Gone Cottagin'

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The Cottage.  Location, location, location. The fabulous view up Lake Loon
Alex and I on the Sled Off for a lap of the lake!
Laura D, Laura S, and Kate Alex, Megan and I
Kim and Oakley playing in the snow Donna and I
Kate is all smiles about the tubing! The SeaDoo, ready to go behind the SkiDoo
What a handsome kid... ...despite his father!

The whole concept of "Cottaging" was something that we had not come across before we arrived in Canada, but thanks to our mates Kim and Sean we were fortunate enough to be initiated into the great tradition of cottaging this weekend.

Before I begin however, here's a quick geography lesson... Many millions of years ago the great glaciers of the Ice Age rolled across the rocky landmass now known as Canada. In the process of carving their way across the land, they gouged out thousands of enormous grooves and cavities in the rock before retreating back into the ocean. Now, fast forward a few million years to today and you'll find these enormous grooves filled with pure, fresh water to form thousands of lakes, some small, some large, all surrounded by forests and dotted with... cottages. Yes, cottages.

The area to the north of "The Golden Horseshoe" of civilisation around Lake Ontario is populated with lots and lots and LOTS of lakes, many of which are surrounded by cottages - some small and rustic, some opulent and grand - and frequented by people who live down south in T'ronno, but who love to spend as much time at their cottages as possible, hence the term "cottaging".

From the time we arrived in Oakville we'd heard a lot about cottaging. It seemed that nearly everyone we met seemed to own a cottage and they all talked enthusiastically about the times they spent up in Cottage Country. In winter the lakes freeze over to become solid highways of ice and snow, with hundreds of kilometres of wooded snowmobile trails to explore. In summer, the lakes warm up for swimming and boating, and many people spend large chunks of their summer break at their cottage. We were intruiged by the whole concept of cottaging and were really keen to find out more about it.

Then, early on Saturday morning after a very late Friday night before (see previous post!), the phone rang. It was Kim, saying that her, Sean and the kids were up at their cottage in the Muskokas, the weather was perfect and would we like to come up to visit for the weekend. Of course, there is only one sensible answer to that question, so we were up and dressed as quick as we could, before hitting Highway 400 and heading north to Gravenhurst, heart of Cottage Country.

The Muskokas is one of the big cottaging areas and plays host to lots of older cottages that have been in families for generations, as well as a number of newer million-dollar cottages appearing around the more exclusive lakes. The little town of Gravenhurst seems to be experiencing something of a boom at the moment, and the locals are apparently quite keen for that growth as it will bring tourism to the area.

We met up with Sean and Kim in town and followed them along snow covered roads to their cottage by Lake Loon. The cottage is in an absolutely amazing location, right on the edge of the water with views right up the lake. Of course, the lake was completely frozen over and covered with a couple of feet of snow, so you couldn't actually tell where the edge of the lake was exactly, but the stairs out the back led to a pontoon and dock, which in summer is where the boat gets tied up. The cottage sits on a point along the lakeshore, with fabulous views in both directions, and has been recently renovated. It's a beaut spot!

After unloading the car and getting the tour of the cottage it was time to get down to the serious business of the day... snowmobiling! I've always wanted to try snowmobiling and thanks to Sean we spent the afternoon cruising up and down the lake. Man those things are fun! They are powered with 570cc two-stroke motors and they go like the clappers! We took turns riding around all afternoon with the kids. Alex got to drive one on his own, and Donna had fun taking me on a long trip to the end of the lake and back. Eventually, the kids were all snowmobiled out and had fun tobogganning down the snow covered steps of the cottage.

With Donna, Kim and the kids deciding to call it a day, Sean and I headed off to explore the trails around the lake. I had no idea where I was going but Sean knows the area well, so I just followed. We rode down trail after trail, occasionally emerging onto yet another snow covered lake, where we'd open the throttle and gun it to the other side and pick up yet another trail. These sleds are bloody fast too! On the return trip we raced each other across a wide expanse of snowy lake, hitting just over 110km/h. Sean was telling me later that there are guys who go way faster than that, but bouncing across the snow at 110k felt pretty damn fast to me! We cruised around the trails a bit longer before heading back to the cottage just before dark.
We had a great night, lovely dinner and a few beers. Probably a few too many beers in fact... Sean kept offering them, and not wanting to offend my host, I kept drinking them. I found out later he only kept offering them because I kept going through them. It's a tough life, but someone has to do it...

Sunday morning dawned to yet another perfect sunny blue sky day. We had a lazy start, eventually having breakfast around lunchtime, before heading out for more fun on the snowmobiles. This time we took the kids for rides along some homemade trails behind the cottages, scooting and darting between trees, over hills and through ditches. Good stuff! We then went back onto the lake and connected one of the sleds to a big float (that normally gets pulled around on water behind a speed boat) and spent the next hour towing the kids up and down the lake, skimming over the snowy surface. The kids had a great time... it was really great fun! Even Oakley the dog had a blast, tearing around in the snow!

We eventually wound the activities down for the day and went back to the cottage for a late snack before packing to head home. I can certainly understand the facination with cottaging now! We can't thank Sean and Kim enough for extending the invitation to join them for the weekend, we had an absolute blast, and can't wait to do it again sometime! :-)

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