Full disclosure: I’m the “voice” behind the Lighthouse blog. My name is Elizabeth and I started working with John and Paula last year to help them get the website redesigned, start a blog and share stories on Facebook. I hadn’t had a chance to visit the Lighthouse until this August and so I’ve had to imagine what the experience would be like or borrow from Paula’s inexhaustible passion for describing the beauty surrounding the Lighthouse. I don’t have to imagine or borrow any more.
I’d like to share our family’s experience last week up at the Lighthouse.
To start with, the drive up can go quickly from the typical hell of the 401 (where exactly do all these cars come from anyway?) to oohing and ahhing quite quickly once you hit the 400 and start noticing the beauty of the Canadian Shield. I could feel such a change as we left the city behind and I had no idea how much better it was going to get.
The directions to reach the Lighthouse are ridiculously easy.
- 401 to 400. Drive a loooong way. Turn right onto the 518 and right on to East Bear Lake Road.
- 401 to 400. Drive a longish way. Take the 11. Left on to the 518 and left on to East Bear Lake Road.
That’s it. It’s that simple. No convoluted back roads. No planes, trains and boat rides. Just a few turns and you’re as close to northern paradise as you could hope to get. On the way to Paradise? Trees. Lakes. Happiness. Is there a better way to start a vacation?
As soon as you arrive, you’re met by Paula (who, after 30 years of friendship still gives the best squodgy hugs ever) who will direct you to your cottage and give you a rundown of where everything is. The homey atmosphere starts right away and you can feel even more stress slipping away.
I don’t care who you are: you dip your toes in to the warm water of Bear Lake and you know you don’t ever want to leave. Ever. You are surrounded by beautiful trees, the soft lapping of the waves and warm sand. One notable noise usually associated with cottages is missing: the incessant whine of motor boats. Yep. No hotdogging on this lake. The odd seadoo or small aluminum fishing boat is the loudest you’ll hear and that’s just enough to remind you that you’ve got more than one option to get on to the water with. Sigh. I miss it already.
If you need to explore the local area, there’s lots to see that is close by. We took 1/2 day trips in the morning to Sprucedale, Burks Falls and Orrville with a slightly longer foray in to Parry Sound. It was so nice to check out the scenery and then come back to the cottage to chill out and wait for the campfire to kick up.
We’ll be putting together a “where to go” page on the website shortly and after tasting all the yummy bumptiousness of the Orrville Bakery you can bet you don’t want to miss that recommendation!
On a more personal note, I couldn’t help but get tears in my eyes from the pride I felt when I finally got to see what Paula and John have been pouring heart and soul in to for the past 2 years. I am unbelievably touched by the close knit community they are creating within the Lighthouse property and how they support local businesses across the 518 stretch. From the young couple they know by name (Who she mentioned but I forget. The amount of detail in Paula’s head would astound you) in Parry Sound who do embroidery to Kirk who owns the gas station in Sprucedale to the businesses they rely on for septic clean up and wood delivery. She knows every one of them by name and probably all their family members as well.
That’s what sets the Lighthouse apart from other cottage and camping resorts. You will never remain just a name with Paula and John. You will be welcomed with open arms to become a part of the heartbeat that makes it so special. You will feel valued. You can know that for years to come Paula will remember the smallest details about your cottage needs and will have it ready for the next time you book. And trust me: you will book again. And again. We’ve got another story coming up that was 30 years in the making that bears out my claim.
If you’re seeking peace. If you’re needing to reconnect to nature. If you want to step off the grid (though cell reception is crazy good). If you want to look your family in the eye instead of at the top of their head as they text and post and tweet. Then you need to come here. Pack your marshmallow sticks, comfy camp chairs and a spare pair of underwear and just head north on the 400 and right on 518 or left off 11. East Bear Lake Road is waiting for you to turn off the beaten path to the Lighthouse and Paula is waiting to give you the hug that will make the trip worthwhile.
I’m so proud of you Paula and John. You’ve built the place I didn’t know I needed but am so happy to have found 🙂