Photos and Story submitted by Brendan Troy
It's a cool summer morning and a light breeze through an open window leaves you with the impression that you need to plaster on a sweater before you get out of bed. Obviously, this is only temporary as the sun will continue to climb and quickly heat up eastern Ontario to a roasting 30 degrees. For now though, you enjoy the brisk daybreak and look out at a perfectly calm lake. Like a mirror for the sun to put on her morning makeup, the lake sits perfectly still, similar to your early morning demeanour. As you sit quietly, slowly waking up and preparing for a fun day at the cottage, so too does the lake. Staying quiet without the noise of small waves or large boats humming across the surface, the lake prepares for a noisy day of kids screaming, splashing and cannonballing off the floating dock. The lake and I both sit, enjoying that cool air, listening to songbirds create an un-orchestrated symphony. A Great Blue Heron takes flight from its evening roost by way of its slow, deep wingbeats in the direction to its morning stakeout.
It doesn’t take long for that cool air to warm, the breeze to die down and the summer heat to bake our surroundings. It’s at this time that you hear your first boat start up, the boat that should have died years ago yet somehow defies all the odds and starts up with a few begrudging coughs and splutters. The fisherman are out to catch breakfast and the kids quickly fill the still air with laughter and excitement of another day at the lake. While I may not sound like a kid anymore, I too, hold the same enthusiasm for every day I get to spend at the cottage.
Hastings County is incredibly lucky for the amazing geography and topography that fills its boundaries. A land just north of one of Canada’s largest lakes, this area is home to a copious amount of lakes, rivers and ponds. Ancient, cavernous holes dug by distant glaciers left this land pockmarked with water bodies and we couldn’t be luckier. In Hastings southern throws, our lakes are surrounded with deciduous trees of willow, maple and elm and commonly have soft, sandy beaches. These are truly the Canadian equivalent of Caribbean beaches. As we move further north, pines dominate and white pines tower over rocky shores and steep drop-offs into deep, clean lakes. Here, sandy beaches are trumped by boulders and cliffs, the kind of cliffs that make for the best cliff diving. No matter the make-up of your lake, the cottage remains the same and means the same to all of us.
Within five minutes of arriving, our cell phones, often glued to our hands, find a new home in the car cup-holder or on the kitchen counter. Sometimes left for days at a time, we quickly realize that our independence and freedom still exists, possibly only away from cell phone towers and wifi signals. Our hands quickly fill that void with a paddle, an incoming frisbee or perhaps an adult beverage. Whatever the case, it takes no time at all to be away from social media and connect with the outside world, and to immerse ourselves into the outdoors and our friends and family. For me, this is possibly the best part of the cottage.
As a kid, I was always obsessed with the floating dock. If it was sunny and warm, the best place was to be jumping off the floating dock. If it was raining, the best place was to be making bigger splashes than the myriad of falling raindrops. If it was windy, the best place was to be rocking the floating dock with the enormous waves, trying to capsize the dock and avoid injury. It honestly didn’t matter the scenario; I wanted to be outside, in the water, on the dock. I feel this to be true for so many young kids and something that I will cherish forever. I often see floating docks on lakes and rivers as I’m driving and the shortest glimpse of that slippery, floating piece of wood brings back so much nostalgia.
Whether you or your kids are obsessed with the floating dock, or any of the other thousands of things to enjoy at the cottage, we all connect with the cottage in the same way. More rustic than at home, more often forgetting to wash our hands or more willing to accept the 5-second rule, we are truly more relaxed when at the cottage. Life, work, stress tend to leave us, allowing for pure enjoyment of life to invade our minds and our hearts. We are truly happy in a less complicated, more authentic lifestyle. Getting outside to enjoy the water and the beach, while taking time to take long walks with friends and family to discover abundant wildlife and peaceful sunsets. The night sky comes alive and true wonder fills our thoughts as stars truly shine without the light pollution of our large cities and 21st-century development. In a way, the cottage takes us back in time where TV’s, computers and cell phones are forgotten and we reconnect with one another via card games, horseshoes and fishing. It’s funny that as we consistently push to improve technology and develop our land, a trip to the cottage without all of our contemporary luxuries can be more relaxing and more enjoyable.
Personally, I only use my cottage one week of the year in late June. A rented piece of paradise in cottage country. Some are lucky to own that slice of heaven on earth, or know how to be incredibly persuasive with those who do own a cottage and visit the lake much more often. However long you spend at the water’s edge, it’s important to slow down and really take in what is in front of you. Enjoy the calming waves and the erratic cell phone reception. Take photos of the night sky and the deer walking through an open pasture. Laugh a little harder while playing euchre with friends and when Jeff falls off the wakeboard. Listen closely to the sound of the pounding rain on the roof and the booming thunder over the lake. Enjoy living, enjoy the cottage.
Story and photographs by Brendan Troy
As one of our six Local Wanderers exploring Hastings County, Brendan enjoys hiking the trails, family paddling adventures and fishing.
Learn more about Brendan and his adventures as well as the other five Local Wanderers and the excursions they've experienced across the County here.