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The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the February 15, 2012 issue. Reprinted with permission.

A weekend at Keogan Lodge

foreword by Charles Hodgson

The Cliffside Ski Club was formed by nine Ottawans in 1919 and grew quickly to 500 members by 1920. In 1923, the club built Keogan Lodge in Gatineau Park. By 1940, the club was largely inactive; Keogan was disused and in 1944 was taken over by the Federal District Commission - forerunner to the NCC. The following originally appeared in the 1931 Canadian Ski Annual under the headline "A Week-End at Keogans," its author identified only as GHB. It has been edited for length.

It is early morning, say about five a.m., and twenty below. Muffled snores, groans and complaints are to be heard simultaneously from beneath piles of blankets. How about someone putting some more wood on the fire! The die-hards are spending the week-end at Keogan's-in-theHills. One thinks of home with its warmth and comfort and wonders . . .

The Way We Were
Members of the Cliffside Ski Club pose their club in front of Keogan's Lodge in the Gatineau Park Circa 1924. Photo reprinted with the permission of the Canadian Ski Museum.

Home has its advantages, of course, but what is it compared to this? In a few hours we will be away on our trusty blades to explore and test out nature's silvery-white playground. Eight o'clock; my! We have overslept. "Hey, you fellows," someone shouts, as he withdraws his sleepy head from without the window. "Take a peek outside." A few of us arouse ourselves and answer his call. What a spectacle! It has been snowing and the weather has moderated considerably; trees and branches are heavy-laden with the new-fallen snow. The sun shines brightly down on a world in all its glory, encircling the valley in a sheen of splendour.

The day begins; steaming pots of coffee, sizzling pans of bacon and eggs are rushed about here and there to feed hungry mouths, and all stoves in the lower floor of the lodge are lighted in readiness for the daytravellers who will begin arriving from ten o'clock on.

Breakfast over, the dormitory and bunks are tidied up, blankets folded and stored away, and we are about ready for the trail.

The usual questions of which way will we go today, and what wax will we use, if any, take up another fifteen minutes.

Some go their way, others go their way, and some stay right in the valley.

For a vigorous cross-country run, in any direction, the possibilities are unlimited, but for thrills and spills, right in the valley is the place. One trail leaves a lofty summit above the lodge, whizzes you past the clubhouse, crosses a creek and deposits you gracefully up in the higher ground again. This is a tricky one for the seasoned thrill hunter. For the more modest disciple, there are easier and longer slides. Everyone to his taste.

We ski about until hunger overtakes once more, and what an appetite you do get! Back to the lodge we ski again for dinner, and also to greet the new arrivals, mostly white spectres steeped in snow, many of which have been seen from a distance, manoeuvring with various dexterous methods the difficult turns of the trails down into the valley

What an animated scene the lodge is in now! Amid hearty greetings and shouts of laughter, someone is thawing out an ar; while a few unfortunates who have taken many tumbles are hanging up clothes and mitts to dry. The mingled odours of steaks, bacon, onions, coffee, beans and hot soup tickle the appetite to the highest degree.

We eat hearty meals and begin to think of the homeward trails. Again the party splits up; some claim they are in a hurry, but are in reality only lazy, and take the short trail to Chelsea and embark on a bus for the city.

The real enthusiasts go south, and the majority take the thrills and spills down our famous Sunset Trail to Kingsmere, and from thence on to Birch Valley Lodge, situated in a valley predominated by trees from which it derives its name.

Here we meet many members who have skied up from the city, a nice run for an afternoon or morning.

We rest here for a while, talking and smoking; someone strikes up a tune on the club piano and we spend a pleasant hour before leaving on the last leg of the journey to Fairy Lake Lodge, via the Hill and Dale trail. A short rest, and away we go, to be home in time for tea and church, perhaps. Tired? Yes, but happy and brim full of the great outdoors. Oh, what a life!


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