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Dashing Quietly Through the Snow


You are a hardy Canadian, flinging yourself into winter's gelid embrace as soon as the first snow flakes hit the ground. But your devotion is not expressed through the scrape of hockey skates, the snow-sliced spray of downhill skis or the scream of snowmobiles.

Instead, you celebrate the majestic serenity of winter on lightweight snowshoes and graceful cross-country skis. You delight in discovering the zen of a quiet trail while getting a kick-ass aerobic workout.

When it comes to finding calm and lovely cross-country ski and snowshoe trails, Muskoka is your nirvana. Go out and listen to the quiet on these scenic retreats.

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Much, much more than a summer job

Young people in Gravenhurst need work. Golfers need caddies. But it took a trip to San Jose for Alan Cranfield to figure out how to fill both those needs and send kids to school as well.

Cranfield has always loved Muskoka. Among his earliest memories are the trip to a rental cottage on Skeleton Lake when he was three – bumping for miles along a corduroy road in his father’s 1946 Hudson, and having to back up when they came face to face with a logging truck. Cranfield now spends several months a year living at his cottage on Lake Muskoka and commuting to Toronto to meet with his clients.

He is now a principal with Stonegate Private Counsel, a boutique wealth management company. He helps an exclusive handful of clients grow and maintain their wealth.

Stereotypically, the golf course is a place where business deals are made. Cranfield has only recently taken up the game, but he’s become an enthusiast, logging well over 100 rounds a season at the Muskoka Bay Club in Gravenhurst, walking almost all of them.

Cranfield and some of the other walkers in the club asked golf director Greg Downer if he’d ever considered hiring caddies. Downer – who used to run a highly successful caddie program in the GTA – said he’d tried, but was having no luck. Unemployment is high in Gravenhurst, even by Muskoka standards, but the teenagers he’d interviewed just didn’t have the social or personal skills needed to caddie at a high-end golf club.

Cranfield might have thought nothing more of it, had it not been for another conversation on a golf course, this time in San Jose, New Mexico. The caddie program at the club there is affiliated with the Evans Scholars program. And that’s when the light went on.

The Evans Scholars program was founded in the 1920s by golfer Chick Evans. In 1916, Evans won the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open titles in the same year, a feat that has only once been repeated. Rather than accept prize money and endorsement deals, which would have ended his amateur status, Evans set up a charitable foundation. He decided the foundation should be used to help others – specifically caddies – go on to university.

Since then, the Evans Scholars program has sent more than 9,000 caddies to university in the U.S., paying scholarships and even providing a place to live in Evans Scholarship Houses at 14 different universities.
Cranfield soon saw how something similar could benefit Muskoka.

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A cottage transformed

Have basket, will travelBarbara Desmond had a pretty good idea of what she wanted in a cottage. She looked at the MLS listing agent Thelma Jarvis had sent and knew this wasn't it.

Desmond runs through the list of things that were wrong with the place. It faced north. It was sheltered behind Rankin Island, where they wanted open water. It was more money than she had planned to spend. And above all, it was visually unappealing in a way that only an unreconstructed 1970s era design can be.

But she and her husband Bob were trying to get a better idea of what was available as they planned their move to Muskoka from Peterborough's Stoney Lake, so they agreed to see the place. And what they saw served as a lesson. "The MLS listing doesn't show you everything," Barbara said.

As they toured the property on the west side of Lake Muskoka, they could see that it did have lots to recommend it: deep, deep water right off the rocks on one side of the point - so deep the Segwun cruises within hailing distance every day - and a shallow wading area on the other; views of open water to the east and a dappled view to the west; multiple sitting areas including a sun deck atop a boathouse that catches the sun throughout the day.

"My husband said 'I can't fix land, but I can always fix a cottage,'" Barbara said.

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Winter islanding

Have basket, will travelYou forgot to get something on your way to the cottage, so you need to go back into town. It's 20 below, the ice is still a bit thin in spots, and the car is a 25-minute snowmobile ride away. Welcome to winter islanding.

Those who winter on Muskoka's islands are no stranger to such a harsh scene. When foul weather rolls in, it can imprison islanders in a bone-white wall of wind and snow. And yet, if they were asked whether they thought the hardships - indeed, the occasional danger - were worth it, every one of them would respond with an enthusiastic "Yes."

"It's a hardy breed of people who cottage on the islands throughout the winter," says Edward Seagram Jr., whose been doing so since he was a small child more than 40 years ago. "Even people who cottage on the islands in the summer are different. It's a different culture, but those who come up in the winter - or who live there year-round - are truly a unique, hardy breed."

There's no doubt islanders are a tough and devoted lot. They have to be: challenges abound, from frequent power outages, to sudden thaws that see the ice break up literally overnight, to snowstorms that leave one isolated. The comforts of civilization are a little further away than for mainlanders. It's a lifestyle for which only the adventurous need apply.

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Brought to you by:
Cayman Marshall International Realty Inc., Brokerage
133 Hwy 60, Suite 8
Huntsville, Ontario P1H 1C2
Office: 705.787.1611
Toll free: 800.626.8996
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