and think upon the day,
When showshoes were for working men and not for those at play,
And though the giant pines have disappeared into the past,
May this wood grow as it should and then forever last!
Step out and haul away, we’re bound for Spanish River.
Step out and haul away, we’re bound for Spanish River
.