We have just returned from a week away in cottage country Ontario. Back in January, in the throes of mid-winter blahs and a good deal of sighs about how far off summer seemed, hubby ended up searching online for a get-away to boost our spirits.
He sure hit the mark with this one, and we’ve chalked it up as our best rented cottage (ahem, I mean house) yet.
This is the joke now in our house (ahem, I mean cottage). Our little abode earns the title “cottage” very naturally. And we’ve very much a cottage-y back yard with our fire pit, space for gardening, close to hiking trails, wildlife spotting and the list goes on. All we lack is the lake at our doorstep.
But given the opportunity to go north to a lake, and given the chance to spread ourselves out in living space a bit more–not to mention accessing the privilege of a dishwasher for a week (okay, absolutely one of the highlights for me!!)–and finding time to just sit (instead of plan and clean and and plan and clean), or go canoeing or paddle boating, or out for a latte in a cute little town, or planted firmly on a deck chair on the dock, reading to my heart’s content, was absolutely out of this world fantastic!
The older I get, the more I’m into the slow-it-down kind of vacation, where we sit and veg together on a lake. Last year’s vacation was very like this at Sauble Beach, and I worried at first whether we’d be able to fill a week just sitting on beach. We managed very easily.
We spent this vacation about 15 minutes north of Hunstville, Ontario, on Bay Lake. We were more than pleased to find the cottage so clean, so new, and so outfitted for family fun. There was a canoe, a paddle boat, a bocce court, a separate games’ room off the living room, complete with a ping-pong table, foosball table, dart board, and table to play board games at (which we switched up and used for our colouring therapy table).
The fold out couch in the games’ room served as a good bedroom for our son, and rather like his own little apartment.
The fact that we were all spread out a bit more with rooms was a huge selling feature for the week. As much as we are all endeared to one another, it was a welcome treat to find some alone space. Our eldest was ecstatic to get her own room for the week, and rather amused by the indoor window in her room that opened over top the kitchen. We kept calling her Heidi, as it seemed very much like she was in a mountain villa up there, looking very much like she would yodel at us any moment when we heard the latch going and her head popping out to say good morning.
Being on the water was definitely a favourite, and we were in earnest from the moment we arrived.
First the canoe, and then the paddle boat. The paddle boat was by far the favourite water transportation. We all agreed our legs were stronger than our upper body, so we lasted far longer in the paddle boat, and it was just plain fun to steer.
We took a driving trip to the Dorset Look-out Tower. It has been fifteen years since I’ve been to the tower, when Violet was only three. I wish I could find the pic of us in the same spot (the difference being, I’m holding Violet in my arms). And still, fifteen years later, I’m just as much a chicken to climb the tower. To pour even more salt into this, the little gift shop at the bottom of the tower had oodles of t-shirts in oodles of colours declaring, “I climbed the Dorset Tower!” Well goody for all of you who have. One thing I’m not afraid of is to let y’all know how much I’m afraid of heights. My feet will stay firmly planted on the solid ground.
We took another day to explore Arrowhead Provincial Park very nearby. We first picnicked and then walked along the trail to Stubb’s Falls. The Canadian Shield offered a lovely resting ground to observe the Falls (though I daresay a mite dangerous if you’re hiking with little ones there as the Falls may easily suck you right in if you get too close…and there’s a sign saying as much that we’re all at our own risk.)
I’ve some short video footage of the falls here if you’re interested in seeing it.
On our way back the loop hike from the Falls to the main road again, we came across this gem of a rock, painted for all passersby. What a nice little reminder for me. I must think on that rock (and open this blog page) when I do my wake and worry scenarios nightly around 3 a.m.
In the town of Huntsville there’s a great statue of one of the famous Group of Seven painters, Tom Thomson. The Group of Seven found much of their inspiration in and around the Lake of Bays in northern Ontario and Algonquin park area. Over 90 mural replicas are on display for five years in and around Huntsville to commemorate one hundred years since the artist’s birth.
And if you are ever visiting this area, be sure to stop in at the famous Kawartha Dairy for super-sized ice-cream cones. We had no idea when we ordered “smalls” that we really should have been asking for kiddie cones. Some of us couldn’t even finish the dripping mounds as good as they were.
And right down at the harbour in the centre of town, there’s this cute little Gelato and specialty coffee house. Oh my! Our chai lattes were the best I’ve ever tasted, as well as the brownie we chose to share. If I’d had room I’d have tried some gelato. That sure seemed to be the popular choice by passing patrons.
Evenings were spent playing games with some or all of the family, reading, colouring, (watching the Home Network…the highlight for hubby since we don’t have cable at home), a fire night, and for me, sometimes just standing staring out the window at that gorgeous view as the sun went down.
Our poor little kitty (you’re laughing at the “little” part, aren’t you?) took sick while on vacation with us. She’s been so well her entire life of 13 years so when she started going downhill fast, we knew a dreaded visit to the vet was in order. Cha-ching is what you can imagine. A needle, some meds, and she was back in the swing of things.
We had wanted to spot a black bear and a moose on our trip north (since there were moose crossing signs, and lots of warnings at the provincial park about what to do when you encounter a black bear.) However, the most we got to see were two deer on the road side (which is kind of funny because we actually see more than that in one week at our own house), and the neighbourhood hare who came out nightly, eating his clover conveniently close to the house, peering in at us, which seemed more of a waiting to be fed stance. I’m guessing city slickers feeding the wild life must be happening.
Oh yes, and our family of ducks. “Family of what?!” said Clancey. “Ducks!”, yelled Michael. (My favourite line from Make Way for Ducklings.) Making way for ducklings was certainly a part of our week as we watched mama duck and her three babies in tow, paddling back and forth between two properties. They, too, I suspect get fed by the cottagers, as they seemed to come awfully close, loitering around a good deal in our vicinity.
The morning our poor kitty, Peppy, was ill, my son woke me up to share the kitty mishap in his room. There are times I’m annoyed to be awoken early in the morning, but not this one. After setting the machine to wash, I stood marvelling at the beauty of the outside world that the plethora of windows allowed. It’s amazing how transformed the same scene can be, going from sunrise, to daylight hours, to sunset again. The morning was stunning. I had the urge to slip into a canoe and paddle ever so quietly around the lake, hoping to hold the pink of the sky, and calm feeling of the lake as long as possible. And so why didn’t I? I’m not quite sure. Tired eyes maybe. I’m glad I at least had the sense to creep into the yard to photograph the stillness and gift of a moment.
I determined I’d get up and canoe at sunrise the next day, fully expecting the same knock at the door around 4:30. Alas, my startle awake didn’t come, and when I woke at 6:09 that next morning, the sky just wasn’t the 5 a.m. sky I was going for, so I stayed in bed.
We couldn’t have picked a more peaceful, serene, breath-taking hide-away for our beginning of summer vacation. It came just at the right time for our family. We are ever so thankful for the opportunity to sneak away together, get into nature, and relax.
It wasn’t easy saying good-bye to our lake, and I’ll admit I even choked back tears as we headed out the driveway for home. There’s something so sentimental in me about ending vacations, knowing we’ll never do the same thing again, and even if we did, we’d never re-create just the same magical moments we’ve experienced.
But our memories will last, and these pics will help that. What a beautiful time, and beautiful place.