Thursday, July 31, 2008

Free Wheeling!

Nearby Algonquin Provincial Park is such a favourite with our guests that Bondi Village provides a day pass into the pass for our guests as part of their rental package, and those passes are in almost constant use!

Algonquin Provincial Park's trail system is second to none in the world, and one of the trails in particular is heaven for cyclists. The Bike Trail along the old Railway bed provides 10.8 km. of mostly level going across the old Two Rivers airfield and down the abandoned Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway all the way to the Rock Lake campsite.

The railway was built in 1895, abandoned in 1944.
The airstrip was built in 1935, closed in 1973. There are wonderful signboards along the way that explain the history of the railway, the airstrip and the saw mills that used to be located here.

But at the end of the day, it is just a wonderful place to ride a bike. This week, Frances, Grant and Kyle made the trip. They pedaled right past a mother moose and her calf who were browsing at trailside, and when they got to the old bridge, Kyle made the scary leap out into space! (Mom and Dad stayed on the bridge!) For those less brave, you can also cool off here by way of a small sandy beach!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Silent Waters


When you hear phrase Poker Run, the image that goes with it is probably big cigar-boats, or snowmobiles – Poker seems to run on gasoline. But not always.
The Lake of Bays Association has a poker run that is designed to just glide by silently. Their Silent Boat Rally takes place every summer, and is limited to vessels that make no noise. That’s canoes. Kayaks. Paddle Boats. Sailboats. Row boats. Electric.
Not that canoes are always silent – this year there was a stiff breeze blowing, and the sound of grunting and heavy breathing could be heard. Likewise, occasionally you hear some loud noises coming from sailboats when the wind gusts and the sail luffs. It’s not the boat, you understand, but it’s loud all the same.

For the second year in a row we’ve hosted this event at Bondi Village Resort. We set them up on the beach by Brian’s hangar. This gives plenty of room to park cars, pull the boats up on shore. Let the kids run. Enjoy the bbq. And the headland blocks most of the wind that streams onshore from the island, keeping the flies away.

It’s a great day. For a $20 registration fee, participants come away with a gift bag from the sponsors, prizes for the poker hands, mystery gifts for the kids and a great lunch. All this, plus an hour or so on the lake. It doesn’t get any better.
Every year Graeme comes with his elegant Heather Belle. She was built in 1902, and has been retrofitted to an electric motor. This is the way lake travel should be, as she glides past noiseless and beautiful. People crowd down to the dock just to watch her come in to berth.

Mark came last year with a Dispro, a disappearing propeller boat. These were famous in Muskoka, designed for lakes that were cluttered up by the logging industry. Logs would escape from the booms, and drift about the lake, just below the surface, causing havoc to propellers.

The Dispro was designed for just such a contingency. Shaped like a classy rowboat, she has the engine located in the centre of the boat, and a special housing into which the prop can retract if it hits anything. This allowed the dippy to cruise in log-infested waters as well as through shallow reaches.

We have one – Brian has almost finished refinishing the original Bondi Dippy. Ours is the only one the Dispro association knows about that has a bullet hole in it. Since the top speed is 6 mph, we doubt it was part of a drive-by shooting. Perhaps someone with really bad aim, trying for a duck dinner? The mystery continues.

This year Mark came with a birchbark canoe. It was the envy of everyone there, despite the collection of cedar strip canoes that also showed up.
For those who don’t have, or don’t want to transport their own canoes, Algonquin Outfitters provides canoes on the beach, ready to go. They aren’t as elegant as the birchbark model, but all things considered, they are wonderful watercraft.

A demonstration from an electric catamaran rounded out the day

We provided a disc-golf target for the kids – and adults – and between whizzing Frisbees, kids playing in the lake, and an almost silent flotilla of ducks paddling past, you really couldn’t have asked for a better day out.



Baysville is one of the hamlets that makes up the Township of Lake of Bays. At the South end of the lake, this little 'go ahead' community is a fun place to ramble at any time of the year, with it's interesting dam (when built, this dam raised the level of the lake about 5 feet), historic plaques, great stores and restaurants. (Be sure not to miss Miss Nelle's Antiques -- you can get a lunch or just a coffee while admiring this wonderful old building that dates right back to the settlement of the Village and checking out their great collection of antiques and memorabilia. Nancy can never go into this store without spending money, so be warned...

Every summer, STUFF happens in Baysville. There's a farmers' market every Friday.
In June, four of the oldest houses opened up for the DOORS OPEN tour -- with over a hundred people coming through.

In July, there is the Walkabout Festival -- a fabulous day with artisans and craftspeople, face painting, entertainment and a hundred other reasons to wander around the parks of the town. We always have BONDI guests that keep the walkabout circled on their calendar and never miss it.

Our guests came back this year, suntanned, face-painted, and still decorated wtih walkabout stickers on their shirt to hit the beach one more time before dinner.

In August, there's an Arts and Crafts Festival in Baysville (on th 8th), a Summer Flower Show (on the 12th) and the 'fantabulous' Classic and Antique Boat Show on the 17th. The Heather Belle, who came to Bondi for the Silent Boat Rally, will most likely be in attendance. Boat aficionados should be sure to stop by for this one!
And you can stay for dinner at the Wendigo restaurant, right by the river, and advertised as the 'best restaurant by a dam site'.

Don't Sleep In - You'll miss the Deer!

Not too early in the morning, at around 8 AM. I was walking out the door to get the newspapers. On the edge of our driveway, I saw some bushes move so I stopped. There was a deer eating tree leaves, who then as I was watching, went across to eat some of the wildflowers my wife Nancy and daughter Suzanne planted.

I walked up very close to him before he ran off.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dark Skies and Wolf Song

Everytime we go out on the lawn at Bondi to look at Stars with a group of people, something wonderful happens. Once you get away from the city lights, the stars sparkle and dance, and on a clear Muskoka night in the summer people can marvel at the Milky Way, watch the red/green flash of Antares, see the double star in the handle of the Big Dipper, find the Andromeda Galaxy 12.5 million light years away. So many things that you can't see in the city, because of the light pollution that dims out all but the brightest stars, and makes the heavens meagre.
Nancy spends a lot of the summer outside under the night sky with groups of our guests. Armed with a laser pointer that reaches forever, night vision glasses and binoculars, she does a Star Tour that our guests really enjoy.
And what night outdoors in north Muskoka would be complete without talking about the neighbours -- the owls, loons and wolves that so often sing in the dark.
Sure enough, the evening began with loons, giving their familiar tremolo call while we were looking at the Big Dipper and North Star.
After we moved across the lawn to look at the Summer Triangle, the sky started to cloud over, so we talked about the wolf pack that has been in pretty close this summer. It sounds like a big pack, with lots of youngsters, and Kyle saw a wolf cub run across the road last week. We talked about the Algonquin Park timber wolves, and how every week in August the naturalists take people out for the world famous Wolf Howl. We talked about how the deeper the howl, the bigger the wolf, as a general rule. And then, Nancy gave her best wolf impersonation and howled. Now, she's a rank amateur in Wolf Song Karaoke -- the Park naturalists have wolf-speak perfected. All the same, some nights, it just works.
We got an answering howl -- from the west side of the property, and very close. A single wolf, with a deep voice. An amazing sound, for the group of about 20 people clustered on the dark lawn.
And then, from the east side of the property, the rest of the pack started up in response, and the wolves howled back and forth to each other for several minutes, putting on a fantastic show.
When it all quieted down, we talked about owls, and Owl Speak, hooting for both the Barred Owl and the Great Horned Owl. Tonight, we had no answering owls, but we've got both these species in the woods around us. Lots of the kids had a go at hooting -- Who Cooks for You? Who Cooks for You AAAALLLL??? (Barred Owl) and, Who's Cooking Chicken, Who, Who, Who???? (Horned Owl)
Then, since we'd lost our stars to the clouds, and just for the heck of it, Nancy was talked into trying one more Howl. And -- I love when a plan comes together -- yes, both the lone wolf to the west, and the pack to the east answered again. The lone wolf had moved considerably to the north, but the pack was still in the same place, and still very close. And sang most harmoniously.
Now, that's an experience to cherish.