Algonquin Writers’ Retreat

Canoeing in Algonquin

Labour Day weekend, 2020.  A weekend of labour, but a labour of love.  6 writers, some of us authors, and our instructor/coach Brian Henry of Quick Brown Fox, work and explore in the environs of Arowhon Pines in Algonquin. 

The Arowhon Pines resort lies at the end of a long, narrow dirt road leading off of the highway that runs through the lower part of the almost 8000 km² Algonquin Provincial Park.  The traditional log buildings of resort rest on the gentle shoreline of Little Joe Lake, one of about 2400 pretty lakes in the heavily forested, rolling hills of the park. 

I’m sitting on the wide verandah that wraps around the main lodge, sipping a cup of steaming hot mint tea and nibbling on home-made donuts.  The air is crisp, colder than the lake before me, causing a cloud of vapor to drift over the surface of the still waters.  Humming birds are busy fattening up at the bright red feeders hanging from the eaves above me, preparing for their migration to warmer, southern locals.

There are canoes and kayaks paddling along the far shore of the lake, on their way to wilderness camps beyond a few long portages. They reminded me of my own camping adventures in the interior of Algonquin Park. Those campers will be sleeping on thin mattresses in winter tents, cooking their meals on tiny one-burner stoves on the ground, with only tarps strung overhead between the trees to keep them dry. They will be wearing many layers of clothing, to shield themselves from the frosty nights.   

I, however, will be toasty warm and dry this weekend. I’m trying something new – I’m participating in a Writers’ Retreat. And we’re staying in this cushy, first-class lodge, being served luscious meals on white-clothed tables in the grand dining room. Fires in each building are kept burning brightly, warming the air and our hearts. For nostalgia’s sake, I will paddle one of the lodge’s yellow canoes around the lake, I’ll hike along the nearby trails, and I’ll swim in the invigorating water. But most of all, I will write.

Though we writers didn’t know each other, we bond quickly over picnic lunches, tea, and discussions on approaches to writing. Tentatively we read samples of our work aloud. The resulting applause, laughter, and encouragement bolsters our confidence. To hear what my words sound like, I asked someone else to read to the group, my very rough first draft at a chapter for a new book. As expected, I have more work to do.

Hummingbird at feeder


  1. Great piece, Marlis. I love the photos!

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