For nearly 20 years, we had been vacationing in the north, before we decided to live here. To be more clear, I should explain that my idea of the north was really Central Ontario, not Northern Ontario. A 4-hour drive was long enough for this South-Western Ontario-born, small town girl who does not love the cold. But it really does take at least a 4 hour drive from London to “arrive” in Ontario’s Cottage Country. The air itself always seems to change not long after we drive past Orillia (on Hwy. #11), and there is a brighter “blue” to the sky. Granite boulders become commonplace, the trees grow thicker together, and lakes and rivers are abundant. It is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, not to mention that of photographers and artists of all kinds.
My first visit to Algonquin Park had me hooked on the geographical features of the Canadian Shield, along with its abundant flora and fauna. We returned to Algonquin Park on our honeymoon in October of 1997, but we stayed in a resort just outside the east gate of the park, which allowed us the best of both worlds. At the resort, we canoed on Galeairy Lake, where I took many photographs with my old Fuji camera (below is obviously a scan of a printed photograph).
When you take that long of a drive to enjoy the sights and adventures, it’s difficult to leave for that return trip home. We tended to leave as late as possible, and we’d often fit in a visit to see one of my husband’s sisters and her family. Our brother-in-law has operated a business in Bracebridge for the past 25 years, and they have lived on many different parcels of lakefront property on Lake Muskoka. Sometimes, we would visit Muskoka for long weekends and stay at their large (year-round) cottage home for the duration, while taking day trips in various directions to explore the area.
There was always more to enjoy, whether it was simple, dockside relaxation or activities to be had on the lake. Other times, we went on excursions to make memories. Back in 2004 on one of our trips to Lake Muskoka, we took our kids out for a daytrip to a wildlife sanctuary, not far from Orillia. We saw nearly every large animal from this habitat that you could imagine (wolves, bald eagles, moose, wolverine, etc.), all of which had been rescued for one reason or another. Other excursions included the canopy walk in the Haliburton forest, and many, many artist studio tours.
When we moved to Muskoka in September of 2015, we were expecting another adventure of sorts, but it unfolded a little differently, because we now lived in Muskoka year-round. Previously, we always visited during the summer months or up until the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend in October. That September was a busy month of unpacking, helping the kids settle in to new schools (grades, 10, 9 and 7), and getting our house ready for the long winter. The breezeway was being converted to a fully insulated and finished “mudroom” entryway with laundry and a closet for a family of 5. There was no way we could deal with all 5 of us using the front door with all our boots and coats, not to mention the dirt, snow and salt. And our boots and coats would have become frozen in the old breezeway, the way it was.
Well, it was a far cry from the in-laws’ lake house, but we saw its potential. See all those thistles that already went to seed in the front garden? When we moved in on September 1st, they were over 6 feet tall and they took the garden over from the perennials. Common milkweed was growing, nearly as tall as me, by the breezeway door. On the inside, however, the house was mostly move-in ready.
Much love and determination went into the transformation of our house and property. To make a long story short, here are some of pics of the house after a couple of months. It is very picturesque in the wintertime.
And here it is now:
I’ll save the garden photos for another time. I love my backyard!
Suffice it to say, we are still enjoying Muskoka. My art studio is still in its early stages, but I have art hanging all over my house. That’s also for another post.