Muskoka Summer. Oxygen For The City Soul
I have the extreme privilege of being able to take a month every summer and head to one of my favourite places on earth, Muskoka, Canada. For those who do not know Muskoka it is a spectacular lake region just a few hours north of Toronto.
Muskoka consists of two contrasting lifestyles ~ The First, Old Muskoka
Old Muskoka families who have rustic cottages whose grandparents or great-grandparents had purchased.
Years ago they would come by train and then steamboat to summer in the Canadian wilderness of crystal clean lakes, miles of untouched shoreline, countless islands and the gentle peaceful sound of the “dip dip and swing” as their paddle propels them across the lake in their red Hudson Bay canoes. But these old Muskoka families and their cottages are quickly disappearing.
The other lifestyle of Muskoka has been described as The Hamptons of The North.
Mega “cottages” (we inherited that misleading word from days-gone-by) of incredible wealth and grandeur that are anything but cottage-like. New or fully renovated mega lake houses often perched high above the water for an optimum view with a two, three or four slip boathouse equally as grand situated along the shore. All fully equipped with a variety of speed boats, jet-skis and some with a float plane or a helicopter to avoid the traffic driving up Highway 400.
Canada and America’s wealthy come to play here, entertain here, unwind here.
As the Muskoka real estate has just continued to rise in value, families of inherited properties either have been lured by big dollars to sell their great-grandfather’s property or families cannot afford the cost of keeping them, or even buying other family members out.
Some of the more lavish, posh properties rent for up to $40,000 CDN per week in peak season.
I am not going to apologize for this, but I fall more into the later category. I mean I don’t have the unlimited flow of cash cause lets face it I am not Oprah rich, but some of my neighbours…well they are amongst the wealthiest families in Canada.
I love the balance of both lifestyles. A peaceful canoe ride, the old fashioned style of the “Nantucket Blue” painted cottages and boathouses trimmed with Oxford White but I also love the amenities of high-end appliances, feather duvets, a deep soaking tub, docks that are built for entertaining and a jet boat that can take you and your crew for a incredible dinner with an impressive wine list at the JW Marriott or Lake Joe Club when you don’t feel like cooking.
Saying that I just came back from a peaceful paddle in my kayak. Dip dip and swing…and it was so perfect that I became drunk with the belief that all was right with the world.
But here is the secret to Muskoka.
Here is why myself and so many others regardless of disposal income flock to this place for any part we can get of the limited 12 week summer season.
It is Beautiful.
The big, clear lakes, the forested canopy of hundreds of varieties of trees, the young family of deer you will see on your driveway or the Blue Heron on your dock and the clean sweet air that smells like you have inhaled pure happiness.
You can disappear into nature, or do a yoga class in an old boathouse. You can lie on a quiet dock on a dark summer night and watch the light show of a million stars in the way of an incredible meteor shower. A jewelled tonic for the battered spirit. There are very few simple moments in life that give me such an overwhelming feeling of awe.
This is the best. New or old friends are either dropping by on your dock or you theirs, usually with a bottle of Whispering Angel Rosé as one casually enjoys the beautiful hot summer day that we as Canadians have dutifully earned enduring a cold, long, bitter winter.
Even on the boat, it is customary to wave as you pass other boaters. Likely some of the exact same people you gave the finger to when they cut you off coming up Highway 400. But not up north….nope…everyone is happier.
Finally… The simple act of letting everything go.
If you are lucky enough to experience this summer life on the lake, you know first hand what it can do to your soul. Worries and cares melt away or at the very least get securely stored until back in the city.
The fresh lake air is like crack, it makes you high on life. It is almost impossible to be anxious or even depressed when you are on “cottage time” as being in nature, my daughter Sam has reminded me is the best anti-depressant…and guess what….she is right.
The peaceful sounds of the lake lapping at your dock. A refreshening swim in a cool lake on a steamy hot day.
The guilt-free home-made ice cream cone you all got in town.
The simple pleasure of fitting that last piece into a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle or a lively competitive family board game.
A quiet nook to read the newspaper back to front or that book that you started months ago… and that same nook where your kids will find you indulging in a rare outdoor summer nap.
I started this post by being grateful for the extreme privilege of breathing in and breathing out the sweet summer life in Muskoka.