Cottage Confidential: a behind-the-scenes look at modern-day pioneers and their connection to cottage country. Cottage country is more than a travel destination: it is deeply embedded in Canadian culture and its societal significance makes it a great topic for conversation.

This month we humbly chat with the creme-de-la-creme of cottage country, the legendary Les Stroud.

Les Stroud, the infinitely wise writer, producer and host of global sensation, Survivorman, needs no introduction.  As a prolific broadcast and literary personality – his television series broadcasts  in over 120 countries – it’s no surprise that Les was included in Entertainment Weekly’s ‘Top 100 People We Love To Watch’ and Wired Magazine’s ‘Top Ten’ list. The almighty Discovery Channel icon has appeared everywhere from the Ellen DeGeneres Show to Stephen Stills’s stage, and Mr. Stroud has mesmerized everyone from the Prime Minister of Canada to the Queen of England. His resume includes a variety of illustrious roles, such as hosting legendary Shark Week, producing NHL celebrity Survival Challenge, and let’s not forget his cameo appearances on King of the Hill and MTV Cribs…is there any audience that Les Stroud can’t captivate?  This Canadian crowned jewel, who is currently working on new projects with National Geographic and Harper Collins books, is a jack of all trades and this month is picking the brain of this pioneering persona.

You live in Cottage Country all year around, correct?

Correct – when I am not on the road filming or performing.

Were you born and raised in Muskoka?

No, I was originally raised in Etobicoke, Ontario, but all of my summers were spent in Muskoka.

What is it about living in Cottage Country that appeals to you and has kept you there?

It is simply one of the most beautiful places on the planet – it has it all – and I have seen a lot of the world.

Most people would think living in cottage country is adequately off the beaten track.  Why do you venture even farther into the back of beyond for weeks at a time?  What is it about the wild that captivates you?

All of the adventurous things I have been able to do.  Filming Survivorman, filming Beyond Survival, and filming Shark Week have all stemmed from my general love for adventure, and especially any adventure that is all about the wilderness.  Whether that wilderness is a forest, or a jungle or a desert or the arctic, I just have an all consuming passion for adventure and a love for Mother Earth and her natural beauty. Her natural unspoiled beauty captivates me. Isn’t that enough?

What is your favorite cottage country?

 I am torn between Muskoka and Temagami.

What are your favorite cottage country landmarks – restaurants, museums, shops, cafes, scenic destinations?

Any campsite in Wabakimi Provincial Park or Temagami, the Algonquin Park museum, anything North Shore of Lake Superior, Mugzy’s cafe in Huntsville, Henriettas Bakery in Dwight, The Busy Bee in Temagami, The Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Rosseau, Marty’s in Bracebridge, and Webers in Orillia.

What can people learn from spending time in cottage country?

Well, what I hope they would learn is that cottage country fosters a different kind of community – it can promote a real togetherness for people and families. Yet, I fear that that is changing so I am hopeful that we can learn to bring it back. I think by spending time in cottage country people can learn to be less uptight in their lives.

What can people learn from spending time in nature?

Connectedness to nature is the essence of life – it will be the only thing that keeps our world alive and vibrant. Without it we risk becoming a scene from Blade Runner…spending time in nature will teach you how to be open – to take in the energy of life and let it flow unobstructed by the stresses and noise of the city.

The Canadian population is clustered in cities – for a country that is geographically dense with wilderness, its citizens are largely urban dwellers and do not connect with nature on a daily basis.  How do we connect people with nature again? Is it important?

It is not only important – it is VITAL – it is everything we need.  We are told that we have NDD – Nature Deficit Disorder – an actual scientific name for it now!!!  Well, the cure is simple isn’t it? Spend time in nature. You dont have to do something as grand as going to a jungle or some distant remote land and you don’t have to own a seven thousand square foot waterfront home. You can feel the healing energies of nature by simply visiting the park down the street. Going to my family cottage connected me with nature on a one-to-one basis and it has carried me through my life, sometimes out of reach, sometimes surrounding me. I dont think we need to devise all kinds of complex ways of connecting people with nature, I think we just need to get them out there – nature will take it from there.  Getting them out there is the key.

What has the rural cottage country setting taught you over the years?

That nature is fragile.  Voices to control, change and interrupt nature’s flow can sometimes be very loud and win the day. However, when we leave nature – when we go back to the city, when we have packed up our coolers and water toys, when we leave the dirt road and start back down the highway – the nature we leave behind continues on. The brook is still babbling, the leaves are still fluttering, the grey jays are still swooping from branch to branch and the ripples on the lake are still reaching the far shore. With or without us cottage country remains as beautiful as when you witness it from across that second hand table you put in front of the window that overlooks the bay.

Board sports (adventure and adrenaline) or board games (brainpower and strategic thinking)?

Board sports for the day and board games for the night.

What is the craziest thing people can eat in cottage country that comes from the wild?

The potato salad your aunt brought for the pot luck….oh….and worms.

How do you spend the perfect 24 hours in cottage country?

  • Morning: Coffee and baileys on the dock
  • Early day: Reading while the gang wakes itself up
  • Lunch: Eating with a bunch of friends on the deck
  • Afternoon: Anything at all that gets you out on the water
  • Dinner: BBQ, of course
  • Night: Guitar playing by the fire with come cold beer 
  • Late Night: Board game
  • Snack: Toast with smooth peanut butter
  • Bed: Fall asleep while listening to the wood thrush…

When you go camping, what are the five staple things you put in your pack?

  1. Power bars
  2. Dark chocolate
  3. A surprise bottle of single malt for the rainy day
  4. Travel scrabble
  5. My harmonica

Favorite season up North?

The one that starts Jan 1st and ends Dec 31st.

Lakes or mountains?

That’s way too hard to answer but I guess I could give a slight nudge towards lakes.

What is your biggest fear?


Favorite wilderness memory?

Lying on my back on a sun warmed rock watching clouds roll by…


Thank you Les for sharing your wisdom and insight. Keep on keepin’ on…

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