The dusty road continues….
In case you missed it, part one is HERE.
I’ll post my best map again for reference (and because my mom loves maps):
I became very hopeful when I saw a sign welcoming me to Auden, though it appeared to be about 10 miles too early. I knew that I just needed to keep heading north and that I would run into railroad tracks eventually. Then I would know my location for sure.
My calculating was close and I reached the actual town of Auden around 10 miles later. My gas tank was still about 2/3 full. I had enough fuel to explore a bit. Auden mostly featured trailers and old shacks, most of which appeared to be abandoned. However, once I arrived at the railroad tracks, there was a decent amount of civilization. The CN Railroad still has an outpost here consisting of a couple machine sheds, a headquarters-looking building, and a handful of newer looking cookie-cutter residences. To my joy, I also saw two huge tanks, one of diesel and one of gasoline…..now I just need to find somebody.
I went over to the building that looked like the headquarters. There was no doorbell or anything, so I opened it slowly while knocking and saying “hello.” I caught the eye of someone in what looked like the kitchen area. Wow! A real live human! I waited in the doorway for him to come to me, trying to obey the now visible sign reading “CN employees only.”
He was younger than me, probably mid-20s. I started telling him what I was doing, hoping to get some direction on the location of Ombabika and possibly a gallon of gas.
He was having none of it.
I wouldn’t say he was rude, but I don’t think I received an answer longer than three words. It was not shyness, as he looked me right in the eye as he delivered his terse responses. The only information I got was that he knew the song, Ombabika was “west” and that I was not getting gas.
I shouldn’t be upset. I’m nobody special. And who knows what was going on in his day or what the company’s policies are about strangers. I think I was more surprised than anything. I’ve found, in general, that the more remote the location the more people are likely to help. I guess this is the counterpoint. No worries! I guess I’ll find Ombabika myself.
I had a few different options for heading West. The first one was a dead end at a couple of trailers. The second one I tried went a little bit and then crossed a river. Without a doubt this was the Ombabika River.
At least I had located that in case I couldn’t find the town. Right after the little bridge, the road split.
I opted for the more traveled path (Sorry, Robert Frost). Surely lots of people go to Ombabika, right? The road seemed like it would not end. Over each hill and around each bend I longed to see the remnants of my lost city. There were some really tough patches. I probably topped out at about 10mph on this road.
Finally, it dead ended. I was disappointed, but knew I still had one more avenue to explore. This detour was only about 6 miles, but it took over an hour of my time. I returned to my fork in the road and took the path leading to the right. This was my last hope. There were no other paths that headed west from Auden.
Is this the road to Ombabika? A car bumper hanging off of a tree caught my attention.
Once again, the road ended. This time into water. There were a couple of rickety foot bridges though.
I think my handlebars were too wide for that second one, so I did not consider trying to take Annie over them. I would have to continue on foot. I didn’t think there was too far to go. I was heading north and knew that I would bump into the rail road tracks before too long.
There were some old piles of rubbish which didn’t appear to have been touched since the 60s. Someone had been here at some point.
I reached the tracks without finding a settlement and decided to walk east. I felt like I had gone a decent amount to the west and thought backtracking towards Auden would be the best bet. There was another path through the trees but that only connected me back to the path that I took to the tracks.
There had been trains along fairly regularly so I did not want to spend much time on the tracks. I was not eager to have another interaction with a CN employee. I hiked back to Annie to regroup.
What had I found? No town, no cemetary, not even a sign. I had found a river and some trash. I still needed a picture and I still needed to have an Ombabika experience.
Hmmm…well maybe I should get it the water? No you don’t want to get your stuff wet…..but you want to experience it.. How then?
The logical centers of my brain offered only one solution: Skinny dipping.
I think this is the first time in my life that my brain has offered au naturel aquatics as the most pragmatic solution. I found a spot that looked like it would work. The only challenge now was getting the shot. My phone has a 10 second timer which is usually plenty of time for me to get into position. I put up my tripod, stripped down, hit the button and ran towards the water. My first attempt almost ended with me losing my footing and sliding out of control.
The next one came out better.
Thanks for the censorship, Sonic.
It really pained me to turn around and head back down without having found the town or the cemetery. In hindsight, perhaps I should have hiked further west on the train tracks…..Next trip!
I was not enjoying my ride. I had somehow gotten pretty dehydrated and the road was beginning to wear on me. My back was really sore. I came to what I thought was the road that could take me out to Ombabika Bay. I sat there for a bit and considered my next move. I felt OK about my fuel level, but if I had a navigational error I could easily run dry. That, coupled with my physical condition made me decide to keep heading back towards civilization.
I was overjoyed to see pavement again. I made it back to Beardmore and pulled right into Melansen’s, hoping to get some gas. It was 5:02 and they closed at 5. I think I probably would have made it back to Nipigon (about 40 miles) but decided not to risk it. I searched around for a place to fill my water bottle.
The only place open was the LCBO (Ontario liquor store). I wasn’t looking for that kind of a drink, but went in anyway. I bought a small beverage and asked the clerk, Joy, if there was a place to fill up my water bottle. She walked me back to the water cooler and let me fill up. While doing so, I told her about my trip.
“Oh yeah, I know it: I’ve been to Reno, Chicago, Fargo……”
She rattled off the first two lines with no effort whatsoever. I wonder how long she could have kept going? She said that she has ample time to listen to music on her commute and she enjoys Johnny Cash. Joy currently holds the trip record for number of places sung correctly. 🙂 She was a real nice lady.
I told her that I was basically stuck there for the evening and she recommended that I put up my tent behind the city auditorium on the east side of town. I took her advice and set up. It was less scenic than the previous night, but also infinitely cheaper. 🙂
I was tired, but I still had some work to do.
It took me a long time to get rehydrated. Though I had met some really nice people in Beardmore, I decided to check Ombabika off myself. Maybe I could have done it better, but I exerted a lot of effort on this singular place.
Friday, July 28
I slept in until 7:30, knowing that gas wouldn’t be available until 9. I needed the sleep. I packed up and headed over to Melansen’s. I was so glad to see my friend, Kevin, behind the counter. After I filled up we chatted for about 10 minutes about my Ombabika experience and a variety of other things. He is a really super guy.
He seemed a little disappointed (for me, not with me…if that makes sense) that I did not get out to see the bay. The road I was debating taking would have been the correct one and it wouldn’t have been too many more miles…..Next trip!
I hope I thoroughly expressed my thanks to him. It would have been a much rougher trip without his help. My parting words were checking my pronunciation one last time.
Me: “Ombabika. Well, I’m getting there…”
Kevin: “No, you’ve been there!”
I absolutely cannot imagine a nicer thing for him to say. 🙂
Some have asked me what my plans are following this trip. I’ve had to give the honest answer that I have no clue. The events of this day have caused me to desire a couple of things: First, that I have a boss again. Second, that during my employment we have a major disagreement. Reason being, I now have the perfect phrase to use when confronted with workplace conflict:
“You can’t tell me what to do! I’ve skinny-dipped in the Ombabika River!”
26 thoughts on “Ombabika Obstacles, Part 2”
That was an amazing story chief! It’s fun to follow along with you! You kept me in suspense the whole time! Stay safe and have fun! Swedish Squirrel
Yeah, I kind of wish there would have been a better ending. Glad you were entertained, buddy.
I was a ‘forest ranger’ based in Ombabika in 1947 (aged 17). There was a little grocery store and a small village. My job was to go to the watch tower a couple miles down the tracks, climb the 60ft ladder to the platform and look around for smoke through the telescope. If I saw smoke go back to the ranger station on the edge of the lake at Ombabika. I am afraid of heights and never once climbed that tower.
You should have walked down the tracks from Auden. EVERYBODY from Ombabika walked up to Auden every evening to see if the train stopped to pick-up or let off passengers or freight for the Hudson’s Bay store there.
There were a couple of canoes in the boathouse that I could use and some canvas firehose that I was supposed to check, and a short-wave radio to communicate with the Ranger Station in Armstrong. The only way into Auden or Ombabika was by rail. The Rangers brought me in from Armstrong and took me back by ‘rail scooter’.
I made friends with a half dozen Indians (I think they were Ojibwe) and held weekly poker games in the Ranger station.
It was a great adventure for a seventeen year old. But I was fired (the only time in my 90 years) for doing nothing related to fire watch.
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Oh this post cracks me up! I was waaaayyy too easy on you in Marne, MI.
Maybe you see why I wanted to take it easy, huh? I enjoyed recovering at your place!
Oh my gosh I died laughing on this one! How many pictures did it take for you to get Sonic censored in the right position? Happy trails to you! Your post makes us laugh sometimes make us scared but we always pray!!!!
Just two actually. When things are meant to be, they just have a way of working out. 🙂
Boss: “You see, Brett, we’re using a new cover sheet on the TPS reports. .”
Brett: “You can’t tell me what to do! I’ve skinny-dipped in the Ombabika River!”
Boss: (sigh) “I don’t know why you have to bring that up every time….”
Brett: (crazy eyes) “I HAVE SEEN THINGS YOU PEOPLE WOULD NOT BELIEVE! CAR BUMPERS IN TREES! WOOD CHIPPERS! THIRTY FIVE DOLLAR CAMP SITES!”
This is going to be the opening scene to my new prime time sitcom. You’re hired as my screenwriter!
Haha, well, ya did what ya could 🙂 So good to talk to you today!
Almost makes me wish I had a boss….Maybe “You can’t tell me what to do I only listen to the Voices in my head” Tears of laughter on this one. Your writing is pure (almost) genius…Like your mom! Dad
That’s a good one too. Maybe I will hire you as a pun consultant when I get famous. You can use that line on me!
you were almost there just another ten minutes up the trail past the tracks you would of hit the Ombabika Cemetary . I found it on my own pilgramage following a 40 year old rumor of old cars in Auden . We should of went there 40 years ago when we first heard it . The history of Ombabika is interesting ,goes back a long way
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Wow! Someone who has been to Ombabika! I would love to hear more about your trek there. Are you saying that the town is North of the tracks? It appeared to me that the tracks were where the road ended. All of my searches occurred on the south side. Maybe I’ll just have to go back!
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There was no town of Ombabika that i found either, we did find the old cemetery so im assuming the town was in that area too, we only found old cars and junk no home or building foundations. we wondered around in the woods found other paths but it didnt lead us to anything
Awesome! We laughed all the way through, cheering you on every step. Great ride!
I am the painter of the rocks in Auden!!! My son Henry, just joined you on your Ombabika, attempt 2. He couldn’t wait to tell me about your journey and used the CN wifi to send me a link to your blog. Never did I ever notice that Ombabika was a place in the song. And I totally laughed to hear the way you first pronounced it lol.
It was nice to meet you, even though it was brief. I have your email so we’ll be in touch!
Amazing story! Now I need to revisit the song and lyrics.
I stumbled upon your adventure on a search of my own. My mother was raised for a time at Ombabika, was baptized there. I took to heart her memories of the beautiful spot from her childhood. My mother passed away in my arms just over two years ago. I have some of her ashes and want to return her to the place she enjoyed as a child, however reading of your difficult journey makes me doubt my ability to set her free to blow on the winds of Ombabika…
Oh wow. I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your mother. I lost my dad about a year ago and it has been hard.
I would be happy to do anything I can to assist you in being able to make the journey to Ombabika. I went back a second time (which I’ll write about soon) and I met some wonderful people there. I can almost guarantee that there are people up there who would be willing to assist you.
Please contact me with the “Contact” button on the top of the page and I’ll see what I can do.
My father emigrated from Scotland in the 1920’s to run a Hudson Bay Post. He married my mother who was a Red Cross nurse in Nakina. They lived in Ombabica and looked after my 3 year old cousin for a couple of years. I have photos of my Dad and cousin swimming in the river.
I spent a summer north of Thunder Bay in the early 90s, working with a geologist. We stayed at a camp in Jellicoe. I remember seeing a sign which read something like “Access to Auden not Guaranteed”. I always wondered what was up with Auden…..Thank you for posting this, it gives me some closure! 🙂
I used to run a grader from what was Abitibi camp 40 to Auden both summer and winter in the mid 70’s. Auden was a fairly active community in those days as most male members worked in the woodlands industry out of Camp 40. I worked for the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry was responsible for maintenance on that 26 miles of road. I can still vividly remember the winter nights I left Camp 40 to plow the road up and back. Usually a 10-12 hour trip in temperature that went as cold as -40F. In the summer it was dust, black flies and mosquitoes. I did the winter trip at night so people in Auden could get to work at Camp 40 in the morning. From the pics on your post the road has not been maintained or minimally maintained for many years. Suffice to say I have to visit Auden. Love your post brings back memories, the people of Auden always appreciated seeing the grader arrive it meant they could get out. If my memory is correct Ombabika was on the north side of the track and at most 3 to 4 miles west of Auden.