Away Up North in Ontario: Our September 2013 Trip to Dorset and Algonquin

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September 27, 2013 by Doug Webster

As we had hoped earlier this year, Jim “Bogie” Boguslowski, Larry Rublee and I, were able to make a fall trip to Dorset and Algonquin Park, in part to explore possible locations and a program for a 2014 Otter Alumni Reunion.

Larry and I drove to Buffalo Wed., Sept. 11th and stayed overnight with Bogie and his “patient” wife Serena.  Then the next morning, we loaded Bogie’s extended cab pick up truck with our gear, including tents, a stove and Coleman lantern, sleeping bags, food and odds and ends for a week-long adventure.

After maneuvering our way around the busy traffic in the Toronto area, we arrived in Dorset mid-afternoon.  First, we visited the Dorset Heritage Museum to see if we could find a campground in town, but were advised that there wasn’t much available.  However, Museum docent Janeen B. promptly told us, “You can camp out in my yard if you want.”  After considering our options, we decided to take her up on her offer.

First though, we had to make a visit to Robinson’s General Store.

Doug, Larry, Bogie

Doug Webster, Larry Rublee and Jim Boguslowski

Yes folks….it is still there….it’s been part of Dorset since 1921.  And other than being bigger than before to better serve the expanded Canadian cottage market, it still has the old flavor of tourist knicknacks, candies, clothing (Larry even got a pair of pajama bottoms), soda and ice cream.

Unfortunately, their competitor, Clayton’s Store, is now out of business, with the space taken over by a sort of collectibles shop and the Dorset Hotel across the way now occupied by a restaurant (Trader Bay).

We browsed the store, walked around town and had dinner at the restaurant before heading out to Janeen’s to set up our tent in the dark and then enjoy a good night of sleep.

Friday morning, we were up and away for breakfast in Dorset with Wilma Jean (Crewson) Nickason.  Wilma Jean is a granddaughter of Bill Crewson.  Her mother Olga was one of four children of Bill and Jessie.  She lives in suburban Toronto but was in Dorset for the weekend to visit relatives and we were able to get together, share family history and Otter memories and talk about a possible reunion.  (We also met with her Saturday morning for more talk.)

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Norm MacKay, Larry Rublee, Jim Boguslowski and Wilma Jean (Crewson) Nickason.

Next it was off to the Heritage Museum once again, this time to meet with Norm MacKay, one of the Museum’s directors.  We talked with him about the possibilities of a gathering of Dorset residents and friends of the Museum and Otter alumni during a reunion weekend.

We also had time to view the Museum’s exhibits, including one dedicated to Camp Otter and including signed paddles, pennants and banners, photos and other camp memorabilia.  Contributions by Otter alums to the museum, both financial and material, have helped the exhibit grow, but there are still some things, like the sign from the main gate, which need further space for display.

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Before getting lunch, we had to make time for Bogie to take his annual swim in Dorset waters, despite the fact that it was cold and drizzling.  Off he went while Larry documented the plunge.

crazy Bogie bathing

Polar Bear? Narwhal? Nope…Bogie taking his annual Dorset Fall Plunge.

After getting lunch, we headed out to Otter Lake to do some exploring.  The old camp property is now all subdivided into vacation cottage lots and access is gained via a gravel road from the main Otter Lake Road back in behind the camp site.  With all of the trees which have now taken over many of the cottage sites, it took us a bit of exploration to finally orient ourselves, but we did find a few surviving buildings and landmarks:

totem pole

The Otter Totem pole…..preserved and lashed to a tree on a cottage owner’s property.

ice house

The Ice House which Bill Crewson filled each winter with ice cut from the lake and preserved in thick layers of sawdust.

Lodge site

All that is left of the Main Lodge…..the inside view of the fireplace and the chimney.

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Doug, Bogie and Larry at the Lodge chimney

Rogers-Clarke cottage

The Rogers-Clarke cabin, Timberwolf Lodge

craft cabin

The Craft Cabin….moved in from deeper in the woods around 1960, but now deteriorating as the woods surround it again.

It was bittersweet to walk the grounds and call up so many memories.  Assuming the 2014 reunion does become reality, we are hoping to arrange an afternoon with members of the Lake Cottage Owners Association at a location somewhere along this stretch of the lake shore with these relics of the camp.

Next it was time to connect with Larry Cassie, whose cottage is located at the far end of the lake past Rocky Island.  We drove in off Route 35 via Tock Lake Road and found him in after a long drive the night before from Ottawa where he and his wife live.  Larry generously allowed Larry Rublee and I to borrow a canoe and the two of us paddled back up the lake to the camp once again, cruising along the shore and along Sandy Beach and Rocky Point and then back to our starting point.  Larry generously provided dinner (he admitted his wife had prepared much of it so he wouldn’t have to do a lot of cooking) and we chatted about possibilities for an Association gathering as part of the reunion next year.

After dinner, we headed back to our tent south of Dorset for another good night of sleeping under clear skies and bright stars.  Saturday morning, we got up, bade farewell to our new friend Janeen, and then went into Dorset for breakfast again with Wilma Jean.

With the Dorset portion of our trip completed, it was now north and east to Algonquin and the public campgrounds at Rock Lake inside the park…one of a few camping sites still open after Labor Day.  However, it was a beautiful weekend and there quite a few families and individuals camping with tents and trailers.  We set up Bogie’s big umbrella tent (a legacy from his late and very close friend Jim “Moose” Ewart), set up our cots and sleeping bags and had dinner.

We stayed at Rock Lake from Saturday until Wednesday morning and spent the time relaxing, hiking and exploring.  We had one day and night of pretty steady rain and suffered a wet tent floor when we discovered that part of a plastic ground cloth had been extended out from underneath and was catching runoff and feeding it under the tent.  However, the cots kept things dry and with a sunny day the next day we were able to dry out anything that had gotten wet or damp.

Larry and I took an afternoon hike of about 3.5-4 miles to Booth Rock along the southeastern shore of Rock Lake…..a high cliff with great overlooks of the lake and surrounding hills.  Fall colors were just starting to tinge the tops of the trees.  If we had come a week later or stayed, no doubt it would really have turned, given the chilly night temperatures (below freezing one night.)

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Booth Rock overlook of Rock Lake…we camped on the point on the right side of the picture.

One of the chilly nights (punctuated by repeated loon calls at all hours…hauntingly beautiful as always) featured rising mist on the lake and a full moon.  I took my camera out for a time exposure:

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And the beauty of Algonquin revealed itself one final time as we headed southward Wednesday morning for Buffalo…..this panorama of an island on Lake of Two Rivers with the morning fog burning off:

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I can’t wait to get back for a trip into the interior once more.

Reunion….2014…..be there and share the memories and the fun…..

2 thoughts on “Away Up North in Ontario: Our September 2013 Trip to Dorset and Algonquin

  1. Henry Tupper says:

    We moved to Dorset in 1950 just before I was 5. Lived there till mar. 57 going to Bracebridge. Enjoyed summer and winter there as a kid. Henry

  2. marfaffa says:

    Love hearing your adventures and seeing great pictures. A lot like telling story of canoe trips of old. Sweet to see the ice house. Sad to see main chimney. How could they? Cut bat down???? I hope there is a great campy place with cots maybe where exam stay. 2014. Reunion! Yes! Good work guys. Thanks much. X martha tiddle. Omg.

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