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.