Friday, February 19, 2010

Waiting for Summer

Winter on the lake is snow-shrouded silence. There’s no lapping of waves, no raucous cry of gulls or haunting call of loons. There’s no splashing of swimmers or drone of motorboats, only the rude roar of the occasional snowmobile as it rips across the white expanse of solitude. Trails of footprints beckon the brave to venture onto this ice-bound tundra as snow broods in the skies above. Two Muskoka chairs perch on the edge of a dock and dream of summer.

What you can’t see in the photo above is that there is open water on either side, caused by the turbulence of bubblers that keep ice from forming and damaging the docks. Some people use them around their boathouses as well. Ice can be deceptive - feet thick in some places and safe enough to drive cars across, and yet dangerous in others, where unseen cracks have formed or currents roil beneath a thin sheet. And every year there are people - snowmobilers mostly - who break through. Not far from this spot a mother and daughter drowned last winter while horrified family and friends on snowmobiles right beside them watched helplessly. I have crossed lakes on snowmobiles, but never felt comfortable doing so, especially since I’ve encountered frighteningly soft ice while skiing on a lake in bitter cold, which is obviously no guarantee of safety.

So it always surprises me when I hear of people who live on these islands year-round. In the Muskoka of a century ago, the wealthy often had caretakers who stayed over the winter to look after the property, and apparently some still do. I expect that these people are no longer so isolated, but in the days before snowmobiles and even roads around the perimeter of the lakes that now connect to towns and villages, it would have been a challenge to over-winter here.

After all, the creaking of frozen branches and distant howling of wolves is sometimes all you hear in this muffled and windblown black-and-white world.


  1. Never mind waiting for summer, I LOVE the look of it in winter! I am such a sucker for bleak landscapes (it must be the Yorkshire lass in me) and that pitcure above is gorgeous! Horrible story about the mother and daughter drowning though. Don't you find it hard to imagine such horrible incidents in something that looks so perfect?

  2. I agree that it is beautiful, Boof. The swank new resort overlooking this scene (will blog about that later) has a heated outdoor pool, where I spent hours swimming, surrounded by snow. It was sublime!

    It's those Muskoka chairs that await summer! : )

  3. My husband's parents have a cottage on Long's Lake. It used to be the road in to the cottage was closed off in summer (before I cam on the scene). Good thing, because there's no way they could have dragged me across that lake in wintertime!

    I'll be back, now that I've got you on Networked Blogs, Gabriele.


  4. My family's cottage is on an island, but we've never been inclined to try to get there in winter - it's not insulated anyway. Have a look at one of my previous blogs that mentions the farming family that once lived on our island - I can't imagine living like that!

  5. Oh dear! I reread my comment and noticed that I said "closed off in SUMMER". Not at all! It was the WINTER when it was closed off. Duh!

  6. I figured that's what you meant, Kat. : )

  7. Is this the view you had from your heated pool? It's beautiful. I truly miss the lakes. My brother still lives on a small lake in Michigan and it is just this peaceful in the winter. My husband always likens it to a Currier and Ives Christmas painting.

  8. The pool was up on a hill overlooking this lake, Jeannette. Actually, I'm going to blog about this resort next, since it has as interesting connection to the past.

    We're not as close to the lakes as we used to be, and my dream is still to live on one.



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