Monday, October 3, 2011
Along The Trail in Algonquin Park with Ralph Bice.
I just recently started reading this book by Mr. Bice. Ralph was born and raised in Kearney, Ontario. Where he lived his entire life. His Grandfather, Father, and Uncle were all trappers in Algonquin before the park was established in 1893. At the time the idea of sanctuary for the animals of the park was hard to take by trappers, and Ralph's Grandfather was one of the first poachers arrested in Algonquin. Born in 1900, he had spent all 97 years of his life in and about the park, making the history that we know today of Algonquin. His Father was one of the first Park Rangers and took Ralph on his first trip deep into the woods to Build a Rangers Cabin when he was 12, and by 17 Ralph was being asked to guide trips for Fishermen, Hunters, and Vacationers alike.
Ralph, frequenting the park so much new some Canadian outdoors celebrities. Two Highlights were famous Group of Seven artist Tom Thomson, that Ralph confirmed had a "drinking problem." It is well known he didn't have many close friends in the park area, and although he spent so much time in the park, "didn't have many skills as a woodsman." History has us believe Tom's death might have been from foul play, but Ralph's knew that the undertakers informed the local public there were no marks on the body. As for the fishing line wrapped around Thomson's leg, "it was thought he sprained his ankle and wrapped a compress around it for protection." Mr. Bice says that many guides and tourist operators from the Algonquin area think Tom Thomson was simply drunk, fell out of his canoe and drowned.
Ralph also knew the great Archie Belaney A.K.A. Grey Owl, as he was a close friend of Ralph's brother Arthur. They fought together in the First World War and both had saved each others life on different occasions. Ralph says Grey Owl also had a problem with alcohol. Because of his moodiness he really didn't get along with people and he remembers the time when Grey Owl set off the local Minister
"Archie climbed up the nearby hill in Bisco and during the Sunday service proceeded to ring the church bell with his expert marksmanship which he was known for. We knew he was only having his own sort of fun, but it was enough for the local residents to send for the police and force Archie to take a self-imposed exile into the woods until everything cooled off!"
This book reads very much like Ralph is telling you the stories himself. The small details in his writing make you feel like you could very easily retrace some of his trips from the early 1900's. Visiting the sites he stayed and find some relics from the old camps. If you are longing for the woods, even reading 2 or 3 pages will gives the feeling your sitting around a campfire listening to these incredible stories. In the early chapters of the book he refers to Eagle Lake a lot, which was Butt Lake, and is now, in his honor Ralph Bice Lake. I got this book via E-Books, but you can still find hard copies around and I suggest you find one and add it to your collection!