Hidden McGill gems, part 2: after cooking with the Midnight Kitchen a few weeks ago and reporting about it on this blog, I want to bring up another great group on campus: the McGill Outdoors Club (MOC). As its name suggests, the Outdoors Club is an all-purpose sports/travel/adventure club which serves as a hub for outdoor activities of all kinds. What’s not to love?
And yet, having known of the MOC for two years, I had, until recently, never done anything with it. Not, mind you, for lack of opportunities: their mailing list, which I’ve been on since I’m at McGill, witnesses emails every day from people proposing trips and offering shared rides for anything from skiing at Mont Tremblant to trekking in up-state New York (or just building snowmen on McGill’s lower fields). I was even an MOC member last year, but no – no trip, no outdoors, no adventure; it was always for “next time”, when I would have fewer things on. But not this time! After one and a half years at McGill, it was time to stop “letting my degree getting into the way of my education” – the MOC’s motto, incidentally. And – *spoiler* – it was fantastic.
This year, then, I decided to spend March reading week at what insiders ominously just call “the House“. The MOC is the only club on campus to own a house, which is situated in Prévost, a small town an hour North of Montréal, close to both the Laurentians and (somewhat less idyllically) to the Autoroute 15.
When I first arrived at the House, what I saw was, quite literally, just a house, situated in a calm neighbourhood, with a Couche-Tard, a Supermarket, and a Subway all within a five-minute walk. Not exactly the “cabin in the woods” I had expected, although given the proximity of a river, an ice hockey rink, a mountain and a major hiking trail, I wasn’t going to be short on outdoor options. Moreover, as I had hoped for, the House has no internet (off the grid!). What it does have, however, are bunk beds aplenty, a big kitchen, a lovely eating area, and a huge cosy living room with couches to sink into, a chimney, two guitars, and an electronic organ that doesn’t really work. In turn, the walls are plastered with pictures from members’ trips (sandskiing, anyone?) and with stolen signs (e.g. “Do not climb here!”), and the shed stocks plenty cross-country skies and skates. Best described by something between “structurally unsound”, “chaotically energetic”, and “strikingly charming”, the House was to be my home for the week – and what a week it was.
It was, after all, a week of meeting new people, of going new places, and of trying new activities; a week of cooking, of joking, and of hiking together; and also a week of just staring at the fire, reading a book in the sun, or playing chess at night (2 wins; 1 loss). Since I was the only one staying at the House all week, I saw people coming in and out: alone or in groups, young or old, and from McGill, or indeed not. Since both the MOC and the House are open to all, I met students from UdM or Concordia, and indeed people who weren’t students at all. Together, we hacked wood, cooked food, ran after the puck, cross-country skied at night, and walked up and slid down mountains during the day. It was, easily, one of the best weeks in my time at McGill, and I highly recommend the experience! Thanks to Bimo, Olivier, Hoody, Carlyne, Patrick, Sabina, Julia, Kate, Akshey, Nate, Chris, Jordan, Katherine, Alex, Andrea, Andreas, “Petit Prince” (Pierre Luc), Gabrielle, Peter, Nabiha, Dana, and Camille for the company – hopefully it won’t again be a year and a half before my next MOC adventure!