Well, we’ve heard from her again, and it sounds like Flat S is really enjoying her summer break. And what a lucky little flat she is! She’s just paid a visit to a place that National Geographic recently called one of the ten best places to visit during the summer! She was hosted by Deb Adams and her family. Both Deb and her husband have spent summers in Muskoka (known as “cottage country”) since they were children. In fact, they met there one summer when she was 12 and he was 16. Eventually they bought their own cottage, and a few years ago when Deb’s husband was ready to wind down his career in advertising, they decided one weekend not to go back to the city. So they didn’t! Their cottage in Muskoka is now their home.
As luck would have it, Deb’s daughter, her husband, their kids, and some friends were visiting while Flat S was there, so Flat S had plenty of companions to play with. Deb reports that the children loved Flat S, although her dog Lucy wasn’t too sure what to make of her at first. And neither was a local deer. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s turn things over to Deb.
Driving on the highway heading north from Toronto, at about the two hour mark, one begins to observe large pink and grey chunks of the Canadian Shield protruding through the ground. Wooded areas become denser and clearings reveal diamond-speckled pristine lakes. Jet black ravens soar in the blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds. Tall white pines flank the highway. When you see that kind of landscape, you know you’ve arrived in Muskoka.
In the late 1800s the tranquil beauty of Muskoka made it a popular summer destination particularly for the wealthy from Toronto as well as Americans from Pittsburgh and New York. Because roads weren’t built, the early cottagers would arrive by train in a little town called Gravenhurst.
Oh look! There’s Flat S arriving with her luggage at the station.
Then with their families, staff, household effects, and some even with livestock, they would board one of the steamships which would take them to their grand summer home on Lake Muskoka. The Segwun, one of the original ships, was built in 1887 and is the oldest operating steamship in North America. Today it plies the lakes for sightseeing, lunch, and dinner cruises.
Just like the summer cottagers at the turn of the 20th century, Flat S is ready to board the RMS Segwun and sail to her cottage destination.
When Flat S arrived at the cottage, three happy faces greeted her with a grand feast as she must have been hungry after her long journey.
After dinner, Flat S went for a walk in the woods where she was spotted by a sweet doe named Stompy. (She got that name because she stomps her feet when other deer bother her.) The deer wasn’t too sure about Flat S and thought it best to sneak up on her from behind a sugar maple tree.
Then when Stompy got up her courage she walked right in front of Flat S and stared, and stared, and stared! Finally she said, “Welcome to my little corner of Paradise.”
The next day, Flat S went to a town called Bracebridge that happens to be located on the 45th parallel making it halfway to the North Pole, and we all know who lives there in the winter. However during the summer, Santa lives in Muskoka and everyone can come and visit him at his amusement park called Santa’s Village. There are amusement rides, games, paddle boats, a mini-train, splash pad, boat ride, Santa’s deer, mini golf, go karts, zip-lines, and you can even have breakfast with Santa as his park. Flat S wanted to go to Santa’s Village to be an Elf for the Day.
Here’s Flat S with some Flat Gingerbread men in Santa’s Village, and like all the other kids, she got to wear a fun Elf’s hat.
Muskoka is a tourist destination for everyone–and that includes famous people. In the early part of the 1900s, the famed Canadian author Lucy Maude Montgomery who wrote the children’s literary classic Anne of Green Gables came for a summer vacation. She was captivated by the little town of Bala where she was staying in a tourist boarding house. She enjoyed her Muskoka vacation so much that the town became the inspiration and setting for her novel The Blue Castle. The tourist boarding house is now a museum devoted to the author and everything “Anne.” One can dress up in clothing that Anne would wear, listen to stories, have tea on the porch, and tour the museum. There’s even a gift shop with books, Anne dolls, and more.
Flat S wanted to wear one of the straw hats and noticed that one of the Anne dresses looked much like a “flipped” version of the Croquet Dress.
At the north end of Muskoka is a town called Huntsville. It’s the gateway to Algonquin Park, a mecca for hikers, canoeists, and campers. In Huntsville is Muskoka Heritage Place. It’s a pioneer village, a museum, and home to the Portage Flyer steam train. The little train takes passengers along a short section of the original track that long ago carried tourists to resort destinations. Flat S was keen to go for a ride on the train. “It looks like fun,” she said.
The engineer said she could try on his cap before taking to the rails.
Nearby is Lookout Point that overlooks Huntsville and Fairy Lake. It was threatening to rain, but the sun kept shining so Flat S was able to take in the spectacular view. Several boys also taking in the view were quite interested in Flat S and were happy to have their photo taken with her.
Back at the cottage after a long day of sightseeing, Flat S was invited to a tea party in the gazebo with the kids. Even Lucy the dog joined in on the fun.
Early one evening Flat S and the kids sat outside around the fire and roasted marshmallows. They sang a few campfire songs, and told some campfire tales. Flat S asked where the name “Muskoka” came from. Well, some think it’s an Iroquois word meaning “It’s always happy hour” while others insist it means “Dad, will you take me water skiing?” However, most historians think is was named for a Chippewa Chief named Mesqua Ukee.
One day Flat S spent the whole day enjoying water activities. There was skiing, wake boarding, tubing, swimming, and fishing too. Look! Flat S caught a fish!
Flat S really liked going out on the lake in the boat to go sightseeing and to get an ice cream cone from the local ice cream shop.
One of the local steamships offers a Pirate Cruise every Sunday morning. Kids dress up, and a pirate captain leads the group on a quest to find treasure. Along the way, they spy other pirates. One pirate boards the ship, and there’s a sword fight but he loses and jumps off the ship to get away from the captain and the kids.
Pirates on the shore fire their cannon at the ship to keep them away from the treasure. There are other pirates who have a real mermaid that they’ve kidnapped, and there’s a battle to save her.
There are so many pirates roaming the lake that…. Shiver me timbers!… Flat S has been kidnapped! Where are the pirates going to take her? Will they sail the Seven Seas? Where will she turn up?
Good-bye Flat S. Enjoy your journey wherever the pirates take you. ARRRRR!
Thanks Deb and family for showing Flat S such a great time in Muskoka–aside from the kidnapping that ended her stay, that is. But we don’t have to fear. After Deb sent in her report on Flat S’s visit, we heard from the pirates. They’re sailing across the Atlantic right now and have offered Flat S’s return in exchange for a ransom once they arrive at their next destination. We’ll see if we can work out a deal and get a report from Flat S once she makes landfall in Europe.