There’s No Place Like Home: All the reasons we never want to go anywhere but Muskoka in summer

I’m not the type to stay in one place for long. On a flight home, I’m the passenger poking at the digital map on the seatback, planning my next trip. I’m not yet “back in town” and already I want to leave. I’m Dorothy dreaming of Oz, or in today’s speak: a wanderluster. I dream of a life in constant travel, like the one in that old movie: If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium. Perhaps, instead of a writer I should have been a pilot. Or a bus driver.   

But I only dream of those things in three seasons: fall, winter, spring. I’m antsy to escape Muskoka the minute the maple leaves show a tinge of orange in October. Or in November when the first snowflakes refuse to melt. Or in January when the wind buffets my windows. Or in April when the trees are black and bare, and you can see through the forest. 

Please, don’t hold this against me. It’s not that I don’t appreciate spring or autumn here in Muskoka, or winter too… because, if you know me at all, you know I’m a #skiergirl. Muskoka is a compelling place to be in all of those seasons. It’s just that I can only quell my wanderlust for so long, and I choose from May to September. Because, well…  because I love summer in Muskoka. 

I do. I love everything about it. I love those first tweeps of the robins when they arrive from wherever it is robins “winter”. I love watching all the ways blue water ripples and dips. I love how a lake is, as Walt Whitman said: “calm as the dawn” one day, then fiendishly wild and wavy the next. I love sitting on a dock in late afternoon in July and August chatting with the friends I only ever encounter on a dock in July and August. I love the wind in my hair as I bounce across the lake in my beat-up old Whaler. Oh! And tiger-tail ice cream. I love the taste of tiger-tail ice cream, not because it’s good but because when I eat it I’m age 10 again and after I finish I’m going swimming. 

In short: I never want to leave Muskoka in summer. There’s just no other place for me to be. It’s plain and simple.

I’m guessing many of you returning this May long weekend feel the same. Especially those of you lucky to have spent your childhoods here. You love the smell of burgers on the grill at Webers. You love that first crunch of gravel under your tires as you slow along the cottage road. You love swinging the car door open and skipping down to the lake, maybe even jumping in fully clothed… if the ice is out. You love that you hate blackflies and mosquitoes, and you love that you know the difference between the two because anyone who’s ever spent a summer in Muskoka knows exactly the difference between blackflies and mosquitoes. It’s in our blood—not the bugs but the knowledge of them. Like them, we are part of this place.

And so that’s why I’m able to ignore my wanderlust in summer. That’s why, when friends tell me there’s a patio I should try downtown on King St., or a festival in July I can’t miss, or an August road trip to Niagara or Grand Bend or Prince Edward County—all fabulous places, I’m certain—I say, “Um, no thanks.” They look at me strangely. Any other season it would be me making those suggestions. 

But not in summer. Because Dorothy was only partly right when she told the lion, the scarecrow, and the tin man that “there’s no place like home.” There are loads of compelling places to be, Dorothy. Just not from May to September. In summer, there’s only Muskoka. 

Lori Knowles is a writer, magazine editor, and co-founder of MuskokaStyle. Her first novel, Summers with Miss Elizabeth, is set in Muskoka, awaiting to be published. You can read more of her work and adventures here

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