The fire that heats the hot tub sits beneath the water’s surface. A fresh August wind cuts briskly through the northern Quebec forest, pinching bare shoulders. Whitecaps whip across Matagami Lake – in sharp contrast with the steam from the fragrant cedar tub. The welcome is warm at the Ecolodge.
As the goose flies, the Ecolodge is situated 35-kms from Matagami. Nestled deep in the boreal forest, lakeside, protected from fishing and hunting, three wooden cabins and two yurts blend seamlessly into the natural beauty. An ancient design, round-domed yurts emerge like mushrooms from the earth, cloaked in white canvas. They are beautiful rooms, 20-feet in diameter, spacious and bright.
The three 16×24 cabins are built only with green materials and have the warmth, look and feel of wood. The roof is made from 6-in thermo-molded panels, and the walls, windows and doors are high-energy efficiency. The roofs have a perfect pitch to provide an ideal summer or winter temperature and collect rainwater, which is heated by an on-demand propane heater for showers.
Grey water is filtered in a dry septic field. All lighting is 12-volt led – so bright you never miss “traditional” electricity. All cabins and yurts have a lake-view and are fully equipped with their own bathrooms with showers and odourless compost toilets. Each comes with its own private deck and cedar hot tub. Inside, top-of-the-line wood stoves make the nights warm and cozy.
The roof of one of the cabins functions as the powerhouse, layered with solar panels. In a clearing several metres away stand two wind turbines, generating clean energy on cloudy days.
Taking 18 months to build, through sweat and mosquitoes, Ecolodge is a labour of love by workers whose care made all the difference. The brainchild of James McGregor (of Eco-Planet), Olivier Allenbach and Daniel Cliche (of Matagami Development Corporation), this is the first truly ecological lodge in Canada.
The lodge sits on the trapline of Laurence Otter. After open and honest discussions, the Cree Elder gave his blessing to Cliche and the project, knowing that the land would be loved and protected.
“Ecolodge is the perfect example of a project created in harmony between Natives and non-Natives,” says a smiling Cliche, who wants to see more such development.
In order to make the smallest footprint on the environment, very few trees were cut on the site. This results in a unique privacy between each of the lodge’s buildings. The way to travel between the cabins, yurts, beach and dock is on wooden sidewalks large enough for ATVs. While beautiful and eco-friendly, according to Cliche, these narrow walkways presented big challenges.
Bringing in the building machinery and materials, especially the 75’ long wind-turbine poles, without heavy trucks or lifting gear, was a technical tour de force. Erecting walls and installing tall roofs without scarring the surrounding land was accomplished with an elegant combination of traditional construction methods and futurethinking green design.
One of the two yurts acts as a gathering space where guests can chat with each other over gourmet meals prepared by host Hugues Levesque, a great storyteller and even better chef. The lodge can accommodate a maximum of 12 people.
Guests leave their vehicles in Matagami and are transported, if weather permits, by Zodiac, or by the lodge shuttle. Equipment for sports activities is available including gear for kayaking, bicycling, windsurfing and canoeing. In the winter, go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Or simply take a quiet moment on the beach, lounging beside a 400-year-old cedar tree.
When guests go to play in the forest or on the lake, they always leave with a radio to communicate with the host. Security is paramount. Nature walks or bicycle rides on the old forestry roads are wonderful – the forest is a jewel of lichens, mushrooms, moss and rocks.
Cliche suggests guests travel to a picnic spot by the rapids where they will be met with a lunch basket.
Too tired to trek back? Ecolodge will pick you up by Zodiac and bring you back. Upon return, you’ll find your hot tub warm and waiting.
And how is the water heated? Fire in water. A metal box three quarters immersed in the water contains the flames. To feed the fire simply lift the cover and drop in a new log. A vent rises out of the flames, filling the air with a smoky fragrance mixed with the sweet smell of wet cedar. Breathe in deep.
You will never forget the Ecolodge experience, a truly beautiful place in a stunning setting. Deep in the boreal forest sits off-grid paradise.
Go experience it and tell the tale: encourage people be green with envy.
For information on the Ecolodge contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www. matagami.com/ecolodge