It’s winter in Grey County. There’s a blanket of snow covering the landscape and while many visitors are flocking to Blue Mountain, there’s a quiet appeal to the Beaver Valley in the winter months. Within reach of the slopes, but tucked away just outside the village of Eugenia, Cedars of Lake Eugenia is in a world of it’s own. This quaint cottage resort is on a popular lake; a spot that many already know as a great summer destination. Owner Gary Gingras and his wife Pippa have long welcomed visitors for summer adventures but in recent years their winter packages have been turning heads—and for good reason. I was lucky enough to tag along with a pair of guests on one of Gary’s signature creations - Chillin’, Grillin’ and Thrillin’ – and got to experience first hand what winter in the Beaver Valley has to offer.
We meet our guide, Gary, at the tiny cottage office for Cedar of Lake Eugenia where he helps us select snowshoes for our journey along Lake Eugenia. With our snowshoes fitted, we head out along the cedar-lined lanes of the resort on route to the lake itself. Gary is a wealth of knowledge. He leads us through the thick cedars to the lake. Under clear blue skies, the lake is quite a scene, with hundreds of swampy cedar stumps sticking through the ice and snow. Gary cautions us about the artesian springs that run through the lake and across the snowshoe trails. These natural springs don’t freeze over and we are lucky enough to see minnows still swimming despite the cold temperatures. We follow the trail to the banks of the Beaver River, where Gary miraculously unearths a thermos of hot chocolate from his pack. We all enjoy a cup before we follow the river back to the lake, returning on the shoreline and keeping our eyes peeled for one of the bald eagles that frequent the lake. Tired but definitely relaxed, we conclude our snowshoe back at the resort’s games room.
We make our way into the Games Room and at first this doesn’t look like the spot where the grillin’ will go down. But beyond the comfy chairs and pool table, Gary swings open another door and we enter a tiny but impressive kitchen—a setup truly fit for a chef. Gary quickly transforms from snowshoe guide to culinary master. His year’s of experience as both a chef and a culinary instructor quickly shine. He’s got an easy way in the kitchen and quickly makes us feel comfortable as he describes today’s menu. We’ll be preparing stuffed chicken breasts—which already has our mouths watering but when he explains we are stuffing them with his own homemade smoked gouda and wrapping them in his own smoked bacon, the reality of our upcoming meal sinks in. Gary’s done some of the prep and working as a team we are soon sitting down to stuffed chicken breasts, roast vegetables and potatoes, and fresh foccaccia bread. We’re stuffed and happy but we somehow make room for the crepes with strawberries and whip cream drizzled with chocolate. We’ve now officially exercised our legs and our taste buds and there’s plenty more adventure to come.
We pile in our cars for the short drive to Metcalfe Rock—thankful for a chance to digest our delicious lunch. Chef Gary laughs that we’ve completed this adventure slightly out of sequence—often guests save the Grillin’ portion until after the outdoor experiences are done. Regardless, we rally, excited to see what the thrillin’ portion is all about.
We met our smiling guide Carlin Val, of At Last Adventures in the parking lot of Metcalfe Rock. He’s armed with a van load of climbing harnesses, helmets and headlamps. Carlin quickly feels out the groups comfort zones. He asks us all to close our eyes and raise our hands—using our fingers to rate how comfortable we are with heights and confined spaces respectively. Carlin’s homework is done and we begin the hike to the rock face. Two in our group have decided to take the extreme vertical caving option. They take the high road while we hike down between the rock faces to the mouth of the ice cave. From here we get a great view of the rappelers, safely secured in harnesses and attached to the climbing ropes, they lower into the mouth of the ice cave. It’s exciting to watch and for those brave enough to attempt, it must be next level.
With our group safely on the ground, we regroup to head to the ice cave together. The rocks walls at Metcalfe are coated in a thin layer of shimmering ice and on this day a dazzling white hoar frost adds to the magic. We carefully enter the mouth of the ice cave and then those who raised their hand in favour of confined spaces (not me!) follow Carlin up a tunnel and worm their way out of a remarkably small exit aptly called the birth canal. Carlin is a great guide and the adventures continue through Metcalfe’s intricate cave system. As we hike back to the cars, everyone is smiling, having tested their limits and surprised themselves in the process.
The trifecta is complete and we’ve all added an amazing winter experience to our life list. If you’re looking for a unique winter getaway give Chef Gary a call today.