As a rule, I try to avoid saying things to my children that begin with the preface “In my day…”, but in all honestly, my childhood was much different than theirs. I didn’t have an iPod, a cell phone or a tablet. I did have a monochrome GameBoy that had a battery life of about 4 hours and an original Nintendo Entertainment System (which I still have in my office) that was hooked up to my black and white TV. As a result of telling my kids this, they firmly believe that I grew up in the Stone Age.
I’ve tried to explain to my children that my childhood wasn’t centred around the TV or some other electronic device. My childhood was spend outside from sun-up to sundown, running around, making up my own games. Using my imagination. Once the street lights came on, I’d go inside and play Risk, Monopoly, Scrabble or crib with my parents and grandparents.
As a parent, I’ve been struggling to separate the kids from their dependency on external stimulation and return to a more family-centric and imagination-based approach to fun. That’s why when Cedar Grove Lodge invited us up for Mother’s Day weekend, we jumped at the chance to spend a few days living in a log cabin in the middle of one of Mother Nature’s most beautiful gardens.
You see, Cedar Grove Lodge doesn’t have WiFi in every cabin. There is only one TV on the resort and it’s located in the main lodge. You can book the TV for watching sports (one family set up camp in there for the Canadiens’ game on Saturday night) or for watching one of the many DVDs that the front desk has for loaning out on a rainy day. What the cabins do have is a fireplace, a large family room and a rustic feel that puts you back in touch with nature and reminds you of a simpler time.
We arrived late on Friday night and the kids, tired from the ride, went almost immediately to bed. My wife and I, along with our two Chugs (Chihuahua-Pugs) settled in on the front porch and watched the moon rise over the lake. Loons could be heard in the distance along with the gentle sound of wind in the trees.
Saturday morning brought two fairly bored children into our bed just shortly after 6am. With no TV to watch or tablets to play on, there was nothing to do. Surely, the children couldn’t make it two whole days without being entertained by a glowing screen. We assured the kids (who didn’t seem particularly convinced) that there would be plenty to do after breakfast and that they were going to love this place as much as we already did.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served in the main lodge and included in the price of your stay. Everything is home-made and delicious. The resort also caters to those with food allergies. Our son has a gluten intolerance and the staff made sure that he didn’t feel like he was deprived of choices when it came to the menu. Each meal included gluten free options, several of them. More than once over the course of the weekend, he mentioned how “cool” it was that he could order almost anything and be able to eat it.
Following breakfast on Saturday, we checked out the games room at the lodge. There was table tennis, pool, shuffleboard and foosball. Upstairs in the main room was a shelf with various games such as Sorry!, Yahtzee and Cribbage. There were also a selection of jig-saw puzzles and a chess board. The kids immediately scooped up the Sorry! game and set up a date to play a few games on Saturday night. My wife picked up Yahtzee and dropped the proverbial gauntlet.
Having set up our post-dark family entertainment, we wandered over to the boathouse where canoes, paddle boats and other non-motorized watercraft are available free of charge. We could have also picked up a motor boat for a small fee, but neither of us had a current pleasure craft license. My son was dying to take a paddle boat out, so we all put on a life-jacket and launched into the lake. With my wife and son in one boat and my daughter and I in another, we spent the morning going in circles out on the calm, clear lake.
After a hearty and delicious lunch, we decided to head back out onto the water, this time in canoes. While my wife and daughter sized up paddles for their canoe, my son noticed one two-seater kayak. We had to try it out. I’ve got some experience sea kayaking, so we pulled the kayak out onto the beach, jumped in and launched it. After an hour out on the water, with a warm Muskoka sun beating down on us, we decided that we’d spend the rest of the afternoon at the beach. While the kids splashed around in the water, my wife and I sat on the dock in a pair of Muskoka chairs and let the sun, the smells and the sounds of children playing draw us back to our own childhoods. Then I fell asleep. Thankfully, my wife wasn’t quite that relaxed and kept an eye on the children while I soaked up the sun.
After another amazing meal in the main lodge, we finally returned to our cabin and had a family game night. I have, in the intervening 30 years since I started playing Sorry!, clearly not improved. I came dead last, much to the amusement of the kids. After they were in bed, my wife and I played a game of Yahtzee. Clearly the gaming gods weren’t with me that night, as I lost that one too (but only by 2 points, so at least it wasn’t a total rout).
Sunday morning dawned overcast, but still warm. After breakfast, we entertained ourselves in the games room. The kids learned that table tennis is a lot harder than it looks and that mommy and daddy spent way too much time at the foosball tables in University. After the sun started to peek through the clouds, we picked up some tennis rackets and a basketball and headed off to the tennis courts and basketball area. The resort has a selection of well-maintained sports equipment available for the taking at the main lodge which includes footballs, basketballs and tennis equipment.
As lunch time approached, we tidied up the cabin and packed everything back into the car. Once everything was back in the car (a 2015 GMC Acadia which GM had lent us for the week), we headed up to the lodge for one more meal. It was during this meal that I met Bonny.
Bonny has been with the resort for 55 years and was full of stories about the resort and the many return visitors which it sees each year. One return visitor Bonny told me about is an elderly woman who is approaching her 90th birthday. She’s been coming to Cedar Grove since she was 17. Another couple have been coming since they were children and are now here with their children. Bonny had also heard that my son was gluten free and had stopped at a bakery in Huntsville earlier and picked up two gourmet gluten-free cupcakes with him in mind. That’s what the staff is like at Cedar Grove, they want to make sure that you love the resort as much as they do and it shows in everything they do.
While we were thanking her for thinking of our son like that, Bonny summed up the weekend and the family-centered mentality of the resort in one sentence…
“It’s not just a vacation… It’s Cedar Grove!”
WHen you’re ready to begin your adventure, contact the great folks up at the Lodge! All of the details are on their website at http://www.cedargrove.on.ca/.