Or so we thought.
Mira and I are two of the least outdoors-oriented people you will ever meet.
From grades seven to twelve, our school forced us to drive four hours up north to Haliburton, Ontario, for a two-day camping trip, where this lack of wilderness knowledge was demonstrated. We would have mandatory bonding sessions on these trips and would have to participate in an endless stream of ice-breaker activities. According to Mira, this was an anxiety-inducing experience that had no benefit whatsoever.
Some of our most harrowing moments on these trips include having a moderate allergic reaction from getting so many mosquito bites, getting scars from falling off of mountain bikes, and sitting on a hornet’s nest– proceeding to get stung a total of seven times. Yes, these were all on the same trip.
Clearly, there is some greater force at work here that doesn’t want us anywhere near nature.
So, when we decided that we wanted to experience the outdoors again, we chose to do it on our terms. With dreams of a waterfront lodge nestled in Canada’s cottage country, we went on Airbnb and found what we thought would be the perfect weekend getaway spot.
Upon arriving at our Airbnb, our dreams were instantly crushed when we realized our cottage was in the middle of a forest– not near any body of water. Before we could set foot in the wilderness to attempt to find our cottage, we came face to face with a bright yellow bear warning sign. This sign made it clear that we were even more out of our element than we thought.
The fuel of our nightmares
Now paranoid that bears would attack us, our one kilometre-long walk to our cottage went by quickly. Or as quickly as possible, considering that I decided to bring a full-blown suitcase containing all of my necessities for the trip– including a bottle of Dom Pérignon and platform heels. Anyone with even a slight background in camping would know that wheels don’t roll well in the forest– resulting in me dragging my suitcase the entire way.
Halfway through our walk, we stumbled upon a very rustic washroom set-up, to say the least, with an outdoor sink and a toilet that reminded Mira of her third grade trip to the Pioneer Village. It also smelled like someone hadn’t cleaned the outhouse since Mira’s third grade trip to the Pioneer Village.
This discovery prompted us to either squat in the woods to pee or if we had time, drive to Tim Hortons and do our business there for the entire trip.
With four mosquito bites each, we finally arrived at our cottage, or as we called it, our “cabin in the woods.” Quickly unpacking, we changed into the least practical outfits for a wilderness retreat and drove to a waterfront restaurant named Dock of the Bay where for an hour or so, we were at peace, eating amazing food and drinking by the lake.
Us, smiling through the pain of a bathroom-free and mosquito filled trip
It became clear that the restaurant’s luxurious and mosquito-free environment was more like what we were expecting. After finishing dinner, we were sad to say goodbye to our lakefront dreams. However, this was quickly overshadowed by our fear of being attacked by bears on the walk back to our cabin. Evidently, we made it back alive.
Though we had expected minimal utilities to come with our Airbnb, we were surprised to find out that basic lighting was not one of them. Turning on the lights truly made no difference to the brightness of the room. So with nothing better to do, we popped our champagne and called it a night, eager to use the Tim Horton’s bathroom in the morning.
When we woke up, we were finally able to appreciate the beauty of the nature that surrounded us for a fleeting moment. As we sat on the porch, we admired the tall trees and greenery that made up the forest and began to enjoy our trip.
With our newly developed wilderness mindsets, we thought we would take a shot at starting a fire. This was clearly set-up to be a fool-proof task because we had a lighter, matches, fire starter, and a fire starter log at our disposal. That being said, neither of us was able to get it started and we both were unable to flick the lighter. As you can tell, we’re not stoners.
Eating our uncooked s’mores, we realized a storm was brewing and ran inside. With the thunderstorm causing a power outage, we had to get ready for bed in absolute darkness, without the assistance of the three pea-sized lights that lit up the room. Setting our alarms extra early with the hopes of getting out of there as soon as possible, we went to bed.
In the morning, dragging our luggage back a kilometre to the car, we accumulated the last of our many mosquito bites. With everything loaded in the trunk, we were finally greeted by the cold breeze of the car’s air conditioning– one of the trip’s highlights.
Advertised as a zen retreat, we truly left more emotionally drained than when we arrived and were happy to not have to worry about when we were going to pee next.
While we did leave with a greater appreciation for nature, this trip reinforced the fact that if we were stranded together in the wilderness, we simply wouldn’t be able to make it out alive– nothing new there. However, our greatest takeaway is the fact that Deep Woods Off bug spray is worthy of a Nobel prize. Seriously, that stuff was our saving grace this entire trip.
Mira and I will be sure to learn from these mistakes we made in anticipation of our next outdoor adventure and hope that you too, enjoyed reading about our mess of a trip.
Is there a clear moral to this story? Probably not. But I think writing about our experience is really just a roundabout way of us saying that if you have a cottage in Muskoka, don’t be selfish. Feel free to invite us. I promise we’ll be a good time.