Grand Canyon – The Lookout Studio

The old stone Lookout Studio perched on the south rim of the Grand Canyon is one of the most scenic points of this landmark. The “studio” itself is rustic, made out of local stones. It was built in 1914. This point offers some of the best views of the entire canyon, with views to the north side almost 2o miles away.

I took this photo in September 2009, using a small Canon Powershot camera.

Mont Saint Sauveur

The term “hidden gem” should not be used loosely when it comes to travel destinations, but if you are into skiing in eastern Canada, Saint Sauveur is not to be missed. This small little Quebec village is the true gateway to the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal.

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My first choice for skiing in Quebec would have been the Mont Tremblant area, but most decent accommodations were sold out months in advance. Taking a chance on Saint Sauveur was a more than a pleasant second choice. In fact, I’d easily return.

There are several mid-size ski hills in and around the village. The ski experience at Mont Saint Sauveur was perfect. Even with warming March temperatures there was a deep snow wet granular base, and a full range of runs. Throw in a good old fashioned-style ski lodge with a lively après scene, and this has everything you need for a family ski vacation.

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View from the summit of Mont Saint Sauveur, looking east over the Laurentians

Our accommodations were the Manoir Saint Sauveur, less than a km from the slope. Hospitality industry take note: This is how you run a hotel. Everything here was the highest quality, from the friendly bell service upon arrival, check-in, the rooms, food, decor and amenities such the heated outdoor pool and the gym.

This, and most hotels in the village, are walking distance to a variety of shops & restaurants. Being from Ontario, my main objective was chicken dinner at St. Hubert’s. Mission accomplished. Overall, based on comparable ski destinations within 6 hours of  Toronto, Saint Sauveur is a good choice. With more time I’d be willing to try the ten-hour trip to Mont St. Anne by Quebec City, but maybe next year.

Mountain Lake

What is known as “Cottage Country” in Ontario is several districts laced with thousands of dark blue lakes carved out of the pink Canadian Shield rock by glaciers over 20,000 years ago. The rocks themselves, still showing the scars of the glacial movement, are themselves some of the oldest on earth, over 2.5 billion years old (according to some government plaques placed along the highways).

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Mountain Lake, Haliburton, Ontario – Looking North

The lakes themselves are all the same, but all different. Big, small, wide, narrow, deep shallow. All surrounded by rocky cliffs and evergreen tree-covered hills. One of these lakes is Mountain Lake, in the Haliburton district, somewhere east of the Muskokas and north of the Kawarthas.

Summers and weekends spent vacationing here were all too brief, but always memorable. Mountain Lake itself is a perfectly sized 750 hectares, and you can take a boat into neighbouring Horseshoe Lake. Many of the lakes are connected that way, into chains of three, four, five or more families of lakes.

Cottaging in Ontario has evolved since growing in popularity in the 1970’s. A modest log cabin and a canoe tied to a crooked, wooden dock once symbolized all that was great about Ontario’s cottage country. This has gradually given way to the appearance of elaborate mansions, live-in boat houses larger than the average Toronto home, large motor boats and loud sea-doos.

What I liked about Mountain Lake was that it was different from all the other lakes. It took a pass on modernization. Up until 2014 it was still firmly, but happily, back in the 1970’s. Small, simple vacation homes, peddle boats, canoes, sunfish sailboats, and perhaps the odd 9 horsepower runabout is what you’ll find. Sitting on a sunny dock on Mountain Lake meant hearing virtually nothing but small waves rolling into the shore.

It is hopefully still that way. I haven’t been there since 2014. But you can see it for yourself if you ever find yourself driving along Highway 35 in Haliburton. As you dash north along the two-lane route, look to your right when you pass the town of Minden. Past the Canadian Legion, past the car dealership. As Hwy 35 starts to ascend again into the Haliburton Highlands, the tree cover gives way on the east side of the road to a picture-perfect view of Mountain Lake. It may look like every other Ontario lake, but you’ll know that it’s different.

Mike Chopowick – March 11, 2016