By Katharine Fletcher
There’s a hot tub with your name on it overlooking a private lake an hour’s drive from Ottawa.
Just imagine how relaxed you’ll feel, toasty warm, luxuriating in the tub with the canopy of stars twinkling in the heavens above. Can you identify the constellations Orion and Big Dipper? You’ll find these and more far away from the light pollution of Ottawa.
It’s all part of the experience you will enjoy at Cushing Lodge B&B Nature Retreat, located just north of Ladysmith, West Quebec. The 250-hectare property offers kilometres of forested trails for your hiking enjoyment. And, as summer warms the waters of Indian Lake, there is good swimming along with a safe, sandy beach for youngsters.
Geoffrey and Jo-Ellen Cushing built the lodge in October 1991. It was a challenge, carving the winding laneway from the country road to their brand-new home and resort. They built the main lodge and its dining room, along with a guest lodge, on the shores of a private lake. If you’re lucky, you’ll spy the playful otters that call the lake home. We have enjoyed prolonged looks at them; the last time we were at the lodge there were five of them. With the help of a powerful scope, we felt as if we were right beside the otters as they dove, splashed and played in the lake.
Ask Jo-Ellen and Geoffrey where to look. The high-powered scope is ready and waiting for you, mounted on a tripod in front of the bay windows in the dining room.
During the month of May, migrant birds are returning to our region, so this is a great time to explore the countryside. The silence of the whiter woods is broken by songbirds’ twitterings as they establish territories and build their nests.
Cushing Lodge is an increasingly well-known raptor centre. Raptors (birds of prey) have been a lifelong passion for the Cushings.
Says Jo-Ellen: “Since childhood we have been intrigued and fascinated by raptors. We have wondered why they have been worshipped and used as symbols of peace and power for centuries. Yet, at times man has scorned and persecuted these winged predators. We believe that through education and facilities such as ours, people can gain a better appreciation for and understanding of the importance that raptors play in the natural world.”
Included in her collection of these fascinating birds is Casper the barn owl. Due to habitat loss – old barns are rapidly being demolished – this species is increasingly at risk. Also at risk is the gorgeous snowy owl, and the Cushings are completing a new “snowy” facility this summer, in July.
A real treat is to participate in the raptor in-flight demonstration that the Cushings annually host in conjunction with the African Lion Safari Farms of Cambridge, Ontario. It’s an unforgettable experience to watch birds of prey such as the Harris hawk, snowy owl and others fly at close range. Spectators are asked to volunteer to help with the demonstration-
We can vouch for how thrilling it is to watch a “snowy” fly close to the ground, hugging the meadow and then swoop up to perch on your wrist! Don’t be afraid: you’ll be given a sturdy leather gauntlet to wear so the raptor’s talons don’t inadvertently scratch you.
Even if there’s no flight demonstration happening, Jo-Ellen will enthusiastically show you the birds. Bald eagles, hawks and owls regard you with interest when you peer into their enclosures. Ask her about her breed-and-release program for these threatened species.
But if leisurely walks in the woods are more your thing, simply head off down one of the trails. In May, trilliums nod in the spring breezes. Look for all three variety: the white trillium, the wakerobin (red trillium) and the painted, which is more fragile than the others and has a magenta “V” in each of its three white petals.
And, if all you want to do is relax in the hot tub, have tasty meals and forget about work, the Cushing Lodge B&B near Ladysmith, Québec, is a destination we’re sure you’ll enjoy.