Tuesday, March 27

20 Things to Do on a Spring Getaway

Spring is the quiet season around here. There are no crowds, no long waits at the popular restaurants, no sharing the trail with the masses. 

But if you've always thought a getaway up here means snowshoeing or swimming, you might be wondering "Just what the heck can I do on a Spring getaway?" Never fear, we've got 20 great ideas for you...

1. Listen to the frogs sing. Step outside in the evening to listen to the spring peepers singing in the distance; or stroll over to the beaver pond and let their song fill your head.

2. Hike the Seguin Trail. This former rail line is an easy-to-walk ribbon through the wilderness.

3. Catch up on your reading. Peruse our eclectic selection of books or bring your own. We provide comfy reading spots and few distractions.

4. Spend the day in Algonquin Park. Hike the trails, learn about the history of the park, gain a greater understanding of the land and animals through the interpretive dispays.

5. Watch for moose and other wildlife. Spring is a great time to see the moose, birds and other inhabitants of the boreal forest.

6. Stroll through Burk's Falls. Slow down for a small-town pace and explore the shops or walk along the river.

7. Gaze deep into a starry sky. When our dark sky is clear of clouds and moon, you'll swear you can see to the other side of the universe.

8. Meander the country roads and see where they take you. Follow the back road to Huntsville and stop in the hamlet of Ilfracombe for a breather.

9. Walk through an outdoor artscape. Visit the landscape canvas of a local artist and step into another world.

10. Go day-tripping to Parry Sound. Explore this charming little town on Georgian Bay with a day trip loop that will take you through some lovely countryside on your way there and back. In town, a climb up the fire tower is a must!

11. Marvel at the moss. If you've never seen what a "carpet of moss" looks and feels like, this is your chance. Our woods are so  verdant and lush with it you'll have to reach down and feel the cool, springy cushion for yourself.

12. Paddlers can paddle. Experienced canoers and kayakers have been itching to get out on the lake since the first ice-out reports have come in. Now's your chance! Novices are best to wait until the water is warm enough for swimming.

13. Follow the Real Simple Itinerary. Relaxing and reconnecting are the main highlights.

14. Be a bargain hunter. Spring is the season for barn sales, yard sales and country auctions when you can prove the old adage true that one man's garbage is another man's treasure.

15. Savour the tastes of spring. Asparagus, chives, rhubarb, and strawberries kick off the growing season in Musoka.

16, 17 & 18. Get outside and active. Cycling, golfing, and horseback riding will engage your body and mind and make you revel in the fresh air of the great outdoors.

19. Treat yourself to a little treat with the money you'll save. Save $10/night on your Spring Getaway when you stay two nights or more, so go ahead and get that high-tech outdoor gear from Algonquin Outfitters or a bottle of award winning wine from Muskoka Lakes Winery.

20. Tour the waterfalls from Arrowhead to Algonquin Park. Discover the natural gems of the region before the busy summer season sets in.

Do you have more ideas for experiencing the best of Spring in Muskoka and Almaguin? Tell us what you love to do!

Friday, March 23

Maple Braised Fennel

Fern Glen Inn • www.ferngleninn.blogspot.com

March is maple syrup month. Usually, anyway. It's the transition time from winter to spring—when the nights are cold but the days are warm and sunny—that makes the sap run in the maple trees, sweet and clear and abundant. Usually. This March has been different.

For the past couple of weeks we've had record warm days with temperatures reaching above 20°C and night time lows staying above the freezing mark. This has curtailed the sugar bush operators around here but hopefully the early start they got to the season will make up for it. Plus, if we get a return to "normal" temperatures we could see the sap flowing again before the sugar shacks are closed up for the year.

In the meantime we've been enjoying this early taste of summer and the fact that the first day of Spring (on the calendar) actually felt like Spring! I think that's a first in the seven years we've been here. We've got some of the deck furniture out, the snow has cleared away and the grass is already turning green and it isn't even April yet!

But I haven't forgotten we're in the north and this preview of what's to come is just that: a preview. The cool evenings still call for comfort food and a cozy (if smaller) fire. I'm still cooking with winter vegetables at this time of year but I can't resist injecting a spring twist to the flavours. Maple Braised Fennel is the perfect side dish to bridge the transition of the seasons.

I'll warn you, it's not a very pretty dish. It's fitting, though, considering March is not a very pretty month. Both the dish and the month are rather muted in colour and messy in appearance but they offer other charms if you take the time to savour them.

Maple partners beautifully with the earthy, herbal notes of fennel. The cooking method—a blend of braising and roasting—mellows out the licorice flavour that fennel (also called anise) is known for. If you don't like fennel because the licorice taste is overwhelming when the bulb is used raw or blanched (often in salads), don't rule out this recipe. The vegetable takes on a completely different  character when cooked like this. You may just surprise yourself and discover a new favourite spring side dish.

Maple Braised Fennel

Serves 4
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 2 shallots
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • coarse kosher salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme or a pinch of dried thyme leaves
Preheat oven to 425°F.

Cut off and discard stalks from fennel. If the outer layer of bulb is tough, remove and discard it or use a vegetable peeler to pare off the dry/discoloured parts. Trim a slice off the root end just to freshen it. Cut each bulb lengthwise into eight wedges.

Peel and trim the shallots. Cut each lengthwise into six wedges. Put the fennel and shallot wedges into a 9"x13" lightly oiled baking dish.

In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, vinegar, olive oil, a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. If using dried thyme leaves, stir those in, too.

Pour the maple mixture over the fennel and shallots and stir to coat. Distribute the vegetables evenly in the baking dish. Tuck in the thyme sprigs if using. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes.

Uncover and give it a stir. Continue roasting, uncovered, until fennel is fork-tender and caramelized around the edges, about another 25-30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Drizzle with a small spoonful of maple syrup for the last 5-10 minutes if desired to encourage browning and bring the maple flavour forward.

Serve hot or warm alongside roasted or grilled lamb, pork or chicken; or serve at room temperature as part of an antipasto plate.


Thursday, March 15

Fuel & Fun Package

Get $100 in free vouchers when you get out of the city for a spring getaway!
Book your getaway before March 31 for a 2-night stay at Fern Glen Inn between April 3 and May 17. Register your reservation while quantities last and you'll receive a $50 Gas card and 2x $25 Experience vouchers which can be used-as-cash at participating shops, restaurants, outfitters and attractions. Quantities are limited and it's "first come, first served" so act quickly to avoid disappointment.

Book your Fuel & Fun Getaway Package at Fern Glen Inn

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This is all courtesy of Explorers' Edge, our regional tourism organization. If you haven't heard of Explorers' Edge yet, you will! The region includes Muskoka, Algonquin Park, Parry Sound and the Almaguin Highlands. There are so many things to see and do (and places to dine and shop, activities to discover, scenic spots to explore) and Explorers' Edge is helping bring us all together.

So are you wondering what you might see and do on a spring getaway in Muskoka & Almaguin?

Spring is a quieter time around the region.—in fact, it's our Quiet Season, which means our rates are lower than during the high seasons. There are some things you can't do at this time of year (swimming and dog sledding are not recommended!) but there are still more things to do than time to do it all.

Hiking is always popular. You can hike our own trails, the Seguin Trail, or the trails of Arrowhead Park or Algonquin Park.

Day trips to explore local towns, artist studios, galleries will intrigue and inspire. To reconnect with nature, you can discover the hidden gems and scenic spots before the crowds of summer arrive.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that I Heart April. You'll want to hear the Soundtrack of Spring for yourself. Reach down to touch a Carpet of Moss, go for a Spring Walk on the Seguin Trail, or take a Day Trip to Parry Sound. Maybe you can add to my list of 25 Things to Love About May. For more ideas on how you might spend a spring getaway, check out our line-up of packages for oudoor adventures or relaxing escapes.

Jim and I are really excited to participate in the Fuel & Fun promotion because it lets us give such a great gift to our guests. Who doesn't want free gas and spending? 

But we also love the chance to showcase this beautiful season and share it with people who may not otherwise discover it. We hope to see you this spring!

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