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Making the Most of a Last-Minute Family Vacation

Making the Most of a Last-Minute Family Vacation

Mashkinonje Lodge Vacation

Stay in a housekeeping cottage equipped with all the amenities you'll need to make your vacation an enjoyable one. Boat rentals are available as well as free use of canoes, kayaks and paddleboards.
Starting at $845/week

What a nice surprise. An unexpected low in my work schedule allowed for a week of family vacation but the last-minute situation had me a little concerned. Could we find a place to go on such short notice? No need to worry because finding a place was a piece a cake. On the Northeastern Ontario website you can find accommodations sorted by type and location. Just choose the type of accomodations you're interested in and click. Voilà! A list of destinations available throughout the region.

We settled on Mashkinonje Lodge in Northeastern Ontario's French River / Lake Nipissing area, which is simply known as The West Arm. I’m somewhat familiar with the area and its renowned fishing opportunities. The 10-cottage resort has everything we desire, plus it is family oriented, pet friendly, surrounded by a provincial park for hiking, and only 3.5 hours away from Toronto. Plus, the fabulous photos on their website speak louder than words. Sold. Pack your bags, kids, we are going on vacation.

Day One

First full day of vacation and you would think we would take the opportunity to sleep in and relax but with a lake full of fish and a teen full of anticipation, good luck with that. We beat the sun to the water and are rewarded with an amazing sunrise.
 We spend the day acclimatizing to cottage life. We swim a bit, try out the water toys – kayaks and the stand-up paddleboard and meander the grounds exploring our surroundings. Mashkinonje Lodge, formerly known as Lucky Strike Lodge, has been providing the Northern Ontario experience for nearly three decades. Our hosts and new owners Regan and Goldie, now in their second season of ownership, are making continuous improvements, renovating cottages, new docks, and refreshing their sandy beach. By the way – that wild blueberry pie you dropped off at our cottage, delicious, thank you so much, Goldie.Cottage4

Day Two

It didn’t take long to establish a routine. Those who take pleasure in sleeping in do so and those with fish on the brain don’t. For the early risers, WOW, another stunning morning. Got chatting with a fellow guest who’s been coming here for 23 years – now that’s saying something – chasing muskie is his passion. He invited my son Preston and me to join him for an evening of throwing BIG lures in search of BIG fish. We had one hit but it was a miss. They call muskie the fish of 10,000 casts. I figure we have another 9,000 to go before we are due for one. Awesome evening, thank you, Steen.150823347

Day Three

Last night’s muskie hunt got us all riled up about fishing. Lake Nipissing is often referred to as the fish factory and today we were determined to test that reputation. A cold front and a steady drizzle made for a tough go but a half dozen pike and a couple of walleye made for a good morning.

The afternoon turned out to be a treat. Regan, the lodge owner, his seven-year-old son Russell, and Nate, who’s helping out around the property and is staying nearby for the summer, were heading out to check out a back country lake. “You guys want to come?” No need to ask twice. What an experience. Sure it takes a bit of effort. You have to hike in with your gear, and fishing from a canoe can be a bit tricky, especially with the wind howling, but having the whole lake to yourself – unforgettable.BackLake

Day Four

You have to be 16 and have at a minimum your G1 driving licence to be able to rent and operate an ATV. Spencer is and he does, so as a sixteenth birthday surprise I arranged a family ATV outing with French River Tours. This was a first time ATV experience, not only for the sixteen-year-old birthday boy, but also for his mother who was less than enthusiastic about the idea of getting covered in mud. The smiles came out at the first deep puddle and remained for the entire five-hour tour. What a beautiful area – lakeside views, long stretches of smooth rock, beaver ponds, and of course, a few mud holes. Good times.Atv4

Day Five

Remember the hard push to catch fish a couple of days ago? Well, there was a reason for that. Every Thursday Regan and Goldie put on a fish fry for all the guests. It’s not easy to feed a camp full of people so, to help out, our Tuesday's catch became part of Thursday’s dinner. Fresh fish, fries, deep fried mushrooms, a chance to meet your neighbours and watch the sunset over the West Arm. An amazing visual and culinary delight.Fishfry4

Day Six

Doing a bit of hiking has been on our to do list all week and with time running out we finally laced up the boots and hit the trail. The resort is neighboured by Mashkinonje Provincial Park. With no camping facilities, the park’s 35 km of hiking trails see limited use providing an amazing wilderness hiking experience. The loops on the east side of Highway 64 see more foot traffic, some sections are even wheelchair accessible. The trails cross bedrock outcrops, offer views of the peatlands, and skirt beaver ponds. On the west side of the highway it’s a different story. The well-marked trail system varies in difficulty starting at moderate. We hike open rock and chest-deep ferns. A good pair of hiking boots, water, and snacks are a must for this expedition. Oh, yeah – make sure you sign in and out in the log book because you’re not likely to see another person all day.Hike4Time sure flies when you’re having fun. I can't believe it’s over. Ten days ago I was panicking over finding a last minute family vacation. Thanks to the search assist on the Northern Ontario Travel website we had a dozen to choose from. This time it was Mashkinonje Lodge in Northeastern Ontario. Beautiful location on the West Arm of Lake Nipissing, awesome hosts, and a lot of good memories. How can you ask for anything more?

Next time – who knows? The challenge is not finding a last-minute getaway, the challenge is finding enough vacation time to try them all.

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