Tuesday, November 4

Downtown Huntsville’s Girlfriends’ Getaway Weekend

Truth be told, I don’t care much for shopping, but I do know a great shopping opportunity when I see oneand there’s one coming up in just a few weeks. The businesses of Huntsville’s historic downtown district are putting on a great weekend of shopping, dining and pampering just for the ladies. It’s called the Girlfriends’ Getaway Weekend and it’s taking place November 21-23.

Of course, downtown Huntsville is a pleasure to shop at any time. There are no big box, big chain stores stocked with towering stacks of the same old same old. Instead, most of downtown Huntsville’s shops are independently owned and operated, and chock full of unique items and great finds. Very often the shop owner is the person behind the counter or manning the floor, so you know you’ll get courteous service and knowledgeable help.

During the Downtown Huntsville Girlfriends’ Getaway Weekend, you’ll also get great discounts and goodies. Registration for the event is free and includes a Getaway Passport giving you access to discounts, giveaways, demonstrations, activity sessions, hand & neck massages, and the chance to win a Grand Prize draw worth over $500. Donations will be accepted to help support the local hospital’s Mammogram Unit.

Over 40 businesses are participating, including:
4 Muskoka Kids; Ahimsa; Algonquin Outfitters; Aroma Dining & Drinks; Artisans of Muskoka; Big Bead; Christmas Tyme; Flotron’s Tweed & Hickory; Gone Quilting; Muskoka Country Furniture; Muskoka Jewellery Design & Gallery; Muskoski Urban Rustic Living; Northern Baking Co.; Petticoats; Plum Loco; Reflections of Muskoka; Rubber Lubbers The Stamp Emporium; Saturday Afternoons Home Store; Shine; Soapstones Soap & Skincare; Soul Sistas; That Little Place by the Lights; The Bookcase; The Cranberry Kids Gift Co.; The Finds; The Great Vine; The Nutty Chocolatier; Veranda Home & Garden Collection; Wooden Penny; Yesterday’s Book

Make a date with your mother, sister or best gal pal and get all your holiday shopping done in one whirlwind weekend where you’ll find one-of-a-kind gifts for everyone on your list—including yourself!

Here at the inn, we’re getting in the shopping spirit too. You’ll receive $25 off when you stay two nights at Fern Glen Inn during Downtown Huntsville’s Girlfriends’ Getaway Weekend. Be sure to mention discount at time of booking and we will pre-register you for your Getaway Passport.

Visit our website for availability and booking information. Happy shopping!

Thursday, October 30

Soup of the Season

As the days get cooler and shorter, my big soup pot spends more time on the stove and less in the cupboard.

At this time of year, Jim and I spend as much time as we can outside. The days are brisk but not bitter, and when the sun is shining they are absolutely beautiful. We also have much work to do outdoors: gathering firewood to warm the house and the Coop through the winter, taking in the gazebo and garden furniture, cleaning up the lawn and all the sundry tasks of preparing for winter in the country.

After a busy day outside, our cheeks are rosy and our bellies are ready for filling. There is nothing like a piping hot bowl of soup to warm us from the inside out.

One of my favourite soups brings together two classic flavours of the season; and beautifully echoes the colour that is fading from the woods around us. In taste and looks, this soup is autumn in a bowl. Enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash & Pear Soup

Roasting the squash first accomplishes two things: it deepens and enhances the flavour of the squash; and it makes it much, much easier to peel and chop. Try tossing the peeled carrot and the peeled & cored pear in a little olive oil and roasting them along with the squash for another level of flavour.

1 medium butternut squash
olive oil
1 large yellow onion
1 medium-large carrot
1 medium-large Anjou or Bartlett pear
ground coriander seed
pinch of saffron threads, crumbled (optional)

kosher salt
white pepper
4-6 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water

Heat the oven to 350 - 400 F. If you already have something cooking, don't change the temperature for the squash, the squash will adapt just fine to whatever you have going on.

Leave the squash whole, but stab it in several places with a sharp knife. Place it on a baking sheet and roast it until the skin is buckled and bubbled in a few places, 30-45 minutes. Don't worry if it's not cooked all the way through; it will finish cooking in the pot. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, heat a large dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat. Peel the onion and cut into small dice. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot. Add the onion and a pinch of kosher salt and cook until beginning to soften and turn translucent.

Peel the carrot and slice it into 1/4" rounds. Peel, quarter and core the pear, and cut into large dice. Add the carrot and pear to the onions and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, while you peel the squash.

When the squash is cool enough to handle, peel away and discard the skin using a sharp paring knife. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and use a large spoon to remove and discard the seeds and strings. Cut the squash into large dice.

Add the diced squash, a hefty pinch each of ground coriander seed and kosher salt, and the crumbled saffron if using. Add a moderate dash of white pepper.

Continue to cook, stirring frequently until the onion is completely softened. Add enough chicken broth to cover the squash mixture. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables and pear are completely tender.

Allow the soup to cool, then transfer to a blender in small batches and blend until smooth. Add more broth if necessary to reach a smooth consistency. Transfer to a clean pot or bowl and continue until all the soup is processed. Return to heat. Add broth if desired for a thinner consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings to suit.

Serve hot. Garnish with a drizzle of heavy cream or flavoured olive oil; sprinkle with fresh herbs or sweet paprika; or top with crumbled bacon and goat cheese.

Serves 6-8 as a starter course; or 4 for lunch alongside hearty bread.

A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting.
- Abraham Maslow

Friday, October 17

The Golden Encore

You probably know to give credit to the maple trees for the spectacular reds and flaming oranges that adorn the Almaguin and Muskoka hills from early-September to mid-October. But as October winds down, the maple leaves dance down from their treetops to carpet the forest floor instead. You might think this means the end of the colour show for the season, but think again.

After the maple display ends, the tamaracks, birches and poplars take the stage and grace us with a golden encore. Their colour range is smaller--ranging from bright yellow to rich gold--but a striking sight nonetheless against the deep green of the coniferous backdrop. Even the grasses, ferns and undergrowth take on tawny and coppery hues. On a sunny day, the world around us simply glows.
Tamaracks are interesting trees. They have the conical shape and needly look of a typical evergreen tree in the summer, but in the fall their needles turn golden yellow and then shed like leaves. Tamaracks spend the winter looking like barren spikes before coming back to life in the spring in a fresh burst of green.
Thank you to our guests, Pedro & Ursula (and Ruby, pictured above), for use of these pictures. Pedro worked his usual magic behind the camera during the Thanksgiving weekend, as the maples were wrapping up their act and the tamaracks were just getting started.

Thursday, September 25

Shifting Earth

Jim and I stopped in to visit artist Sally Ferguson at her studio just up the road from us. I've mentioned Shifting Earth Gallery/Studio as part of the North of Muskoka Studio Tour and it's worth mentioning again, especially at this time of year when her outdoor space is as lovely as her indoor space.

The studio gallery is housed in a beautifully restored barn. The ground floor of the barn is Sally's studio space, where we were able to witness works-in-progress. Upstairs the gallery is all gleaming wood and visually striking paintings. Sally and her husband are in the process of adding to the gallery space by building an addition on their house.

One thing visitors realize before they even make it inside the gallery is that Sally's creative spirit cannot be contained indoors. Outside the barn is a lovely garden space showcasing various forms of artwork among the flowers, fountains and plants. Sally also welcomes visitors to walk the nature trail on her property.

Be sure to include a visit to Shifting Earth Gallery/Studio on your next getaway to Fern Glen Inn.

Wednesday, September 24

Backcountry Day Trip at the edge of Algonquin

I recently posted about our camping trip in Algonquin Park earlier this month. Since then, I've been thinking about how easy it is to enjoy a day trip in Algonquin Park's backcountry wilderness. Of course, on a day trip you won't go deep into Algonquin, but you can certainly explore the lakes and canoe routes at the western edge of the park.

If your only taste of Algonquin Park so far has been along the Highway 60 corridor, you're in for a completely different experience. The Hwy 60 corridor is wonderful for its easy accessibility and plethora of options for spending your day, but for those very reasons it's also more full of people and machines.
A day trip starting from the park's Kearney access points takes you away from crowds, cottages and cars and treats you to the calm quiet of undeveloped terrain. Nothing else compares.

If you want to experience it for yourself, this is what we recommend:
  • Book 2 nights at the inn since you will want an early start to make the most of your day
  • Book your canoe in advance (or have us book it for you) from Algonquin Basecamp or Canoe Algonquin or bring your own if you have one
  • Bring a hearty lunch and snacks (paddling is great for the appetite) or ask us about a packed lunch when you book your accommodations
  • Bring more water than you think you'll need
  • Remember that once you're in the park, there is nowhere to buy food, water or supplies
  • Plan to dress in layers; don't forget a hat, sunglasses, scarf or neck warmer, watch, and knapsack for toting your lunch and gear

Your itinerary for a weekend:

  • Arrive afternoon or evening
  • Review a backcountry map of the park with us and we'll help you plan your route
  • Breakfast at 7:30 am (or later depending on how much of your day you want to spend in the park)
  • Drive to Kearney about 20km east of us and pick up your day permit from the Algonquin Park office in town
  • Pick up your canoe and paddling gear if you've made rental arrangements with a local outfitter
  • Drive to one of three access points, each about 30km from Kearney (some of this is on winding, unpaved roads)
  • Park your car in the access point parking lot (do not leave food in your car); put your canoe on the lake and start paddling!
  • Stop at a campsite for lunch
  • Paddle back to the access point and load up to come home; watch the time as you're paddling—you want to be back out and loaded up in daylight
  • Return your canoe to the outfitters; return to the inn
  • Dinner at the inn (if booked in advance) or head out to an area restaurant
  • Enjoy a fire in the Coop or soak those tired muscles in the hot tub before falling into a soft, comfy bed
  • Breakfast (a little later this time!) before heading home to the real world
What it costs:
  • 2 nights at Fern Glen Inn, includes accommodation and hearty breakfasts for two people: $236
  • Day permit for Algonquin Park: $16
  • Canoe rental, includes canoe, 2 life jackets, 2 paddles, foam pads & straps to secure the canoe on your car: approximately $28
  • Total: $280 plus applicable taxes
Optional Extras:
  • Packed lunch for two people: $28
  • Dinner at the inn for two people: $56
  • Canoe delivery to the park (so you don't have to put it on your car): approximately $50 per group (can be multiple canoes)
  • Algonquin Park backcountry map: approximately $5
If you haven't canoed the interior before, consider:
  • Will you be able to get the canoe on and off your car, or will you need to pay for canoe delivery to the park?
  • Do you know how to steer and handle a canoe in various weather conditions?
  • Do you want to include portages in your day trip (where you carry the canoe over land from one lake to another) or do you want to choose a route that does not require portaging?
  • Are you in good physical shape? Are you confident to put yourself in a wilderness setting away from services, conveniences, and ready aid?
  • Are you ready to discover the wonders of Algonquin Park's stunning backcountry interior?
We love to 'talk park' so if you'd like to include a backcountry day trip at the edge of Algonquin Park during your next visit to the inn, give us a call and we'll help you work out the details.

Monday, September 22

Wow! Autumn!

Whether I'm walking along the Seguin Trail, or winding my way through our own network of trails, or even driving to town on errands, I find myself looking upwards in wonderment of all the colours. And all I can say is "Wow".

Autumn is indeed here again, painting the Almaguin Highlands from a spectacular palette of crimson, orange and gold. Jim and I went for a walk through our trails and over and up to the little lake this afternoon, our feet shuffling and rustling the leaves that have already fallen, the earthy smell of autumn rising up from the trail.

The lake is ringed with mixed-forest hills that look like giant bouquets now. I tried taking photos but I won't post any of the lake because they just don't do it justice. It has to be seen in person to be appreciated.

But along the trails, and especially along the Seguin which is wide and open for the sun to work its magic, the maples pose prettily for the camera.

Some of our weekends have already booked up here at Fern Glen Inn, but we still have rooms available for the Thanksgiving long weekend and many options available for mid-week getaways. We invite you to come experience the Wow season!

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
- George Eliot

Tuesday, September 9

Algonquin Park Interior

Last week Jim and I took advantage of the post-Labour Day lull and treated ourselves to a short camping trip in Algonquin Park. The sky was beautiful and the water was calm. We had a couple brief rain showers pass over our campsite, but since we already had the tent and tarp up, it didn't dampen our spirits at all.

The trip started with an early drive to the park office in Kearney, just 20 minutes east of the Fern Glen Inn. We picked up our permit from the office and our rental canoe from Canoe Algonquin and headed to the Magnetawan Lake access point on the western edge of the park. It's less than 30km from Kearney to the park, but it takes a good 45 minutes to drive it, slowing down when the road goes from paved to gravel and somewhat bumpy. But trust me, it's worth it.

After unloading our canoe and gear, we were on the lake by 9:30 with a full day ahead of us. Since we were only spending one night in the park, we chose a campsite just one portage and a short paddle from the entry lake.

We set up camp leisurely before exploring the woods beyond the campsite. I enjoy camp chores, such as setting up a kitchen, finding an appropriate tree for hanging the food bag, pumping drinking water through the filter. There's never an urgency to the chores, yet they are utterly important to our comfort. It's a nice way to work.

The day was spent paddling, exploring, swimming (okay, Jim and Saba swam, I waded), cooking, eating, and watching the water, trees and sky around us.

The next day we took our time heading out, stopping at a campsite for lunch and paddling into little bays and marshes just because we were in no hurry. Then home again in time for dinner with our batteries fully recharged and the sun lingering on our faces. What a beautiful little holiday.

Sunday, August 31

Horseback Riding in the Almaguin Highlands

The rolling hills, open meadows and mixed forests of the Almaguin Highlands were made to explore by foot or hoof. There are a number of riding farms in the area, and all exhibit a genuine love of the animals and the land, and are happy to share them with visitors. Call the farms for rates, or we can make the reservations for you.
Little East River Farm

Just 20 minutes from the inn near the the town of Novar. Owners Sandy and Steve offer private trail rides for beginners and experienced riders; as well as hay and sleigh rides for larger groups.

Algonquin Highlands Trail Riding
On your way to Algonquin Park, just off Hwy 60 at Oxtongue Lake. Trail rides, pony rides and half-day picnic excursions.

Clear Lake Farm
Located near the town of Magnetawan, Clear Lake Farm is unique in its focus on Icelandic horses. The farm offers trail rides, lessons and day packages.

Canoe and Kayak Rentals in Almaguin and Muskoka

If you bring your own watercraft to the inn, we'll be glad to point you to the many public boat access points in the region.

But if, like many visitors to the Almaguin Highlands and Muskoka, you don't have your own but you'd like to spend a day canoeing or kayaking the lakes and rivers of the area, you have many options for rentals.

Algonquin Basecamp Outfitters & Supply
Located at the Almaguin Highlands Info Centre, Algonquin Basecamp offers canoe, kayak, and peddleboat rentals by the day or weekend. You can load the canoe on your car (roof pads and straps available) for a short drive to any number of local lakes, or make arrangements with Algonquin Basecamp to pick up your canoe lakeside in Kearney and paddle the extensive lake and river system there. If you're feeling really adventurous, you can drive to one of the Algonquin Park access points for a back country day-trip.

Canoe Algonquin
Also in Kearney, just 20 minutes due east of Fern Glen Inn. Canoe and kayak rentals by the day. The store is across the road from the lake, so no need to put the canoe or kayak up on the car--simply portage across the road and start paddling the many kilometres of waterways.

Arrowhead Provincial Park
Located off of Hwy 11 just north of Huntsville. This is a small park, but offers many ways to enjoy its lakes, river, waterfall and trails. Canoe, kayak and bike rentals for a short as 2-hours or as long as a day.

Algonquin Outfitters - Huntsville
Located on Main Street in downtown Huntsville, the store backs onto the river for easy, car-free access to extensive paddling. A nice option is to paddle from the store dock up the river to Lake Vernon and back. Canoe and kayak rentals by the day.

Algonquin Outfitters - Oxtongue Lake
Located on Hwy 60 just west of Algonquin Park. A favourite paddle for our guests is the self-guided canoe trip to Ragged Falls. A nice 3-hour round trip, it's the perfect way to sample paddling without making a whole day of it. Paddle directly from the dock to the base of Ragged Falls, pull up on the shore and walk up to the top of the falls to admire the view.

Algonquin Outfitters - Opeongo
Both unguided and guided day trips are also available from Algonquin Outfitters' Opeongo store within Algonquin Park, including a guided paddle to Hailstorm Creek Nature Reserve.

The Portage Store - Algonquin Park
Located on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park, the Portage Store offers guided full-day and half-day canoe trips as well as unguided canoe and kayak rentals.

Paddle or Saddle

Summer is winding down with crisp, fresh mornings heralding the coming autumn. The days are warm and sunny but no longer heavy with high-summer heat. This is the perfect weather to be gliding over a lake in a canoe or kayak, or riding through the woods atop a horse.

Paddling and horseback riding are popular activities with many of our guests. A few folks bring their own canoe—or even their own horse!—but most often people rent a canoe or kayak from a local outfitter or book a guided horseback ride at a local farm.

While Jim and I haven't paddled all the routes in the area, many of our guests have reported back on their excursions and we will happily pass the recommendations on to you. I've put together a list of canoe and kayak rentals in the Almaguin Highlands and Muskoka here.

For information on guided horseback riding in the Almaguin Highlands, click here.

If you have any questions or would like help making plans, just give us a call at Fern Glen Inn or send us an email.

Wednesday, August 13

North of Muskoka Studio Tour

It's no surprise that the rugged, colourful landscape of the Almaguin Highlands is the chosen home of many artists and artisans. The good news for visitors is you don't have to travel far from the inn to view and admire their work.

The North of Muskoka Tour features three studio/galleries from Emsdale to Burk's Falls, and we'll provide a map and routing for interested guests.

Jim and I recently paid a visit to one of the stops on the tour, the Karen Robinson Gallery, just a few country blocks from here. Karen is the exclusive dealer for renowned artist Mendelson Joe, and her gallery showcases a selection of his original paintings, reproductions, books and CDs. Also on display are Karen's own pen and ink drawings, as well as a variety of pieces from other artists.

Before visiting the gallery, I was already familiar with some of M. Joe's work —but on a small scale. I've perused his striking portraits in his Working Women book collection and appreciated a gift of postcard reproductions of his landscapes; and Jim and I thoroughly enjoyed a segment on the artist during an episode of the Rick Mercer Report. But nothing compares to the full size paintings and reproductions.

I particularly love M. Joe's landscapes and folk scenes. When I look at his Almaguin skies and tree-scapes, I feel the same tight little tug in my chest that I feel gazing out over the real thing. Joe expresses in colour, lighting and shape just what I feel about the place I decided to call home.

Star Lake Road, Emsdale
July & August open Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 5pm
May, June, September, October open Saturday & Sunday 11am to 5pm
November to April by appointment

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Also on the tour, and located just a few minutes away on Fern Glen Rd, is Shifting Earth Gallery/Studio, home and workspace of international artist Sally Ferguson.

Sally works in mixed media in a style referred to as 'formed abstract'. Visit her gallery and studio in the beautifully restored barn on her 10 acre country property. Read about our visit to the gallery.

Fern Glen Road, Emsdale
Open by chance or by appointment.

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Just a little further afield, outside the town of Burk's Falls, is the R.W. Haviland Studio/Gallery, where Canadian artist R.W. (Bobbi) Haviland creates and showcases art on large canvasses.

Ferguson Road, Burk's Falls
Summer, Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 4pm; or phone for appointment.

Friday, August 1

Bountiful Blueberries

This is, by far, the very best year for wild blueberries we've seen since moving here. The bushes that grow in the scrubby, open sections along the Seguin Trail are bushier, taller, lusher than they've ever been, and laden with beautiful powder-blue berries. I guess the mixed-bag of weather we've had so far this summer—about an even mix of sun and rain, hot and cool—is perfect for them.

I biked down the trail yesterday and filled a little tub of them in no time and barely made a dent in the patches. There are still plenty of little white berries on their way to ripening, so the picking isn't over yet.

Guests at Fern Glen Inn will get to sample some of the bounty in their breakfasts, or I'll direct them to the patches on the trail and they can pick their own little treasures to take home.

Wild blueberries are smaller than the ones you'll find fresh in the store, and a bit more tart and complex in flavour. Blueberries are great on their own, but they're also quite versatile, complementing a broad range of other flavours. Pair them beautifully (but not all at once!) with any of these partners: lemon, cinnamon, nuts (pecan, almond, hazelnut), white chocolate, maple, cream, fresh cheese, or vanilla.

Blueberries are at home at the breakfast table. Add them to your favourite muffin, pancake, waffle, or scone recipe. Stir them into sweetened yogurt or sprinkle over cereal. My favourite breakfast as a kid was equal parts Bran Flakes cereal and blueberries (strange kid, I know).

For a special breakfast, though, try them in these fluffy, tender pancakes. The blueberries shine on the bright lemon-ricotta backdrop!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberries

6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs, separated
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
zest from 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
butter or oil for the griddle

Preheat griddle or non-stick frying pan to medium-high. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, ricotta cheese, sugar, and lemon zest. Gently stir in flour mixture until just combined.

In a clean bowl with a clean whisk or electric beater, whip the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form and just hold their shape (better to under-whip than over-whip). Fold the whipped egg whites into the ricotta-flour mixture just until no streaks remain. Gently fold in blueberries.

Butter or oil the griddle. Scoop about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. Cook until golden on each side, flipping once. Top with more berries or a spoonful of warm blueberry jam. Enjoy!

Serves 2 to 3 people. Recipe can be doubled.

Monday, July 28

August Happenings

Some of the events happening in Huntsville, Kearney, Burk's Falls, Emsdale and the area. Check back for additions and updates as the month unfolds.
Kearney Regatta
Our neighbouring town of Kearney is known for its annual long-weekend regatta and festivities. Street dance, beer garden, parade, water sports, slow pitch baseball, children's activities, Northern Lights Steel Band Orchestra, topped off with a grand fireworks display at dusk on Sunday night.
August 1 - 3

Backcountry Gear Exchange Grand Opening Sale
This new outfitter right in our little town of Emsdale is celebrating the long weekend with a grand opening sale. They buy/sell/trade/consign pre-enjoyed outdoor gear, equipment and clothing. They also rent canoes, kayaks and camping gear.
August 2 - 4

Jazz in Tall Tree's Garden
Enjoy tea or juice along with a delicious selection of pastries, cheese and fruit - while listening to smooth jazz sounds. Bring a lawn chair and sit among the beautiful gardens on the Spencer's Tall Trees property on Main Street in Huntsville. Tickets are $15. To order tickets visit www.algonquintheatre.ca.
August 3 from 2pm - 4pm

Huntsville Place Summer Sidewalk Sale
Annual Summer Sidewalk Sale at the Huntsville Place Mall. Tons of summer goods on sale as merchants get ready to stock for fall and winter.
August 6 - 9

Concerts in the Park - Muskoka Concert Band
Toonie for some Tunes at the Huntsville Town Dock Park. Bring your lawn chairs to enjoy a variety of musical performances outdoors. Those in the audience are asked to contribute a "toonie" for the tunes. All monies go to the performer.
July 16 - August 20 at 7pm

Huntsville Dragonboat Festival
The Annual Bell Huntsville Dragonboat Festival will be at Avery Beach in Huntsville. Opening ceremony, a flotilla parade and entertainment will be on the evening of August 8, followed by a full day of Dragon Boat Races on August 9. Parking at Rock Ridge Recreation Park, with a shuttle service to Avery Beach.
August 8 & 9

Perseids Meteor Shower
Shooting stars by the hundreds! The Perseids meteor shower starts in mid-July and lasts until late-August, but the peak occurs this year on August 12. Count the stars and make your wishes under our dark sky. Guests at Fern Glen Inn can stay up late to stargaze on August 11 or 12, then sleep in for a late breakfast.
August 12 peak
Downtown Huntsville Summer Sidewalk Adventure
The Downtown Huntsville BIA presents the Summer Sidewalk Adventure. Inflatables for kids, entertainment by the Northern Steel Band Orchestra, and the shops will be bursting out with sales. Along Main Street all the way to the Swing Bridge.
August 16

Artists of the Limberlost is a collective of artists and craftspeople with studios along the Limberlost Road, off Hwy 60, east of Huntsville. At this, their second annual Open Studio Weekend, the public is invited to see artwork and fine craft; and to experience the working environments and to learn about the creative processes involved in each medium. The free tour features 8 studios and also the work of 14 guest artists from Muskoka and beyond. The work is for sale, so you'll have the opportunity to take home a 'piece of the Limberlost' for yourself.
August 16 & 17 from 10am - 6pm

Hawksley Workman live at Burk's Falls
Local boy turned Juno award-winning musician Hawksley Workman is performing live for three shows at the Burk's Falls Town Theatre. This is a small, intimate venue and sure to be a great show for fans of his music. Tickets are $25. Ask me about picking some up for you from the town office.
August 21, 22 & 23
Emsdale Fall Fair
This is a great day of fun for the whole family. There will be farm animals, chainsaw carving, drag saw display, old farm equipment, parade, baby show, live music, horse pulls, kids pet show and more. Gates open at 8am. The cost of admission is $3, children 12 & under are free.
August 23

Ongoing Events:

Tuesday Night Bike Ride
Bring your wheels and meet in the parking lot behind the Algonquin Outfitters store att 86 Main St. E, Huntsville. Be prepared for a night of trail riding around Huntsville. New to the area? What better way to find places to ride and people who enjoy riding! For more information call Andy or Bob in the Bike Shop, at 705-789-0262

Kayak Wednesdays
$15 per person. Algonquin Outfitters on Main St. will provide all the gear for an evening outing on the Muskoka River. Meet at the store before 6pm to register; guided paddle starts before 7pm and goes for about two hours, possibly all the way to Lake Vernon and back. For more information call Randy at 705-789-0262 ext. 36.

Huntsville Farmers Market
Thursdays, 9am - 2pm, Canadian Tire parking lot
Fridays, 9am - 2pm, beside Robinson's Independent

Muskoka Cruise-in Nights
Wednesday evenings
Saturday evenings

Antique cars, classics, hot rods and special interest automobiles on display. Door prizes and draws with proceeds going to local charities.
At the Canadian Tire parking lot in Huntsville.

Group of Seven Outdoor Gallery
Stroll through Huntsville's downtown district and enjoy over 20 outdoor mural replicas honouring the works of the Group of Seven. Free maps to the mural locations are available at the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce and here at the inn.

Quote for a summer day:
Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.
-John Lubbock

Friday, July 11

Swimming in Muskoka and the Almaguin Highlands

The swimming season here in Ontario's Cottage Country is short, but oh so sweet. There is nothing like the feel of cool, clear lake water enveloping you on a hot summer afternoon, with a view of green hills rising up from the shore around you to meet a big blue sky above. Nothing else says 'vacation' quite so eloquently.

July and August are peak swimming months, but depending on the weather, it can start as early as mid-June and go on into September. Jim has even been known to jump in for a dip in October!

Guests who are new to the area always ask "is there anywhere to swim?" and are pleasantly surprised by the number and variety of options. Within a short drive, we have sandy beaches, smooth rocky dropoffs, deep steady rivers, and rushing rapids. We provide guests of the inn with directions and a map, and we're always happy to recommend our favourite spots. Here are just a few:

Long Lake
A quiet lake just 6 1/2 km from the inn, Jim and I swim here often. Similar to an Algonquin interior campsite, with shady trees and natural rock steps and ledges. There is no beach or slowly sloping entry here; instead the land drops off abruptly into the lake. Either you're in or your out. This is good for getting me in the water quickly (instead of slowly inching my way in) and we love the short drive through the woods to get there. Floating dock for jumping and diving.

Birch Beach
Sunny, wide, sandy beach at the south end of Doe Lake, between Sprucedale and Emsdale. Shallow, gradual entry, then swim out as far as you like. Sunny lawns and shady birch trees make this a great beach for lounging even if you don't feel like swimming. This is a large lake with motor boats; floating dock.

Clear Lake
Small sandy beach with warm shallow water. The beach is tucked in between cottages and motor boats and jet skis are on the lake, making you feel just like you're at a cottage. Grassy slope for sunbathing.

Brook's Falls
A lovely waterfall to visit at any time of year, Brook's Falls on the Magnetawan River is also a great swimming spot in the heat of summer. Splash in the rapids just below the falls, sit and soak in natural whirlpools, or swim in the deeper water downstream. More about Brook's Falls here.

Katrine Beach
Large sandy, shallow beach on a big lake. Popular with families. Playground, bbq stands, not much shade.

Magnetawan River Rapids
Unofficial and unmaintained as a swimming spot, but regularly enjoyed by local residents. Sit in on smooth bare rock in the rapids above a waterfall, or splash around in the river below the falls.

Arrowhead Lake and Stubbs Falls
With two lakes and the Big East River running through it, Arrowhead Provincial Park is a great place to spend a summer day. Swim at the beach or sun bath on the flat rocks by the falls. Canoe and kayak rentals are also available at the park.

Ilfracomb Beach
Sandy beach in a pretty little hamlet. Jim and I just discovered the spot in the spring and haven't tried the water there yet. It looks like a sandy, shallow entrance into a beautiful clear lake.

Hutcheson Beach
Large, popular sandy beach on Lake Vernon on the west side of Huntsville. Playground, change rooms.

As always when water is involved, use caution and common sense. Enjoy the many water features of Muskoka and the Almaguin Highlands, but do so at your own risk.

Monday, July 7

Strawberries Aplenty

Local strawberries, like summer itself, were a little late this year, but now they're ripe for the picking. Our neighbours spent a morning at one of the local pick-your-own strawberry farms last week and brought us back 2 baskets brimming with sweet, ripe berries.

Since then, these little gems have made their way into fruit courses, compotes and desserts; and topped waffles, french toast and even homemade ice cream. Many, many berries went straight from colander to mouth!

Of course, I can't let our brief local strawberry season pass without indulging in the classic dessert to showcase these berries at their best. What would summer be without Strawberry Shortcake?
Summer is also a time to be lazy, so I keep things simple and cut out a few steps (like making one big shortcake instead of individual ones). The result is a quick and easy show-stopper.

Strawberry Shortcake

For the shortcake:

1 tbsp lemon juice

3/4 cup milk
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp sugar

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a 9" cookie sheet with parchment paper.

together the lemon juice and milk. Reserve 1 tbsp of the mixture to use as a glaze. Set aside the remainder to sour until ready to use.

In a large bowl sift together flour, baking powder, 3 tbsp sugar, salt and baking soda. Use a pastry cutter to cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in enough of the soured milk until dough clings together. (You can do these steps in a food processor if you like, just don't over-process the dough.)

Dump the mixture onto a floured surface and knead together 5 or 6 times. Pat out dough into an 8-inch round and use a bench scraper and broad spatula to transfer to cookie sheet. Brush with the reserved 1 tbsp lemon-milk and sprinkle the top with 1 tsp sugar.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on cookie sheet then cut horizontally in half.

While cake is cooling, prepare the filling:

4 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 to 2 tbsp sugar, depending on the sweetness of the berries
1/2 cup mascarpone or cream cheese (optional)
2 tbsp sugar
1 cup whipping cream

Toss the strawberries with 1 to 2 tbsp sugar and set aside. In a cold bowl with chilled beaters, beat the mascarpone or cream cheese (if using) and 2 tbsp sugar until smooth. Beat in the whipping cream and beat until soft-stiff peaks form.

Assemble the shortcake:

Slide shortcake onto a serving platter. Carefully remove top layer (use the bench scraper and broad spatula) and set aside. Top bottom layer with half of berries and half of cream mixture. Top with top layer of shortcake. Pile remaining cream mixture and berries on top. Slice and serve immediately. Makes 6-8 servings.

Wednesday, July 2

Summer has (finally) Arrived!

If you believe the calendar, it's been summer for over a week now. But I've learned—especially since moving to the north—that the calendar sometimes stretches the truth.

The rain, cool temps and resurgence of mosquitoes last week felt decidedly spring-like. This week, though, we're 'singing better late than never' because now
Summer has arrived in all its glory!

Jim and I have been reveling in beautiful sunny days, enjoying a light warm breeze and a remarkable scarcity of insects. I don't even don my mesh jacket for walks and bike rides along the Seguin Trail. I'm convinced there is no better way to spend an afternoon than stretched out on a lounger on the Coop deck, beverage in one hand and novel in the other. We had some more energetic guests this weekend break out the croquet set for a couple of matches, and then follow it up with their own little bocce tournament around the back lawn.

Our returning guests from last year have been happy with the addition of the new deck. Jim and our good friend, Ed, built it this spring (my job was to feed the work crew. tall order!). We added a patio table for al fresco snacking or games, and the loungers fit in perfectly for afternoon nappers or late-night star-gazers. We also added a new gazebo after the wind ate our last one. It's nice to have a screened place to sit at dusk.
If you're coming up to enjoy a relaxing getaway here at the inn, don't forget your bathing suit for a dip in the hot tub. A daytime soak provides a front-row seat to all the action at the hummingbird feeder. At night, you can still see some fireflies (but not for long!) or tilt your head back to view the stars.

Summer is here. Make the most of it!

Tuesday, June 24

July Happenings

Just some of the organized events happening in July around Huntsville, Muskoka, Algonquin Park, Kearney, Burk's Falls and the area. Check back often for updates.

Canada Day Celebrations

Visit one of our local towns to celebrate Canada Day fun and friendly small-town style. Enjoy fireworks displays in Huntsville, Burk's Falls, Magnetawan and Kearney. Many towns are holding afternoon events with games and activities.
In Huntsville, join Tony Clement, MP Parry Sound Muskoka and Norm Miller MPP for Parry Sound Muskoka to sing O Canada and enjoy a piece Canada Day Cake, plus a one-hour concert by the Muskoka Concert Band (11am at the Town Dock).
July 1

Patriotic Red and White Strawberry Social & Steam-up Day
The Muskoka Museum and Pioneer Village will be hosting a Strawberry Social & Steam-Up Day. Free admission to the Muskoka Museum; admission to the Village is $10 and includes Friends of Muskoka Pioneer Village Strawberry Shortcake, free Canada flags and entertainment. The steam train will run at 12 noon, 1, 2, and 3 pm (cost will be $5). Located in Huntsville.
July 1 from 10am - 4pm

HBC Run For Canada - Algonquin Park
10K Run, 3K Walk and 1K Kids Run to support Canadian athletes. Runs take place in 15 communities across Canada, but can there be a more beautiful place to participate than in Algonquin Park? Mew Lake Campground serves as the staging area for the Start/Finish line, as well as the food tents, entertainment and more.
Participants will receive a free pass into Algonquin Park with their registration.
July 1st

Fire Department Fundraiser
The Perry Township Fire Department is holding a big 2-day yard sale to raise funds for equipment and community support. Join Jim and the rest of the volunteer fire fighters at the Emsdale fairgrounds and take home some great treasures.
July 5 & 6

The Art of Summer Show & Sale
The Huntsville Art Crowd is having their summer show and sale featuring local artists and artisans.
There will be paintings, photography, metalwork, jewellery, and artist demonstrations. Located outside Robinson's Independent Grocers at Hwy 60 & Hwy 11, Huntsville.
July 5 & 6 from 10am - 4pm

The Edge of the Woods Theatre Festival
Eclectic festival featuring clowns, stilts, puppets and different forms of street performance, plus short alternative theatrical performances created by both professional artists and community members.
Participate in various activities such as stilt workshops and face painting. This festival is a pay-what-you-can event accessible to all. Located at downtown Huntsville’s beautiful riverfront.
July 12 & 13

Olde Fashioned Box Social
The North Muskoka Pioneer Parish Olde Fashioned Box Social featuring gospel music, games, talent show, Box Lunch auction, and fiddle and pie contests. Admission is $2.00. Located at the Huntsville
July 12 at 11am

Tunes @ Tall Trees
Bring your lawn chair and enjoy the beauty of Spencer's Tall Trees gardens while listening to local musician Tobin Spring. Enjoy a selection of juices, cheeses, fruit and pastries from the Tall Trees kitchen, and find out why it's the perfect way to enjoy a summer afternoon. Tickets are $15 per person. For more information or to order tickets call 705-789-4975. Located at Spenser's Tall Trees in Huntsville.
July 13 at 2pm

Sprucedale Horticultural Society Garden Tour
Annual Open Garden Tour showcasing 9 different gardens around the Sprucedale/Emsdale region. Every garden has something special and different to show. Maps will be available at the inn.
July 13th from 9am to 4pm

Poetry Workshop & Café
An afternoon workshop with celebrated poet/author Martin Avery. Followed by an evening of sharing the day's creations plus an open mic opportunity for area poets and guests. All are welcome, but workshop space is limited. To register for the workshop email junesalm@sympatico.ca. Located in Huntsville.
Workshop at
Suzuki Strings Studio from 2 - 4pm
Open mic at
The Hideaway Pub from 7 - 9pm
July 15

Concerts in the Park
Toonie for some Tunes at the Huntsville Town Dock Park. Bring your lawn chairs to enjoy a variety of musical performances outdoors. We ask those in the audience to contribute a "toonie" for the tunes. All monies go to the performer.
July 16 thru 20 starting at 7pm

Creative Changes Art Show & Sale
Showcasing talented local artists. Friday evening Wine and Cheese Reception is $5. Free admission the rest of the weekend. Everyone welcome. Located
at the Community Centre in Kearney.
July 18 thru 20

Les Stroud at the Algonquin Theatre
Best known as TV's 'Survivorman', Les Stroud is also a talented musician and local resident. Les presents a multi media evening featuring his film-work and music as well as highlights from his highly acclaimed documentary series.
During this 'one of a kind' evening, Stroud is backed by a seven piece band of top notch musicians, and joined by special guest singer songwriter Peirson Ross.
At Huntsville's Algonquin Theatre. Tickets $35.00.
July 19 at 8pm

Huntsville Horticultural Society Garden Tour
Visit some lovely gardens of the area on this
self-guided tour. Maps are available at Sandhill Nursery and Treasure's and Trophies in Huntsville for $5 and include a $10 voucher for Sandhill Nursery.
July 19 from 9am - 4pm

Annual Antique Show
Dealers from all across Ontario return to Huntsville Place Mall
for the annual antique show and sale.
July 23 thru 27

Muskoka Heritage Place 50th Anniversary Celebration
The Muskoka Museum opened in Huntsville on Saturday, July 26, 1958. Join Huntsville mayor and invited dignities as we celebrate Muskoka Heritage Place's 50th Anniversary.
There will be a Golden Jubilee High Tea (while supplies last) plus displays on the birds and bees, the flowers and trees, Northern Owls, Kids for Turtles, and a Butterfly Release. Muskoka Roastery Coffee and Savour Muskoka partner for a picnic in perfect taste, on the Village Green. The gate opens at 10am and the party begins at 11am. Admission is free courtesy of Huntsville Rotary Club.
At Muskoka Heritage Place, 88 Brunel Rd., Huntsville.

July 26 beginning at 10am

Daylily Festival
Third annual Daylily Festival at Fern Glen Garden Centre just down the road from the inn. Row upon row of lilies for you to admire, and even to take home. Live entertainment by the Northern Lights Steel Band Orchestra; charity bbq fundraiser; local artists' work on display.
July 26 & 27

Arts Walk
Come for an enjoyable stroll along Hunters Bay in Huntsville and enjoy an eclectic mix of artistic experiences in natural and man-made settings. For more information call 1-800-663-ARTS (2787) or 705-788-2787.
July 27 from 12 - 3pm

Huntsville Jazz Festival
The Huntsville Jazz Festival is back again this year, bigger and better than ever. Five great evening concerts in Huntsville’s intimate Algonquin Theatre and jazz offerings throughout the community, during the day.
July 30 - Aug 3

Weekly Events:

Tuesday Night Bike Ride
Bring your wheels and meet in the parking lot behind the Algonquin Outfitters store att 86 Main St. E, Huntsville. Be prepared for a night of trail riding around Huntsville. New to the area? What better way to find places to ride and people who enjoy riding! For more information call Andy or Bob in the Bike Shop, at 705-789-0262

Kayak Wednesdays
$15 per person. Algonquin Outfitters on Main St. will provide all the gear for an evening outing on the Muskoka River. Meet at the store before 6pm to register; guided paddle starts before 7pm and goes for about two hours, possibly all the way to Lake Vernon and back. For more information call Randy at 705-789-0262 ext. 36.

Huntsville Farmers Market
Thursdays, 9am - 2pm, Canadian Tire parking lot
Fridays, 9am - 2pm, beside Robinson's Independent

Muskoka Cruise-in Nights
Wednesday evenings
Saturday evenings

Antique cars, classics, hot rods and special interest automobiles on display. Door prizes and draws with proceeds going to local charities.
At the Canadian Tire parking lot in Huntsville.

Huntsville Festival of the Arts
The festival is a year-round celebration of the performing arts. The July line-up of performers boasts some big names and offers something for everyone. Jim Cuddy, Hawksley Workman, Jully Black, Sophie Milman, Downchild Blues Band, Michelle Wright, John McDermott, Barra MacNeils, Hannafor Street Silver Band are some of the performers to grace the stage of the Algonquin Theatre. Check out the July Festival of the Arts calender for details.

Monday, June 23

Reinforcements have Arrived

The Brighter Side of Bugs

There's no denying that June is bug season, but there's good news to report: The dragonflies have arrived to fight the good fight! Whole squadrons of these skilled little pilots are on patrol and picking off the enemy, er, I mean the mosquitoes, one by one.

I took my usual bike ride up past the lake and I had a whole convoy of dragonflies keeping pace with me. They like warm, dry sunny afternoons for hunting, and can be seen
whizzing about over the lawns and meadows around the inn. Not only are they completely harmless to people, and great at controlling the insect population, they are beautiful little works of art with their shimmering wings the colour of soap bubbles.

I used to be a little afraid of dragonflies with their strange, helicopter shape and larger-than-life name. But then I realized that they're on our side. They
eat the bad guys—the mosquitoes, black flies and deer flies—that would otherwise try to eat us. In fact, the black flies are now done for the year and the worst of the bug season is behind us.

Dragonflies are not alone on my 'good bug' list.
Late June also brings us fire flies! Even as we enter our fourth summer here, I still get excited to see the fire flies. Their season is short-lived, just a few weeks of nocturnal lightbums going off over the back lawn like mini paparazzi flashes. Enjoy the show while soaking in the hot tub, or from the new deck in front of the Coop, late in the evening when the backdrop is good and dark.

Perhaps everyone's favourite insect, the bug with the best PR, is the
delicate and colourful butterfly. Right now, we often see Canadian Tiger Swallowtails (pictured), and soon the ever-popular Monarchs will be fluttering by in all their majesty. If bugs aren't your thing, then sit back and watch the antics of the hummingbirds. They're tiny but feisty, particularly the males, who defend the feeder with much gusto and bravado. Our most patient of guests have managed to photograph these little marvels mid-flight. Take a look at our photo-gallery, or bring your camera on your next visit and see what you can capture on 'film'.

Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.
- Henry David Thoreau

Friday, June 13

Cycling or Strolling the Seguin

The hot spell of earlier this week has lifted, leaving us with great cycling weather. I took a spin along the Seguin Trail, up past the little lake and back again.

As a former railway bed, the Seguin Trail is level and broad; wide enough, in fact, to drive a train through. It starts just down the road from the inn, follows past the length of our property line, then winds its way 60 km west, ending just south of Parry Sound. The trail passes through lovely terrain of mixed forest, spruce bogs and small lakes and creeks. There are places where the trail touches civilization—occasionally passing by small towns or veering along Hwy 518—but for the most part it feels like a thread through the wilderness.

It's hard to imagine that over 100 years ago this was an important transportation route, bringing the harvested lumber of the region out to Georgian Bay where it would be shipped down to city ports such as Toronto and Detroit. It was also a lifeline to the towns that thrived along it's length. Many are now ghost towns, as the track and train gave way in the early-middle 1900's to highways and trucks.

I love to cycle our little portion of the Seguin, but I don't generally recommend it for a leisurely pedal. Since the old rail bed is quite level, there are no hills to labour up, but also no hills to coast down and catch your breath. Plus, much of the trail is sand and gravel. There are stretches where the sand is quite deep and loose, and in these spots you have to work for every slow inch you gain. But there are other stretches that are hard-packed dirt, where you can really let loose and enjoy a good go.

If cycling through sand is not your thing, don't worry. Most visitors enjoy the Seguin on foot. The flat, wide path is perfect for walking side by side with your travel mate, and it is easily accessed just steps from the inn. The little lake I like to visit is just a 20-25 minute walk one way; the beaver pond is a few minutes from your door.

For those looking to go a little further, we even offer pickup service from the town of Sprucedale. You can hike the 13 km to town in perhaps 3 to 4 hours. Get a bite to eat and a cold drink from the general store or tavern, and Jim or I will come fetch you back to the inn. Details are available on our website packages page.

The Seguin is part of the Trans-Canada Trail and the Park-to-Park Trail, which will eventually run from Killbear Provincial Park all the way to Algonquin Provincial Park. As a shared-use trail, it's open to snowmobiles and ATV's as well as bicycles, horses, and cross country skiers (permits required for some uses). As with any outdoor adventure, if you're planning to be out on the trail for more than an hour, tote along essential supplies (such as water and snacks) and the right garments for the weather; and tell someone where you're going.

The Seguin Trail is a wonderful ribbon of history and a great way to experience the landscape of the Almaguin Highlands. Hope to see you on it!

I remember a hundred lovely lakes, and recall the fragrant breath of pine and fir and cedar and poplar trees. The trail has strung upon it, as upon a thread of silk, opalescent dawns and saffron sunsets.
Hamlin Garland