Just an hour or so north of the GTA, you’ll begin to see the signs. No, not just the physical signs that remind you to beware of moose, deer, turtles crossing the road, and advise to brake for snakes (that one is true folks!).
There are other signs – the ones that make you appreciate that you have actually arrived in cottage country, and it’s very different from the city you left a short time before.
The sky seems bluer, the clouds are whiter and the grass seems astonishingly green.
There are line-ups. Inevitably. But they aren’t the ones that cause you stress and get your heart racing.
Here’s a couple you might come across:
Road Trip Treats
Kawartha Dairy Ice Cream on Hwy 35 in Minden is a pretty popular place. You’ll pass through it if you are heading up to the east of Huntsville on the beautiful stretch of road that passes glittering lakes, soaring pine trees, and glimpses of cottages across the water. This is your halfway stop for one of the best ice cream cones you can imagine, and the line-up can be long on a Friday evening or Saturday in the height of the summer. But it’s a happy wait, so be patient and take the time to choose your flavor.
If you take the 400/11 north, it’s not so picturesque, but the mouth-watering thought of a Webers burger may be one that drives your choice of route. It’s so special they built a bridge over the highway so that the unfortunate folks heading back to the city can get a final bite of cottage country before entering the stress zone again. Yes, there could be a wait, but the aroma wafting from the kiosk is enough to keep you motivated to stand in line.
Take your time on the road. It gets busy at the weekend but your reward is reaching your exit off the highway and onto your chosen cottage road. That’s when life really slows down and you can begin to breathe and look for some more signs.
Food for Thought
On the topic of food and if you like to graze, get your fill of McDonalds and Starbucks, before you hit the road. It’s true they are coming to the country, and of course you’ll find most of your fast food favourites in Huntsville, Bracebridge, Bancroft and Haliburton. Just don’t expect one on every corner, and if your cottage is on a more remote lake – you might be going a week or more without a fix.
Instead, stock up on fresh fruit and veggies from a roadside stand, buy some meat from a local butcher and cook up a storm on that BBQ.
The Sound of Silence
Once you get to the cottage and settle in, you’ll begin to hear the sounds that make this place so special. The sound of city traffic and blaring horns is replaced by the magical silence of a misty dawn morning broken only by a loon call; the slap of a beaver’s tail on still water, and only distant conversation from a faraway dock reminds you that there are other people sharing your piece of paradise.
Meteor showers and Northern lights
It gets really, really dark in cottage country, so if you are used to blazing street lamps and a light-polluted night sky, it may come as a surprise. But when look up at more stars than you ever thought possible, or see the lake illuminated by the light of the moon, you’ll appreciate what natural light and darkness is really like.
There’s usually something to see in the sky at night, from passing satellites and the Space Station, to the Perseid meteor shower in August and the chance of glimpsing the magic of the northen lights in the fall and winter.
And the people you’ll meet…
From the friendly guy in the gas station to the farmer at the market, or the curious neighbor you meet when walking the dog, you’ll be meeting the locals. They ask questions and are interested in who you are and why you chose their neck of the woods for your vacation.
It’s a little different from the city and folks passing by with eyes on their phones. Get talking and find out about the area – these folks want to share their knowledge.
And by the way, you might meet the OPP marine unit as well, if you are out on the lake in a canoe or kayak or pedal boat. They are friendly too, but will also want to check to make sure you have the right safety equipment on board. You are likely to get a ticket if you don’t.
So, there’s lots of signs you’ve made it to cottage country. Once you’ve been here a few hours it’ll feel like your new home. Just relax, get in the flow, and enjoy!