A week in the wilderness helped this woman find a little heaven on earth.
- Posted on Apr 11, 2011
Early last spring my husband and I decided we needed to get away from it all. We wanted to go somewhere where there were no computers, no telephones and few people. We wanted to share a wilderness experience.
While scouring travel brochures, I came across The Homestead, a cabin resort in Ontario’s Haliburton Highlands. It promised boating, fishing, solitude and a variety of spectacular nature experiences, depending on what time of year you visited.
Immediately we made a reservation for the first week of June–off-season. Most people wouldn’t start holidays until their children were out of school for the summer.
We left early on a Saturday morning and drove east through the congested heart of Toronto. From there, we took Highway 427 to Highway 11. Six hours after leaving southern Ontario, we pulled into the driveway of The Homestead. The place looked deserted.
Our hosts were a wonderful couple in their fifties. Their genuine hospitality gave us the feeling of being right at home. In addition, they had a friendly Alaskan malamute named Frosty who helped ease the ache of missing our own dog.
We arranged for a boat for the next day, unpacked the car, and settled into our cozy cabin. Early the next morning we were on the lake, which was a fantastic experience.
The crystal water afforded us a great view of what lay in its depths. Large moss-covered rocks, algae and schools of fish made our spirits soar.
The scenery was breathtaking. Several islands dotted the lake. Pine trees seventy feet tall stretched to the sky. A wide variety of birds nested there.
We watched a hawk soar into the sky from an old rotten tree branch. He glided on the wind currents and then, with wings and feet outstretched, hit the water. In his sharp talons was a nice-sized fish. He flapped his wings, climbed into the sky, fish flapping, and disappeared.
It was a beautiful day. Cool enough for light jackets but just the right temperature. We anchored near the shore of one of the islands, and waited.
On shore, a doe came out of the woods and lifted her nose to sniff the air. Then she huffed a soft whoofing sound. The wind currents sent the sounds our way, but because she was upwind, she didn’t smell us.
Out from the trees came two spotted fawns, twins. They walked behind their mother to the shore and drank deeply of the cold, clear lake water. After a few minutes, the doe lifted her head and looked directly at us. She gave a loud snort, flagged her tail and stamped her feet.
The two fawns wheeled and leaped back into the forest, followed closely by their mother.
We stayed on the lake all that day, and when the sun began to go down, a family of raccoons waddled to shore. We watched as the mother and her three babies washed and ate their food.
The next morning we got up at five o’clock and, following directions given by our hosts, parked the car on an abandoned stretch of road overgrown with grass. We climbed a hill and found ourselves on a rocky bluff overlooking the lake. We sat quietly.
Sure enough, just as our hosts had guaranteed, we heard a splash. Our eyes searched the lake. My husband pointed to a marshy spot close to shore. Two otters were skimming along the water. They dove and played for a few minutes before two kits joined them.
The family frolicked in the water, playing what appeared to be a game of tag.
When their game was over, they began to dive into the water, time after time. When we left them, the largest otter, which I assumed was the father of the family, was lying on his back, cracking open clam shells. It was time for breakfast–not just for the otters but for us as well.
That afternoon we took a drive to Horseshoe Falls. I stood spellbound as the water cascaded into a large pool of what appeared to be crystal-clear water. Mist rose from the area where the falls pounded into the pool, enshrouding the nearby woods in a soft white veil.
That evening we sat on the knoll behind our cabin, overlooking the lake. Light fog rolled in. The night became chilly. Suddenly, we heard twigs snapping as something made its way through the underbrush about five hundred yards from our cabin. Thinking it might be a bear, we sat, paralyzed.
What we saw next was one of the most picturesque and beautiful sights I have ever seen. A bull moose lumbered out of the woods, down the hill and into the lake. We watched him swim, holding his majestic rack of antlers high.
Soon, to our disappointment, he disappeared into the fog. We saw many other marvelous sights that week, but this was the most profound–the most miraculous.
As I watched that moose, the doe and her fawns, and the other creatures in their natural habitat, I felt at one with nature and in tune with the universe. Even now, I often close my eyes and watch that moose swimming the lake. The sight has been forever etched in my memory.
Each time I do this, as he disappears into the fog, my soul is at peace.