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Muskoka from the Air - Winter beauty from a different viewpoint
A different vantage point can offer a new perspective of Muskoka. Bracebridge pilot Earle Robinson enjoys flying over Muskoka to truly appreciate its beauty. For over 35 years, Robinson has been flying for fun.
“My wife didn’t know I was interested in flying until after we were married,” explains Robinson. “As a gift one year, she gave me a flying kit and lessons at Toronto’s Buttonville airport. Now, we joke that it’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
After spending years living in Toronto and commuting to their cottage on Six Mile Lake, Robinson and his wife retired and relocated to Bracebridge in 2002. Robinson discovered he was unable to rent a plane from the Muskoka Airport and purchased a convertible Cessna. After a number of seasons of switching between floats and wheels, Robinson sold the Cessna for a Lake Buccaneer. The amphibious plane has a central float and retractable wheels, meaning it can land on water or on land at any time.
“It’s a bit like landing in a canoe at 80 miles an hour,” laughs Robinson. “In Muskoka, flying with an amphibian means all of the lakes are runways, so it’s quite safe.”
Tomasz Szumski, local photographer and Bracebridge resident, joined Robinson for a winter flight to showcase all that Muskoka is, from the air. In a one-hour trip, Robinson and Szumski viewed Muskoka from between 1,000 and 2,500 feet in the air.
“There’s no land in Muskoka,” jokes Szumski. “It’s all lakes and little islands all over the place. From the air, the perspective is amazing. When you’re driving a car, you don’t see that. There are trees blocking your view but flying over, it’s just water, and in this case snow.”
On a sunny winter’s day, the pair flew a round trip from Muskoka Airport in Gravenhurst along Highway 169 to Bala, through Muskoka Lakes, Huntsville, Lake of Bays and finally over Bracebridge.
“You can see how Muskoka was built, sort of, from the ice age and the ice receding to create all of these pockets of water,” says Szumski. “Muskoka looks fantastic from the air in any season.”
“It’s a perfect place to fly with all of the rocks, water and trees,” shares Robinson. “In the winter, its all white and hard to figure out where you are because it all looks the same. In the summer, all of the shades of green and blue are incredible. Then in fall it just bursts into colour. In any season, it’s beautiful up there.”
Heading west from the Muskoka Airport, the first visible landmark was the duo of ships in Gravenhurst Bay, Segwun and Wenonah. The dock slips that in the summer would be full of visiting boats are fully frozen and empty. However, the tracks of snowmobiles are a common sight across Muskoka’s waterways in the winter.
The open, rushing water of the Moon River at the Bala Falls throws the surrounding frozen, snow-covered bays of Lake Muskoka into contrast. The iconic Kee to Bala sits undisturbed, locked in ice. Snow on both land and lake blurs the boundaries of each.
Port Carling, a bustle of activity during the summer months, has a nostalgic feel in the depths of winter. The Indian River, connecting Lake Rosseau to Lake Muskoka, often stays free of ice, despite the sub-zero temperatures, due to the strong current. Lake Rosseau, accessible through the lock system at Port Carling, provides another major thoroughfare for snowmobilers once the ice has thickened to suitable thickness.
Another recognizable landmark from the air is the red roof of the “Lady of the Lake,” Windermere House. A resort town through the summer, the winter sees local residents active on the bay with another pastime: ice fishing. Huts within proximity to the shore, or further out on the lakes, are spaces to spend weekends and evenings in search of the perfect catch.
A hilltop escape, J.W. Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa overlooks Lake Rosseau and beckons travellers, tired from a day spent ice fishing, snowmobiling or snowshoeing in the area, to relax and recharge.
Lake of Bays
The natural beauty of Muskoka in winter is apparent over Lake of Bays. Bigwin Island, accessible only by boat during the summer months, almost disappears among the snow-covered surrounding water. However, those who are familiar can still identify the final fairway of the Bigwin Island Golf Club.
Every green parcel of land connects at multiple points to the white, frozen bodies of water. Heading west once more, along Highway 117, the village of Baysville sits at the confluence of Lake of Bays and the south branch of the Muskoka River.
As the afternoon sun sets and the flight concludes, Bracebridge Falls and the silver bridge can be seen at the centre of the town of Bracebridge, surrounded by curved roads and the winding, frozen Muskoka River. Although built on hills and valleys, from above, Bracebridge looks like a quaint, miniature village.
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