David Brownlow Releases Second Book: Muskoka Cottage Retreat a Trip Back in Time in Ontario's Cottage Country

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Today, the community of Bala is cottage-country central, a hustling, bustling summertime haunt for Ontario vacationers heading north for a little rest and relaxation. Bala is where the rich (and the not so rich) hang out. It's where the famous (and the not so famous) park themselves for a summer of boating, beer and barbecues. It's a key community within the Muskokas, along with Gravenhurst and Bracebridge, Huntsville and Minett, Port Carling and Port Sandfield. And the centrepiece of this lovely piece of Ontario are the glistening lakes, especially the Big 3 of Lake Joseph, Lake Rosseau and Lake Muskoka.

Muskoka in the summertime is where the action is. There are still humble cottages in Muskoka, but the region has become gentrified with new country properties and new boathouses the size of mini-mansions. The simple act of cottage-to-cottage boating used to be a genteel pasttime – and the wood-stripped boats themselves were works of art – but the gentility of years past appears to have given way in recent years to power and speed. And nowadays, if you are young and restless and looking for a party that lasts the entire weekend, Muskoka is the place to be.

It wasn't always like that, of course. Before Muskoka became so popular, it was rural, hard-scrabble farming land. But eventually, with the advent of the steamships and the rail lines and the north-from-Toronto highway improvements, the tourists started flowing in to this glorious expanse of land and lakes. With an expanse of land measuring 2,500 squares miles – and with more than 1,500 glorious lakes to play in – Muskoka quickly became Ontario's vacation destination of choice. Today, even the movie stars of Hollywood have vacation homes in the Muskoka region.

David Conboy Brownlow remembers the early days, when Bala was just a dot on the Muskoka map. He remembers spending his childhood summers at the family's Mill House cottage on the Wilson farm near Bala on the Moon River Road. He remembers the fishing jaunts for muskie and walleye on the Moon, the hunts for deer, ducks and rabbits, which were plentiful in the area – and he remembers being rocked to sleep at the cottage by the trains passing through on the nearby Canadian Pacific and Canadian National lines. And he remembers, as though it were yesterday, tagging along as a boy for his Dad's “men only” weekends at the Mill House.

Brownlow has taken his Mill House memories and compiled them – with complementary black-and-white photographs – into a newly released publication entitled Muskoka Cottage Retreat: Hunting, Fishing and Stories Around Bala and the Moon River. It's a wonderfully engaging compilation, a story told today by a 78-year-old author recounting the tales of his younger days at the Mill House cottage – and the Muskoka – that have meant so much to him over the years.

Muskoka Cottage Retreat is the kind of book that belongs on the bookshelf of lovers of Ontario's history. It is a book for the Muskoka cottager who might wish to learn about the region's early years and its development. And it is a book simply for those who enjoy reading about a family's background and colourful, poignant history. This book is author Brownlow's tribute to the history of his own family – and to the lovely Muskoka that he holds so close to his heart.

Muskoka Cottage Retreat: Hunting, Fishing and Stories Around Bala and the Moon River by David Conboy Brownlow
ISBN: 9780973093216

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