This past weekend, I vacationed in Muskoka with my family. They’re up there for two weeks, but I just went up for an extended weekend.
My uncle tells me that a childhood home will imprint on you. It will give you an emotional attachment that tugs at you each time you arrive and leave. I don’t seem to have one, maybe because I didn’t really have one childhood home. But there is something about Muskoka that has that feeling with me.
The entrance to Muskoka is marked by Weber’s. I don’t care where the maps say the line is, this is the line. When you sink your eyes into the ambience and your teeth into the burger, you’ll know you have arrived. You are in Muskoka. Behind you, Toronto. Before you, granite, beaver, wild blueberries, and the smell of the pine.
Traveling up Highway 11, granite guards the roadway. Cottages line the lakes and waterways. Blue sky and large white clouds float overhead. The temperature hovers around 75 and at night it dips to 40. This is Muskoka.
Obviously, Canada is a special place to me. However, once you cross that line into Muskoka, it’s even more of a special place. It’s a place where you can pretend the wilderness will overtake you. It’s a place where the bull moose is still lounging in the lilies. It’s where the bear still roam, snacking on blueberries. The beavers play on the roadside on Highway 60. Your hands are wrapped around a Tim Hortons cup and CBC is playing in the background. The Toronto Star is beside you and the cooler has the milk in a bag.
Camping evokes such a wider range of emotions. It seems that every provincial park has rough pea gravel on the sand, winding through the birch, white pine, and aspen trees. It passes by the dark brown buildings into the woods to your site marked by the dark brown post with the yellow number. Leaving the site, the trail to the beach slides past the red raspberries, poison ivy, and trillium.
No matter what park I visit in Muskoka, the experience is the same. The campsites are different, each one unique in its own way. However, as I strap on my bike helmet and ride down a trail, each one leads me to the same place: an almost wilderness with an edge of adventure.
Although the region is a popular tourist attraction, it’s not Clifton Hill and not Las Vegas. Restaurants such as 3 Guys and A Stove add a flavor to the region that isn’t dwarfed by Kelsey’s or The Swiss Chalet. Each little shop that sells wood carvings, moccasins, postcards, t-shirts, and ice cream is different. There are bakeries, breweries, O.P.P. stations, and homeowners paying the heating bill by selling firewood.
This was my first trip to Muskoka in 4 years. The memories were still fresh. I started to say “eh” and call them washrooms. I missed the cold lakes, kayaks, canoes, sand, fresh fruit, and the goldenrod blooming in July.
This is what imprinted on me. I can’t get to the building where I lived after my birth. I couldn’t drive to the house that I lived in until I was four. But I can get you to Muskoka.