A Trip Made in the 1980s
The NCMC crowned the year with a brawny, sprawling, irreverent 10-man trip to Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, which just might edge out Rocky Mountain National Park and the Adirondack high peak region as the members’ most-relished destination.
Trepidation among NCMCers about a lack of planning and the party’s size and backcountry experience was perhaps exacerbated by a long, rainy drive from Buffalo to Canoe Lake and the late starting time on the trip’s Thursday shove-off.
But once the armada of four canoes-packed to the gunwales with a broad array of gear and provisions-had made a portage and easily negotiated a large lake as dusk came on, the serene confidence of men at home with woods and water emerged.
Camp was struck and blue, green and red tents quickly blossomed on the pine duff. Barbecued chicken from associate Judy Wood proved delicious and the party got its first view of the starry cloud the Milky Way becomes when not competing with city lights.
A little excitement was provided by Mr. Webster, who poured white gas directly on the flames, producing a Sigg blowtorch that he proceeded to kick about, leaving a little yellow fire in the duff with each roll of the bottle.
“Bury it,” Mr. Semler finally advised with a calm, “let’s end this nonsense” tone, ending the firefighter’s ironic performance. The incident prompted some speculation that Mr. Webster may indeed be descended from our friendly neighbors of the Great White North. Perhaps he counts the McKenzie brothers among his distant relatives?
The next day brought the party to a point on a large, winding lake with varied shoreline, and camp was struck for two nights. The trip’s relaxed, non-pretentious air became apparent to all at this point, and swimming and eating became prominent concerns, with Mr. Webster’s newspaper-wrapped bowling ball of chopped beef sizzling on the fire the first night, and pasta boiling in the stainless steel cookware over reliable Sveas and Colemans the next.
The weather Friday and Saturday was brightly and briskly perfect, as was a mooseprint clearly etched in the damp ground behind the campsite.
Mr. Semler and President Conroy had an exhilarating jump from a high boulder into the lake to enliven the senses to the surroundings, which were as good as they come, especially when graced with submarining loons.
Sunday brought rain, but it was warm and all-but-welcomed by the party, which had acquired that “comfortable grunginess” of several days’ outdoor living that allows any weather to be taken in stride.
The trip for once and for all shattered the NCMC’s mythical belief that early May is the ideal time to visit Algonquin. There were fewer bugs in August, it was warmer and not unduly crowded.
In addition to Ms. Woods and the four NCMCers, President Conroy’s sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew rounded out the party, along with club associate Mary Moran of Buffalo.
All party members proved able and enthusiastic both in camp and on water, although Ms. Moran was mercilessly assigned for the duration to the bow seat in a canoe piloted (?) by Mr. Semler that went off on more tangents than a beer-soaked political argument among NCMCers.
President Conroy dourly forecast Mr. Semler’s performance silently to himself one night before the trip in Merlin’s, when, during a lengthy dialogue on canoe theory over several pitchers of Stroh’s, Mr. Semler could not even correctly predict which way a canoe would tend when paddled, say, on the left side by a lone occupant.
Gallery: Algonquin Park 1980s