It began not with a bang but with a groan. In March 2020, during that first lockdown, as the cold spring winds swirled outside and stressed-out students and parents clacked away at keyboards inside, you could almost hear the mental gears turning: Why are we here when we could be at a cottage? Sure enough, the moment the lockdown lifted, the rush was on. Empty-nesters, one per centers with cash to burn, claustrophobic condo dwellers, dispirited house hunters, savvy speculators and others programmed their GPSes for points north. Muskoka, that shimmering crown jewel, was the locus, but Georgian Bay, the Kawarthas, Haliburton and Lake Simcoe surged too.