Adventures in Trespassing – Part Two
February 13, 2014
Note to self: if you want to have a more successful spontaneous exploration, plan ahead.
It’s one of the snowiest winters on record, I’ve just gotten my camera back from the repair shop, and with some errands north of the city yesterday, it seemed the perfect time to do some winter landscape shooting. I can’t count the number of times beautiful scenery has whizzed past the window when I haven’t had time to stop (or couldn’t figure out how to exit/park/not get killed on a highway).
But the fates were having none of it. I shot some wintry suburban streets at the start of my trek (stock photo want lists ingrained in my head), but outside the city all the side roads I chose through Newmarket and Aurora seemed to lead to more cookie-cutter construction. And dead cornstalks, lots of dead cornstalks. There were no happy accidents to be had.
Feeling a bit dejected, I stopped by my parents’ house for the cure-all cup of tea, and they suggested I head over to a nearby farm with an old-fashioned skating rink. I vaguely recalled a family trip there twenty years ago, but didn’t really know what we’d find when my mom and I pulled up to the locked gate.
And there began my happy accident.
Being a Wednesday, the rink was not open and the access gate was chained shut. I turned around after photographing the sign to find my mother had already shimmied through the fence, and was hoofing it through the snow. This apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
It’s a short walk across a large parking lot with firmly packed snow, then down a hill and through the woods (to grandmother’s house we go…). Like Mom said, you pretty much have to know about this place to find it.
Passing under this archway is like taking a step back in time. The path leads down a hill, past a hand-painted sign reminiscent of summer camp. The smell of cedars and wood smoke that fills the air would likely have been the same nearly 90 years ago when the rink opened.
We found a truck parked in front of the clubhouse, and I could hear the rumble of a large engine in the near distance. Despite these signs that someone was there, and another sign literally saying “Keep Out!”, my mom pressed on to the rink where a small door stood open.
Inside, we could see a man driving a Zamboni around the ice, and clearly he could see us. I felt nervous that we were about to be hollered at, but Mom walked right in and started waving to him. He made his way across the ice, and Mom called out, “We’re just reliving some old memories.” He replied with a wink, “Do you need a tissue?”
This was Gary Mount, the rink manager, who couldn’t have been nicer to us. We chatted a bit about the history of the rink and how this season was going (lots of snow to clear, but overall a success), and he invited us to go inside and take a look around if we wished. What incredibly lucky timing to arrive on the day after a skating night, and to catch Gary there clearing the ice. A different day, and everything would have been locked up tight.
We made our way to the end of the enormous rink, which can hold 400 people on a Sunday afternoon. White Christmas lights trim the clubhouse exterior, and enhance the old-fashioned feel.
Inside, a wood stove burns for warmth, and some original wooden benches – upon which several generations of families have sat – could likely tell some interesting stories. Old photographs and newspaper clippings line the walls, and there is a refreshment window at one end serving nothing stronger than a cup of hot chocolate.
It’s a beautiful spot, and I found myself wishing it weren’t so many years since I’d laced up a pair of skates.
My original idea of exploring farmland up north didn’t pan out as expected, but somehow I still ended the day on a farm. I met a nice person, saw an interesting place, and got to spend some quality time with my mom. An afternoon well spent.