Monday, December 19

Jim and Jackie's Adventure Down Under

From the Kepler Track, overlooking Lake Te Anau and snow-capped mountains beyond.

Inspired by tales of travel from our guests -- and an incredible seat sale too good to pass up -- your intrepid innkeepers set off for another adventure, this time to Australia and New Zealand.

We closed up shop after a busy fall season then hopped on a series of flights for the looong journey to the other side of the world.

The trip started out with sun and sand in tropical north Queensland, mixing some R&R with easy touring from Cairns to Cape Tribulation, and spending a night on a liveaboard boat on the Great Barrier Reef.

Sun and sand to recharge after a busy season.

Watching the sun rise over the Coral Sea from a boat on the Great Barrier Reef.

Jim's bucket list: diving the Great Barrier Reef. He did seven dives over two days, including a night dive.

Not a diver, Jackie's happy to snorkel instead.
We saw sharks! Both of us saw sharks, and they didn't try to eat me!

We then spent a brief time on the north island of New Zealand, discovering the wild west coast and temperate rainforest of the Waiteke Ranges, before flying to Queenstown on the stunningly scenic south island. Here the adventure included fiords, lakes, mountains, glaciers, and sheep (so many sheep!) on our road trip from Queenstown to Christchurch.
We were in New Zealand when the big earthquakes struck Kaikoura and Wellington but we were fortunate to be safely in Queenstown at the time, well away from danger.

Karekare Beach, where the movie "The Piano" was filmed.

Wild and wonderful trees in the temperate rain forest.

Mountains + rivers = wateralls. We saw so many!

New Zealand Fur Seals at the mouth of Doubtful Sound with the Tasman Sea beyond.
Rushing river on the Haast Pass.

Franz Joseph Glacier
Windsurfer on Lake Wanaka. Love the colour of the glacial lakes!
Playing in the big boulders on Castle Hill.

Looking down on a lush New Zealand valley.

Up to the top of the world!

The highlight of our time in New Zealand was a spectacular hike on the Kepler Track. On the 3-day/2-night hike, we covered 50km and a lot of elevational change. To make it even more challenging, the second day -- the toughest one when we cross a number of ridges over the saddle of the mountain -- we were blasted with a snow storm and 65kph winds. We managed to get a little video (below) before the worst of it. The snow was coming sideways and on the exposed ridges, we were nearly blown off our feet. Such fun!

Climbing above the tree line, eye-to-eye with mountains.

We're heading for that summit behind Jim.

One of the ridges on the Mount Luxmore saddle.

When we weren't above the tree line, we were in verdant mossy forest.

Down on the valley floor, getting near the end.
From Christchurch it was back to Australia, this time to Melbourne. I have family just outside the city and it was a real treat to spend time with them (some I hadn't seen since they left Canada over twenty years ago!). While there we took a trip up the Great Ocean Road where we marvelled at the scenery and also saw kangaroos, wallabies, cockatoos, penguins and koalas.

The famous Twelve Apostles and sandstone cliffs.

Clouds, sun and mist over cliffs and ocean.
A mighty wind, an exhilarating view.
Wild cockatoos who don't mind taking a free meal from a human. Kind of like our chickadees!

We came across this koala in the wild while out on a hike. Of course Jim climbs the tree to get a close-up.

It was worth the effort for this adorable guy!
Hiking in the Otways. Now that's a tree!
We had an amazing time and can't believe the month flew by so quickly. It has only whet our appetites to experience and explore more of this incredible, diverse part of the world. Cheers to the next adventure!

Thursday, August 25

Fall Fuel & Fun 2016

Read about our hike on the Centennial Ridges Trail

Autumn -- with it's spectacular display of colours and moderate temperatures (and no mosquitoes!) -- is already a favourite season for many but it gets even better with the Fuel & Fun promo from Explorers' Edge. Book your Fall Getaway now and get $100 in free gas and goodies!

Just book your getaway by September 8 for a 2-night stay between September 9 and November 30 to receive a $50 gas card and $50 worth of vouchers to use-as-cash at participating restaurants, shops and attractions!

You can combine the Fuel & Fun promo with any of our packages or with any standard two-night stay. Our famous breakfasts are always included, along with use of our property, fire pit, hot tub, private hiking trails and rustic cabin guest lounge.

Quantities are limited -- first come, first served -- so act quickly to avoid disappointment.

When do you stay?
Any two consecutive nights between September 9 and November 30, 2016

When do you book?
Make your reservation then register for your vouchers (we'll tell you how) by September 8, 2016

What do you get?
$50 gas card plus $50 in spending vouchers to use at participating shops, eateries and attractions during your stay. Of course, you also get two comfortable nights and two delicious breakfasts at Fern Glen Inn.

What's the catch?
There is none! You don't have to "buy one" to "get one" nor spend a minimum amount of money. Consider the free gas and vouchers as an invitation to come explore this beautiful region, courtesy of Explorers' Edge.

The Fuel & Fun Fall Getaway at Fern Glen Inn

Your getaway includes:

Fuel & Fun Fall Getaway Price: starting from $240**

**Most dates are $240/couple; the Thanksgiving long weekend rate is $280/couple for two nights or $390/couple for three nights. Lower rates available for solo travelers. 13% HST is extra.

Callemail or book online. Visit Fuel & Fun at Fern Glen Inn for details.
: :   : :   : :   : :

* Quantities are limited. Only the first 500 "Qualified Bookings" within the entire Explorers' Edge region will receive the Gas Cards and Experience Vouchers. To be a "Qualified Booking", you must:
• book by September 8, 2016
• register your confirmation number directly at Explorers' Edge
• stay between September 9 and November 30, 2016
• stay for 2 consecutive nights or longer
Experience Vouchers may only be used between
September 9 and November 30, 2016

In partnership with

Wednesday, June 22

What's New Under the Sun?

Finished projects -- crossed off the list!

Ever a work-in-progress, we're continually adding projects to our "how can we make it better?" list and, as time and resources allow, crossing them off with a flourish and sense of accomplishment.

Our main project this spring was a new gazebo to replace the old one which was starting to look weathered. At 14'x14', the new gazebo is larger, plus it's a sturdier design and has a hard-top semi-transparent roof. Rather than set it up on plain lawn, we decided to install a pea stone pad for stability, drainage, and to keep the grass from coming up. I have to say, if you're going to dig up a bunch of sod and move a few tons of pea stone gravel, it's reaaalllly nice to have a good neighbour with a tractor and bucket!

Our neighbour, Bob, lent a hand (and a bucket!) with the pea stone pad.
Then it was time to put together the giant jigsaw puzzle that was the gazebo kit.
With the base laid, it was time to assemble the gazebo. The instructions on the kit said it should take about three hours for the task. Ha! Nine hours later we were surveying our handiwork, patting ourselves on our backs for mission accomplished, and contemplating applying for "Amazing Race Canada"(hey, if we could do this, we could tackle any challenge).

We still had a pile of pea stone and a self-congratulatory swagger so we decided to keep going and update our fire pit. This meant shifting the location by a few feet to be further from the trees, levelling out and moving some sod, and installing a 15' diameter gravel pad for the fire bowl and seating, adding a few more Muskoka chairs while were at it.

Not ones to be wasteful, we kept the old gazebo and "walked" it to a little clearing by the trailhead and added a couple of comfy loungers. Now you can zip yourself in and stretch out for a nap feeling like you're in the middle of the woods.

We're so pleased with the results and based on the feedback we've had from guests so far, the upgrades definitely tick the "make it better" box!

Jim test-driving the new fire pit setup.

Saturday, April 16

Spring Quiet Season Discount

Save $10/night when you stay two nights or more by June 15, 2016. Book online here.

The Quiet Season is here. It's the time between snowy adventures and summer fun, when the natural world is still waking up. The snow is gone (or nearly gone) and the lakes haven't warmed up enough to play in. The upside? No crowds on the hiking trails, no long waits at the popular restaurants, and more peace and tranquility for those who do come to enjoy it.

It's a great time to relax on a solo retreat, catch up on reading, put thoughts to paper or just quiet the mind. For couples, it's the opportunity to reconnect without distractions or busy-ness, to wander the quiet woods or linger at a favourite restaurant uncrushed.

It's a time when buildings and gardens are not at their prettiest as we have to wait for the risk of frost to pass before tackling planting and outdoor painting projects. Instead, look for beauty in forest wildflowers, budding trees, and majestic moose which are often spotted along roadside marshes.

Wondering what to do? Check out our list of 20 Things to Do on a Spring Getaway. If that's not reason enough for a Quiet Season getaway, it gets even better with our seasonal discount:

Stay two nights or more between April 1 and June 15, 2016, and save $10/night. That makes a two-night getaway for two people just $220 + tax for most dates.

Like every stay at Fern Glen Inn, the price includes delicious served breakfast each morning, use of the rustic cabin guest lounge with wood-burning stove, private forest trails to hike at your own pace, and suggestions for things to see and do around the region.

Call, email or book online and choose "Quiet Season Discount" from the package selections on the second screen.

Wednesday, March 30

Banana Nut Energy Bars

Spring brings an increase in outdoor activity for all kinds of animals—even the two-legged variety. Of course, a lot of us love getting outside all winter long for snowshoeing and skiing, but the clear roads, warmer temperatures and longer days of the new season make it even easier to get outside and to stay out for longer stretches.

For many sports enthusiasts, it also marks the start of the training season to get ready for early-summer races and events. Road running, trail running, cycling, swimming and paddling are all popular around here in terms of both casual sports and competitive sporting events. Band on the Run, Spin the Lakes, the Limberlost Challenge, Muskoka River X, and Muskoka Ironman 70.3 are just some of the organized sports events in the area. Between races, the region has become a training destination thanks to our fresh air, challenging hills and variety of terrain.

Since the snow has started to clear out, Jim and I have swopped our snowshoes for running shoes and have been hitting the roads and parks in preparation for some running races (and in Jim's case a triathlon) in the coming months.

A big part of training includes fuelling for the increased activity level. There are all sorts of commercial energy bars out there for portable, accessible fuel but one look at the ingredient list can make them lose some appeal. If you'd rather know what you're putting in your body, it's easy to make your own energy bars at home. We like these Banana Nut Energy Bars for a quick boost before a run or to replenish our reserves afterwards.

Banana Nut Energy Bars

These bars are moist, dense and hold together well. Feel free to replace the almonds and walnuts with other nuts or seeds, or to swop out the dried cherries for dried cranberries, raisins or other dried fruit.
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup pitted dried dates
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 medium-size very ripe banana
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9” square pan with parchment paper, leaving overhang.

In a food processor, whirl 1/2 cup oats until fine. Add remaining oats, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, apricots and dates. Pulse until apricots and dates are diced into pieces no larger than a chickpea.

Transfer mixture from food processor into a large mixing bowl. To mixture, add almonds, walnuts, dried cherries, salt and cinnamon. Stir to combine.

In the same food processor, whirl banana, maple syrup, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Pour over mixture in bowl and stir to combine thoroughly.

Press into prepared pan. Bake until firm and lightly golden, about 20-25 minutes. Cool in pan then slice into bars or squares. Makes 18 bars, more or less, depending on how you slice it.

Fuel up and get active!

Monday, February 22

Arrowhead Park Skating Trail - Fire & Ice Night

Imagine gliding through a frosted forest, under a starry sky, on a ribbon of ice lit by flames reflecting on snow. You don't have to imagine it! You can experience it yourself on the ice skating trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park, just north of Huntsville, Muskoka. Now in its fifth year, the trail has become a must-do attraction for winter getaways.

Photo courtesy of Arrowhead Provincial Park

The skating trail is a 1.3 km loop through the forest at Arrowhead Park, and it's maintained by the park's own zamboni-like grooming machine. Cross-country ski trails, snowshoe trails and fat-biking trails also traverse the park grounds. Don't have your own skates, skis, snowshoes or fat bikes? Rent them at the park for reasonable rates. The park also provides inner tubes to use for free on their tubing hill. And, wow, it's a hill!

Perhaps the coolest thing about the ice skating trail at Arrowhead Park are the special Fire & Ice nights, scheduled on occasion throughout the winter. The last one scheduled for the 2016 season is set for Saturday, February 27 from 6-9pm for night time skating under the stars.

Arrowhead Provincial Park is located an easy drive from the inn. Looking for a winter getaway package to include accommodations and a day in Arrowhead Park? Try our Snowshoe in the Park package.

Visit the Fern Glen Inn website for more information, or call, email or book online.

See you at the park!