Now for something completely different

Russell Wangersky
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I could, I suppose, write about the collapse of the provincial NDP, and talk about that oft-repeated epic of idealistic promise descending into tedious and familiar personalities. A tale of petty hubris, told small by small people.

Russell Wangersky. — Telegram file photo

Or the Senate: I could wax ineloquent on how quickly people on all sides of the debate, when they have an end in sight, decide that ethics don’t really apply to their own means. Just like ethics don’t apply to spying on your neighbours — even spying on your friends — or using government resources to cheat in business — that NSA doesn’t stand for National Security Agency, it stands for “no scruples at all.”

But I grow tired.

So here’s a little happy story about Rattling Brook instead.

Rattling Brook is up near Springdale, and we ended up there this summer on the way to the west coast. It was an accidental visit, an overnight without reservations, at a small group of four log cabins nearly at the end of the road — Route 391 if you’re looking.

And it was a tourism story sort of unique to here. There was no one at the office when we arrived. But there was a note in the window saying that the owners were out for the evening, and that if we were looking for a cabin, cabins two and three were up. If we had pets, we should take No. 2.

There were suction-cupped hooks on the glass of the office door. The keys for cabins two and three were hanging there. “Make yourselves comfortable,” the note said. “We’ll square up in the morning.”

It’s an auspicious start in a town with an amazing feature: Rattling Brook Falls is 140 metres high (that’s 460 feet, or 46 storeys, to the metrically challenged), a spectacular spume, complete with a many-stepped lookoff platform — reaching the platform will beat the lungs right out of you.

But that’s only the beginning.

It was August and the blueberries were just starting to turn blue, and up behind the cabins was the other tourism season of the area — a snowmobile trail that ran lengthwise back behind a series of homes, complete with signage, and in one spot, an old fire department rescue van, the shape of the van in that old television series “S.W.A.T.”, if you can remember that far back.

And kicking off that snowmobile trail was a narrow little path with a single trail sign, the trail little more than a faded footpath, headed mostly in the compass direction of “up.”

It starts narrow and it’s not used that much: at first it’s straight up next to a long fan of fallen cliff, and then, for a small respite, it zags to the left along a wet dell, spruce giving way to birches kicking up around you so that you can see the piles and piles of fresh moose dung.

It lives and breathes moose in there.

It’s a heavy damp, marked with an otherworldly collection of different kinds of fungus: heavy, familiar ochre-topped and white-shafted mushrooms, the slender and almost translucent arcs we used to call Indian pipes, and fat, ruffled tree fungus jutting out like lipped mouths from older dead tree trunks.

You’re breathing harder, and after only a small downwards step or two of relief towards a small brook, it’s back to the straight up again. So straight up that, when you knock a rock loose on the trail, you can stand and watch for quite a while as it bounces downhill and eventually out of sight.

There are several fallen trees across the path, ready to send you the wrong way: some are for ducking under, others for clambering over. Each makes you feel like you might be the first visitor in a very long time.

It is the kind of path that is like watching for birds — you don’t so much see it, as you let your eyes go broad and soft and sort of sense the line of it. There are four signs in total all the way up, spread evenly apart. Each one is a relief, in that it lets you know you’re not lost. At least, not yet.

The last one actually tells you in so many words that you’re almost there; you’re not, but the intentions are good.

Shortly after the last sign, you pop your way out above the trees into lichen, kalmia, little shrub relatives of rhododendrons and jagged rock spurs. The path is simply where everything else isn’t, a little brown trail that could be the result of too-regular or wandering moose.

By then, you’re more than 140 metres above the bay and you’ve done all of that climb over about two kilometres of distance.

Easy, it isn’t.

Amazing, it is.

You can stand and watch the waterfall start, kicking out over the cliffside.

You could climb down into

the brown-water and red-rocked punchbowl just above the falls, the water deep there, and listen to the great throaty roar.

Up on the great bald pate of the rock above the falls, you can stand and see for miles out across Green Bay, at the chop of the bay flattened by the sheer height, or else you can turn your back on that magnificent view and look at the flat expanse of Rattling Brook vanishing back up into the woods in the kind of sandy-coloured-rock jumble that marks so many rivers in this province.

After a while, your breathing eases back to normal.

Sweat between your shoulder blades, sun on your neck, the burning welcome flex of muscles well used.

These are the reasons we put up with all that other stuff.

Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s

editorial page editor. He can be reached

 by email at

Organizations: National Security Agency

Geographic location: Rattling Brook, Springdale, Green Bay

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Recent comments

  • Colin Burke
    November 04, 2013 - 09:26

    Anyone can comment on politics. I takes someone like Russell to do this sort of thing and get it right, and there aren't as many of these.

  • Ben
    November 03, 2013 - 12:57

    Gee nice to see Wangersky get a conscience...if this were the PC's i doubt he would have the same thoughts. Petty sad writing!! Wow can the Telegram get any more partisan?

    • Redgrave
      November 03, 2013 - 18:28

      Russell justifiably doesn't write to please you, me, or anyone else but himself. This is exactly the way it should be. He has one conscience to answer to, that being his own. We can save the mundane neutrality for government publications, and political speeches. Meanwhile , at least we know there's a real person behind that "petty" and most refreshing writing.

  • JJ
    November 03, 2013 - 06:46

    If the recent self political party train wreck involved the PC's and Dunderdale, instead of the NDP Michael, I really doubt Wangersky would have written a piece on Rattling Brook this week. Once again Wangersky's political bias shines through.

    • Cathy
      November 03, 2013 - 14:02

      I don't agree with JJ. I'm tired of the NDP crisis, the Senate scandal and the Mayor Ford hype out of Toronto. Never, but never does Russell Wangersky waste a second of time or space with his inspiring writing. For just a few minutes I was right there, walking the same path, smelling the same dank environment and enjoying that vista. Thanks to this editorial I just experienced my own brief holiday in Rattling Brook.

  • Redgrave
    November 02, 2013 - 19:13

    Something completely different in any context , is nothing more complicated than truth--and where better to see it other than in nature, where truth is the order of every living thing. Something very different for people who don't know it exists. Everyone needs a break now and then.