Surveying Highway 631 South

This is a copy of an article that appeared in a Forestry magazine a few years ago, written by one of the surveyors.  The crew laid out the path from Hornepayne to White River, that became highway 631 South!  I have the orginal in a PDF, with some other photos, but I am just putting the text up for now!  Thanks to John for the photo and story!  A little piece of our history!  

 Hornepayne to White River – Surveying for Highway #631 Very First Centre Line Survey, 1962; The First 40 Miles By K. John Hazlitt, Instrument Man to the Project Prologue When I graduated from Dorset Ranger School with knowledge of surveying and forestry under my belt, along with being deemed expert at aerial photo interpretation, my first job was with Department of Highways, Engineering Surveys, London, Ontario. I joined Party Chief Wright as his chainman /rod man. This was a January start so I knew the asphalt would be very cold. I enquired of my grandfather, Hugh Hill, as to the best footwear for the work and he recommended laced felt boots with felt sole along with two pair of felt insoles in each high buckle galosh. He was absolutely on the mark. I had warm dry feet all winter. Part of the work was recording “detail” with the field notes starting always at the bottom of the page as we went along the centre line of a highway. I rodded the original 403 and remember well heading west, going down the bank of the Grand, across the river and through the cherry orchards. Sometime in May, I was on a job near Wallaceburg, when Supervisors Frank Luscombe and Bill Smyth stopped and spoke to me. Frank said that I was to join a Survey Party with Merv McLean as Party Chief. It would be in Northern Ontario starting at the end of June and running into October. Frank also indicated that my expertise in aerial photo interpretation would be well used. Merv spoke with me and welcomed me aboard. I took to packing my large canvas packsack of cloths, including rain gear, rubber boots, (affectionately called “steamers“) and cold weather gear. We left London in late June in Merv`s car. The rest of the party, Joe Rule, Instrument man, Leo Kent, Bob Crow, Paul Fazio, summer student, and myself, John Hazlitt. Merv had much northern experience, as he was Party Chief on the Savant Lake project a few years prior. I had some experience with Department of Lands and Forests. The Trip North Our first stop was at the Ontario Department of Highway headquarters at Keele Street and 401, Toronto, where Merv picked up the large package of 1955 aerial photos, complete with the proposed centre line marked in pencil. Merv handed me the package, and suggested that I guard these with my life. So away we went, winding our way north on Hwy 11, eventually turning south to Hornepayne. Without asking, I now knew the job as there was NO road between Hornepayne and White River. We were ensconced in “Taylor’s” Hotel with Mrs Taylor, Hotelier. The next day things started to happen. Merv took me for a drive to a short gravel road at the edge of Town that was to be our starting point, and indicated to me that I was now the instrument man for the project. WOW!! Joe would to be camp clerk and expediter. Merv would hire the needed cutters and axemen. He already had his Cook, Emile, and Bull Cook, Paul, who had been on the Savant Lake job with Merv, on their way to Hornepayne by train. The equipment, tents, sleeping bags, tent stoves (blued tin oval with top loading and circular draft control at bottom), cook stove, cooking pots, pans and dishes and survey instruments had been shipped ahead. Leo and I were charged with retrieving all the instruments and ancillary survey equipment and then we set to checking each transit/theodolite (4) and each dumpy level (4) for accuracy. We also set the transit compass declination for the area. We did this on the road that was to be our starting point. I secured one transit and tripod and plumb bob as my own along with an axe and files. Leo did the same with one of the dumpy levels, tripod and graduated rod. This transit stayed with me for the whole of the project. Bob and Paul were charged with The north 10 kms of Highway #631. Photo credit: Google maps. Page numbers go here documenting camp tents, tent stoves, sleeping bags, and all necessary equipment for the main camps. A Findlay Oval cook stove was also ready for our cook. On the fourth day, Bob, who would be my stadia man, and I set out with transit and a few aerial photos in my kit to make our start. We went into the bush at the north end of this short gravel road and cut our way, a short distance to a large spruce tree. With short spikes to mark the point, this spruce tree became 0+00. The field notes now had their start, and away we went. Within the day we were into the bush again with Orville, the cutter. He carried a McCullough chain saw with lots of extra parts, along with fuel and oil, and Mark the axe man, always with spare axe and files. Our line was cut and cleared about 6 feet wide. Distance from turning point to turning point was calculated by stadia and as I moved with my transit, of course back sites had to be set and checked. Each setting of the transit dictated that I measure to a known spot of three trees with short spikes in each tree, document the species and diameter, and measurements at each turning point. This was so I could relocate my transit site and the turning point left in place for the next crew. I tried to keep the back site and fore site at the same distance apart for accuracy. My small advance party (5) decided to pack in a fly camp and eliminate the daily walk, as each day was longer from the Town. We packed in a large red coloured tent on Monday with enough provisions for the week. Orville was in charge of fly camp location and always picked a spot close to the line and near fresh water. As he knew the area, we had permafrost to keep our perishables. The virgin forest floor was deep with lichen and moss. We made our table and bench out of logs and cooked on an open fire and Coleman gas stove. Breakfast was always French toast and strawberry jam with bacon and boiled coffee. After clean up, we packed a bit of lunch including canned fruit and off we went to return late afternoon to cook dinner, clean up and bed down for the night. Clear air and incredibly quiet. On Saturday we would hike back into Hornepayne, do the shower bit at Taylor`s Hotel, and Sunday, provision for a hike back in Monday morning. We kept moving the fly camp along the line until the main camp was up and running and then we moved to work out of the Main Camp 1 on West Larkin Lake. Our provisions for our Fly Camp included eggs, bread, butter, bacon, coffee, tea, sugar, powdered milk ( our mix was always double the powder, made a more substantial milk) canned fruit, soups stews, pork and beans, peanut butter, steak and onions for one evening meal, potatoes, apples and oranges. Salt and pepper, flour and baking powder for bannock. We carried equal amounts of weight in our backpacks on the way into the fly camp and the “garbage” came back out on Saturday. When we came to water, we built rudimentary bridges of sorts, and at the Shekak River, Orville dropped a large black spruce tree across to act as our bridge. In the early stages, Joe, who had years of British Army experience prior to moving to Ontario, was busy getting ready to move massive amounts of gear to the first main camp by White River Air Service, Beaver float plane. The first planeload to the camp area was one cutter, Armand, and two helpers, to clear a site and build the dock for the floatplane to unload the supplies. Of course they had to go in to the West Larkin Lake water as the plane could not get too close to the trees. Within the day the log dock was built with available material, and Joe, who had moved all the camp supplies to the Hornepayne government dock, started the shuttle and added two more men to the Larkin Lake site to unload. Note the typical black spruce forest in the background – very slow line cutting through this type of forest. Typical poplar-birch stand. These stands took much longer to traverse due to the greater amount of underbrush. Page numbers go here By this time the cutter and axemen had swamped out a large area of low growth and provided a clean forest floor, left the large trees and were ready to set the tents with cookie getting two, one for his stove, provisions and living quarters and the other right next for our dining experience. The Finlay Oval Stove, a large cast iron one that I know taxed the capacity of the floatplane to lift off was moved during the early stages so Emile could work has magic in the tent kitchen. The setting of the main camp took a bit of time. Including running the aerial wire for the two-way radio. Finally all was up and running. A latrine was dug with strict attention paid to the strength of the “Johnson Bars”. My fly camp party moved to the main camp and we started the line again going north to meet were we had left off. Of interest, before we left the line we cut at right angles about 100 feet each way so as to make our reconnect easier. Being out even one degree can throw you well off. Leo was in charge of sounding the bridge sites and did so with a helper using 3/4 inch galvanized pipe in 6-foot length, and pipe wrenches to push down, adding sections as needed until firm footing was established. Leo had a prepared grid for his soundings. Leo and Joe, with a dumpy level and rod man did all the line profile work and drafted the plans accordingly In the main camp, we had very large prospector style tents with fly. The beds were canvas cots set up on logs to make in and out easier. As before when our walk became too long my advance party packed in the fly camp again and did as before. We eventually met our line. After an angle was turned and we passed the point of intersection a bit, we went back and calculated the spiral to curve to spiral and cut this through the bush. At times the predetermined line did not suit the terrain so I would request that Merv come out to my site and we hand compassed a slightly different route, and away we went again with the added field notes. Biting insects were a bit of a problem but you put up with them. Pant legs were tied tight to boots, long sleeve shirts and “Rosie” behind my hard hat protecting my neck. “Rosie” was red thin linen about 18 inches square that was used for everything from personal hygiene to ripping into strips for marking ribbon. Main camp meals were just fantastic, and included a variety of pies and muffins. You were there to eat, not to talk, and after breakfast you went to your tent, got your kit ready and then went to the dining tent, made your lunch and along with a can of fruit went off to the line. The Terrain The terrain through which we surveyed had little elevation change. The rivers were small - the Shekak River at our point of crossing was a limpid, deep pool. The landscape was approximately 70 % upland, 30 % lowland, with the upland terrain being bedrock overlain with fairly deep sandy and gravelly soils. At bridge sites, the soil was 8 to 10 feet deep. Black spruce and alder grew in the swampy, lowland areas. Typically, spruce grew 200 to 300 feet back from river crossings. On rocky outcrops with deeper sandy soils, thirty per cent of the stands were pure, even-aged jack pine and 40-50 % birch and poplar. The jack pine stands averaged 80 to 90 acres in size, and were up to 1 to 1.5 miles across. Moss and lichens were deep in the jack pine stands. In some places, the moss provided insulation to permafrost and in other areas, the moss was hanging from the trees. Tree diameters ranged from 6 to 10 inches in diameter. The trees that were cut for the line were pushed to one side and left. Three views of jack pine stands through which the crew traversed. Page numbers go here We preferred surveying through the jack pine as sight lines were longer, and it was easier to cut and traverse through. The poplar and birch stands had a lot of undergrowth and took much longer to traverse. We saw very little wildlife but did have a bear in our camp once, heard wolves at night and saw evidence of moose. Loons were plentiful, as were fish. We built a raft at West Larkin Lake and fished for pickerel. The End of the Survey In late August, Joe was already scouting ahead for a location for camp number two (Beaton Lake) and made a floatplane trip with one of the cutters to build a dock once the site had been established. This was an old burn and little to clear and a very short dock required. At the end of August our summer student was flown back from Larkin Lake camp to Hornepayne Government dock to catch the train and end up at Windsor to attend university. Merv added a few more staff from White River Early September, Joe started to move the first main camp. Packing and movement was well orchestrated with the cook’s tent, stove and provisions moved first. Other tents and equipment followed and before we knew it we had camp # 2. I bunked in with Merv, and Joe and had a drafting table built so that I could bring the plans up to date. In September, we now had more rain days and, yes, some snow that did not last long. The tents had wood stoves. The Bull Cook, Paul, was responsible for heat. He would start very early in the morning with kindling and dry wood with a patch of kerosene soaked burlap in the vent,light the match and in no time did our tent warmed to the occasion. Our tents where kept warm all day and at night, Paul would fill the stove with green wood and by midnight the heat was intense. We worked out of this camp until late Sept when Merv called a halt to the operations and started to fly out the men to Hornepayne or White River. Two of the men stayed and we started to pack up. Fold our tents as it were. Merv had scouted ahead for a suitable lake for a main camp and with cutter Orville they cleared out a place to cache all the gear and equipment for the next year continuing survey of the line by a different survey party. We took turns riding the floatplane to help unload. At last, we all boarded the floatplane for the trip to the Hornepayne dock. Back to Town We again were in Taylor’s Hotel, time to shave and shower. When you are in the bush for an extended length of time, you learn to pick up your feet as you Hike along the forest floor, stepping over logs and other forest debris. When you now walk on hard surface, you automatically pick up your feet over the cracks on the cement sidewalk. It took me a week to get back into the swing of things. Epilogue I carried with me on the project a 35 mm camera and 15 rolls of Kodachrome 25 film. As each roll was exposed, it was put in the aluminum canister and package and addressed to my home in Benmiller, Ontario. The package was put in the Friday mail pouch and given to the pilot to take to White River to be posted. When I arrived home I took the slides, put them in cassettes and found they were a complete document of the project and in incredible condition. Over the years, the cassettes, along with many others, were always stored in a dark closet. Three years ago, I was speaking with my very good friend, Doug Culbert OLS., of Goderich, and he indicated that he was Chair of the OLS Archive Committee, and commented that the survey camp I was with in 1962 was, in his opinion, the last, ever, of this magnitude for the Province of Ontario, Department of Highways. Technology had changed. Doug asked if he could have a couple of images of the camp for the OLS Archives, so I made a DVD, with the help of Jeremy Allan, Audio Specialist with the Huron County Museum. The DVD contains 75 images with voiceover of the trip north and the survey camps, a copy of which I sent to the OLS Archives. The road was built in 1967-68, opening the area to the forest and mining industries. The road provided opportunities for local companies, including the Olav Haavaldsrud Timber Company of Hornepayne, still in operation today.