Hello from the Kawarthas – Early Fall Colours, Scarecrows and Frogmen

Fall is one of the most beautiful seasons in Ontario when forests light up in hues of yellow, orange and red. It’s the perfect time for drives in the countryside, to visit small villages, check out farmer’s markets, attend country fairs. We’ve had a long hot summer this year, even as I write this we are expecting temperatures 10 degrees Celsius above average. As a result the fall colour season is a little delayed, but that did not change the fact that it was time for a country driving tour.

During the Servas conference in Vancouver I made a great connection, I met a fellow Ontarian, a lady in her 50s by the name of Julie who lives north of Peterborough in Ontario’s Lake Country. And as is the Servas tradition, she generously offered her hospitality and invited me to come up and visit her on Buckhorn Lake. I left on Saturday at around 4 pm and although I got lost a couple of times, barely two hours later I arrived at her beautiful house on Buckhorn Lake.

Tranquility on Buckhorn Lake

We spent a fabulous evening chatting and cooking a meal together that was so delicious that I packed in two big servings. We talked about many topics and touched on the transitions of life, who we really are when you strip away job titles, material possessions, our affiliations with our marriage partners – what is really left at the end of the day. It was a really interesting discussion, I always enjoy conversing with people who have more life experience than I do.

Not surprisingly, Julie is a very interesting individual, she is a “diversity expert” and teaches organizations how to deal effectively with a multi-cultural workforce. She also participates in a variety of volunteer organizations (including Servas), plays tennis and volleyball, goes for long hikes, canoes, plays the piano, sings in a choir, to name just a few of her activities. I asked her if she ever gets lonely in the tranquility of Lake Country, after having lived most of her life in the metropolitan hub of Toronto. The answer was a definitive no, and once I heard of all her activities I realized that with such an active social calendar it would be very difficult to feel lonely or get bored.

What’s always great about a personal visit is connecting with a local expert, who really knows the area. Julie took me on a little driving tour of her neck of the woods (literally) and showed me some of her favourite spots, which include Fothergill Island, the Gannon Narrows Conservation Area and the country drive to the village of Buckhorn.

Early fall colours in the Kawarthas Turquoise Sandy Lake

The Kawartha area is full of lakes, many of which are connected and form part of the Trent-Severn Waterway System that connects Lake Ontario with Georgian Bay, part of Lake Huron, over a distance of 387 km through a serious of lift locks. The Kawarthas are one of the three main popular getaway areas for Ontarians which include Muskoka, the Haliburton Highlands, and the Kawarthas. During our drive Julie pointed out one of the landlocked lakes that is not connected to the lock system, Sandy Lake, which has a bottom of sand and clay, resulting in an often turqouise appearance, somewhat reminiscent of famous Lake Louise in Western Canada. Sandy Lake is a very popular spot for vacation homes and the entire Kawartha area boasts thousands of cottages, camps and resorts, from simple house-keeping cottages to luxury resorts and conference centres.

Cycling scarecrow Breakfast in bed Scarecrow wedding

Of course fall is harvest time as well, Halloween is approaching too, and one of the big autumn pastimes in cottage country seems to be the creation of all forms of scarecrows. They were all over the place, in front of private homes, bed & breakfasts, schools, community centres, churches, even on bridges, and I started snapping away with my camera to document this rural creativity. My favourite scarecrow encounters included a wedding scene, “breakfast in bed” in front of a B&B, and some “scarecrow hoodlums” climbing the fence of a baseball diamond.

Scarecrow farmer Scarecrow baseball hoodlums

After saying goodbye to Julie and thanking her for her great hospitality, I decided to do a little loop around Buckhorn Lake and I checked out the village of Burleigh Falls. I got out of the car and walked down on the flat rocks beside the river which descends in cascades into Stoney Lake. Burleigh Falls is a cute little hamlet located at the confluence of Lovesick Lake and Stoney Lake, and has a few restaurants and a variety of other accommodations.

One thing I did not realize is that Stoney Lake is a local scuba diving spot. As I walked past the cascades and arrived at a little clearing, I saw a scuba diver in full gear coming out of the water. He explained to me that there were problably about 20 or so divers in the lake, and that they explore the rocky lake bottom which apparently also includes a deep trench.

Burleigh Falls Frogman exiting the waters

From Burleigh Falls I continued my path south and stopped at Youngs Point, which houses one of the locks of the Trent-Severn Waterway System. This little town marks the start of the Canadian Shield and was settled in 1825. The original lock here was built in the early 1870’s. I stopped at the Lockside Trading Company, which offers cottage country apparel, home furnishings, a variety of souvenirs and home decorating items, as well as some of the famous Kawartha Dairy icecream, which of course I had to taste.

Youngs Point was my last stop on my way home, although I drove through a series of cute villages including Lakefield, Bridgenorth and Port Perry. I thoroughly enjoyed the drive through the rolling hills of this agricultural land northeast of Toronto. The feeling was apparently shared by a myriad of other travellers, some pulling boats on trailers, others riding on their motorcycles. All in all, it was a perfect early fall day and an ideal occasion to check out Toronto’s backcountry.

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