Christmas on Paudash

Story and photos by Dani Lang 

The year we bought the cottage on Paudash Lake was 1995. It was sort of a wedding present to each other. Neither of us had previously experienced much of cottage life but we were soon to learn how it would completely shape our perspectives  and  change our children's lives forever. 

That first Christmas in 1995 was filled with much excitement and a non-anticipated learning curve. The cottage stood on cement pillars and as a result had no running water in the winter. A dug well by the lake provided our water source and buckets had to be drawn and carried up for dishes, manual toilet flushing, and any other needs.  Three bedrooms and a washroom occupied the back of the cottage and the front portion was open concept with kitchen, dining room and living area. It was only 900 square feet, but to us it was a palace and our escape from Scarborough. A huge wrap around deck surrounded the cottage and provided benches for seating and an awesome panoramic view of the bay.  

That first Thanksgiving we had shut the water off and removed all the perishables. Upon arrival on December  24th, we were greeted by 4 feet of snow, making the transporting of  necessities to the cottage a daunting task. Wooden sleds and plastic saucers helped facilitate the trips. One of our kids lost his grip of the toboggan carrying food and it proceeded to slide down the hill onto the frozen lake.  It wasn't till that moment that we truly realized we had the best toboggan hill!  From the driveway and the garage a huge hill slanted down to the lake which was to become the source of our children's and their friends outdoor recreation for years to come. They would spend hours and hours going up and down the hill. When exhausted they would come in for hot chocolates and place their cold, wet clothes by the wood stove. As they grew so did the mounds of clothes, expanding to the point where they  completely blocked the passage to the living room. Our 2 dogs tired from chasing the boys’ descents on the hill, would slump down on the snowsuits trying their best to get next to the heat.

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As our boys  grew, the need for speed encouraged us to buy snow tubes. They quickly went the disposable route as did the saucer and toboggans but as luck would have it we discovered  in 1998, 2 industrial snow tubes from Hidden Valley which we still own today. The plastic bottoms made from car bumper material slide down the hill like lightning. The purchase of our first snowmobile in 1997 added to all this. Runs on the sled up and down the hill flattened the snow as well as helped take the tube enthusiasts up and down. The challenge then ensued as to who could go the farthest out onto the lake. 

One Christmas during a thaw, the lake surface turned to ice and the tubes glided half way across the bay. Adults and kids skated the circumference and the day was spent marvelling at our good fortune and our most precious Christmas gift -  the privilege of being in nature. 

For 7 years the family raced out of the city every weekend so we could be on this lake. New Year’s traditions evolved to include night toboggan runs made possible by additional exterior lighting and many friends and their children crowding into our little place. The adults  would bring in the New Year, attired in snowmobile suits sitting on the deck, marvelling at the stillness in the air, lack of any sounds but our own and in absolute awe of the magnificent display of stars. Our children's first moments of a New Year’s midnight were right here. 

Until we acquired this little piece of heaven, I didn't know what it was like to come into a cottage that was 30 degrees below 0 and try to heat it to 20 degrees with just a wood stove. That cupboard doors when opened could expel blasts of cold air out into a room, long after the living area was heated.  I didn't know I could live with just the hot water coming from the heated kettle on the stove and that you should always have a port-a-potty just in case.  I didn't know the value of knowing my children were safe with me and not somewhere in the city with millions of people. In 2002 we sold the cottage, moved  out of the city  and bought a home on Paudash. We still spend Christmases here, but there isn't a day we don't all regret selling our first  cottage "The Lang Hill".