Apologies to any readers who reside outside of Canada. The “Cottage” experience is probably not unknown to you but may be called something different. In my travels I have heard it referred to as “The Lake House, The Cabin, The Camp or The Chalet. Where I live in Ontario “going to the cottage” is a popular refrain during the summer (and for some diehards during the winter as well)
Growing up I spent my weekends heading to Balsam Lake to spend time at our families trailer My Outdoor Origins. Later in my 20’s my brother bought a slice of heaven on a small lake in Haliburton, Ontario Party Likes it 1999 Today I am lucky enough to have access to a few different cottages through family connections.
The summer of 2020 was a train wreck. Pandemic, incredible heat waves and a tornado thrown in for good measure. At no time have a been more grateful for the ability to leave the city and head up to the cottage. Please know I am aware that this is a privilege and not something I take for granted. Sitting on the dock a few weeks back as the sun went down, I realized how grateful I was.
So what is cottaging? Well for most Ontarians it means packing up the car with way too much gear, slogging you way up one of the major highways for a couple of hours to visit a shelter that is usually situated on a 100 or so feet of lakefront. I say shelter since cottages come in all shapes and sizes. Some are more of a cabin with some basic functionally and others are million-dollar homes that happen to be on the lake. In fact some cottages are on a river or a creek or some like my friend Mike’s it was a house that was about a 10-minute walk to the waters of Georgian Bay near Midland.
Once at the cottage everyone has their own gig. For me its fishing, eating outdoors and campfires. For others its sailing, wakeboarding or jet skiing. Its kind of whatever floats your boat deal. For myself and my family its about getting outside. Weather and bugs permitting we try to spend as little time in the cottage as possible. In many way’s its about getting back to basics for me.
Meals are usually simple affairs, something that can be cooked on the grill, doesn’t require a ton of prep and ideally doesn’t create a ton of mess. The funny thing is the food seems to taste better. In the morning I am happy to throw some wonder bread in the toaster, slather some peanut butter on it, pour a coffee and head down to the dock for a few casts.
Most nights you can find me sitting by a campfire with a cold beer in hand. Campfire Magic I love the entire process. Prepping the tinder, gathering the wood and starting the fire (hopefully it catches). Conversations seems funnier or smarter (depending on how many cold ones consumed) Sometimes the bugs can be bothersome but a good dose of repellant, some citronella candles and even a Thermacell can help (will do a review of mine soon, big fan). Sometimes we roast marshmallows, sometimes we make spider dogs (google) and sometimes its smores’. Going to bed you look and smell like crap but it doesn’t matter – it’s the beauty of the cottage.
Summer in the city this year has not been easy for most of us. Simple things like going to the grocery store, taking the dog for a walk or taking my kayak to a local conservation area is not the same. I am not complaining, I get the need for social distancing, I am fine to wear a mask and do my part but still things that used to be an everyday part of life now involve new levels of stress and complications. At the cottage its pretty easy to forget about all of that. Sitting on the dock is still just sitting on the dock. A late-night boat ride is still just a late-night boat ride.
On a recent trip I honestly believe I forgot all about Covid 19 up until we were on our way home and stopped at a drive thru for lunch – reality set in again but I was grateful for the respite. I could also probably be saying the same thing about going camping or Rving or going for a paddle on a small northern lake. As I said, I am thankful for my time outdoors this summer, perhaps more than ever.