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...telling the Muskoka storyFeatures11Blending Old World Tradition with New World ExperiencesArticle by Matt Driscoll Photography by Tomasz SzumskiAcross three generations from Soviet Russia to Bracebridge, Elena Pozdeeva’s family has been perfecting the ancient art of felting. Now her home studio bursts with the fruits of that labour – scarves, hats, 3D sculptures and wall hangings – all of it from the most practical of beginnings.18Bracing for a Muskoka Winter Article by John Challis Photography by Tomasz SzumskiFor those new to a Muskoka winter, here’s a few reminders about life from November to April: Muskoka’s average annual snowfall is 333.9 cm(11 feet, if you prefer Imperial), based on trends over a 30-year period. Average low temperatures dip to about –16° C in January, but it will frequently plunge to –30° or colder.24Winter Games Tighten Family BondsArticle by Matt Driscoll Photography by Kelly HolinsheadEndurance runs, axe throwing, scavenger hunts, marksmanship competitions and a poetry contest are just a few of the many events that make up the annual challenge for the children of Pam Carlaw and Paul Sullivan. For the past seven years, the couple has played host to the High Falls Winter Games on their 200-acre property in Bracebridge.30The Contrasting Seasons in MuskokaArticle by Meghan Smith Photography by Andy Zeltkalnse contrast of seasons, of landscapes and of man-made developments is a constant in Muskoka. e beauty of Muskoka’s natural landscape has been modied and inuenced by human development. However, the wildness of Muskoka’s environment has remained, producing a unique composition of contrasting scenes. 2 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020
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All About KitchensCREATE YOUR DREAM SPACE e possibilities are endlessBRACEBRIDGE 3 Gray Road 705.646.0347HUNTSVILLE 4 Centre St. N. 705.789.6161www.allaboutkitchens.ca36Bigwin and the Shaping of the Muskoka MystiqueArticle by J. Patrick Boyer Great fanfare accompanied Bigwin Inn’s long-awaited opening in June 1920. Exceptional in size, design, style and culture, the Lake of Bays colossus was the British Empire’s largest resort hotel, accommodating over 500 guests. Bigwin Inn surpassed all expectations with patrons of C.O. Shaw’s record-setting resort ocking north to Muskoka from throughout Canada and the U.S.44Sled Dog Mail Run Celebrating Canada’s heritageArticle by Meghan Smith Photography by Tomasz SzumskiBefore snowmobiles, sled dogs aided in the delivery of mail, food, equipment and other supplies to communities cut o from traditional modes of transport in the winter months. e Seguin Sled Dog Mail Run is a tribute to the energy, determination and hardiness of Siberian Huskies, one of the leading sled dog breeds. Departments48What’s HappenedArticle by Matt DriscollTalks about the future of the former Muskoka Regional Centre are once again moving ahead. While popular large-scale autumn events have been cancelled, activities are still being planned. An unprecedented donation funds needed work at South Muskoka hospital. Critical bridge gets repairs while potential blue-green algal blooms are getting attention.50Cottage Country CuisineArticle by Karen Wehrstein Photography by Tomasz SzumskiMuskokans might have to scale back Christmas entertaining plans this year by hosting more intimate groups of their nearest and dearest family and friends. But, that doesn’t mean they can’t be memorable events. We talk with local experts about suggestions for food preparation and decorating.Our CoverPhotography by Tomasz Szumskie sights and sounds of the Seguin Sled Dog Mail Run harken back to times when humans relied on their own ingenuity and their partnership with animals to travel and even to survive.FALL/WINTER 2020BIGWIN INNThe story behindthe Muskoka mystiqueWinter GamesTighten Family Bonds SLED DOG MAIL RUNCELEBRATESCANADA’S HERITAGEOpinion9 Muskoka InsightsBy Don Smith60 Muskoka MomentsBy Heather DouglasFall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 5
…telling the Muskoka story Unique Muskoka is published six times per year by Unique Publishing Inc.Donald SmithPublisher and EditorDonna AnsleySalesLisa BrazierDesignSusan SmithAdministrationJ. Patrick BoyerJohn ChallisHeather DouglasMatt DriscollKelly HolinsheadMeghan SmithTomasz SzumskiKaren WehrsteinAndy ZeltkalnsContributorsAnnual Subscription Rates: (including HST where applicable)In Ontario $30.00 All Other Provinces $36.00 U.S. $60.00 All Other Countries $72.00HST: 773172721Canada Post Publications Mail Agreement Number: 43268016Copyright © 2020 Unique Publishing Inc.No content published in Unique Muskoka can be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher.Mailing AddressBox 616, Bracebridge ON P1L 1T9Street Address28 Manitoba St., Bracebridge ON P1L 1S1www.firstname.lastname@example.org 705-637-0204 6 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 202021 Robert Dollar Dr, Bracebridge, ON P1L 1P9705-645-6575Kia's All New 5 Seat Subcompact SUV Featuring a Balanced Exterior Design and Dynamic InteriorJUST ARRIVEDTHE ALL-NEW 2021 1-800-843-1732 www.fireplacestop.com6048 Highway 9SchombergLET THE FIREPLACE STOP TEAM SHOW YOU ALL THE WAYS WE HAVE TO WARM UP THIS FALL. FROM MODERN TO CLASSIC LOOKS WE HAVE SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE!OUR SHOWROOM IS OPEN FOR APPOINTMENTS: MONDAY - FRIDAY 9AM - 6PM & SATURDAY’S 10AM - 4PM (CLOSED LONG WEEKENDS)Natural Gas & Propane AvailableNow is the perfect time to add a little cozy to your life!FINANCING AVAILABLE
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46 Ann Street, Bracebridge705-646-9995 | 877-877-3929www.LesBell.caTRUST • INTEGRITY • SERVICEOur local team is here to provide you with personalized insurance solutions. For the coverage your family deserves, call us today.Photograph: Susan SmithYour Home and Cottage Mattress CentreTHE LARGEST SELECTION OF IN-STOCKMATTRESSES IN MUSKOKAMUSKOKACURATED COLLECTION by Marshall Mattress6 Monica Lane, Bracebridge705.646.2557www.mattressesofmuskoka.comMuskoka InsightsAs I write this column and put the nal touches on the Fall / Winter 2020 issue of Unique Muskoka, there are aspects of the autumn that remain unchanged. We are blessed by trees of glorious colours that create awe-inspiring panoramas. As far as the eye can see, this palette is breathtaking. Warm temperatures and blue skies beckon us outside, whether to complete year end chores or simply enjoy the pleasure of a stroll amongst falling leaves. Routines seem almost normal. One could imagine we’re not facing the challenges of a world-wide pandemic.However, almost as certainly as the leaves will fall, it is likely much will change in the next few weeks. By the time this magazine is released, it is likely the dynamics of COVID-19 will be impacting Muskoka. As we brace for the uncertain, scary statistics indicate the anticipated second wave of this dreaded virus is infecting the community.However, most importantly, it is not the second wave of COVID-19 which should be our biggest concern. Rather, our focus must be on how we respond.In the past, through numerous diculties, Muskokans have shown they are resilient individuals who demonstrate great care and compassion for their neighbours. Earlier this year, Muskokans stepped forward to shop for neighbours, assist seniors who were encouraged to stay housebound for their own safety and provide support where it was required.As the weeks of autumn evolve into winter, it will be more important than ever for Muskokans to provide their goodwill to family and friends in need. ere should be no time for social media nger-pointing. More importantly, it will be a time to reinforce goodness and to use social media for all of its better purposes.Here, in Muskoka, the past 150 years have seen many inspiring stories of individuals who had the vision and the tenacity to build a better future. Some were farmers and settlers who overcame the district’s limitations to build a new home for their families. Others were individuals of great foresight and entrepreneurial courage who would have a lasting impact on Muskoka. When it came to promotion of both his own endeavours and the future of the district, Charles Shaw was in a league of his own. Whether as an industrial leader, businessman, tourism operator or civic-minded benefactor, Shaw shaped much of the early growth experienced in Muskoka. Historian Patrick Boyer shares Shaw’s story in this issue of Unique Muskoka.We’ve always felt winter is a standalone season that provides great opportunities for photographic presentation. And, with that in mind, we’re pleased to share with you photographs that highlight the season. Local photographer Andy Zeltkalns features the juxtaposition of popular summer locations as they appear with a covering of snow. Regular contributor Tomasz Szumski turns his lens to capturing the heritage of the Seguin Sled Dog Mail Run and the challenges of removing snow during a winter when Muskoka usually receives 11 feet of snowfall. And nally, the talented Kelly Holinshead shares photographs of a family that grows their bonds by taking part in their own version of a winter games.While we hope you will nd your own way to celebrate and embrace the coming winter, we encourage you to remember others in our community. Since the rst days of settlement, Muskokans have reached out a hand of support. is year, that spirit of community will be so important to the well-being of all.Until we chat again, all the best.Fall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 9
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cross three generations from Soviet Russia to Bracebridge, Elena Pozdeeva’s family has been perfecting the ancient art of felting.Now her home studio bursts with the fruits of that labour – scarves, hats, 3D sculptures and wall hangings – all of it from the most practical of beginnings.“In Russia, I was doing felting with my mom and grandmother. is was mostly domestic felting,” says Pozdeeva. “Sometimes you dyed your own wool but mostly we were using unprocessed and undyed wool. It was something traditionally done in the area, but not done by everyone.”Beginning with modest creations built to tackle frigid Russian winters, the limits of Pozdeeva’s felting are now only limited by her imagination. Felting has seen an uptick in popularity in recent years but primarily the process of needle felting. Needle felting involves transforming wool into 3D objects, using a barbed needle. At the micro-level, felting involves agitating the wool bre and forcing it to bond together, creating a solid fabric.ARTIST BLENDS OLD WORLD TRADITION WITH NEW WORLD EXPERIENCESArticle by Matt DriscollPhotography by Tomasz SzumskiElena Pozdeeva has created Muskoka themed wall hangings of all sizes, sweaters, scarves, hats and even teardrop-shaped birdhouses.AFall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 11
12 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020When a power outage strikes,SOMMERSRESIDENTIAL GENERATORSensure that your home or cottage automatically stays powered on.ECRA / ESA 7002295A full range of generators that can be custom built to suit your home or cottage’s speciﬁc needs, so you’ll always have standby power ready.705.765.0600 • www.sitelectric.com • Port CarlingMUSKOKA • PARRY SOUNDYour Source For All Your Electrical,Backup Power And Home Automation Needs.Beginning with modest creations meant to tackle frigid Russian winters, the limits of Elena Pozdeeva’s felting are now only limited by her imagination. Pozdeeva specializes in wet felting. Wet felting is the process of connecting or blending wool, wool roving or bre together to make a fabric strictly by using water, water temperature uctuation, soap and agitation. In other words, it’s using only your hands to transform wool into fabric.From this seemingly basic technique, Pozdeeva has created Muskoka themed wall hangings of all sizes, sweaters, scarves, hats and even birdhouses.“e water passes right through and the whole thing dries in about 30 minutes,” says Pozdeeva, holding up one of her teardrop-shaped birdhouse specimens. “e colours won’t run either.”Recently, Pozdeeva has been returning to her roots by creating sculptures from unprocessed, undyed wool. Her latest creations are a series of three dimensional, larger than life seeds and seed pods.Growing up in the Ural region of Russia, Pozdeeva was
Fine Canadian CraftStudio Jewellery Original Artoxtonguecraftcabin.com1073 Fox Point Rd, Dwight705.635.1602Fox Point Rd, DwightTara Marsh Glassinterested in dierent styles of art like conventional pastel painting and craftwork. She worked in the advertising industry in Russia, while her husband Petr was a mechanical engineer by trade. e economic turmoil that followed the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. left Pozdeeva and her husband looking for more stable options. Essentially on a whim, they acquired their Canadian visas and moved to Mississauga. “Everyone warned me about the cold and snow but it’s very cold in Ural. I was looking around and wondering where the snow was. It’s not so bad,” Pozdeeva recalls with a laugh. She eventually landed in the retail fashion industry and the couple had two children –Alexandria and Tim, before deciding they needed a change of lifestyle and a fresh start outside of the city.“Ten years ago, we rented a cottage in Gravenhurst,” says Pozdeeva. “I opened a window and saw these rocks and trees. I said I’m going to live here.”Before long, she and Petr had purchased a house near the Muskoka River in Bracebridge. She also became reacquainted with the traditional family art of wet felting.“I started simple, just to help make my Above: Felting involves agitating the wool bre and forcing it to bond together, creating a more solid fabric. Top: The method used by Elena Pozdeeva requires only hand movement to transform wool into fabric.ARTISANMARKETOPEN705.990.2888494 Muskoka Road 3 NorthHuntsville, Ontario P1H 1C6TUESDAY-SATURDAY 10-5CAPTURE THE SCENTS OF MUSKOKA28 Manitoba Street, BracebridgeFall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 13
14 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020stoneway marble & granite inc.Les and Renata Partyka1295 Muskoka Rd. 118 West, Bracebridge | 705.645.3380 | firstname.lastname@example.orgMODERN HOME CARPET ONE350 Ecclestone Drive • Bracebridgecarpetonebracebridge.caTAYLOR CARPET ONE30 Cairns Crescent • Huntsvilletaylorcarpetonehuntsville.comHARDWOOD • LAMINATE VINYL PLANK & TILE • VINYL ROLLS CARPET • CERAMIC • NATURAL STONE & MOREFloors for Home & Cottage705.645.2443705.789.9259ngers remember,” she says. “en I started to experiment with what is possible with wool, like 3D eects and making it look like acrylic – maybe I can do something dierent?”Pozdeeva says she was welcomed with open arms into Muskoka’s arts community and particularly by the Muskoka Arts and Crafts organization and its executive director Elene Freer.e house Pozdeeva and her husband live in now is more than 100 hundred years old and her artwork hangs from the walls in the upper level and lls her basement. Her materials are all sorted by their various colours and types in orderly plastic tubs. “I try to buy Canadian wool, mostly from Quebec and Ontario,” says Pozdeeva. “Mostly it’s sheep’s wool - Merino is the most popular
100% Canadian Artists• Large Original Paintings• Whimsical Sculptures• Hand made wood bowls,pottery & jewelry111 Medora St. (Hwy 118 West.)Port Carling, Muskoka705 765 7474www.redcanoegallery.comOpen seven days a week(parking at rear)Painting by Paul Garbett, 72” x 48”Paul Garbett, encaustic on panel, 75” x 45”- but I also really like alpaca.”People are looking to make those stronger connections to nature, says Pozdeeva, and her artwork does just that. While synthetic material like polyester can take anywhere up to 200 years to decompose, wool returns to the earth in as little as three to four months.It’s also incredibly versatile, she explains, as it can be worn in very cold Muskoka winters, yet is light and breathable to wear in summer. e history of felted garments can be traced as far back as 3,500 years ago to Europe and China, and can be found in many areas and cultures over the years.Finished felt clothing products, like scarves and coats, are soft and durable, Elena Pozdeeva’s home studio bursts with the colourful fruits of her labour – scarves, hats, 3D sculptures and wall hangings.Fall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 15
16 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020composed of one piece and no stitching. “I make all my own patterns. e tricky part is celebrating the shrinkage. Dierent things shrink at dierent rates and felting is a shrinking process. When you use the hot water and soap you can manipulate it. It will shrink up to four times its original size,” she says. “It takes about 40 hours to do a coat and everything is one of a kind. I don’t like doing the mass produced things.”e nished product can go directly into the washing machine, as it’s already been shrunk.Pozdeeva has now set a new goal for herself – to take what she knows and allow others the chance to learn. She would like to go to area farms and teach them how to felt.“A lot of that extra wool they have just goes in the garbage,” she says. “I’d like to show them how to wash it and process it themselves. You just need hands and soap.”She also has some experience in teaching art and would like to do so again. “I want to make myself useful and give back,” she says. “It’s less money than other jobs but I’m more happy because I can give more. In my opinion, that’s the key to success.”With her talent for creating and sharing her experiences, Pozdeeva is already very successful.Your Muskoka Specialist for Sunrooms, 3 season windows, Aluminum and Glass railing systemsAvailable through your contractor or directly through DavlinSUNROOMSBYDAVLIN.CA email@example.comN E W P H O N E N U M B E R1-705-706-4927Themed wall hangings are among the projects created by Elena Pozdeeva.
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Article by John Challis / Photography by Tomasz SzumskiSo, hey, did you know it snows in the winter in Muskoka?Yes, I’m being condescending. But based on behaviour on the roads, clearly the rst snowfall of the season is a forgotten phenomenon to many. Full disclosure: Around our house, even after decades in central Ontario, that early blanket of snow can come as a surprise. “Damn. e lawn chairs are still out ... and the barbecue is covered in snow … the garden hose is frozen solid.” For some, the snow may actually come as a genuinely unfamiliar condition. anks to a certain pandemic, the majority of snowbirds are unable or unwilling to contemplate their winter migration. Oce complexes in the city may not open until 2021. e work from home option, so increasingly familiar these days, could prompt a lot of summer residents to try out the romance of winter in Muskoka.Donelda Hayes, the Acting Deputy Mayor for Muskoka Lakes Township says it’s a challenge for the municipality. “Some snowbirds may be coming up here for the rst time in winter. And if the (COVID-19 case) numbers go up again, parents in the city may want to pull their kids out of school and come up here again.”In Lake of Bays, the speculation is the same. “Time will tell,” Councillor Bob Lacroix says of the numbers this winter. “But there are still lots of people up here now (in mid-September). ere’s more trac on the highways; Bracebridge and Huntsville are just packed. ere’s a lot more people than normal.”For those new to a Muskoka winter, here’s a few reminders about life from November to April: Muskoka’s average annual snowfall is 333.9 cm (11 feet, if you prefer Imperial), based on trends over a 30-year period calculated on the climate info site eldoradoweather.com. It’s the norm for December and January to experience close to a metre of snow. e average low dips to about –16° C in January, but it will frequently plunge to –30° or colder. e record reached past –40° C in at least two winters since the 1970s. From November to March, between half and two-thirds of the days will be overcast. row in a few freezing rain days and winter weather can get on the nerves. In early days, clearing town streets in Muskoka was a challenge that oen saw roads covered with snow and huge snowbanks. This photo is in downtown Bracebridge. 18 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020Photograph: Ken Veitch Collection
But on the positive side: A chickadee may land on your hand while you’re out, expecting a sunower seed or a peanut. You may awake one morning to billows of snow that turn the evergreens into marshmallow wonders. Out on a trail, you’ll marvel at the quiet and air you never thought could smell so fresh and clean.ere is a certain amount of knowledge needed to cope with a snowy winter. And that doesn’t seem to be universal. Witness the tale of a seasonal resident asking a local if a cord of wood would be enough to heat a home for the winter. Hint: If you use wood as a sole source of heat, the woodstove will be burning 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. ink 8 to 12 cords.You need to start preparations now, before the snow begins to threaten. Has the woodstove chimney been cleaned? If you’re on propane, is the exhaust clear of debris? Is your propane provider aware you’re going to be staying here? Did you clear the leaves out of the eave troughs? Do you have portable chargers for your electronic devices? Have you tested the backup generator … do you even have a backup generator? Power failures happen all year round, but in winter they carry more serious con-sequences. Kevin Dawe feels the most important thing to think about now is snow clearing. If you have a snowblower, a strong back and a healthy heart, you can probably clear your driveway and your walkways on your own. A lot of people, though, rely on contracted snow removal. Dawe, who runs Generations Landscaping and Excavation, says he starts getting calls by mid-September, and most of his winter business is booked by anksgiving. Dawe’s eet of plows and snowblowers has been clearing driveways and private roads, mostly in Glen Orchard, Bala and Walkers Point, for about six years. It’s tough work but it’s income for him and his crew when the landscaping stops. If you want a snow clearing contract that doesn’t break the Muskoka Airport’s snow plan, which must be approved by Transport Canada, spells out a rigorous set of procedures.This modied Linn tractor, owned by the Moore family of Falkenburg, was one of the ways Muskokans were able to transport goods in early Muskoka winters.Fall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 19Photograph: Ken Veitch Collection
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bank, Dawe advises you check the condition of your driveway, and what’s around it. A proper crown on the prole of the driveway means good water runo that will prevent ice buildup. If you have a loose gravel driveway, be prepared to see a lot of stones strewn around the yard; no amount of care taken plowing can prevent a blade or a blower from grabbing gravel. If your propane tanks are close to the driveway, you could be billed for extra time clearing snow from around the tanks. And make sure the plow route is clear of dog chains, lawn furniture or children’s toys that could be hidden under the snow. “I chewed up an aluminum ladder once,” Dawe recalls. “My hydraulic blower just sucked that thing up and chopped it into pieces; it blew bits of aluminum all over the place.” Plows don’t have radar. ere is one local driveway that demands a little more attention than most. It’s 1,829 metres long, and a 747 has been known to land there occasionally.Muskoka Airport’s snow plan, which must be approved by Transport Canada, spells out a rigorous set of procedures. After 2.5 cm (1 inch) of snow falls, a driver must patrol the airstrip, completing a friction test – basically hard braking measured by a decelerometer tted to the truck – every 1000 feet. e conditions are reported to Nav Canada, which conveys details to pilots. Meanwhile, a plow with a seven-metre (22 foot) blade takes a run at the snow on the runway. It’s followed by a mammoth snowblower to scoop up the windrow and hurl it 60 metres out of the way. Various melting compounds are deposited on the asphalt if hard pack snow or ice are present. Once the plowing is done, a second inspection takes place to be reported to Nav Canada.On top of that operation, the apron and taxi lanes have to be cleared, along with the rest of the parking area and walkways for sta and visitors. Snow creates a lot of work, usually at a time of year when the business volume is actually down.What will come of business at Muskoka Airport this winter is a very large question mark for CEO Len O’Connor. COVID-19 has played havoc with its operations. Fly GTA and Porter suspended their ights earlier in the year. Meanwhile, private business ights were up 120 per cent.“is winter will tell us a lot,” O’Connor says. Business keeps growing, with a new operation potentially starting up before the snow ies. If year-round ights are allowed to return, the airport may be getting signicantly more trac than winters normally see.To plan for that increase, O’Connor says maintenance is being boosted, with the airstrip getting service 22 hours a day.Homeowners will need to be more prepared for bad weather than in the past. Unusual weather patterns are increasingly likely to occur thanks to climate change, says Environment Canada’s senior climatologist David Phillips. It’s not just about warming, he explains: climate change is creating greater variability in the weather. Stronger winds can turn a brief hailstorm into a destructive force, for instance. And weather systems tend to linger for longer periods of time, or in Phillips’ words, “more time to exert its misery.”In mild winters, warm air over an ice-free Georgian Bay loads west winds with moisture, creating the lake eect snowfalls that produce the most snow. ere will, inevitably, be one or two big snowstorms, and every few years there are monsters. A snowfall on Dec. 10, 1995 Muskoka’s average annual snowfall is 333.9 cm (11 feet, if you prefer Imperial), based on trends over a 30-year period.Snow clearing creates a lot of work at Muskoka Airport, usually at a time of year when the business volume is actually down.Fall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 21
22 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020shut Muskoka down with nearly a metre of snow overnight.When storms happen, you may nd yourself shut in without power. e Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit recommends you keep a survival kit that will last 72 hours, including water, cash, crank or battery powered lighting and radio, a rst-aid kit, extra keys to the car and house, prescription medication, baby formula if needed, and any other necessities for people with special needs. Our municipalities, fortunately, have been through the worst that winter – and angry ratepayers – can dole out. ey have annual procedures that have already begun; winter supplies of sand and salt were purchased back in the summer. e District of Muskoka’s “winter control” budget sits at about $4.5 million, up nearly 5 per cent from 2019. at money primarily trickles down to the area municipalities, which do the balance of road plowing and sanding. Roads crews are considered to be in active winter readiness as of November 1, and the coverage will continue to April 30.Muskoka Lakes Mayor Phil Harding says township plow routes are currently being reviewed and changed or updated as needed. A eet of vehicles is being checked and serviced and road crews are getting their refresher training. e whole winter roads maintenance process is going digital, too. Harding notes that his Township’s plows will be equipped with location tracking software that will transmit the vehicles’ whereabouts directly to the township’s website, so ratepayers will know “when to expect the plow at your location.”As the autumn colours begin to break out, speculation on the winter to come is a favourite pastime. David Phillips says early forecasts from the Farmer’s Almanac or folk tales are good for conversation but not much else. Environment Canada doesn’t do its long-range charting of the weather until November.However, Phillips says there are a few factors that are already in play that can aect how winter plays out. “Summer sometimes inuences winter, and for us, this was the summer of summers,” he says. Muskoka’s summer had 22 days with temperatures above 30, while the norm is ve. e region received 20 per cent more rain than normal, which fed the forests and kept them healthy. “e Great Lakes are warmer than they have ever been,” he added. e residual heat on water and land may slow the arrival of autumn, he predicted (in spite of the rst frost advisory on Sept. 14). He also predicts brilliant fall colours, although they may start later in the season.Long range forecasts and folk tales may not be much help as you prepare for winter. But the bottom line is you do need to prepare – for both the nasty side of winter, and all the fun that awaits.Our municipalities, fortunately, have been through the worst that winter — and angry ratepayers — can dole out. They have annual procedures that have already begun; winter supplies of sand and salt were purchased back in the summer.
24 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020Article by Matt Driscoll / Photography by Kelly Holinshead
For the past seven years, Pam Carlaw and Paul Sullivan have played host to the High Falls Winter Games on their 200-acre property in Bracebridge. Every year, a new event is added to the mix, just to make sure the competitors are on their toes.For generations, the allure of wild Muskoka has brought families together for unique outdoor experiences.Some families take the experience slightly more seriously than others and fewer still go as far as Pam Carlaw and Paul Sullivan.For the past seven years, the couple has played host to the High Falls Winter Games on their 200-acre property in Bracebridge.Endurance runs, axe throwing, scavenger hunts, marksmanship competitions and a poetry contest are just a few of the many events that make up the annual challenge.“e water boiling competition is the great equalizer,” says Sullivan. “ey get two pieces of wood, an axe, three matches, a 48 oz tin of water and a one ounce bar of soap. eir job is to build a re and make that water bubble over.”e competitors vie for the coveted Winter Games plaque, but the real end goal is family bonding. e games bring together the couple’s four children and their partners, and in more recent years, their three grandchildren as well. “It’s so much fun and a real family party,” says Carlaw. “ey’re all great kids but you’d better have your facts straight. ey’ve got a competitive side and this really brings it out in a good way.”e eight competitors, four couples all in their 20s and 30s, come from as far away as Australia to the High Falls Road property every year on the weekend before Christmas to tackle a range of physical and mental tests. Originally from Toronto, the couple purchased the property in 2013. ey had previously owned a property on Birch Island in Lake Muskoka but decided to move to the region year-round and purchase a bigger property. “It’s all about skill building and specically the skill of living on a rural property,” says Sullivan, who’s been involved in forestry for most of his life and has a degree in agriculture from the University of Guelph. “e more Fall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 25
26 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020705-764-0765 | muskokabarging.com | 1163 Milford Bay Rd, Milford Bay ONBARGING STEEL & CRIB DOCKS SEPTIC SYSTEMS LANDSCAPING ● ●Muskoka Barging●Family run construction company with over 35 years experience operating in the Muskoka Lakes area. No job is too small or too big.P.O. Box 330 Bracebridge, ON P1L 1T7 Phone # 705-645-4874 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.chuckmcnairelectric.comECRA / ESA Licence No. 7001083Where one call does it all.2288 Highway 11 North, Gravenhurst, Ontario P1P 1R1705-687-9143 • info@gbscontrac� ng.com • www.gbscontrac� ng.comGBS Contracting Inc. Proudly Serving Muskoka for over 20 years. We get the job done! ROOFING • SIDING • DOORS • WINDOWS & GENERAL CONSTRUCTIONskills you have, the more you’ll be able to appreciate the outdoors. We started by focusing on skills like axe throwing and log splitting – things the old-time woodsmen would have done to pass the time.”Sullivan’s children Eric and Emma and Carlaw’s children Andrea and Emily have been a blended family unit since the children were in their early teens growing up in the Leaside neighbourhood of Toronto.“ey grew up with the same friends and they’ve always got along really well,” says Carlaw. “In those early days we did a lot of traveling and we found that it really brought us closer as a family. ey grew up as cottage and camp kids, so they love coming up here.”Now in addition to their partners – Jenna, Jon, John and Ben – three grandchildren come up for the games and a babysitter takes over while the eight participants venture into the frozen proving grounds.Every year, Sullivan and Carlaw throw a new event into the mix, just to make sure the competitors are on their toes. Last year’s new challenge was to create a serving tray using a few tools and some rough cut lumber. “We judged them on things like how tight the joints were and the tray’s appearance, and then we gave them an overall score,” says Sullivan. Another event involves participants being given a single snowshoe and sent on a scavenger hunt through the snow to nd the other. Others include marksmanship with a bow and arrow, BB gun or .22 (which requires one of the partners to get a rearms Possession and Acquisition License to take part).One contest began with a desperate phone call from a neighbour claiming to be hurt and lost in the woods.“It was actually part of a search and rescue event. We had a neighbour hiding in the woods who called to say he had broken his leg and was lost,” says
Sullivan. “ey had to go nd him but everyone believed it was actually real at rst.”e year before that, the investment challenge was the new addition to the games. All of the contestants were given an amount of money to invest over a ve-year term. e only guidelines were the investment had to be legal and trackable, which led most of them to invest in the stock market. e following years have seen the participants using charts and graphs to outline the outcomes.“ey really went all over the place. Some played it safe and some went very risky,” says Carlaw. “Some went in for cannabis and lost their shirts.”Another challenge involves one half of the team competing in an endurance challenge while the other pursues more artistic endeavours in a poetry writing competition. e poems are then read over dinner and all of them have been kept for posterity. e endurance challenge has been somewhat tempered over the years, as the original version involved repelling down an icy gorge and running through knee-deep snow.“It was a bit intense,” says Sullivan with a chuckle. “We still haven’t lived that one down.”e dierent competitions were originally timed but it was felt the point of the games – to truly appreciate the beauty of Muskoka in winter and master the skills to enjoy the outdoors here – was being lost in the rush. Competitors no longer race against the clock – with the exception of the water boiling challenge. at event has seen times drop from 15 minutes to boil down to just nine minutes, last year. e couples attend without fail every winter, although Australian residents Ben and Emily have had to attend virtually some years.On another occasion, even a wedding Endurance runs, axe throwing, scavenger hunts, marksmanship competitions and a poetry contest are just a few of the many events that make up the annual challenge.Fall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 27
28 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020GET GUARANTEED REPLACEMENT COST INSURANCE ON YOUR COTTAGE & CONTENTSDON’T SETTLE FOR BASIC COVERAGEIf all your current insurance company can o er you is basic coverage on a secondary/seasonal home, make the switch to CottageInsure and fully protect your cottage and belongings in the same way your home insurance policy does.Get a FREE Quote in just ve minutes by clicking: cottageinsure.ca or Call 1-877-541-9022We’ve been protecting Ontario cottages since 1910.COTTAGE & LAKEASSOCIATION MEMBERDISCOUNTSDISCOUNTSFOR FIREBOATRESPONSE SERVICEEXTRA COVERAGESFOR GARAGES, GUEST CABINS& WATERCRAFTbetween one of the couples couldn’t get in the way of the annual winter celebration. e day after the nuptials all eight contestants were back in Muskoka and ready for the opening of the competition.e planning always starts early and Sullivan and Carlaw know after seven years of competitions they need to up their game each year. While healthy competition is a big draw for the couples, camaraderie and family spirit are the cornerstone of the High Falls Winter Games.“A little healthy competition goes a long way but they all really want to support each other as much as possible,” says Carlaw. “Even though our family might be scattered all over the planet, the Winter Games really helps to keep us a tightknit family.” While competitors vie for the coveted Winter Games plaque, the real end goal is family bonding for the participants.
GET GUARANTEED REPLACEMENT COST INSURANCE ON YOUR COTTAGE & CONTENTSDON’T SETTLE FOR BASIC COVERAGEIf all your current insurance company can o er you is basic coverage on a secondary/seasonal home, make the switch to CottageInsure and fully protect your cottage and belongings in the same way your home insurance policy does.Get a FREE Quote in just ve minutes by clicking: cottageinsure.ca or Call 1-877-541-9022We’ve been protecting Ontario cottages since 1910.COTTAGE & LAKEASSOCIATION MEMBERDISCOUNTSDISCOUNTSFOR FIREBOATRESPONSE SERVICEEXTRA COVERAGESFOR GARAGES, GUEST CABINS& WATERCRAFT
30 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020Article by Meghan Smith / Photography by Andy ZeltkalnsMuskoka is lled with icons, both natural and manmade. Lakes, waterfalls and rock formations coupled with bridges, boats and lookout towers shape the memories of visitors and locals, alike. In each season, the iconic landscapes and landmarks are altered. As the seasons turn throughout the year, each change brings a new perspective. Muskoka’s reputation as a summer playground is well earned. e multitude of lakes, coupled with rugged terrain make the region perfect for boating, hiking, cycling and generally, escaping from the hustle and bustle of daily life. From spring to summer to fall to winter, the small towns and quaint villages throughout Muskoka adapt to variable temperatures, uctuating populations and changing weather. Above: Bracebridge Falls in winter with the power station in the foreground. Below: The same location in summer with lower water ow.
Places that are bustling hubs of activity during the summer months become quieter, with transient trac dropping after the Labour Day and anksgiving holidays. As nights turn colder, mornings include mist rising from the rivers, lakes and marshes across the region. As snow falls, trees become lined in frost, ice peppers the edge of the water and a hush settles on the landscape. e contrast of seasons, of landscapes and of manmade developments is a constant in Muskoka. From one town to the next, the beauty of Muskoka’s natural landscape has been modied and inuenced by human development. However, the wildness of Muskoka’s environment has remained, producing a unique composition of contrasting scenes. High FallsWaterfalls are an undeniable force of nature – the sheer power, the noise, the light reecting and refracting o the surface as the water cascades down over rocks. Along the north branch of the Muskoka River, High Falls plunges a steep 50-foot drop, making it one of the highest waterfalls in the region. Although a dam was constructed in 1948 to capture hydro-electric power, the main falls remain relatively intact. While High Falls is the most visible, there are an additional four waterfalls in the same area. During the spring freshet, the roar of water thundering down the rocks makes High Falls an incredible site to visit. e trailhead, accessible from Cedar Lane, is somewhat hidden. e 2.4-kilometre hike passes by Little High Falls, with a picturesque walking bridge, before ending at High Falls. During the height of the winter, High Falls becomes a mass of ice, snow and icicles, growing with each day as the rushing waters freeze in the sub-zero temperatures. e trail provides excellent snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in winter and hiking, walking or trail running through the summer. Bracebridge FallsFurther down the north branch of the Muskoka River, Bracebridge Falls is the nal drop of the north branch of the river before it joins the south branch and meets Lake Muskoka. e falls are impressive, topped by the iconic Silver Bridge and surrounded by hydro stations, harnessing the power of the water owing through the river. e falls are located in downtown Bracebridge, just o of Manitoba Street, with the Bracebridge Bay Trail providing scenic views of the bay and falls. e rich history of the falls and the development of Bracebridge are outlined in various plaques along the trail. Bracebridge Falls, and the other waterfalls in the Bracebridge area, provided the hydro power necessary for much of the local development through the decades. Winter sees a slowdown in seasonal visitors but the frosted trees and steam rising from the powerful churn of the falls are not a sight to be missed. In December, the Above: A frozen cap of ice covers the waterfall and rocks at High Falls. Below: Regardless of the season, there always seems to be a strong ow of water at High Falls.Fall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 31
32 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020annual Festival of Lights sees the lighting of trees and the Silver Bridge. In summer, the Bracebridge Falls and Bracebridge Bay Park are host to a multitude of events, none more well-attended than the annual Canada Day reworks, igniting beautifully above the Silver Bridge and falls. Lady MuskokaFor over 50 years, the Lady Muskoka has graced the Muskoka River and Lake Muskoka with its presence. e three-level, 104-foot boat holds up to 300 passengers per cruise, providing a leisurely look at cottages, wildlife and the nearby Millionaire’s Row. Summertime cruises, complete with lunch or dinner and stunning sunsets on Lake Muskoka, give passengers a glimpse of the seasonal homes of the wealthy Muskoka residents. e heritage homes built in the last century along the route and the nearby private islands are exceptional. As winter takes hold in Bracebridge, ice creeping along the riverbanks and owing down the river, the Lady Muskoka remains docked at the Quality Inn, awaiting her next voyage in the spring. Travelling up the Muskoka River from Lake Muskoka is not a swift journey, taking approximately 40 minutes. Gravenhurst BaySteamships represent another iconic piece of Muskoka and Muskoka’s history as a tourist destination. ey were rst introduced to the Muskoka lakes in the late 1800s, as settlers required a way to traverse the territory, having arrived by steam train. As hotels and resorts were built on the many water access properties, steamship travel ourished until the 1930s, when roadways became more passable. Steamships re-entered Muskoka as a commercial vessel with the restoration and relaunch of the Segwun in 1981 by the Muskoka Lakes Navigation and Hotel Company Limited, now owned by the Muskoka Steamship and Historical Society. In 1993, the company took on the operation of the heritage steam yacht Wanda III and in 2002 launched an entirely new vessel, Wenonah II. During the sailing season, both Segwun and Wenonah II can be seen passing along various routes of the Muskoka lakes. Segwun has made the long journey all the way up the Muskoka River to Bracebridge Bay, but not since 1983 when a low bridge was constructed, preventing her passing. roughout the winter, the ships of the Muskoka Steamship and Historical Society are moored at Gravenhurst Bay. As thick ice Above: The popular cruise boats Segwun and Wenonah are frozen in place at their Gravenhurst Bay berth. Below: With the coming of summer, these popular attractions are ready to cruise with passengers.
encrusts the shallow bay and snow coats their decks, the ships could almost be mistaken for those lost in the Arctic, found years later as the snows shift. Luckily, winter soon gives way to spring and the ships can recommence their regular journeys, ferrying tourists to the many unique sights of Muskoka’s lakes. DorsetLocated to the east of Lake of Bays, the hamlet of Dorset has a year-round population of 500 residents, swelling in the summer months. e quaint village is a dividing line between the District of Muskoka and the County of Haliburton, technically split directly at the Main Street. e small community was developed with partnership and dedication and both municipalities work together in ensuring Dorset’s prosperity. In early times, like much of Muskoka, settlers tried to make a living rst with logging, and then farming before tourism nally became the more viable industry. No matter the season, tourists can enjoy the local shops and artisans along with the beautiful natural backdrop of clear blue water, dense forests and open air. Dorset Lookout Tower at the top of Tower Hill draws crowds, particularly during the change of the fall colours, for the views of the many breathtaking vistas. Similar to the Muskoka Steamship and Historical Society’s refurbishment of Segwun, Dorset and Lake of Bays were at one time regularly visited by steamships, large and small. Starting in 1925, SS Bigwin delivered visitors from the mainland to Bigwin Inn on Bigwin Island. As tourism changed, the SS Bigwin fell into disuse and eventually sat partially submerged at the docks of Bigwin Inn. In 1991, a group of Lake of Bays cottagers and residents began work to purchase and restore the SS Bigwin to its former glory. e Lake of Bays Marine Museum and Navigation Society acquired use of property in the heart of Dorset with a rich nautical history to complete the restoration project and to later become a permanent docking facility. In November 2012, the SS Bigwin once again set sail on Lake of Bays to pass preliminary engine tests. e ship was ocially relaunched to the public in July of 2013 and continues to provide public and private cruises. Lions LookoutAlthough there are no mountains in Muskoka, elevation can change drastically with the hills and rock formations Le: The cut in Dorset with the S.S. Bigwin, in the background, pulled from the water for the winter. Right: The S.S. Bigwin waiting to take passengers on a cruise from its Dorset dock.Above: Docked at the convergence of the North Branch and South Branch of the Muskoka River, the Lady Muskoka awaits spring thaw before it will be ready to cruise. Below: For over 50 years, the Lady Muskoka has graced the Muskoka River and Lake Muskoka with its presence.Fall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 33
34 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020throughout the region. Often accessible by hiking or walking trail, the lofty vantage points all over Muskoka provide breathtaking views of the nearby communities and lakes, in any season. Lions Lookout is one such vantage point. Located on a 1.5-kilometre trail, accessible from the Canada Summit Centre in Huntsville, the trail follows Camp Kitchen Road along the Muskoka River to Fairy Lake. Before the steep climb to the top of the lookout, the trail crosses the railway tracks of the Portage Flyer, the world’s smallest commercial railroad. In winter or in summer, the panorama from the top of Lions Lookout is striking. e lookout has been maintained by the local Lions Club since 1968 for residents and visitors to enjoy. Viewing the town of Huntsville and the Muskoka River meandering through its core or looking out to Fairy Lake and beyond, the combination of natural and urban provides a contrasted perspective of all Muskoka has to oer. The Clis at Skeleton BayHighway 141 covers a stretch of rural Muskoka area from Utterson to just north of MacTier. e route snakes through rugged rock and forests, passing by many smaller lakes and hugging the edge of Lake Rosseau as the highway passes through the village of Above: The vista from the Lions Lookout is wide and expansive in the winter without any leaves on the trees. Below: The Lions Lookout is a popular north Muskoka location to see the view from a Huntsville highpoint in summer.The four corners of Highway 141, at Rice Street and Cardwell Road, host the Rosseau General Store, Hilltop Interiors, Crossroads Restaurant and the local post oce with a much dierent look between summer and winter.
Rosseau. e 78-kilometre route is perfect for a leisurely Sunday drive in every season. Much of the area is unpopulated, giving long sight lines of the prominent Canadian Shield, dotted with evergreens and, at some points, jutting seemingly directly out of Lake Rosseau. e large stretches of natural landscape are punctuated by small pockets of settlement, often hidden among the trees, down small laneways. Each curve, hill and sweep of the road presents a new adventure, whether cycling, driving, motorcycling or snowmobiling. RosseauSimilarly, to Dorset, Rosseau rests on the edge of two municipalities, Muskoka Lakes and Seguin, between two dierent districts, Muskoka and Parry Sound. e small community boasts rich history in Muskoka and in Ontario. Rosseau was a major thoroughfare in connecting to more northern communities, specically those along the now defunct Rosseau-Nipissing Road. Settlers, despite the challenges of the terrain and the changing seasons, built homes in Rosseau, many of which are still in use by later generations today. Along the route to the village are many summer camps and Rosseau Lake College. e four corners of Highway 141, at Rice Street and Cardwell Road, host the Rosseau General Store, Hilltop Interiors, Crossroads Restaurant and the local post oce. Sitting at the most northern part of Lake Rosseau, the village of Rosseau welcomes thousands of tourists and cottagers in the summer months and enjoys a more relaxing pace during the winter. e rich history of Muskoka’s settlement and the changing industries have forever marked the region. Muskoka is a patchwork of communities, landscapes, natural wonders and human attractions. Whether it is the height of hot, sunny summers or the deep winter’s frigid brilliance, Muskoka’s contrasting natural and manmade wonders are worth visiting. The clis at Skeleton Bay on Lake Rosseau make an amazing venue for photos whether in the winter (Above) or the summer (Below). They are located just south of the Village of Rosseau, o Hwy. 141.28 MANITOBA STREETBRACEBRIDGE | 705-637-0204It’s getting cooler and we’ve stocked up with Tilley toques and Tilley winter hats It’s getting cooler (The warm hats with hide-away ear warmers – both stylish and practical.)KEEP WARM THIS WINTERFall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 35
36 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020The waterfront at Bigwin Inn was a busy spot with boathouse and dock infrastructure to support the arrival of steamers including the steam yacht, S.S. Bigwin.“Bigwin Inn lends prestige to our District because it enjoys a continent-wide reputation as the largest and most attractive summer resort in America,” wrote Captain Levi Fraser in his 1940s book e History of Muskoka. e steamship captain knew Muskoka intimately from lifelong work on the lakes and as a visionary municipal leader with a district-wide perspective. With Bigwin Inn on an island, Captain Fraser knew rst-hand about the resort’s North American renown, having ferried thousands of notables across Lake of Bays to this summer paradise, including aboard legendary Wanda III when she was part of the Bigwin eet. Great fanfare had accompanied Bigwin Inn’s long-awaited opening in June 1920. Exceptional in size, design, style and culture, the Lake of Bays colossus, built by entrepreneur Charles Orlando Shaw, was the British Empire’s largest resort hotel, accommodating over 500 guests. Top chefs, modern kitchens and extensive sta (one waitress for each table) could serve more than 750 diners at once in the fabulous 12-sided “Indian Head” dining room. Bigwin Farm in Huntsville sent vegetables, fruit and dairy products daily aboard Shaw’s steamships, which also picked up clean linens and towels laundered in town. e resort was an extensive, community-wide operation. Bigwin Inn surpassed all expectations in high fashion and patrons of C.O. Shaw’s record-setting resort ocked north from his own native land, the United States. Today, Huntsville’s train station may seem oddly situated, well below the main street, but in the Golden Age of steam, arriving trainloads of vacationers with coveted Bigwin Inn reservations had only to leisurely descend the short distance downhill from their Grand By J. Patrick BoyerTrunks of formal attire for weeks-long stays at Bigwin Inn were commonplace when the resort opened. The steamer Iroquois delivers guests and prepares to board excursionists. Bigwin Inn guests arriving from across North American and beyond aboard either of C.O. Shaw’s steamships Iroquois or Mohawk Belle gasped with delight to see appearing before them on Lake of Bays these uniquely imposing, elegant and reproof Bigwin Island structures. Photograph: Douglas Graham McTaggart CollectionPhotograph: Muskoka Heritage Place, HuntsvillePhotograph: Douglas Graham McTaggart Collection
Trunk Railway coaches, admiring scenery while horse-drawn wagons transferred their large trunks for month-long stays to a wharf-side steamer such as the Algonquin, awaiting them on Hunter’s Bay. Muskoka vacationing had advanced in tandem with the steam era. Passengers arriving in easy comfort by steam train from across the continent moved in stately fashion through Huntsville as a swing bridge let their steamer pass. e canal dredged in 1887 between Fairy and Peninsula lakes enabled the large vessel to carry them through dramatic scenery. A waiting steam-train at North Portage gave them a wilderness wonderland adventure as “the smallest commercially operated railway in the world” climbed 103 feet over the mere 5/8ths of a mile to South Portage and higher Lake of Bays. Another steamship, such as the Iroquois or Mohawk Belle, then transported them toward Bigwin Island as spectacular structures, grander and more extravagant than anything ever before in Muskoka, came into view. ey landed to well-orchestrated welcomes. eir trunks were discreetly moved by uniformed sta to their allotted spacious and well-appointed rooms in the East Lodge, West Lodge or free-standing stone cottages. Quiet and privacy awaited in these quarters, separated as they were from the Rotunda, dancing pavilion, dining room and other facilities, though connected by covered pathways.Bigwin Inn opened just as Prohibition became law, but it was a “dry” hotel anyway because C.O. had become a prohibitionist when running a leather tannery in Cheboygan, Michigan. Guests brought clandestine supplies in their luggage and bellboys made fortunes in tips discreetly bringing ice and mix to their exquisitely private rooms. At Bigwin Inn, one way or another, everything worked to perfection.e on-island experience was so exceptional that, as Captain Fraser observed in the 1940s, “guests have fallen into habit of coming back year after year.” He named many of the era’s tycoons and celebrities as examples, a number having shown up 23 consecutive seasons! By the same token, Shaw’s loyal and long-serving sta infused Bigwin Inn with familiar stability. e rich and famous were comfortably at home on their island paradise. Wanting to return the coming season, they’d learned to book well ahead. Bigwin Inn deserved its stellar reputation. It was no run-of-the-mill addition to Muskoka’s existing array of holiday accommodations. e only other resort in its league was e Royal Muskoka on Lake Rosseau, a magnet to plutocrats for two decades before Shaw’s Lake of Bays gem appeared on the scene. Both well-publicized resorts catapulted the Muskoka vacation experience, already famous as early as the 1880s, into the stratosphere.Lieutenant Perry Deters and his wife arrived from Los Angeles in 1942, their rst time in Canada. ey’d never heard about Muskoka or its famous resort until a Chicago friend tipped them o. ey were so surprised and impressed by lavish Bigwin Inn that, upon leaving, declared their rst visit would not be their last. “It would seem that Muskoka needs a more intensive and enthusiastic program or system for advertising its wares,” concluded Fraser, “to let more of the world know that Muskoka ranks rst among vacation centres of America.” e captain listed what made life in Muskoka enjoyable: sunshine, pure air, cool nights, pure spring water in abundance, plenty of choice food, beds in which a king or queen could relax to their heart’s content. One’s choice of sports, he added, included golf, tennis, bathing, swimming, sailing, canoeing, shing, or hiking. By this date, all parts of Muskoka were easily accessible. Whether at Bigwin, the Royal Muskoka or the many other resorts and camps oering a full range of accommodations, the district oered freedom from demands of city life that could match anyone’s budget. But Bigwin Inn had become Muskoka’s agship, a denite upgrade on the Royal Muskoka’s model of convenient steam era travel to an island club for society’s movers and shakers. For decades, Bigwin Inn indelibly rearmed the prestigious status of Muskoka vacationing by staying focused and innovating. C.O. Shaw implemented Capt. Fraser’s recommendation for more intensive advertising. Engaging promotional lms shot at Bigwin were shown in American movie theatres, and yers and newspaper ads drew attention as Hollywood promoted its new movies. By mid-century, 65 per cent of Bigwin’s guests came from the United States. And if Americans liked it, Canadians would too.e saga of Bigwin Inn is inseparable from the career of its creator, Charles Shaw, a man who did so much to make Muskoka famous yet who seems an enigma today.Charles Orlando Shaw, a virtuoso cornet player since childhood and a Boston-trained civil engineer, was born at Dexter, Maine in 1859 and raised to be a tanning industry player in the Charles O. Shaw was a man who did much to make Muskoka famous.Owner-operator Charles Orlando Shaw (second from right) enjoys the amiable company of prominent male guests in Bigwin Inn’s spacious Rotunda. Despite all the wood in this interior, Shaw was at the North American vanguard of ensuring re-resistant construction.Photograph: Douglas Graham McTaggart CollectionPhotograph: Muskoka Heritage Place, HuntsvilleFall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 37
705.645.4294 TF: 866.645.4294STORE: 228 TAYLOR RD., BRACEBRIDGEOFFICE: 1646 WINHARA RD., GRAVENHURST 38 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020Shaw family’s generations-long business. In 1890 Charles and wife, Jennie Lavinia Abbott, a renowned musician in her own right, relocated with their daughters Pauline and Jennifer, to Cheboygan, Michigan. As a tannery specialist and civil engineer, Shaw would design and oversee construction of a new tanning plant for the Pster and Vogel Leather Company. e project created a company town of more than 30 buildings on 25 acres along the riverbank. e land had been donated by Cheboygan council as incentive to build a tannery, councillors guring best use of their area’s hemlock forests was the tannin in the trees’ bark. When extracted and combined in a vat with raw hides, tannic acid creates a chemical reaction that cures the leather while preventing its decomposition.Shaw thrilled to the size of the operation. e Cheboygan tannery had capacity to tan a thousand hides a day. A spur rail line connected the tannery oor to tracks of the Michigan Central, bringing in raw hides and taking out tanned leather for boots and industrial drive belts. In addition to everything needed for producing leather, the complete community boasted a company-owned and operated general store, hospital, school, boarding houses, apartments, water tower and, essential in the 1890s mid-west, a saloon. A number of almost identical company-owned houses were rented to workers with families. By 1894, besides Charles, the place employed some 250 men. e company had oces across the U.S. and in Europe.At this northern Michigan town, Charles’s inherited understanding of tanning from his family’s smaller operations rapidly expanded in new areas. He learned how a company could control its workers. He discovered how to operate a tight relationship with a municipality. His experience with men staggering to work from the company’s own saloon made him a prohibitionist. And he’d gained condence that he could run just about anything.In autumn 1898, Charles received urgent word from cousin William Sutherland Shaw imploring him to come to Huntsville and help tackle mounting problems at his Muskoka tanneries. Back in 1890, Huntsville council had granted William a 10-year tax exemption “in consideration of establishing a tannery in the village.” In 1891, in partnership with David Alexander, he built the Shaw-Cassils tannery on Center Street by the Muskoka River and, while at it, constructed a second tanning facility farther downstream on the same river in Bracebridge. Now, seven years on, C.O. Shaw and his family, which included a son also named Charles born at Cheboygan, arrived in Huntsville. He could readily have imagined himself still in Dexter, or Cheboygan. e North Muskoka scenery, appearance of Huntsville, its sawmill and tanning economy, and local enthusiasm for hunting and shing were common to all three towns nestling along the same 45th latitude. Photograph: Douglas Graham McTaggart CollectionWhite linen service, a waitress for each table who memorized orders, stylish formal attire for breakfast, and the comforting elegance of Art Deco design were among the compelling attributes of Bigwin’s Indian Head dining room.
e trouble-shooter found his Canadian cousin at an impasse, facing workers demanding more pay. ey were slowing down work, jeopardizing valuable hides part-way through curing. Unlike his cousin, however, Charles was seasoned in hardball American industrial relations, where owners ran tanneries like any other manufacturing plant, mine or mill. e clear-eyed paladin knew just what to do. After quickly reviewing the numbers, he expressed dismay over the plant’s tawdry output and the tanners’ declining productivity. He pushed the men to work harder than most in Muskoka’s easygoing workforce were accustomed. If they showed up late for work, they’d be sent home for the day without pay. ey’d have daily and weekly production quotas to meet. In reply, they downed tools and walked o the job, upset with an autocratic Yankee’s regulations. e Huntsville Forester reported workers complaining of being so worn out by workday’s end they were “almost unable to walk home.” Huntsville’s Reeve Tom Goldie and local clergymen inserted themselves as go-betweens, or conciliators, in North Muskoka’s rst industrial stoppage. But Charles Shaw said no time could be wasted waiting for divine intervention. He looked at the politician and the clerics without blinking, stating he’d simply hire an entire new workforce if the men didn’t return to their jobs. After their week-long strike, the men returned to the tannery, picked up their tools, and resumed work at the unchanged pay rate. And that’s about where the Muskoka saga of C.O. Shaw as hard-bitten American business tycoon generally begins. In the words of Douglas McTaggart, author of the denitive history of Bigwin Inn, “upon arrival in Huntsville Shaw appeared to be quite the autocratic individual. … he cast himself as a martinet in the business world.” But McTaggart under-standably looked beyond that general perception because being a strict authoritarian could not alone account for C.O. Shaw’s unique accomplishments. e author, who’d experienced Bigwin Inn from childhood summers on Lake of Bays, saw in Shaw “a man of great vision,” one who “refused to compromise the integrity of work done under his name,” possessing “unrelenting commitment to excellence,” and having great “business acumen,” which included getting municipal tax exemptions from Huntsville and Bracebridge councils.e simple fact is that Charles Shaw rose to prominence as a major player in North America’s tanning industry, a crude and foul business. He ran operations with an iron hand, as his thousands of employees over the years would attest. Yet the same man made his tanneries reproof, hired more workers, built company housing for his Huntsville tanners as he’d done at Cheboygan, and negotiated with Canada Life Assurance Company its rst-ever group policy, issued January 12, 1920 for $300,000, covering 30 key employees. He deeply cared about children. He was active in community life. He displayed high sensitivity for music and had married a woman of great musical talent of her own. Lavinia, a contralto, for years led the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Choir. Other interests found her in Huntsville’s Literary Club.An alpha male, C.O. was wiry, kept his hair cropped short, wore bowties and was physically strong. Yet that middle name lent his character a romantic dimension.Charles Orlando Shaw was a Muskoka exotic.He was, moreover, in Muskoka to stay. Charles became vice-president of the company upon arrival in Huntsville. By 1905, he’d consolidated ownership, become president and general manager, and reorganized and renamed the company to t his grander vision. Local farming communities protably sold him hides from their slaughtered livestock and tanning bark from their hemlock stands to cure them. Distant Argentinian cattlemen exported hides to his ecient tanneries in Bracebridge and Huntsville. Combined with Muskoka Leather Company’s tannery in Bracebridge, the three accounted for the largest leather production in the British Empire.C.O. applied more Cheboygan lessons to Muskoka. He rebuilt and expanded his Huntsville and Bracebridge tanneries with reproof concrete. He increased international leather sales from a head oce in Montreal, taking full advantage of British Empire trade preferences. He changed the business name from Shaw-Cassils to the more broadly Photograph: Robert McLennanAbove: Bigwin Inn opened a century ago in June 2020 to much fanfare, including music provided by C.O. Shaw’s already famous Anglo-Canadian Concert Band which performed by invitation at the CNE Grandstand. Le: Jennie Lavinia Abbott, a renowned musician in her own right, was the wife of Bigwin owner C.O. Shaw.Photograph: J. Mills Collection, Muskoka Heritage PlaceFall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 39
40 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020
appealing Anglo-Canadian Leather Company. Under that name, Shaw happily and unstintingly fostered formation of the Anglo-Canadian Concert Band from talented musicians at his Huntsville tannery, poor immigrants from Italy with familiar but battered instruments. He bought them swank uniforms and expensive new instruments. He himself played rst coronet. He imported talent, including top clarinettist E.A. Wall Sr. from Chicago. He landed pre-eminent American band leader Herbert L. Clarke with a ve-year $75,000 (present value, $2,850,000) contract. Besides conducting, renowned composer Clarke wrote many pieces while living in Huntsville, including Lake of Bays, Twilight Dreams, Lavinia in honour of Shaw’s wife and Helen for his granddaughter. Clarke’s march Bigwin, played during the band’s acclaimed performance at 1919’s CNE grandstand show in Toronto, was part of the resort’s prelaunch publicity. Huntsville’s Anglo-Canadian Band became internationally renowned, thanks to radio broadcasts across Canada and as far south as Miami – another way C.O. Shaw was putting Muskoka on the map. To everyone’s delight but nobody’s surprise, next year music by the Anglo-Canadian Concert Band drifted across Lake of Bays from Bigwin Inn. Shaw’s inuence extended with his economic and political power. His tanneries in Huntsville and Bracebridge, steadily generating wealth, provided a $70,000 yearly payroll – by far Muskoka’s largest – for Anglo-Canadian’s 150 employees. Funds owed to suppliers, municipal coers (once taxes began to be paid), the treasuries of railway companies and the pockets of teamsters. He meshed municipal government and local industry. He got himself elected to Huntsville council. Exemplifying what “hands-on” management means, relentlessly energetic Shaw was a hard-driving, can-do American engineer and entrepreneur with good taste, musical talent and a touch of class. With his Anglo-Canadian tanneries well anchored in the global leather business, and his Anglo-Canadian Concert Band bringing pleasure and renown, C.O. Shaw next advanced into the transportation and accommodation businesses.In 1905, he gained control of Huntsville and Lake of Bays Navigation Company, backed by nancial resources from his high production tanneries. Its steam era eet of inland ships and railway at the Portage dominated transport throughout Huntsville’s hinterland.In 1907, he learned all about resorts when assisting the Canadian Railway News Company build its upscale $195,000 WaWa Hotel on the east side of Lake of Bays. Shaw’s involvement was key, given his transportation monopoly between Huntsville’s train station and Lake of Bays resorts. In 1910, he contemplated his integrated transport system and the continuously escalating success of numerous Lake of Bays resorts – Gouldie House, Hotel Britannia, Ronville Lodge, Iroquois Hotel, Ganoseyo, Port Cunnington Lodge, New Moon Lodge, Burlmarie House, Langton House, White House and Point Pleasant – and envisaged tying all these elements together more eectively by a trophy destination: a spectacular tourist hotel of his own. In 1911, he bought the largest island in the lake, Bigwin, mid-channel in the northern part of the lake and special to the Ojibwe people for its communal life, sacred for its three burial grounds. e only way eager guests and all their luggage could arrive would be on one of Shaw’s steamers. e redevelopment of Patmore House lodge as Hotel Britannia particularly captivated Shaw by its artful integrity of design. Britannia’s owner, omas J. White, introduced C.O. to his architect, John Wilson, a fellow resident of Collingwood. Already Simcoe County’s top architect, Wilson was rapidly becoming one of Canada’s pre-eminent designers. And the magic began. e visionary civil engineer and innovative architect mirrored each other as they shared ideas and outlooks. Shaw described his vision for Bigwin Inn – its bold nature, extensive use of space, a complete community like he’d created in Cheboygan, and direct and continuing expression of Bigwin Island’s Aboriginal importance. Receptive Wilson oered ideas for turning this dream into reality.Having lived most of his life along the 45th parallel in Dexter, Cheboygan and Huntsville, Shaw knew what a northern hinterland style required, and so did Wilson. ey’d use local materials – wood, stone, gravel from the Tapley farm. ey’d honour Indigenous people. ey’d pioneer with steel reinforced concrete, mortar, huge spaces, large wood beams and extensive masonry using Muskoka rock – blending diverse but complementary designs. Together they opened a new chapter in Canadian architecture and North American resort life.Once underway, Bigwin came in for derision as Toronto dailies mocked the idea of such a high-end resort in the province’s backwaters. Following the Toronto Star’s cue, locals gleefully dubbed the monumental but languishing project “Shaw’s Folly.” Construction dragged not only because of new uses of special materials. Shaw’s unprecedented standards, Wilson’s innovative Photograph: Douglas Graham McTaggart CollectionAmple supplies of pure spring water (100,000 gallons) for Bigwin Inn’s extensive operations came from this water tower but the source of the springs themselves, high on an island, remains a mystery. Fall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 41
42 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020excelrailings.ca705-646-2508STYLEDESIGNINNOVATIONstructures and exacting specications, complications of island work and the project’s immense scale, all contributed to delays. As well, the workers needed were absent, overseas as soldiers, from 1914 to 1918. C.O., who enjoyed solving problems, arranged for Canadian wartime civilian prisoners, interned by Ottawa as “enemy aliens” because they’d earlier immigrated from a now belligerent nation, to continue the project on Bigwin (their tents and cookstove in a wired-fenced compound) – just as others had been “paroled” from northern Ontario’s Kapuskasing concentration camp to work in one of Bracebridge’s undermanned tanneries. ere were always setbacks: the war over, men came home to resume work, but spread Spanish Flu that killed several hundred Muskokans, including stone masons working on Bigwin Inn.Undeterred, C.O. relied on the American playbook: get ’er done, open the chequebook and play hard, because nothing succeeds like success and doubters can be won over. ose Toronto papers? Joseph Atkinson, owner of the Star, began coming to Bigwin Inn with his entourage in 1922 and, for the rest of his life (to 1948), was one of Bigwin’s biggest boosters and best customers. e sceptical locals? Muskokans delighted to get the thousands of paycheques and paid invoices owing from Miss Collins, Shaw’s capable long-time secretary, while basking in the glow of celebrated notables in their midst. Concrete and stone buildings cost far more than the traditional wood-frame construction of Muskoka resorts. But they had substance and style beyond anything else in the District. ey would keep Bigwin standing while other Muskoka wood-frame resorts vanished in ames. In August 1923, the prestigious WaWa Hotel disappeared in a blaze, claiming the lives of nine female guests and sta. An inquest recommended future resorts consist of multiple buildings rather than a single rambling structure, the typical Muskoka pattern. Across the lake Bigwin Inn’s many buildings, linked by covered walkways, not only made it distinctly dierent – a colony of special venues having their individual character – but showed Shaw, who’d do anything to prevent re, had already adopted that idea about many separate buildings part of his plan – a full decade before the coroner’s recommendation. And though C.O. didn’t play golf, he liked how the fairways of Bigwin’s 18-hole course, in addition to satisfying guests, served as rebreaks on the heavily wooded island. Photograph: Jennifer MillsWith a full-regalia show to enchant Bigwin guests (and C.O. Shaw, at right), internationally celebrated First Nation bass-baritone Os-Ke-Non-Ton knew how to impress audiences in London, New York and Lake of Bays.
rewiring • alterations • heatingNEVER be left in the DARK or COLD:Call Mike Morrow705.765.3195get a quality home standby generator by GENERACwww.morrow-electric.comServing Muskoka Lakes since 1952 ESA License #: 7000286CALL FOR ALL YOUR BUILDING AND RENOVATION NEEDSP.O. Box 330, Bracebridge, ON P1L 1T7705.645.8881 email@example.com THE PLACE TO SHOP IN MUSKOKAOPEN 6 DAYS A WEEK( CLOSED MONDAY )10:00am - 4:00pmMOOSE FEATHERS GIFT SHOP4080 HWY. 118 West, Port Carling, ON705 762 1232 Tour our Morgan Davis printing museum and learn about the origin of printing.UNIQUE GIFTS FOR HOME AND COTTAGEKitchenware, jewellery, lotions, women’s fashions, purses, Chelsea Chocolates, games, assorted cards for every occasion.Visit our kiddy corner for books, beach toys, etc.Shaw’s fulsome embrace of Indigenous realities began with the resort name honouring Chippewa Chief Bigwin, whose traditional Muskoka lands these were. It included Indian motifs worked into the resort’s woodwork and poured concrete designs, Bigwin Inn’s wigwam-canoe-and-island logo on place settings and stationery, and cultural activities featuring internationally celebrated First Nation bass-baritone singer Os-Ke-Non-Ton. It was not happenstance that Bigwin Inn’s emergence coincided with the Group of Seven simultaneously projecting an authentic Canadian atmosphere through refreshingly bold artistic expression in the enduring spirit of Tom omson who’d operated from Huntsville when painting in Algonquin Park. Shaw and Wilson designed a contributing element to the exhilarating cultural mood astir in Canada.Charles Orlando Shaw stood apart from Muskokans, even as he became central to them and the entire community. He was an American with zeal, know-how and uninching determination. He sought to bring out the best in people. He kept an eye out for talent and, when nding it, encouraged its fullest development. He refused to compromise on quality in whatever of the many realms he engaged – tanning leather, making music, providing transportation services or creating resort accommodation.Bigwin Inn appeared in the Canadian wilderness as North America’s pre-eminent summer resort and ourished for more than half a century, then fell silent, its unique structures haunting remnants of a now lost epoch. Steamships gave way to motorboats, resort hotels to cottages, and elegant style to casual informality. Today, Captain Fraser’s out-of-print 1942 book, edited by Muskoka steamship historian Richard Tatley, has been republished with photos as A Steamboat Captain’s History of Muskoka. Steamer Wanda III has become central to a new exhibit hall at Muskoka Discovery Centre in Gravenhurst and, converted for present standards, again takes vacationers on cruises. Bigwin Island, vault of Indigenous and Bigwin Inn heritage, continues as a draw with contemporary mixtures of Muskoka seasonal vacationing. And vacationland Muskoka retains its unique cache.Fall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 43
44 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020Article by Meghan Smith / Photography by Tomasz SzumskiDog sledding may not be the rst winter sport to come to mind. However, it is quintessentially Canadian. Before snowmobiles, dogs aided in the delivery of mail, food, equipment and other supplies to communities cut o from traditional modes of transport in the winter months. Across Canada, northern Canada in particular, winters can be classied as harsh with signicant snowfalls, icy conditions and frigid temperatures. While technology may have reduced the impact of snowstorms overall, daily functions can quickly come to a halt when winter weather becomes a factor. e reality of a dicult winter climate is that individuals and businesses must adapt. No matter the conditions, there are many services that continue to be expected by the community. A hardy team of Siberian Huskies can move quickly, over long distances and through rugged terrain. e Seguin Sled Dog Mail Run is a tribute to the energy, determination and hardiness of the breed. Huskies are a breed known for their personality, their beauty and their ability to run. Intelligent and independent, huskies are known to develop special bonds with their people. eir friendly, outgoing nature, along with their playful mischievousness, makes them more than just a pet. Huskies are a member of the family. Elsie Chadwick was the archivist for the Siberian Husky Club of Canada and an enthusiast about all things Siberian Husky. Although she was never much into racing herself,
Chadwick took trips to Alaska, visited museums and kennels, chronicled pedigrees, wrote articles on the history of the breed and helped to promote dog rescue and adoption. “Elsie came up with the idea of the Seguin Sled Dog Mail Run at her cottage near Humphrey,” shares Colleen Heibein, musher and Carling Township resident. “She wanted to have a recreational Siberian Husky dogsledding event that recognized the past tradition of teams of dogs pulling sleds loaded with the mail and she wanted to showcase the Siberian Husky breed.”Heibein is a retired teacher who has owned huskies of her own since 1982. She clearly recognized the breed’s need for activity and thanks Jack London’s stories and the tales of Sergeant Preston of the Yukon for even knowing that dogsledding might be a good option. “Since I knew nothing about the sport and had no equipment, I joined e Siberian Husky Club of Canada,” says Heibein. “I went to my rst dogsled race, started talking to more knowledgeable people, bought my own sled and got hooked Above: Crowds gather in Humphrey Village at the starting point of the annual Seguin Sled Dog Mail Run. Right: In the tradition of past mail runs, participants carry a bag of mail that will be postmarked by postal ocials in the Village of Rosseau.
46 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020onthe sport of dogsledding.”Heibein’s 13 Siberian Huskies live at their kennel, Rockrunner, and participate in events, competitive and recreational, all around the province. However, the event Heibein most wanted to attend was by invitation only – the Seguin Sled Dog Mail Run. “Finally, in the year 1999, I was invited to participate,” shares Heibein. Unfortunately, Heibein was injured just before the event and had to withdraw. e event’s pioneer, Chadwick, held Heibein’s spot for the next year, giving Heibein plenty of time to mend and participate in the famed mail run as a recovery goal. “is event is one of the few remaining mail runs in the world,” explains Heibein. “e fact that organizers have found a way to run it continuously for the past 36 years, no matter the weather, makes it a unique winter event of any kind.”While it is not the grueling ordeal of the famed Iditarod, the sights and sounds of the event harken back to times when humans relied on their own ingenuity and their partnership with animals to travel and even to survive. Dogs have their own well-earned reputation as man’s best friend and a musher’s connection with his or her dog sled team goes beyond that. e mail run is a community fundraising event, bringing spectators from near and far to enjoy the pancake breakfast, watch the spectacle, meet the dogs and mushers, and even purchase letters. e day includes activities for children and plenty of photo opportunities with the friendly teams of huskies. Since the event’s inception in 1985, special letters are gathered specically for the event, loaded onto the participating sleds and hauled by dog teams from Humphrey to the Rosseau post oce. e run is a beautiful 18-kilometre trip along the roads, lakes, swamps and bush trails of Seguin Township. e teams of Siberian Huskies carry their bags of mail to the Postmistress or Postmaster in Rosseau, who later hand stamps all the mail and then prepares the letters to go to destinations around the world by regular mail.e specially designed letters that arrive via sled, or “sledvelopes” as they’ve come to Teams of dogs come from across North America to take part in the Seguin Sled Dog Mail Run.Hospice MuskokaA full outline of the topics will be posted on Hospice Muskoka website www.hospicemuskoka.com. Participants must register for any/all sessions. Tablets are available to loan for participants who do not have internet or equipment for virtual meetingsFor more information call 705-646-1697 www.hospicemuskoka.com DONATE TODAY Source: pixabayWith special thanks to United Way Simcoe Muskoka, Hospice Muskoka is pleased to offer a ten part ZOOM series with virtual interactive sessions intended to explore the stress and anxiety or loss brought on or enhanced by COVID-19 and find tools that will lead to emotional well-being, building trust and hope, healing and resiliency. Apart but Not AloneFacilitated by Elke Scholz, Masters in Expressive Arts Therapy, Coaching, Consulting and Education; certified EMDR therapistSESSION DATES: Tuesdays, November 3 – December 1, 2020 Tuesdays, January 12 – February 9, 2021
be known, have become a sought-after keepsake and collectible for children and adults alike. In recent years, Canada Post has even issued specialized stamps to commemorate the event. People from all over the world attend and participate in the annual sled dog run, for the experience and for their very own “sledvelope.” “is is a historical event and we want to continue to honour the tradition,” explains J.J. Blower, communications and program co-ordinator for Seguin Township. “However, at this point, we don’t know what that looks like for 2021. ere are a number of challenges to consider and the planning group is working on that.”e COVID-19 pandemic has signicantly changed the world and the annual Seguin Sled Dog Mail Run is no exception. Planning is currently underway for the 2021 event, but those plans may change as the event draws closer.“Public crowds are certainly one consideration and a number of our usual mushers are residents of the United States,” says Blower. “ose are factors to consider. We need to keep everyone safe and keep the tradition alive.”“Elsie Chadwick had a great idea and I am so glad the Township of Seguin values the event enough to run it every year,” shares Heibein. “And I’m so glad for all the volunteers that donate their time at the event.”No matter how the event plays out in 2021, the tradition will continue in a format safe for everyone involved. Much like the incredible dog and musher teams of northern Canada, the annual Seguin Dog Sled Mail Run will continue on, no matter what obstacles there are to overcome. Right: Spectators meet the dogs and their handlers at the Seguin Sled Dog Mail Run. Below right: Huskies are a breed known for their personality, their beauty and their ability to run. They develop special bonds with their people.Crowds line the road at the start of the Seguin Sled Dog Mail Run in Humphrey Village.Fall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 47
48 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020Whats HappenedMuskoka Regional Centre talks heating up e lengthy saga of the former Muskoka Regional Centre is set for a new chapter.Located in Gravenhurst, the 74-acre property sits on a piece of prime real estate along the Lake Muskoka shoreline. e property was originally opened as the Muskoka Cottage Sanatorium in 1897. In 1960, the Province of Ontario transitioned the site to a housing and care facility for developmentally challenged individuals before it ultimately closed in 1994. It has stood vacant ever since.Recently, the property was nearly sold to Maple Leaf Education System but the deal ultimately broke down in June of 2019.e property was set to go on the open market but following meetings between Premier Doug Ford and Muskoka representatives, including Gravenhurst Mayor Paul Kelly, there was a delay in taking action.“e wheels have been turning non-stop,” says Kelly. “We had several parties that were very, very interested pre-COVID and three or four of those parties are still interested.”In October, the province will put out a marketing brochure to any interested parties and Kelly says they hope to have a proponent identied in the next six months.According to Kelly, the Town wants the property used for two primary purposes: institutional uses such as health care and education and the creation of permanent full-time jobs.“We don’t want this property on the open market. We don’t want to see it become a housing subdivision or a resort,” he says. “All of the parties clearly know what we’re looking for...and that includes public access.”Kelly says he isn’t sure how much the asking price will be, but the buyer will need to set aside somewhere between $4 to 6 million to clear the existing unusable buildings o the property. Bala dealing with loss of eventsOver the past 35 years, it’s estimated that the Bala Cranberry Festival has drawn more than 500,000 people into the small community of Bala. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has forced event organizers to push the pause button on the 2020 edition. e Trek to Bethlehem, another hugely popular Bala event, has also been cancelled out of an abundance of caution.“After much deliberation and discussions with our board of directors, it is with a heavy and sad heart that we inform everyone that the Bala Cranberry Festival weekend event will not be held in 2020,” cranberry festival organizers said in a recent statement.Nonetheless, the cranberry harvest goes on and guests are invited to visit Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery to check it out for themselves.“We’ve been working extremely hard to meet Ontario’s public health mandate,” says Leslie Commandant of the farm and winery. “We’re really looking forward to this harvest season. It’s one of our favourite times of the year.”e farm oers wagon tours, wine tasting, a licensed patio, hiking trails and the popular cranberry plunge. Commandant says all of those activities are still a go but it’s best to visit their website at cranberry.ca to view the latest updates. Reservations are required for some of the activities.Organizer for the Trek to Bethlehem said they simply can’t accommodate the provincial guidelines for event size and safety. ey’re optimistic the trek can return in 2021.Blue Green Algae incidents up in 2020e Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks is keeping a close eye on the blue-green algae situation in Muskoka In September, residents near Boyd’s Bay on Lake Muskoka were cautioned about a conrmed blue-green algae bloom. e algal bloom was the seventh of the year reported in Muskoka. “e ministry takes reports of potential blue-green algal blooms very seriously,” says ministry spokesperson Gary Wheeler. “e number of conrmed blue-green algal blooms is marginally higher this year. In 2019, there were six conrmed lakes with blue-green algal blooms in the District of Muskoka and two lakes in Simcoe County.”Unused since 1994, the former Muskoka Regional Centre property on Lake Muskoka now looks poised to sell in the upcoming months.Photograph: Town of Gravenhurst
Both Simcoe and Muskoka are reporting one additional algal bloom for this year over 2019.Wheeler said that due to a large number of variables (annual weather patterns, temperature, storms, site-specic weather and physical conditions), it’s impossible to predict the number of blooms that will occur in a given year. However, the ministry typically responds to about 50 to 70 conrmed blue-green algal blooms per year across Ontario. He says that so far in 2020 there have been 60 conrmed blue-green algal blooms reported to the ministry. Blue-green algae (also called cyanobacteria) are naturally occurring microscopic organisms that can produce “blooms” in lakes when environmental conditions are favourable, including sucient levels of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, warm water temperatures and calm weather conditions. Some blooms of blue-green algae produce toxins, known as cyanotoxins, that have the potential to harm humans and animals. Couple donates $2 million to Bracebridge hospital An unprecedented show of generosity is making things a little easier at South Muskoka Memorial Hospital in Bracebridge. In September, the South Muskoka Hospital Foundation announced they have received the largest single donation from a living donor in their history. at gift came courtesy of a $2 million donation from Bary and Brenda Gray of Gravenhurst.“Quality health care and a well-equipped hospital are so important to a community,” says Brenda. “We feel very fortunate to be in the position to show our gratitude in this way.”e donation will be used to renovate and purchase new ultrasound and radiology equipment for the diagnostic imaging department at South Muskoka Memorial Hospital.e hospital plans to recognize the Grays by renaming the imaging department the Bary and Brenda Gray Imaging Department.Bary and Brenda built a home in Gravenhurst in 2009 and used it seasonally for 10 years. In 2019, they sold their home in Aurora and moved to Gravenhurst year-round. e convincing factor that inspired them to make their donation was when Bary twice required visits to the emergency department. e Grays say they were overwhelmed by the excellence of the care and attention he received.“I am now under the excellent care of Dr. Cipriani,” says Bary. “Along with the rest of the healthcare team at the hospital, we really feel we couldn’t be in better hands.”Swing Sandeld bridge under repaire District of Muskoka has doubled back on plans to close the PortSandeld bridge for a full two weeks, opting instead to do the work at night.Original plans had called for a full closure of the roadway from Oct. 26 to Nov. 9 with a lengthy detour in place. e detour will still be used during the construction period from Sept. 30 to Nov. 9 from 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. Sundays to ursdays, and 11 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. e closure is part of scheduled maintenance on the swing bridge.e structure is actually the fourth version of the bridge in Port Sandeld, which was originally built in 1876. e initial version was built to accommodate the steamships traversing the canal below and towered some 40 feet in the air.A more practical wooden swing bridge was built in 1897. at was replaced by a metal swing bridge 1924 which stood for most of the 20th century until it was replaced by the current bridge in 1998.Muskoka experienced its seventh blue-green algae bloom of 2020 recently. The latest bloom occurred on Boyd's Bay in Lake Muskoka.Bary and Brenda Gray of Gravenhurst recently donated $2 million to the South Muskoka Hospital Foundation.Photograph: South Muskoka Hospital FoundationPhotograph: Brandon ScottFall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 49
50 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020The art of the small gatheringFood and décor for seasonal entertainingArticle by Karen Wehrstein / Photography by Tomasz SzumskiWith the future of a world pandemic still uncertain, we all might have to scale back our Christmas entertaining plans this year, hosting more intimate groups of our nearest and dearest. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be memorable events. As part of planning Christmas events, we’re going to go outside our purely culinary bubble to include setting and décor as part of this feature.e setting can be at home, of course, or in your own private cottage at an establishment such as Patterson Kaye Resort, which is open year-round and oers the full range from a two-person hotel-style cabin to a ve-bedroom cottage that has its own kitchen. Normally, the resort’s restaurant, Seasons, oers a big Christmas buet dinner, explains operations assistant Jessica Moseley – but not this year, for obvious reasons. “We’re looking at a family-style buet for their own table,” she says. “You get the same vibe, it’s more communal.” Have it brought to your Patterson Kaye cottage as if it were take-out, which the resort is also doing this year – why not?As it turned out Patterson Kaye and Seasons, did not close for the summer. “It was one of the busiest years for us,” Moseley said. “People want to do something; they deserve to do something. You still have to be a family in these times.”So now, let’s talk food, and the traditional turkey – nah, you already know how to do that. How about something a little dierent, like roast duck, as made by Seasons executive chef Don Hutchinson?Hutchinson grew up in Richmond Hill, got his culinary education at George Brown College in Toronto and then apprenticed in CP Hotels from coast to coast, including the Chateau Frontenac, the Royal York, Deerhurst Resort, and inns in Ban and Lake Louise. After a stint in Ontario, he Executive chef Don Hutchinson’s duck recipe adds the avours of three species of fruit plus thyme for a complex and delicious sweetening of the tender, juicy meat.
Lena Patten, owner of Hilltop Interiors in Rosseau, delights in the tradition of decorating for Christmas celebrating.travelled to Australia and worked for a New Zealand caterer for a year, then returned to Toronto to work for other caterers. In 2000, he moved to Muskoka with his children, working rst at Inn on the Falls in Bracebridge (“you hear footprints up the stairs, but never see the ghost”). After about eight years at Shamrock Lodge, he started his own food truck and catering business, Muskoka’s Menu, and has worked at Seasons for three winters.Four years ago in Barrie, he met, in his words, “the girl of my dreams,” Debbie Urbanski. “I’m going to ask her to marry me,” he says, “right about now.” (Not to worry; Ms. Urbanski has been informed in a timely fashion.)Hutchinson’s duck recipe adds the avours of three species of fruit plus thyme for a complex and delicious sweetening of the tender, juicy meat. “Duck has a lot of avour to begin with,” he advises, “so you don’t want to overpower it with spices.” Also, in keeping with his philosophy of sticking to basics and simplicity, the bird is accompanied with an assortment of al dente vegetables seasoned only lightly with salt and pepper, and melt-in-your-mouth potatoes.Now let us take an interlude concerning décor, with the knowledgeable and delightful Lena Patten, owner of Hilltop Interiors in Rosseau, now celebrating its 20th anniversary.“Christmas is my favourite time of year, Roast Duck Don Hutchison, Patterson Kaye Resort and SeasonsIngredients1 duck, washed inside and out3-4 tart apples (e.g, Empire or Granny Smith), cored and quartered1 medium-size onion, cut into 8 pieces1 orange, peeled and cut into quartersSalt and pepper1 tsp minced garlicFresh thyme sprigs (about 5)2 oz brandy½ cup apricot jam2 cups duck or chicken stock2 Tbsp ourMethod• Poke holes or score the skin of the duck to render the fat. Season well with salt and pepper inside and out.• Mix the apples, orange, onion, garlic and thyme (except 1 tsp thyme leaves nely chopped) with ½ oz brandy. Stu the duck’s cavity with this mixture.• Place in a preheated oven (350°F) in a roasting pan. After 20 minutes, reduce heat to 300°F and continue cooking for about an hour.• Mix the rest of the brandy with the jam and baste the duck with it. Baste about every 20 minutes. Cook duck until its internal temperature reaches 165°F.• Remove from the oven and set on a plate to rest for 10 minutes.• Strain about 2 Tbsp of fat from the roasting pan into a pot. Add 2 Tbsp of our and mix into a toothpaste-like consistency. Heat on the stove, stirring constantly until it starts to brown. Slowly and carefully start adding the stock until it reaches a velouté consistency: dip a wooden spoon in the sauce and run a nger across the back of it; if it slowly drips back together, it is the right consistency.• Season velouté with salt and pepper. Add the leftover1 tsp of chopped thyme.• Duck is ready to carve and your velouté is ready to serve and be enjoyed by your guests!Chef ’s tips“Scoring or poking the duck’s skin, especially around the legs, is very important because it renders out the fat,” Hutchison advises. Pierce just through the skin, not into the meat.For roasting, you may want to put some sliced apples under the duck to stop it from sticking to the pan.If you haven’t tried frying potatoes in duck fat with a little salt and pepper, you must.When ordering this dish from Seasons, provide 24 hours’ notice.Fall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 51
52 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020and I love Christmas Eve,” Patten enthuses. Of Lithuanian extraction, she recalls her family sharing a 12-course meal every Dec. 24, when celebrations ocially began. Her father would place hay under the tablecloth as a reminder of the manger, a tradition she continues. “It’s the reveal, it’s just magical, and my family was all about that.” ey still are; her husband and two grown sons now revel in it as much as she does.Patten grew up in Toronto and went to university in Guelph, from where she and a friend would prowl the interior-decorating shops of the region every other weekend, planning to open such a shop together someday. However, Patten went into marketing upon her return to the big city, before moving with her husband to Muskoka, where both had enjoyed their respective family cottages while growing up. After working for about four years in another shop, she decided to start her own business. In a moment of synchronicity, the antique building in central Rosseau became available, and Hilltop Interiors was born.“A cherished Christmas is all about the tasty treats and the timeless décor,” Patten says. “It’s a sensory experience. e beautiful smells, the evergreens, the candles, having the re going... great music, good wine and good friends.” At the heart of it all is the table, making a beautiful table setting a must. “It doesn’t have to be too elaborate,” she says. “It’s those little special pieces that create that warm and inviting atmosphere. And it’s so much easier to do when you’re doing smaller gatherings with a smaller table.”Nature is a reliable inspiration for Patten. “We live in a great area where you can go outside and clip cedar boughs, hemlock branches, pinecones,” she says. “Hemlock has a beautiful silvery green colour on the underside. I always like white birch branches to go with it.” Here’s a bit of twist you might not think of for Christmas: red roses. “ere’s nothing like deep red roses with pine boughs. My mother used to do that.”Another cool idea for the table: create a winter wilderness or Christmas scene on a charcuterie board for the initial party reveal. “en you can easily remove it when you bring in the food,” Patten explains. “Every year, change it around, change the colours, put a snowman on it: that’s the beauty of the board, it’s whatever.”Speaking of colours: “Traditionally people like to see the red and green, which is cheery “A cherished Christmas is all about the tasty treats and the timeless décor. It’s a sensory experience,” says Lena Patten.Sausage & Potato Hand-Held PieRandy Spencer, Spencer’s Catering & Culinary CreationsIngredientsUse your favourite pie-dough recipe, or use store-bought 4” pie shells and homemade dough for pie top cover.1 lb. ground pork1 lb. sausage meat from butcher1½ cup sliced onions1 Tbsp nely-chopped garlic1 lb. peeled potatoes thinly sliced and lightly cooked in salted boiling water (mini potatoes are perfect for handheld pies)1 tsp dry thyme leaves2½ cups beef stock3 Tbsp our1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauceSalt and fresh-ground pepper to taste1 egg, beatenMethod: • Cook meat in saucepan on medium heat. Drain all but a few tablespoons of fat• Add sliced onions and garlic, brown for 5-6 minutes on high heat, stirring so onions do not burn. Turn heat to medium.• Add thyme, Worcestershire sauce and our, mix in.• Stir in beef stock. Cook for 5 minutes. Fold in potatoes, season with salt and pepper to taste.• Let cool in fridge for 45 minutes.• Fill pie shell and cover, crimp and brush with beaten egg.• Bake for 20-30 minutes at 375°F till golden-brown.Makes 20 four-inch or 32 mun-sized handheld pies. Chef ’s tips:Try them with HP Sauce. Enjoy reheated pie with fried eggs and HP Sauce at breakfast.Bonus Appetizer Recipe: Bacon-Wrapped DatesSoak dates in spiced rum overnight. Wrap them in slices of bacon (if they’re small, squish two together), skewer them and bake for about 8 minutes at 350°F convection.
PK_Muskoka Patterson Kaye R esortP a t t e r s o n K a y ew w w . P a t t e r s o n K a y e R e s o r t . c o m- Resort & Restaurant on Lake Muskoka -Studio to Five Bedroom CottagesSeasons Restaurant Open to Public“Don’t be afraid to try something dierent,” is part of Randy Spencer’s food philosophy. The longtime restaurateur and now caterer shares some of his recipes for Christmas entertaining.and bright and fun. It’s easy to pull from your own in-house items,” Patten says. “But nothing is mandatory.” Well, maybe one thing: “e underlying colour that you always have is some sort of green, whether light or dark. Green is what really pulls it all together, helps bridge all the colours.” Perhaps in the dead of winter we want to be reminded of foliage, same as we want to be reminded of light during the longest nights.Every late November, Patten and her sta decorate the store to the nines for its weekend-long Christmas Open House, and people come from all over for decorative inspiration, not to mention to buy frosted glasses, reindeer candle-holders, Christmas-themed placemats, napkins and rings, pinecone-themed cutlery, unscented candles (“they don’t interfere with the lovely smells of the food”) and much more. Because grey was trending last year, she featured Ellen DeGeneres dishware by Royal Doulton, in warm greys. Grey or taupe works well with metallic accents whether they be silver or gold-themed.e key: be creative! Like plaid? Make it the theme. “ink about your favourite colour, and build your table around it. Or, what colour is trending? Blue seems to be popular this year. Watch for a blue-themed...” Lena Patten cuts herself o there, segueing deftly into an invitation to this year’s Open House, happening Nov. 20-22. “We have a sale, we serve appetizers, we have a rae for cool prizes donated by our suppliers.” If you are one of her diehard Christmas followers, or at least like-minded, you’ll start preparing right after Remembrance Day.To add appetizers and dessert to our delicious entrée, let’s consult with Randy Spencer, best known as the former owner, for 19 years, of Spencer’s Tall Trees restaurant in Huntsville, and now owner of Spencer’s Catering & Culinary Creations. Born near Noranda, Quebec, he grew up in Toronto, received his culinary education at George Brown College, worked at a restaurant in Hamilton for a while, then travelled the world including Europe, Jamaica and the Bahamas, where he met his wife Karen. In Muskoka, he worked at Hidden Valley Resort and Grandview before purchasing Tall Trees in 2000.As a restauranteur rather than purely a chef, Spencer says, “you have to check your ego at the door; if something isn’t working, don’t kick a dead horse.” Friendliness is crucial, too; clients of Tall Trees still greet him on the street.Now, Spencer says, “We’re in the next phase of our life. is year, we’ve done 10 per cent of what we normally do in catering.” Often, he will go masked into a cottage kitchen, set up the food and leave. “Even in forced semi-retirement now, I cook every day anyway.” One exercise of his craft he has resolutely not quit is volunteering one day at the Huntsville food bank, e Table, and providing quality food for Hospice Huntsville, after being deeply moved by the quality of treatment provided there for a dying friend. Just hearing, for instance, “My father smiled” is satisfaction enough for Spencer.122 Kimberley Avenue, Suite 2Bracebridge ON P1L 1Z8SHANNON STARKwww.shannonstark.comBenefits of a Holistic NutritionistAuto-Immunity - Allergies - Digestion Dietary Changes - Fatigue Hormone Imbalances Sleep - Aging - Weight Loss and firstname.lastname@example.orgR.H.N.Registered Holistic NutritionistLive and Dry Blood AnalystFall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 53
Conserving Nature in Muskoka. Join us today.A registered charity.We are proud to announce our 43rd conservation property,The Silver Doe Nature Reserve. This complex of beaver ponds, rock barrens and mixed forest is quintessential Muskoka wilderness. Thank you to The Kenneth M Molson Foundation for fundingthis project and for supporting nature conservation in Muskoka!
Hand-held pies are all the rage in Australia and New Zealand, he says, available everywhere in stores, food trucks, etc. rough use of sausage meat, the recipe becomes versatile, lending itself to spicy, farmers’, Mennonite, or what-have-you. He ran the sausage and potato version past Keely Schierl, former owner of e Butcher’s Daughter in Huntsville, to perfect it. It is a rich, juicy, meaty treat inside aky pastry, combining the heartiest of tastes and textures.Our bonus appetizer is – are you ready for this? – bacon-wrapped dates. Dates were on sale and Karen had bought too many. ey had already tried bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, scallops and chicken livers, so why not? “Don’t be afraid to try something dierent,” is part of Spencer’s food philosophy. I can’t quite describe the combination of these avours, though “rich as heck” goes without saying; you just have to try them.Spencer’s dessert, the chocolate bombe, is, well, the bomb. Right away I tasted the secret ingredient that tangs up the sweetness in both the crunchy edges and the deliciously gooey inside, wondered what it was and couldn’t quite place it.Some nal wisdom from one of Huntsville’s legendary restauranteurs: “Food isn’t always about taste. It’s about the company, the ambience, the thrill of the moment and where you are… you’re there.” Now that the Fall Winter issue of Unique Muskoka has arrived, it is time for Cottage Country Cuisine to go into hibernation until spring 2021. Have a wonderful holiday season, stay healthy and happy and, as always: bon appétit!Chocolate Bombes with Eggnog Crème AnglaiseBombes:Ingredients:¾ cup butter9 oz. chocolate (good quality, e.g. Coco Barry or Callebaut)1 tsp orange zest*1 cup brown sugar3 eggs 1 tsp vanilla1 cup all-purpose ourMethod:• Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler (so as not to scorch).• Whisk in brown sugar.• Remove from heat. Whisk in eggs, zest and vanilla. Fold in our. • Portion into greased non-stick 6 x 4oz. mun pan.• Bake at 350° F convection for 10-12 minutes.• Let cool 5 minutes, then turn out from pan gently onto wire rack.*e secret ingredient - Crème AnglaiseIngredients:3 cups eggnog10 egg yolks1 cup white sugar¼ tsp cinnamon 1 tsp vanilla2 Tbsp cornstarch Method:• Heat eggnog (do not boil).• Create cornstarch slurry by adding a maximum of 1 Tbsp water to the 2 Tbsp cornstarch until it liquees.• In a stainless-steel bowl, mix the sugar with yolks, vanilla and cinnamon.• Place bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk the mixture as it slowly warms. Add the eggnog as you are whisking. When the mixture starts to thicken, whisk in the cornstarch slurry slowly. Once mixture thickens, remove from stove.• Cool in fridge, lightly covered with plastic wrap, or serve warm. Both ways are great.Chef ’s Tip:You can add a bright red drizzle for holiday pizzazz by mixing and cooking macerated cranberries with sugar and cornstarch, or thinning some cranberry jelly. Apply artistically with a squeeze bottle to crème anglaise spread on plate with chocolate bombes.Conserving Nature in Muskoka. Join us today.A registered charity.We are proud to announce our 43rd conservation property,The Silver Doe Nature Reserve. This complex of beaver ponds, rock barrens and mixed forest is quintessential Muskoka wilderness. Thank you to The Kenneth M Molson Foundation for fundingthis project and for supporting nature conservation in Muskoka! Fall/Winter 2020 UNIQUE MUSKOKA 55
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60 UNIQUE MUSKOKA Fall/Winter 2020Muskoka MomentsBy Heather Douglas Shooting beautiful MuskokaFor 30 years now, I have been traipsing all around Muskoka in search of the ultimate photographic background. On one hand, that should be a pretty easy search, as almost every location in Muskoka provides an ultimate vista of rocks, trees and water. However, you may be surprised to realize how many factors need to be taken into account. Especially if you are going to add people into the mix in order to create a treasured family portrait. I have many favourites for a variety of reasons – Wilson’s Fall in Bracebridge for one. I have used the falls and river as a backdrop for years. It is a fantastic location because you can shoot there in the morning on one side and in the afternoon on the other. e drawback I discovered this summer is that Wilson’s Falls is no longer Bracebridge’s best kept secret. In the past I have suggested that location to local families, who were puzzled as to its whereabouts. But this summer, when I strode condently into my typical shooting area, I was shocked at the number of people lounging on the rocks and swimming in the rapids. Just below the falls is another treasured location, Bass Rock. With its smooth bare rock and the river behind, it is a gorgeous setting. It is also deceiving. I was once photographing a couple for their engagement session in early May. I had them set up on one point and I just needed to change my angle a little. I stepped onto what I believed was a sand covered rock, which in fact turned out to be a slime covered rock. My couple stared wide eyed as I slid into waist deep water with my camera held over my head. e gentleman graciously tried to help but stepped on the same slime covered rock and slid past me. We both stood in the chilly water laughing until the tears rolled down our cheeks. ankfully, my bride-to-be had more sense than to step on the oending rock and she took my camera as her ancé and I struggled out of the water. Another favourite is the Port Sydney rapids. Now, the challenge there is that location has never been a secret and there are often crowds of people. It is also only ideal to photograph in the morning or the evening. Just to the south of the Port Sydney Falls is Indian Landing with the famous most photographed tree in the world, the Giving Tree. Drawbacks, again, include shooting around people and getting the lighting just right.High Falls is an absolutely spectacular backdrop, but only for the nimble and fearless! It does provide a bit of a challenge to access. And again, it is only good lighting in the morning. Hidden in the woods beside High Falls is what I have always called Little High Falls. Again, a bit of a challenge to access and a bridge was built over the top portion, which is good for access, bad for disturbing the pristine wilderness.Ragged Falls just outside of Algonquin Park is a wonderful place to visit, but very hard to photograph a family, as there is no really clear access to pose people and get the waterfalls in the background. e Oxtongue Rapids is another fabulous location but poses the challenge of getting there. It is along Highway 60 and then down a rugged back road. Spectacular upon arrival though. I would like to include the Bala Falls, but the creation of the dam has altered that location forever. On one hand, the many brides and families I captured there really will have an irreplaceable image. e locks in Port Carling have been among my backdrops as has the wharf in Gravenhurst with the iconic Segwun and Wenonah in the background. I also have the privilege of photographing on my clients property throughout Muskoka and there are some incredible private locations. I have also parked on the side of the road and photographed in a ditch as the view has taken my breath away. As the leaves change colour presenting us with one of the most incredible displays in the world, wherever you are, take a photo and cherish the incredible home we call Muskoka.Heather Douglas has been photographing in Muskoka for 30 years. Her career began in 1990 working as a photojournalist for e Muskoka Sun. In 1996, she began her career as a portrait photographer specializing in wedding and family portraiture.She resides in Huntsville with her husband and their two teenage children. Her career now focuses primarily on family portraiture and she is a familiar face behind the camera at many sporting leagues, dance schools and events in Muskoka.Photographs: Heather Douglas
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