After the fire

I have never experienced the complete upset of watching a fire ravage through an area even remotely close to me before, so when we heard the news of the Parry Sound 33 fire I had no concerns. How bad can a little fire get here, it’s not BC or California. They have wild fires, but it couldn’t happen to our little piece of heaven. Boy, was I wrong! We had packed up our car to head north on July 20 for a typical weekend, but just as we were about to leave we got word of evacuations happening on the Key River. I think I was still kind of not believing what I was hearing, and that we would be back to normal the next weekend.

Watching each for each report and constantly check Facebook for updates from the Key River Area Association, my Dad, Nick and I were so worried and constantly analyzing what we had read and what could it all mean. We all had visions of our little slice of heaven going up in flames and what that would mean for us. Would we have a boat? What about the dock?  Then of course bigger questions like how does one go about rebuilding a cottage in a water access location, and how long would that take, and how many others would need to be rebuilt too? We also considered that if this was the way the cottage was going to go it was probably the best as insurance would cover the clean up and hauling out of the mess.

Map of the fire damage. We were so lucky to not have any damage.

The fire grew so rapidly, and we all just watched with horror and baited breath waiting for news of our cottage. Finally on August 10 after almost 3 weeks of evacuation and restrictions, we were allowed to go!!! There were river restrictions to allow the water bombers and helicopters to do their job. We had to be off of the river by 8am and nobody was allowed on the river until 8pm. We made the journey North at 4am and safely arrived at the harbour by 7. We had packed enough provisions for a week, including a new generator as the power had been off for 3 weeks and we had no idea when it would return, and all the gas to power it. We had finished loading and the battery in the boat was flat, luck had it that we were able to get a boost and we high tailed it out of the harbour to make it to the cottage for 8.

At the highway there was no sign of damage, so as we left we had no idea what was in store for the river. I could smell the burnt trees before I could see them. There was blackened stumps and rocks, a moonscape is what some people have referred to it as. The rocks are bare, just blackened by the fire and ash. It was patchy damage and there were some signs of life close to the river and some areas where you could hardly tell. Some cottages had fire within a couple of feet of the cabin, They are so lucky! We continued on down the river no knowing yet, and as we came out of the narrows into the bay before our cottage we had this huge sense of relief. It looked the same! as we pulled up to the dock I think my dad, Nick and I simultaneously relaxed and started to laugh a little. Our cottage was there, our little solar lights were all still where we left them, Dad’s planter was looking a little over grown, not even wilting!

On the way up the river.
One of the camps for the firefighters. They did such an amazing job!
Almost to beaver creek on the river.
More devastation.

We started to unload and walked up to the door of the back cabin, and the smell of rotting fridge was in the air. We were lucky to only have 1 garbage bag of rotten food, and also lucky that someone came and got it as soon as we had finished emptying it. We thought we might be able to continue using the fridge but as it turns out, it was the worst smelling thing I have ever smelled. We are lucky that we have an ancient fridge in our front cabin that was unplugged and just waiting to be used. Its a Crosley Shelvador from roughly the 1950s, and it started up and ran no problem. So we took our rotten fridge and set it out at the end of the dock for clean up. The city paid for the clean up of old appliances. Practically everyone had at least one fridge sitting on the dock.

Cleaning out the fridge.
Getting rid of the rotten fridge. So glad we didn’t have to haul it out.

It was so great to be able to spend a week at the cottage. It was a much needed break for everyone. The girls swam two or three times a day and I joined them at least once a day. The water was beautifully warm and so clear from the lack of boats stirring up the bottom. There were helicopters flying overhead at least 5 times a day, we got quite used to hearing them buzzing around and watching. A couple of them flew quite low over our cottage and the dogs thought that they could take it on and proceeded to chase it as far as they could. It must have been quite a laugh for the pilot to see two Pomeranians and a beagle chasing him.

 

 

Ava enjoying the sun.
Ava and hazel enjoying the morning sunshine.
Leah getting ready for breakfast
Nothing like breakfast outside! The noms are watch closely for spilt food.
Harvesting soe yummy potatoes
Splashing in the puddles
Sunset. This year the sunsets look very tropical.

 

Leah is finally tall enough to paddle the little paddle boat all on her own. She loved that sense of freedom. She and Ava spent many hours just paddling around our little bay looking at water lilies and watching the crayfish, turtles and fish swimming around in the shallows. We did get some good sunset cruises in, even with the restrictions. Dad and I took Leah out to explore one of the islands we go to a lot. It has great swimming and a nice place to pull up the boat. Hopefully when we go back up for our week in September we will be able to have a picnic lunch somewhere, and explore a new island.

Leah and Ava took Hazel for a ride in the boat. All three of them loved it.
Conservation officers making sure everyone is safe, and obeying the travel restrictions.
Last sunset of the week

With the summer drawing to a close, I am looking forward to one more full week at the cottage and perhaps a couple more weekends in the fall. Wow did that season fly by.

 

The summer house

We have spent most of August up at the cottage this year. We only missed one weekend. It is wonderful to spend the time there, our northern garden seems to be much happier than its counterpart in the south.

We started off august with a full week at the cottage. It really helps everyone unwind and enjoy life at a slightly slower pace. One of my favourite things is watching the kids play in muddy puddles and splash in the river.

Early morning on the river. Mist rising off the water as the sun rises
Kids are up and ready for action!

My grandmother had a wonderful old washtub at the cottage. It has served as a bathtub for the youngsters for the last few summers. They are realizing that they both don’t really fit anymore. Amazing how much difference a year makes.

Wash tub fun.
Swimming. The water is always warm enough for the girls.
Evening swim, Best way to settle down for the night.
Hunting for frogs.

This photo isn’t the best, but it is a view from the kitchen sink. This may sound very housewifely but it just warms my heart to watch the kids play outside while I wash the dishes. I love watching them find fun new games and things to do without really being in their way.

Watching Ava play

We had a great reunion of a family that used to own our cottage. It was great to share stories about our time up there. Most of the things haven’t changed, Even most of the furniture is the same.

Reunion with the Long clan.

Out cottage is home to a somewhat rare lizard called the 5 lined Skink. They have established a viable colony under our cottage and we see them running through our garden and on the rocks. This year we were there for some hatchlings! They have a vibrant blue tail that stands out on the rocks. We also have had numerous sandhill cranes move into the swamp. They have a very interesting call, I think it sounds like what a pterodactyl would sound like.

Baby 5 lined skink.
Sandhill crane

Blueberries were fantastic this year. We had many breakfasts of blueberry pancakes. We also picked lots for the freezer. There is nothing like a hint of summer in the dead of winter.

Blueberries all ready for the freezer.

We had so many great sunsets. I will only share a few… I need to go through my photos and edit/delete some. One night I took 200 photos. The sun and sky change so fast every picture feels like its better than the last.

Sunset from the first night.

We went out into the Bay with our friends for the last night and the water was perfectly calm. One of the most beautiful nights this year. Leah loves to drive the boat. She’s learned all about the markers and what they mean.

Leah driving the boat. She loves to be the captain.
Sun setting into the Georgian Bay.
Almost gone.
Last rays of sunshine.

We are heading back for another week at the summer house tomorrow. It will probably be the last long stretch of time for the summer. The mornings are cooler and the days are shorter. I guess that time of year is upon us. Leah starts school in a week, and we will be able to get back to a good routine soon, I hope.

The one about cottage trips

We have been to the cottage a lot so far this summer and it has been awesome!

We found a Spotted Turtle. I love showing the girls all about the plants and animals in the world around them. It is a great opportunity to learn about the type of turtle, where they live and what they eat.

Learning about turtles. This is a spotted turtle.
Spotted turtle

A first of many beautiful sunsets.

First summer sunset.
My favourite Iris.

For Canada Day, We got all dressed up and decorated our neighbour’s boat and joined in the Canada Day boat Parade on the river. It was a great social event. It was fun to see so many people out on the water and we had a great fireworks display to end the evening.

Canada Day! It is next to impossible to have all the dogs and kids in the picture and have them all looking at me!
Canada Day Parade
The Canada Day Boat parade. The water was a little bit rough and it was a little cloudy, but we had a great time!
The winning boat!
Getting ready to “march”

Having a cottage isn’t always about having fun. There’s lots of work to do around the place. One of our current projects is getting a better water system in place.

Cottage projects never end. This is for our water system

The cottage air, and being outside most of the day tires a little girl out.

Cottage air makes you sleepy
The girls soaking up some summer sun.
Another beautiful sunset!

 

The river was warm enough for me to get in last weekend. It is fun being able to get out an enjoy the water with the kids.

Swimming! Summer has officially begun.

As we are installing the new water system. We need to drill some holes for tie down points.

The boys working hard drilling holes in the rocks.
The river at sunset.

Rising early means, fresh blueberries for pancakes.

Blueberry picking
Fresh blueberry pancakes on the griddle
Breakfast outside in the summer sunshine

I can’t wait to head back north. It has been so awesome to get up to the cottage so many times this summer.