[If you click into any photo to enlarge it, you can then page through all of them as an album!]
June 30 Arriving at Whisperwood late afternoon on Saturday – first impressions: green, cool, black-mirror water studded with clouds, air loud with birdsong (so many voices I don’t recognize) and, as evening falls, the acapella twang and gurgle of frogs. Peace does not imply an absence of sound!
July 1 (Canada Day!) Needless to say the dawn chorus is awesome, but, this first morning, we are late risers. Legs dangling from the dock, soaking up the stillness over coffee and cinnamon buns, the peace is punctuated by a yelp of surprise from Paul as a rather large turtle nibbled his toe. Later, we narrowly missed a cottage incursion by chipmunk, even though all our screen doors were closed.
Happy birthday Canada! Canadian bacon in a bun, Kawartha ice cream and free birthday cake (two kinds!) served by sumptuously sequined ladies (not sure what this tradition signifies, but a little like the Cockney ‘Pearly Queens’) on the town-dock in Parry Sound. Then, under an all but full moon, ‘Christmas in July’, a procession of jewel-lit boats (headed by the Police launch) though the thronged harbour – the warm-up act for the ubiquitous but still impressive fireworks. Parry Sound has a population of 6,500; how is it that even these small towns put on such a spectacular show, filling the summer night with stars and magic?
July 2 Truly a day on which to enjoy the luxury of doing nothing and then resting afterwards. A pre-brunch swim in the silken water of the dock; hammock-time and a good book, with the delicious distraction of those bird-voices, singers tantalizingly close yet so hard to see. We are now on good terms with our chipmunk (though we have learned to shut the door), handing over peanuts on demand. The ability to carry three shells-ful of peanuts in the pouches of one small mouth is awesome.
July 3 Slob-out day (and itching)! I really could do without being irresistible to biting insects!
July 4 So much water; swimming, kayaks, canoes, docks and a gently sloping sandy bay – and wonderful wildlife. Nosing the canoe into the muskeg to stalk darting dragonflies (deep red, blue and turquoise); another turtle passing by; easing towards a frog-prince, enthroned on his lily pad; then graced by the majestic stillness of a blue heron until our presence prompted him to rise, soaring over the lake and above the trees; and, finally, an otter breaking the surface to leap with a fish, disappearing to emerge somewhere completely different, playing hide and seek with us!
Evening brought the arrival of friends Steve and Paul K, and the joy of good food, good wine and good company!
July 5 A day to share the peace and pleasures of this place. Sightings of Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, Wild Turkey and deer were a bonus (though we were quite pleased not to have a close encounter with the mother bear with two cubs with whom we share these woods). Having thought about it, though, Paul K did decide he would quite like to see a bear.
July 6 Where better to spend a scorchingly hot summer’s day than on the waters of Georgian Bay? The M.V. Chippewa III, formerly one of the Maid of the Mist boats at Niagara Falls, took us out through the swing-bridge at Parry Sound into the labyrinthine channels of the 30,000 islands towards the perfect island lunch of Pickerel (fish) and fries (chips) at Henry’s, appropriately enough at Sans Souci on Frying Pan Island – deserving of its reputation as a Muskoka classic.
On the return cruise (two hours), we watched as a baby black bear swam to shore and clambered out of the water, just across a narrow channel from another island restaurant, Craganmor’s – and, of course, it was Paul K. who spotted it. Life doesn’t get much better than this!
July 7 As Paul and Steve headed back to Toronto, we reverted to inactivity after a brief excursion to the tip to get rid of our garbage. Lesson for the day; always drive round the tip and observe before leaving your car. It is not unheard of to be surprised by a bear clambering out of a bin!
July 8 Algonquin bound, we stopped in Hunstsville for brunch at 3 Guys and a Stove – great choice! With just a day in which to get a taste of this oldest of Canada’s national parks, we drove east to the visitor centre (really interesting) and fitted in three short (but steep) hikes; to a waterfall and to two lookouts, both with stunning views over the wilderness.
Wildlife seems to be appearing to order (except for the beaver, who remain elusive); I asked for moose and, sure enough, we spotted two just before we reached the Eastern Gate and were able to watch them for a few minutes before they headed back into the trees.
The dusk drive home brought our fifth ever bear sighting, and probably the most dramatic, as a black shadow bounded across the road in front of us and disappeared into the forest – such a sense of the power of this wonderful creature.
July 9 Chill time – with much idle enjoyment in pursuing the perfect chipmunk shot – we now have three regular visitors, though a scrap ensues if more than one arrives at a time!
July 10 Drive time; Muskoka was described to us by a boat salesman as a place where people buy cottages because their business associates have them. Touring the lakes, the small towns and villages, the natural beauty vies with the gloss of the kind of ‘simplicity’ that tends to carry a premium price tag.
There are glorious vistas, millionaire cottages and islands, boats, boats and more boats (I have committed to permanent memory an antique wooden one with the elegance of a vintage Rolls Royce), yet, perhaps because I don’t live that kind of life, I didn’t feel that connectedness that tugs at the soul until we reached Rosseau, right at the north of the lake system. Both of us found a tranquility, a warmth, a sense of community here that we hadn’t sensed elsewhere – and I was seduced by a swim-suit designed as an homage to 50′s glamour and curves, a rather more affordable luxury than the boat that stole my heart.
Should fortune come knocking, Rosseau just might beckon . . .
Wildlife encounter of the day was a White Tailed Deer that danced across the road in front of us.
July 11 A cottage day; sitting on the dock and relishing the slightly gentler heat; finally beating Paul on a round of Backgammon – and in style, with a ‘Gammon’!
July 12 After a slight interruption to provide e-mail support for my daughter, Jess (the joys of modern technology pursue one everywhere!), back to the shores of Georgian Bay, this time to explore Killbear Provincial Park. A fabulous day-use beach gives onto the distinctive rocky shoreline – eons ago, so we are told, the Hudson Bay expelled a vast surge of water under the glaciers over a few days or even hours. The force of this smoothed and sculpted the shield rock, also dropping boulders hundreds of miles from their source. Once again I find myself awed by the Great Lakes – I know that I do not ever want to live too far from the ‘big water’!
July 13 Our last day; we make the most of it, portaging a canoe to the next lake – very different from our spruce bog, with a small sandy entry and quite a large seasonal cottage community. Poking around among the waterlilies, the air is studded with dragonflies, glinting. We see quite large fish – and then a brown head that I’d convinced myself was a log ducks out of sight; was it that elusive beaver? (The more I think about it, the more I think it was!)
Later, back on our own lake, I finally take out the kayak (my back has been misbehaving, sadly pushing this off the agenda for most of our stay). It eases through the glassy water so effortlessly; I now understand Paul’s disdain for the cumbersome canoe, though it does have its place both for companionability and for carrying the gear.
Today I said I wanted to see a woodpecker; it appeared, to order. A sound below our deck – not quite the normal chipmunk chatter; so I look, and the woodpecker attacking a log on the ground takes flight into a nearby tree.
Meanwhile, our alpha chipmunk (there are three regular visitors) has become ludicrously bossy and brave, bullying us for more peanuts and climbing all over Paul to make sure he gets them. It is easy to see that he is bigger, stronger, brighter and more courageous than his peers.
July 14 Time to leave. We nearly had a stowaway – number one chipmunk was racing around us as we packed the car and I half expected to hear rustling and scolding from the luggage as we drove away. I think the mark of a good holiday is that you are simultaneously sad to leave but so re-energized that you are looking forward to returning to ‘real life’! Our two weeks at Whisperwood definitely made the grade.
See the Muskoka album in our photo gallery for (lots) more photos!