Come on into our Blog for a look at the wonderful world we've got to share! With over 240 hectares (600 acres) of wilderness woodlands surrounding the resort, just ten minutes from Algonquin Park, we feature over 400 metres (1200’) of waterfront and beach; boat rentals; summer hiking trails winding through fields and woods; 20 km. of groomed cross country ski trails and snowshoeing in winter; access to nearby snowmobile trails for sledders, and a toboggan hill for the young at heart. www.bondi-village-resort.com
Last fall, there seemed to be no beavers in residence at Damalot, the series of Beaver ponds along our River Loop trail.
Beavers do move on, but that made me sad.
This was the first time I've had the time to walk down the trail this Spring. And -- look -- on the far bank -- a stripped cut tree that is proof positive of recent beaver's at work.
No sooner had this got me all excited that the beavers may be back, when along comes ExcaliBeav himself, Lord of Damalot, with a stick in his mouth, on the way to do some repairs to the dam.
I might have been able to get a closer shot, until Beav spotted Taffy walking along the dam. SPLAT! Beaver down.
One cannot argue with that, however. The Beavs are back in town. From there on, it was easy to find evidence of their toothwork.
As beaver ponds work through their cycle of life, with beavers building them up, then moving on and letting the ponds turn into beaver meadows before new beavers move in, we are treated to an ever changing scene. One of the most intriguing is that we can see the canals that were built under the water to provide deeper channels and easier access for moving logs around.
The old and very established dams grow over, colonized by grass and sedges, then by saplings, and finally supporting trees -- all of whose roots help to stabilize and hold the dam in place. Easy walking for poodles... and rich in smells.
Felling the tree is just the start. It must them be cut into manageable sections. You can see the chips here where the beaver has been hard at work. He -- or she -- they are equal opportunity tree harvesters -- has removed a short section in the centre of this birch tree. Evidently it was just perfect for the leak in the dam and got hurried off to be woven into the structure!
Beavers aside, the walk along here is always beautiful, even when the sedges are not in their summer finery.
Here's a good look at how the beaver cuts the tree into pencil points to fell it.
Trust me in this one... there is a pair of hooded mergansers in the back left side of the photo. There were a pair of grey herons that overflew me too, but I wasn't able to get their picture. A pair of mallards, and another duck that whirred away before I could even identify it were all on hand as well. Beaver ponds provide sanctuary and homes and food to a myriad of other species.
And, just looking at the serenity of this, the beaver dam, reflections, soft drizzle taking away sharp edges, that has to be good for the soul.
This, looking down on the largest of the ponds (there are many of them!) gives a very good view of those underwater canals and causeways that the beavers have built over time.
It is one of our favourite hikes. Not overly long, not overly steep, thick with things to see and well populated with wildlife. The trail in leads through two big stands of pines, carpeted with moss. Even on a drizzly gray day, it's just beautiful in there.
It's been a good melt this Spring. That means that there wasn't too much frost in the ground, under the heavy snow cover, and that the swamps weren't frozen (again, thanks to the heavy snow that acts like insulation). So, despite some close to record snow fall records and the long long cold winter, when the meltdown started, there was room for the water to go. Unlike last year, where solidly frozen swamps and solidly frozen ground simply moved the meltwater at great speed across the land and into the lakes causing serious flooding.
Down at the dock, Brian's "flood state indicator" shows that the water is above summer normal levels, but it is still below the level of the top tier of dock timbers. Just.
As the white-gray surface gives way to the water, the lakes go black
When we watch the melt in the Bay, placing our bets as to the day the ice will finally go out of Bondi Bay (I said tomorrow... but it might be today if it rains hard) we watch the colour of the lake change. In winter, the lakes are white, of course, under their layer of snow. During melt and freeze cycles, the lakes are silver with glare ice that welcomes skaters. Come Spring, however, the colours start to change. The white ice starts to tinge with gray as the water works ever closer to the surface. The ice starts to break apart -- shown beautifully in my friend Jacquie' picture of their place at South Portage, and it begins to move with the wind, piling up along the edges, tinkling like wind chimes where it runs up against itself. There's no vertical strength left in that ice (although it can still push on the horizontal) That's when the boats come out.
Because... well.... because they can.
Dave and Mike grabbed the chance to make like icebreakers in our bay. Those dots in the distance are branches that were set around the fish huts during the winter to act as markers.
It was a fairly narrow rift in the ice flow, but enough to get the boys out into the bay!
It goes fast, ice, when it decides to go...
I took this photo yesterday in the afternoon. Two ducks were checking out the conditions, and the ice was on the move through the bay.
Yesterday evening, the ice had moved farther offshore -- but there was still some glimmers of 'white' out there.
This morning, the bay was almost clear -- but there remained a lot of ice beyond the Points, toward the Island.
Now, we don't consider Ice OUT until the entire bay is clear... and that includes out beyond the Island. When that goes, Haystack Bay is clear. And again, this morning, it is oh so close...
Then it rained, just drizzle, but persistent. (Brian called to tell me that I'd left the car outside with the windows down, so it rained enough!)
And at 11.30 this morning the robins and I squelched across the lawn to take another look. There is a little bit of ice pushed up on the shore by the Port Cunnington Road, but almost none. The rest of Bondi Bay is ICE FREE. And the big change is out by the Points, where the ice has also just vanished. The next pictures of our lake, it will be BLUE!
This last picture, I just couldn't resist. It is not upside down. It is the sun setting, reflected into the lake.
Last Thursday I was at a meeting in Gravenhurst which took place in the Grace and Speed Heritage Boat Museum. And what a place that is!
Brian was there the following weekend, for the Dispro Boat Owners Association (he being a Dippy owner) As an aside, the Dispro was a Disappearing Propellor vessel, designed to slide safely over sunken logs, and therefore ideal for the northern lakes that were frequently choked with logs from the log drives. Brian inherited Paul's old beauty, and has been spending a seeming eternity carefully restoring it. Slow work, and only happens when other matters aren't clamouring for his time. On the other hand, our Dippy is unique (we belive) in that is the only one we have ever seen with a bullet hole in it. Evidently used by someone who got impatient waiting for the fish to bite...
When you are up north, this is one of the spots that really needs to be on your bucket list for Muskoka. The sheer beauty of these vessels, so perfectly restored and gleaming under the layers of varnish, really do bring to life a more elegant and slower paced era.
I was delighted to find this little "nod" to Bigwin Inn at the Centre -- not being part of the big-3 connected lakes that are plyed by the steamships of Real Muskoka (Rosseau, Muskoka and Joe), Lake of Bays has been a bit under-represented. The Lake of Bays Heritage Advisory Committee was able to provide them with a section of the curved railing from the Bigwin Inn Rotunda after it was demolished. The likes of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, Diefenbaker, Carole Lombard, Clarke Gable, H.G. Wells, Hemingway and the Rockefellers all summered at Bigwin, and all leaned over this railing in the Rotunda. You can truly put a hand on history here.
The history of the iconic boats built in Muskoka: the Ditchburns and Greavettes is all stored here, next to the Dispros and the Canoe works... and of course, the Steamships.
Next door the lake steamers R.M.S. Segwun and R.M.S. Wenonah will soon be out on the waters of the lakes taking people on memorable sight-seeing, dinner cruises, Pirate adventures (yes, really) and Noah's Ark voyages. Real Muskoka has been named among Canada's Top Attractions for many years, and still holds pride of place.
Earth Day. And it's raining. So what to do but put on a raincoat, some rubber boots, and step out the door.
We only get One Earth. We should appreciate it, care for it, fall in love with it and never get over that. We should understand that we share it.
We know people who look out the window on a rainy day and grumble, but they are missing so very much.
We found where the mice had been under the snow during a long hard winter, nibbling the bark from the little spruce.
And Taffy insisted that I come check THIS out... turned out to be Wolf Scat. (yes, poop) It was right at the top of the hill across the road, by the tubing slide, so very close to the resort. Look at the fur in the scat -- this wolf had a meal of deer! Not so good for the deer, but most wonderful for the wolf, who wants to live too.
Go a little farther, and there's a big old (very old) maple tree that has past its prime. How to tell? Well, when the pileated woodpeckers start hammering into the tree, it's a sure sign that there are insects and grubs in there, which would not be there in a healthy tree. It is absolutely amazing how huge the chips are that the woodpecker smashes out with his beak! Look at the pile of chips at the base of this tree!
While looking down, on a northern facing slope where the snow is still lying about a foot deep, these beautiful oyster mushrooms, sometimes known as chicken of the woods, were vibrant on a fallen birch limb. It is not always the big things that should draw your attention!
Crossing the road out of the fields and into the sugarbush, right at the trail edge was this striped maple, with the bark all scraped raw on one side. That is the sure sign that last autumn one of the bucks used this tree to polish the velvet off his antlers so he would look sexy for the does. The bucks will rub the antlers against the tree, almost like sharpening a knife blade, polishing up the rack and getting rid of the last itchy bits of the velvet that has nourished the antler while it grew.
If you stand still in the woods at this time of year, you can literally hear Spring coming. The entire bush is flowing with tiny creeks and bigger streams, the snow melting off the hillsides and scurrying downhill through last autumn's leaves, creating breath-stealingly lovely miniature cascades at every turn.
There is a wonderful smell to a Spring woods, too, something rich and earthy and fresh. If you are fortunate enough to be a dog, there is a whole lot MORE to smell. Taffy had to check out the messages written on this stump. No, I was not able to translate it...
Where the beech grow in big stands sweeping up the side of the hill, the deer had been digging for the mast (the beech nuts) that may have wintered over under the leaves. The wild turkeys will dig up the bush like this as well, also seeking those protein-packed beech nuts.
Through the leaf litter underfoot, unstoppable, tiny shoots are pushing their way up to the light.
Ice falls still hold onto the rocky outcrops of the Canadian Shield in the woods, where the sun can't get a good angle on the northern sides of the hill. Without leaves on the trees, you can see forever through the trees, and it pulls you away from the trails to wander and explore. When you get higher, you can see even farther...
We found moss as green as Ireland.
And just beyond that, we came across an old dead tree that the porcupine had stripped of its bark, again searching for the insects and grubs that live underneath. Porky had tossed down big slabs of the bark at the base of the tree.
The forest changes its face constantly. Here, where the beech stand gives way to the birches, it is an entirely different micro-environment. Down the hill, there is a stand of red pines. And where we started along the trail, we walked through hemlocks, and then a maple sugar bush. If you know what to look for, you will be endlessly enchanted.
Of course there were ducks on the pond, the pond that was as dark green as the evergreens overshading it. Mr. and Mrs. Mallard are very busy discussing nest sites, and he is being very very attentive. Not that he'll stick around to raise the ducklings, but like all marriages, it begins in hope...
And, as we came back onto the lawn at Bondi, next to the horse pasture, there were geese. They were actually in the pasture, enjoying the big puddles and poking about for lunch, but Taffy suggested they'd prefer to be back in the air. She has this fascination with chasing geese, who refuse to play by her rules, and keep flying away...
Having been out and about, checking up on our neighbours who share this wonderful piece of the planet with us, it's now time to come inside, hang jackets to dry, and curl up by the fire for dinner. Happy Earth Day. Go on, get outside, be kind to the planet...
If you are ever wondering what to do next, try coming up this way, camera in hand.
Our cousin Robin Tapley is a master at getting out the door and into the best places in the world. Including here in North Muskoka.
These are a few of his photos taken this week -- the first is Ragged Falls, during the Spring Melt. This is a lovely waterfalls at any time of year, but is at its most powerful and dramatic best in spring.
Farther down stream you'll find the Hogs Trough -- the name comes from the steep sides of the shore where the river runs, and pouring in to the river are miniature catracts, like this one.
If you like to have a personality in your pictures, now is the time to visit Algonquin Park. Just look at who is hanging around there now!
Many thanks to Robin for these -- and all-- his fabulous photographs!
According to Brian's "Flood State Indicator" (aka calibrated stick. Aka Ruler) we are up another inch of water. Still not in any emergency state. Despite record snow levels, the melt has been downright civilized up here, in part because there was so little frost in the ground and the swamps weren't frozen solid, so there were places the meltwater could go. Don't mistake me, the swamps were well and truly frozen during the -30 degree weather we 'enjoyed', but last year we got a series of Winter Thaws that caused the swamps to freeze hard almost all the way to the bottom. This year, the ice came in early, and the snow on top acted as insulation, leaving a wider layer of liquid water under that ice.
Today it hit 18 degrees around noon, and then began to drizzle. When that warm rain hit the cold ice, the fog came in. Forget coming in on little cat feet, a la Carl Sandberg's famous poem. This fog simply rose up from the ice, more like a curtain than a cat.
A pair of Canada geese zoomed in to land at the open water by the main dock. 'Geese' is fighting words for Taffy... She was down the hill and onto the dock almost as fast as the rising fog. "all of you geese, get off of my dock!!" she seemed to say. They took the hint. If you squint a bit, you can just see them moving away from the dock.
Not that you can see much else. Beyond Taffy is the line of the ice. Beyond that is the Point, the big square boathouse, the Island, and the far shore. Good luck with spotting that.
The fog made for interesting backdrops. This tree in front of Cedars cottage created a study in black and white -- the line of the trees on the Point floating like a mirage beyond it.
We'd love to hear from you. The experiences our guests have are precious to us. If you have photos you took at Bondi, we'd love to have those as well. You can email them to Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org
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We are very proud of Napster, our tail-painting cat, who uses his lovely artwork to raise money for charities. This lovely little creature passed away July 2015, but left a huge legacy, having raised over $12,000 for various charities through the sale of his artwork. That artwork, through prints and notecards, is still available. Click here to visit Napster's Blog and visit the gallery of his tail-paintings.
Now sold around the world, he was honoured to have his artwork sold around the globe -- he even has a print with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Click on the following links to enjoy a 'virtual ski' round some of our 15 km. of groomed track set cross country ski trails. Thanks to Altitude and Attitude, North Muskoka gets the kind of winter you can really enjoy. Huge thanks to Eric Prince, the creative mind that made this videos happen!
Click here to enjoy seeing a variety of our trails.
And Click Here for another cross country ski adventure.
and this one, in 2014, just days before the snow vanished, from Hawke Lake on down. Click Here
And Click Here for just one more...