Category Archives: Editor’s Notes

Happy birthday, Sideroads!

Turning five is a big deal.

For most of us, it’s when we embark on one of the biggest adventures of our lives: school. We’re young and impressionable, soaking up information on a seemingly never-ending basis. We haven’t yet discovered our academic or artistic talents and there’s so much to take in, so much talent to uncover.

We face challenges and roadblocks, setbacks and major victories. We make lifelong friendships and start to gain independence as we step out into that great big schoolyard of life.

Here at Sideroads, we’re proud to celebrate our fifth birthday. Over the past half-decade we’ve met so many fantastic people and seen some incredible places. We’ve made new friends and said goodbye to treasured colleagues.

And just like all five year-olds, we’re still learning.

In this fifth anniversary issue of Sideroads, we celebrate learning and growth. From an automotive history lesson to a horsing around with self-discovery, a pilgrimage that tests the physical body to breaking down an artist’s creative process, we learn about the amazing people and opportunities Muskoka has to offer.

There’s nothing greater than feeling like you’ve got the whole world ahead of you, just waiting to be discovered. So join us in our quest to learn more, experience more and enjoy more of Muskoka. It’s your anniversary, too.

–       SR


Beneath the surface

Our world really shifts when winter rolls around. A fluffy layer of white covers all that we see and we don thicker, warmer clothing to keep us cosy and warm. The landscape changes with the weather patterns, keeping us on our toes whether we’re heading out to play, or braving the roads for some winter driving.

But what’s beneath the surface doesn’t really change – it’s just frozen for awhile, waiting to be rediscovered when the time is right.

In this winter’s Sideroads, we remember what lies just beneath the surface. Sometimes it’s a forgotten history – one like the tale of the Bondi Bay Vikings – that you have to choose to believe. And other times it’s the discovery of what we thought was lost – like the warplane at the bottom of Lake Muskoka – but has been found, solving a mystery more than half a century old.

We’ve got the story of an abandoned inn, behind whose resurrected walls an intellectual community is being fostered. A tale of an artist whose talent was buried beneath years of challenge and hardship, only to be reborn as one of Almaguin’s star painters.

One of the great pleasures I get out of winter is how it completely reinvents our landscape. It always surprises us with its beauty and power and we can never really predict what tomorrow’s going to look like. In the following pages, read about the surprises and discoveries your fellow Muskokans have made, and feel inspired.

Rediscover your Muskoka this winter. And most of all, enjoy your winter Sideroads.



Blaze of glory

All good things must come to an end. All great things usually come to an end with fireworks. That’s sort of how I see fall in Muskoka.

Summer in Muskoka is amazing. People come from far and wide to enjoy our lakes and beaches, cottages and resorts. It’s a carefree time, even for the people who live and work in the region all year round.

So shouldn’t it go out with a bang? Our spectacular fall colours are kind of like nature’s fireworks, symbolizing the end of summer’s season-long party.

As we roll into a cooler, calmer season in Muskoka, we tend to reflect on our past. Whether it’s the season we just enjoyed or the lifetime that has made us who we are, it’s nice to take a quiet stroll through our spectacular forests and trails and think about where we’ve been.

In this season’s Sideroads, we take a look at the history of Muskoka. From the Dorset fire tower’s risqué reputation to the secrets of Windermere, there is a rich past just waiting to be discovered.

With Remembrance Day right around the corner, we’ve included an amazing story about a group of Huntsville volunteers that has restored a piece of history from the Second World War.

There is no shortage of paths and trails for you to enjoy this fall, but if you need a little inspiration, check out our Cavalcade of Colour section. We’ve got plenty of ideas for you to try out, so grab your copy of Sideroads, grab a friend, and head outside.



Sweet Summer

Isn’t summer awesome?

There’s no question that it’s my favourite time of year. Warm weather, spending time outdoors, gardening and eating fresh fruits and veggies right from your own backyard … it just feels like heaven.

Muskoka is an amazing place in every season, but there’s something about summer that just makes us want to take advantage of our landscape. Maybe it’s the influx of seasonal visitors coming to enjoy our region that inspires us, or maybe it’s just feeling that sunshine on our faces. Either way, it’s great to get outside and play the day away.

In this edition of Sideroads, we’re heading outdoors to take advantage of those sunny days and warm summer nights.

Whether it’s taking to the sky in a floatplane, rounding up the family to go berry picking, or working on a community garden, Muskoka is definitely the best place to do it in. From the Gravenhurst wharf to the North Bay carousel and train and everything in between, you’ll find lots of summer inspiration in these pages.

Speaking of the outdoors, this year marks Algonquin Outfitters’ 50th anniversary. To celebrate that, we’ve highlighted some of their amazing community initiatives on page 30, and put a gorgeous fox on our cover. That beautiful photograph was shot by Kerry Hayden and has won third place in the Algonquin Outfitters photo contest.

So if you’re looking some great reading, grab your Sideroads and head to the dock for some much-needed R&R. Catch a few rays and enjoy your summer stories. This weather won’t stick around for long.

The Spring Connection

I’m a lifelong camper, so working on the camp guide was a ton of fun for me. This is a picture of me with my grandparents, who founded Camp Koinonia back in 1949. I love how my grandpa and I are wearing matching Koinonia shirts.

Our lives are all about connections.

Whether it’s friends and family, neighbours, or the community, we thrive when we feel connected to those around us.

And it’s also important to feel connected to what we love. For some of us that’s art or nature, and for others it’s a spiritual affair. Whatever the case may be, our connections are what make us feel whole.

To me, spring is a time when we emerge from the sleepiness of winter, re-connecting with our environment and community. It’s when we start meeting our friends for evening walks, or begin practicing with outdoor sports teams again.

Spring Sideroads is all about connecting. We always focus on our communities and their amazing sense of spirit when it comes to banding together, but in this issue we’ve really stressed the importance of being connected to one another.

First there’s Napster; a cat that makes paintings with his tail and is connecting residents of Muskoka to people and charities all over the world. In fact, he’s helping Sideroads readers connect to the people of Japan by donating to the Red Cross.

And then there’s the blogger who connects his version of Muskoka to the online community; a group of dedicated theatre enthusiasts who form deep bonds with the town they love; and a story of Huntsville’s famous fires that connects us to the past.

The annual camp guide even fits in with our theme, reminding us of the fun and lifelong connections we make as children at summer camp. There’s nothing better than reuniting with your camp friends year after year.

There are always new connections to be made and old ones to rekindle, but some are unchanging – like our love for where we live. So read on, enjoy the sunny spring weather and connect to your Muskoka.


Ah, Winter…

That's me, with a friend to my right and sister-in-law to my left. We're getting ready to make snow angels - you're never too old for snow angels!

Ah, winter.
The chilly mornings and bulky winter gear, slushy sidewalks and stormy nights. Although we often complain about our harsh Canadian winters, the truth is that winter can be a wonderful time. Sometimes, we just have to adjust our view.
Winter, while it’s cold and blustery, tends to be the time we get closer to our friends and family. The holiday season helps with that, but so does the increased time we spend indoors. We share warm meals and drinks with friends, and cuddle up to our loved ones for a bit of extra comfort and warmth.
What winter does is change our landscape. Here in Muskoka our surroundings really do become different. We lose some of our friends for the season to city living or warmer climes, and with the leaves off the trees we might even be able to see the lake from our cozy living rooms.
And playing outside also changes. Instead of soaking up the sun on our decks or boats, we bundle up until only our noses and eyes are peeking through the seasonal armour. But once we get out on that snowmobile, those skis or snowshoes, we know it’s all worth it.
Sure, road closures and power outages can be a pain, but when we see a snow day as an opportunity for fun, the tables are turned and old man winter becomes more of a friend than a foe.
In this winter edition of Sideroads, we’ve got stories that will help you bear with winter and maybe even enjoy it a little more, too. Famous Muskoka storms can’t slow us down when we’ve got a little fishing to do, and winter trails aren’t just for power sports this year.
You’ll meet the rescued puppies that teach us that for some, winter survival can be an impossible task without a little help. You’ll also meet the unique healers and artists that make Muskoka so special.
At the end of the day, whether it’s winter or summer, Muskoka’s landscape is what we make it. It’s the people living in it and the gorgeous white stuff that covers the ground that reminds us to be thankful for our warm homes and close friends.
So curl up, get cozy and read on. Enjoy your winter – and your winter Sideroads.

– SR

A New Season

Tree Swing

Photo by Bev McMullen

There’s something special about autumn.

There’s a smell – a crisp, fresh feeling in the air that makes you want to take advantage of ever-shortening sunny days and chilly nights. And there’s a feeling of anticipation.

To me, fall has always represented a new start. The change of seasons brings with it the excitement of a new school year – new clothes, new teachers, new friends, new challenges.

Even though I graduated long ago, autumn 2010 still brings those new experiences my way.

As a recent transplant to Muskoka, I’m still learning the ropes at a new job and trying my hardest not to get lost on the way to work. I may not have a new locker, but new friends, clothes and challenges are never hard to find.

As for teachers, I’ve had plenty.

Captain Bruce Jamieson introduced me to the beautiful Lake of Bays. Ken and Katya Riley made me feel right at home on their farm in Milford Bay.

I learned about Muskoka’s haunted heritage (I’m not scared of my new home, I’m not scared of my new home…) and a few local personalities with more knowledge of the area than anyone I’ve ever met.

From the exquisite art of R.W. Haviland to the debate between high- and low-tech cottage experiences, this issue of Sideroads has been as interesting for me to put together as it will be for you to read.

Even though I’ve spent many a summer in cottage country, actually moving in and writing about it is a different story – literally.

So thanks for making me feel so welcomed, Muskoka. For someone who started the summer feeling like a stranger in a new school, I experienced an overwhelming amount of hospitality and small-town friendliness that was decidedly old-school. And that’s a good thing.

I look forward to bringing you all the best stories our communities have to offer – and learning much more about Muskoka in the process. Being the new girl isn’t so scary. Haunted hotels on the other hand…