Friday, August 8, 2014


For a brief moment I thought I had died and was on my way to Heaven, heading down a dark passageway toward a beckoning bright light but then remembered I was paddleboarding in Muskoka and already in Heaven!
[Thanks to Peter DeMos of Muskoka Outfitters for use of the SUP.]

Friday, July 25, 2014


We weren't hunting for Indian Pipe when we happened upon some, including this cluster with its pink variation. Often mistaken for a fungus due to its colour, it is a plant that lacks chlorophyll, the green pigment responsible for photosynthesis. It instead receives its nutrition from parasitizing fungus that are in turn connected to trees, an unique and interesting arrangement.

Friday, July 18, 2014


The Summer Cottage Tour, a Muskoka Conservancy fund-raising event, started and ended at Touchstone on Lake Muskoka, with the Wenonah II delivering the tour group to a pair of cottages, a contrast of old and new Muskoka. Willardby, named after its original owner, Dr. Lewis Willard, is one of the oldest and most original Beaumaris cottages found on the famous Millionaires' Row. A chapter and photographs of its boathouses can be found in the coffeetable classic, Shelter at the Shore. The other is a modern log mansion and boathouse at Montcalm Point, the name inherited from a former hotel that once occupied this location. Its boathouse is also featured in print however to truly appreciate the whole property and its latest renovations a virtual tour is available online. It is currently listed on the market and can be yours for $8 million.
[Program front cover images by Nicole Lee Photography]

Thursday, July 17, 2014


It was a beautiful day for cruising Lake Muskoka, where I joined Muskoka Conservancy staff and other volunteers in visiting the two cottages that will be featured on the Summer Cottage Tour. Several boats were needed to shuttle us all between locations, where we were given an orientation of both properties and learned our roles for the following day, when the sold-out tour takes place and the destinations are revealed, with the Wenonah II delivering the visitors.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


As part of their 50th anniversary season the Muskoka Lakes Museum is offering a series of free lectures, held most Wednesday evenings. Tonight's feature was "Cottaging 50 Years Ago" and was presented by Susan Daglish, who regaled the audience with her experiences of cottage life then and before. Their cottage, on Lake Rosseau, is one of Muskoka's oldest, originally a squared log cabin and is called "Subha", an East Indian name meaning "place of peace and healing."

Monday, July 14, 2014


Today we hiked the first section of the Devil's Gap Trail, originally the colonization road between Gravenhurst and Bala. It was still very muddy in places with several pools of water to negotiate around. We encountered several species of mushrooms flanking the trail, such as this Fly Agaric crowned with a colourful leaf. Local folklore claims an early pioneer, after getting his wagon and team of oxen stuck in the mud, went for help but when he returned there was no trace of them. If the bugs were as bad as today I'm sure the team managed to extricate themselves and hightailed it out of there!

Monday, July 7, 2014


Our first discs were directed at the camera and professional photographer Scott Turnbull, who happened to arrive at the same time and volunteered to take this photograph on my behalf. He was also one of the people responsible for building this disc golf course, which recently opened at the end of June and is a fun way to spend some time!

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Following a tour aboard the Peerless II and in anticipation of it locking through, my boys found a great place to catch the action.


Captain Randy Potts of Sunset Cruises, pilots the Peerless II down the Indian River and past Sunset cottage. The Peerless II was built in 1946 and for 49 years it plied the three bigger Muskoka lakes, making deliveries of gasoline and home heating oil. It was then retired from active duty and later sold privately in 2003, where after being restored it now makes rounds of the same lakes again, this time as a tour boat offering scenic and sunset cruises.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


A major attraction of the second annual Rotary DockFest was the revived bathtub derby, where racers competed in a series of heats, completing an obstacle course on the river waterfront. Along the course racers were forced to pass beneath a column of spray, supplied by a nearby fire truck. Funds raised from this year's event will help support Top Hat, a local youth charity, and also towards River Mill Park improvements.

Friday, July 4, 2014


Rain and thunder did little to discourage people from attending the Buttertart Festival, sponsored by Muskoka Life and held at the Muskoka Lakes Museum. Several local bakeries were on hand, busy promoting their versions and vying for the coveted People's Choice Award. The sun eventually made an appearance and everybody left happy, their cravings satisfied and umbrellas stowed, and for some, like us, with a door prize of more buttertarts to enjoy afterwards.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


We were hoping to try out the natural water slide at the Port Sydney dam and along with others, were disappointed to find it too fast and furious for comfort. My boys were content to cool down instead with a chilled orange soda from Muskoka Dry, their first time trying it and my first time finding it available, which I believe has been brought back again.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


The first day of summer was beautiful and made for a pleasant stroll through the Upjohn Nature Reserve, one of several properties trusted to the Muskoka Conservancy. Led by Bill Dickinson, one of the directors and a well-versed naturalist, I joined the small group attending the event, touring the reserve with its fieldstone farmhouse, through the forest to the beaver pond. Along the way Bill shared his knowledge of birds, fauna and flora, providing us a lot to digest, including a couple of wild edible plants.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


We joined Miranda Virtanen, a field technician involved with the START Muskoka project, for a day tracking female Blanding's turtles to monitor for potential nesting. Using radio telemetry to home in and wearing wetsuits, we slogged and waded through the wetlands, often relying on a float tube to negotiate across deeper areas. Once in close proximity we had to blindly search for them with our hands and feet in the murky water, Miranda making it look easy and successfully finding each of the subjects.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


This year has been brutal with bugs, the worst I've experienced in my five years living here. If you're coming to Muskolka be sure to have plenty of repellant and you may also want to consider bugnet protection.

Friday, June 13, 2014


Friday the 13th turned out to be a lucky day, when a gray tree frog showed up for a photo op. One of 13 species of frogs and toads in Ontario, it is one of the most elusive, rarely leaving trees except to breed. The patch beneath their eyes distinguish them from other frogs and they possess the ability to change colour from green to gray to match their surroundings.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


I am amazed at how camouflaged and motionless a killdeer can be, and almost stepped on one before it startled me with its movement and shrieks. This one was protecting its nest and clutch of eggs. The nest is a rudimentary affair on the ground, the pattern of the eggs blending with its surroundings. If threatened, the parent will perform a broken wing act to distract and lead predators away from the nest.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


I attended a presentation hosted by the Muskoka Conservancy and floored by Scales Nature Park staff from Orillia, for START Muskoka, Saving Turtles at Risk Today, a joint project launched last year involving several entities and efforts. It was interesting, informative, and highlighted the species we have, those at risk and how we can all contribute to the success of this program.

Friday, June 6, 2014


Today we visited the Dyer Memorial, a stone monument set amidst a secluded nature reserve of landscaped grounds and ponds. The monument was commissioned by Clifton Dyer as a final resting place for his wife. They had honeymooned in Muskoka in 1916 and returned twenty years later, and from then on as regular visitors. His wife died in 1956 and he joined her three years later, the amount of time it took for the memorial and grounds to be completed, their cremated ashes placed together within it.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


One of my favourite sounds of spring is the chorus of the spring peeper, which collectively can be quite the disturbance. Even when calling, they can be difficult to locate, and with their camouflage and tiny size, less than an inch long, are often hard to find.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I found this pair of red trilliums while walking dogs in the forest behind the Muskoka OSPCA. They are usually the first of the trillium family to appear and you may notice they smell like rotten meat, designed to attract flies, necessary for pollination.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


April showers bring forth May flowers and today I spotted some colonies of Trout Lilies below the lookout on Huckleberry Rock. Named for the mottled appearance of their leaves, resembling the spots of a brook trout, they are one of the first flowers to bloom, often before the snow and ice have left, and only for a brief time.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


It has rained straight for several days now, which not only helped dissolve the ice on the lakes but also the remaining snow in the woods. The trails behind the Muskoka OSPCA shelter are now clear and the dogs, like Captain, excited about the new sights, smells and sounds to discover. If you can spare any time to volunteer please pay them a visit. The staff would appreciate your help and the animals will love the attention.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


The ice has been going out at a rapid pace the past couple of weeks and along with it some docks, flotsam and this tinny on Brandy Lake. Those who predicted the ice gone by the end of the month I suspect may be right.

Monday, April 21, 2014


From the top of Huckleberry Rock Lookout one can get a bird's-eye view of Lake Muskoka and several islands from Bala to Port Carling. Following a brief rainshower, I climbed up to capture some of the islands surrounded with mist, and was joined by a Turkey Vulture.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


We spent our Easter exploring the upper reach of the Indian River. There was still some ice remaining on parts however at The Cut, a passage built in the late 1800s, connecting the river with Lake Rosseau, it was open and made for clear kayaking.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


This small deciduous tree appears to be in full foliage, set against The Wall, a photo mosaic composed of hundreds of photographs of early pioneer life during the first century of Port Carling's history, and a record of some of its residents.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Oak Gables Heritage House, "Home of the Dispro", built by W.J. Johnston, was also home of the crocus, the first I've seen this spring. In the rock garden beside the original stairway a solitary striped blossom grows, its yellow stamens radiating like rays from the sun.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I never noticed before the error on the sign posted on the kiosk at the waterfront. It should read Wanda III, the replacement for the Wanda II after it burned. Commissioned for the Eaton family in 1915, it was acquired, restored and was the second ship to join the Muskoka Steamships fleet in 1993, but is now in a state of disrepair.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Port Carling woke up to a fresh snowfall of six inches, and at the waterfront the new snow covering the remaining ice looked like chinking, matching this log boathouse, a familiar landmark on the bay across from the large lock.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


The aftermath of a rain shower, mild temperatures and remaining snow and ice, all conspired to form the perfect calm, where the mist turned the waterfront pavilion area and later at twilight, a downtown section, into ethereal scenes.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


We spotted a Great Blue Heron today in a frozen marsh, looking out of place in this scene. I'm sure it probably thought "Where's the food?" when it arrived, its staple of frogs and fish still covered over.

Monday, April 7, 2014


It was a grey and somber day today, the type befitting a funeral. I was visiting the waterfront above the locks to monitor the progress of the melting ice, and thought this scene depicted the same mood, a funeral for winter's passing, a rectangular mound for every month.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


Nature never fails to impress me with her surprises and my partner Morwen, her eye for detail. During a late afternoon stroll across the lock to the island, she noticed amongst the scattered conifer needles and snow, a trio that formed a crude resemblance to a sailboat. It was enough to make us pine for summer.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Although it is officially spring, there is still a lot of snow blanketing everything, and we are hoping for a slow melting to avoid flooding like last year.

Monday, March 31, 2014


We were out kayaking again, a week since we had to break our way through ice to reach open water. The Indian River is now open from the locks at Port Carling to where it merges with Lake Muskoka, which remains completely frozen over. Ice still exists on Mirror Lake however an open channel allows easy passage. While paddling we encountered a pair of trumpeter swans, a rarity for this area. They immediately took off, a beautiful sight and ending to this month.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


The prodigal sun has finally returned, sending the temperature into double digits, positive ones for a change. I had to take advantage of the day by pulling out the Muskoka chair, cracking a Muskoka beer and catching up on some local news. Living the life... Muskoka Life!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Winter is winding down now but there's still a lot of snow around. The days may be numbered for sledders but they have had one of the best seasons in recent years. These sleds are for sale however the owner gave up trying to keep them cleared off this winter and they ended up buried, which I thought made for a neat shot.

Monday, March 24, 2014


A stretch of open water and the forecast of a nice day was enough for us to dig out our kayaks and launch them the following day. We were forced to break a path through a layer of clear ice formed overnight to reach open water, which exists from Mirror Lake to the locks at Port Carling, the extent of our first outing of the season.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


A friend provided me with the tip about pancake ice that had formed at the dam above High Falls. There were dozens corralled together, ranging in size and appearance of tart and pie shells, to pizza dough. This was the first time I had ever witnessed this phenomenon, and was an interesting sight to see.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Imagine, if you will, this cairn buried beneath snow. When I recently visited the Aubrey White cairn at High Falls, its multiple layers of rocks reminded me of the number of snowfalls it seems we've experienced this winter and its height, at over 14 feet, the amount of snow we've received so far!

Sunday, February 2, 2014


We certainly didn't need confirmation from a groundhog that this winter has decided to pull up a Muskoka chair and stay awhile!