Muskoka Magic

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About two hours north of Toronto is the beautiful Muskoka Lake region, part of Ontario’s amazing lake system. There is a huge tract of land to the north of Barrie which has literally thousands and thousands of small and not-so-small lakes scattered across it. Some lakes are quite small - less than a square kilometre - and others, like Lake Muskoka or Lake Simcoe, are huge. In fact, the Muskoka Lakes district alone covers some 2500 square miles of lakelands, from Georgian Bay in the west to Algonquin Provincial Park in the east. The lake areas are famous for their pure air and fresh water, and are surrounded by picture-perfect forests of pine, birch and maple. In winter the region gets covered in snow, the lakes freeze over and it becomes an amazing winter wonderland. In spring and summer the trees turn green, the water warms up and it turns into the ultimate aquatic playground.

The fact that the place is only a couple of hours away from Toronto has made it a favoured place to get away for a weekend, and a highly sought after area for cottages. In fact, Muskoka is generally regarded as the heart of Canada’s “cottage country”, with many cottages dotting the foreshores of just about every lake in the area. In the 1800s, a lot of wealthy old-money families from the US came to the Muskoka district to build summer homes on the lakeshores - they refer to them as cottages, but in reality they are more like mansions. Today the lakes - and islands - are fringed in all manner of residences, from large stately mansions to modest but comfortable holiday homes. As you may have read in a previous post, Sean and Kim invited us up to Sean’s family’s cottage on Loon Lake for some winter fun back in March. This weekend (which happens to be a long weekend here in Canada), we were invited up to Kim’s family’s cottage on Lake Muskoka. Kim’s mum and dad, Carol and Clint, spend their entire summer at their cottage, which is actually located on Firebrand Island, an easy 5 minute boat ride from the mainland.

We left Oakville on Saturday morning, expecting the worst with the traffic since it was a long weekend. Surprisingly, the traffic was good and we had a dream run all the way up the 400 and onto Highway 11 to Gravenhurst. We had to stop at a phone booth and call Kim to give them time to come over and pick us up in the boat, but soon we were motoring away from the landing and on our way to Firebrand Island.

What an amazing place! Carol and Clint’s cottage is situated on the top of a rocky outcrop on the island, surrounded by tall trees, with a stunning view all the way up the lake. They bought the land and built the cottage themselves over 20 years ago, but have recently added a bunkhouse, or “bunky” - a separate building for guests to stay. The bunky was not yet completed, and one of our tasks for the weekend was to try and get some of the odd jobs done to make it livable so that we could christen it that weekend. Sean bought up some furniture which we assembled and installed, while Donna, Kim and Carol added a woman’s touch to the place with the decorating and furnishing. There were also a few small (and not so small) plumbing jobs that needed doing, which Sean cleverly turned his hand to and fixed. We felt really welcomed there and had an absolutely fabulous weekend. It was very nice of the Smiths to invite us up there, and even nicer of Clint and Carol to have us come stay. We’re very lucky.

We spent a lot of Saturday just putzing about, looking around the place and enjoying the stress-free feeling of living on an island. As they say, “How’s the serenity, eh?”

I can certainly see why the Muskoka region is such a popular place. It’s a very beautiful area, and although we didn’t get the ideal weather over the course of the weekend, we still had a wonderful time. The clouds cleared on Saturday evening and I took a few photos at dusk - my favourite time for photography. We also took advantage of the clear night to let off a few fireworks down on the dock. Monday night is the more traditional time to do the long weekend fireworks thing, but since we weren’t sure what the weather was doing we decided to make the most of the clear night. Sunday was a lazy start and a big brekky, before heading into Gravenhurst for a bit of shopping and picking up some supplies. Monday was even lazier, but around our hectic plumbing schedule we managed to fit in a short boat ride out to Millionaire’s Row to see the old money area of Muskoka.

After a fun and relaxing weekend, we eventually had to say our goodbyes to Carol, Clint and Yvette (Carol’s mum) and took the boat back to the mainland where we packed the cars and headed for home. It was another dream run down the 400 - amazing for a holiday weekend - and even with a quick stop for a pizza in Barrie, we were home in just over 2 hours.

Thanks again to Kim and Sean for another memorable weekend, and especially to Carol and Clint for being such wonderful, generous hosts. We truly had a ball!

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