My dad bought our pine cottage on Georgian Bay for the princely sum of $30,200. His final offer on the little place that was built in the late 1950s was $200 over that of the other buyer, and that sealed the deal. That’s all it took back in 1983 to purchase 1.5 acres of prime waterfront located three hours north of Toronto.

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I was 13 years old at the time and spent a good chunk of my summers from that point on exploring the woods around our property, building forts, swimming, fishing and sailing. As I got to know the landscape up there on an intimate level, I became more comfortable there than in the concrete confines of Toronto, where I’d always felt like a bit of a stranger. The big city didn’t speak to me like the sprawling Canadian Shield landscape dotted with white pines and surrounded by crystalline waters. This was a place that spoke to me of adventure, of endless possibility, where mind and body could roam free. It gave me somewhere I could really be myself.

gghFrank Wolf

As I got older and started to broaden my adventures out to some of the most remote corners of our country and the world, I would always return in late summer and spend a few weeks there to savour the experience of the mission just completed, relaxing and recreating in my favourite place on earth. Even though I’ve lived on the west coast for most of my life now, I still spend a month or two at the cottage every year. Life on the west coast pleases my mind and body, but time at the cottage fills my heart and soul. I began incorporating it into my adventures, finishing my 3,100-kilometre Borealis canoe trip from Winnipeg there in 2007, and in 2015 I started off from the cottage on a 750- kilometre music tour by canoe to Ottawa with my friend Peirson Ross to promote his latest album in a journey I chronicled in the documentary Wild Ones. The cottage makes guest appearances in both of those films.

Over the years, life in our family has changed. My brother and father passed away, the house in Toronto sold, but the cottage remains. It was my dad’s favourite place and he worked on it tirelessly on it until his final days. His essence is still there, reminders of him in the touches all around the property—the wood finishing, the brick wall behind the wood stove, the mast of his beloved sailboat stashed at the end of the deck.

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I’ve spent more time than ever there in recent years, particularly in winter, including the past two Christmases. I just returned recently from a week of skiing over the frozen lakes and bays of the area. It doesn’t have winter plumbing, so I have to chop a hole in the ice to haul water and use the two-seater outhouse in the back for my daily ruminations. It has electricity though, and gets as warm as a cocoon once the wood stove gets going. My 80-years young mom joined me, and we spent quality time wandering the woods, stacking wood, playing board games and eating good meals.

asfdsfFrank Wolf

Life is simple there, and with only a single shaky bar of cell service and no internet, it’s a great writing and reading retreat for me. Sitting in my chair with a view over the bay, it’s a sublime spot to become absorbed in pleasing work. As the writer John Vaillant once told me, “Those writing spaces need to be cherished.” And I do indeed cherish it. I wrote a good chunk of my book Lines on a Map there.

The place has gone up in price over the years but is irreplaceable. Many of the old cabins in the area have been knocked down and supplanted by soulless mansions too large and impractical to be anything more than vain monuments to accumulated wealth. More than a physical thing, our cottage is a space for spiritual growth, reflection and grounding. Its intrinsic value is far beyond anything dollars could buy—a place interwoven into the fabric of my life like an old reliable friend I can count on whenever I need them. Home is where the heart is, and mine beats within that little pine cottage on Georgian Bay.

hjhjFrank Wolf