Who Was Frank of Frank’s Trail?

Trail #17 winds its way between Keogan Lodge and the top of the hill above P7 at Kingsmere.

Skiers who learned the trails before the numbering system came into force refer to this trail as Frank’s Trail.

As I cast my eye over the old maps I see Frank’s Trail appearing on some, but not on others.

At first I assumed that this was because Frank’s Trail was cut more recently and perhaps I could find this Frank and get some first-hand information. But the real answer tells two interesting tales.

The Frank behind Frank’s Trail was Francis Amyot.

He died in 1962 so I’m out of luck as far as interviewing him goes.

That date for his demise also puts the lie to my assumption that Frank’s Trail was a fairly recent edition to the list of Gatineau Park ski trails.

According to the Ottawa Citizen the trail was in existence by the winter of 1936-37.

So why wasn’t it on any number of maps through the 40s and 50s?

The answer lies in the fact that most of the trail maps produced by the Federal District Commission contained information they got from the Ottawa Ski Club and Frank Amyot wasn’t a member of the Ottawa Ski Club. He was a member of the Cliffside Ski Club.

I don’t think it was spite that kept Frank’s name off the Ottawa Ski Club maps, it was more likely the fact that Cliffside trails were maintained by Cliffside members. On the one hand the Ottawa Ski Club wouldn’t want to take on extra trail maintenance and on the other hand it was only polite to let Cliffside take credit for their trails themselves.

I’d heard of the Cliffside ski club before and wondered why the Ottawa Ski Club had so much more of a presence in people’s memories.

I am guessing it might be a combination of reasons.

The Ottawa Ski Club owned and operated Camp Fortune for many decades, they had thousands of members including the much written about Night Riders and Trail Riders, their one-time president wrote two books about the club.

None of these things was true of the Cliffside Ski Club.

But they did have Frank Amyot and he was nothing to look down your nose at.

Born in 1904 he was 32 when he competed in the 1936 Olympic Games as a canoeist and won the only gold medal Canada saw that Olympics.

He was the toast of the town.

So another question popped into my head. Was Frank’s Trail named in his honour or did he actually lay out the trail himself?

According to that article in the Ottawa Citizen, Frank’s Trail was explored and opened (possibly re-opened?) by Frank himself.

This supports the expectation that an honourific naming would have given us Amyot’s Trail instead of Frank’s Trail.

Though he died almost 50 years ago and left no children his name still turns up.

One memento of his Olympic victory was an oak seedling. The 1936 Olympics were the Berlin Olympics held under Hitler’s rule. Gold Medalists were awarded an oak seedling and newspaper reports indicate that Amyot’s may have been planted in an Ottawa City park.

Carleton Professor Klaus Pohle has been trying to find it for years. It would be a tree with more than an average story behind it.

From the Ottawa Citizen, December 17, 1936:

Frank’s Trail is named after Frank Amyot, outstanding Ottawa paddler, who was the only Canadian to capture an Olympic crown at the recent Olympiad. Amyot, who has been one of the leading members of the club for many seasons, found this trail on one of his many jaunts through the Gatineau woodland, and it was through many hours hard work on his part that it was rendered as good as it is.

2 Responses to Who Was Frank of Frank’s Trail?

  1. Pingback: Trail Names Revival Campaign « Gatineau Park News

  2. During the war, Frank Amyot was the Captain of my father’s ship, Q072. Dad has all sorts of stories about him.

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