March 25, 1917 Early Spring Algonquin Park

March 25, 1917

Early Spring, Algonquin Park

Sunday morning, day of rest. But I felt rejuvenated. I didn’t need to rest today. To observe Sunday, we read a few verses from the bible and sang a hymn. Annie is the religious force in the household and Shannon knows better than to let things lapse.

After breakfast I decided to snowshoe in the hills behind Mowat Lodge. I was quite pleased with my sketch yesterday. After having a good night’s sleep and full recovery from the train ride, I decided to venture out into the hills behind Mowat Lodge.

I made my way across the chipyard. It’s a spongy mess of lumber covered covered with snow. You have to carefully pick yourself the way across. It once was a marshy inlet but after years of being the recipient of castoff lumber, it has transformed into an ugly inhospitable land mass. Thirty acres of nothing here.

It was the wind up of Gilmour Lumber company when it went bankrupt. that brought Shannon here in 1907. He and Annie (along with his daughter and mother) lived in the old Gilmour hospital and his job was to tear the place down. Annie discovered that she had the knack of running a household with boarders, and the word got around the lake that this was the place to stay. When everything was finally wound up, Annie and Shannon decided to stay and try their luck at the tourist trade. The Highland Inn, built by the Grand Trunk, was attracting tourists and so too was the Algonquin Hotel. As the tourist business grew, ‘Camp Mowat” became known as the ‘solid third choice at half the price’. I first met Shannon in 1912 on my first visit to the Park. When I returned in 1913, Shannon acquired the lease to the old mill hand kitchen and boarding house and was in the process of transition his operation to the new quarters. Over the summer I helped him to get the place in shape. By the early fall of 1913, ‘Camp Mowat’ had transformed into the more regal “Mowat Lodge”. To mark the occasion I painted the ‘MOWAT LODGE’  sign which we erected with much pomp and ceremony over the front porch staircase. For years afterwards, I always got a spooky feeling when I walked under that sign to enter into the lodge. I felt like I was going through a portal to enter another time and dimension. I attribute it to the fun I had helping them set up. 1913 was an exciting time. The Park was becoming known and the tourists were coming in from everywhere. That was before 1914, of course. This year, I didn’t get the spooky feeling going under the sigh, but strangely I got a feeling of relief and escape. Deep down I know that this year is different than the other years at the lodge. This year I’m escaping everything that I felt in the city. I’m escaping the War too.

I carried my snowshoes and sketch box across the chip yard. I walked along the spur line then went westward into the bush.  The snow was well over two feet underneath the trees. The melt and freeze had put a light crust on the top. I could walk on top with no snowshoes, but if I fell through I’d go right up to my hips. Snowshoes were the order for the day

Just before noon before I found the perfect place to sketch. The angle of the sun was perfect too. The light couldn’t be better. Annie packed me a sandwich so there was no rush to get back to the lodge. Looking behind I saw the scene. I could see could see the snow and ice-covered Canoe Lake as a sliver that broke through the spruce trees. The view of the lake was obstructed by a few mangy alders. The loggers had taken all of the pines and the second growth was coming back with a vengeance.

I got in a good sketch.

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