Glamping At The Refuges Perchés With a Small Dog
It’s a word that’s bandied about a lot lately in the world of travel bloggers. But can there really be any “glamour” in “camping”?
Well, yes, there can be. It’s having some of the amenities and small luxuries one would normally think of enjoying when staying at a hotel or even a spa, while still getting that outdoor escapism and adventure associated with traditional camping. It’s camping … without the discomforts. And that made it something worth looking into for the bipeds, who, to be honest, are just not into roughing it anymore. Been there, done that.
The idea of glamping-—although likely called something else in the past—-isn’t new. I am certain you can conjure images of the wealthy British of the 1920s on safari in Africa, having tea at linen-covered tables and using fine china. I believe even King James went glamping in the Scottish Highlands in the 16th century, or heck, go even further back in history and you’ll find the Ottomans glamping! They were famous for it, in fact, with their palatial, embroidered tents that came complete with a tribe of people whose job it was to care for tent palaces. The concept is not new, but it’s got a new name.
Glamping comes in many forms. It can be big fancy tents, yurts, teepees, pods, bell tents, revamped train cabooses, or even tree houses. Yeah, tree houses for grownups! You read that right!
We found that out while doing a quick search on Glamping Hub to see what was within a two-hour drive of Ottawa. We discovered Les refuges perchés only two hours away! Oh, and you don’t need to worry about calling every place you’re interested in to see if they are pet-friendly. Nope. Glamping Hub has done that work for you with a section just for pet owners that allows a search based on “pet friendliness.”Nice thinking, guys! That made our life easier.
After looking at our calendars and narrowing down some dates, we went to Les refuges perchés’s calendar to see if any tree houses were still available. As luck would have it, treehouse #7 was available on our second chosen date. (Our first date was already fully booked!) So we nabbed lucky #7!
The drive to Mont-Tremblant (known for its ski slopes in the winter months) and then to the Parc Eco de la MRC des Laurentides (I know, ridiculously long name, right?) was absolutely gorgeous. It was sunny and the scenery was breathtaking: deep lush forests, occasional lakes, and hills rolling as far as the eye could see. Everything you need to get into the mood for some outdoor activities.
Our first stop was the entrance to the Eco Park (5000, chemin du lac Caribou, Saint-Faustin-Lac-Carré). The tree houses have been built in a protected regional park, an area dedicated to protecting the Laurentians and educating visitors about the rare fauna and animals in the region. You can pay for just a day pass to the park to go exploring or enjoy some activities like kayaking and canoeing.
Or, as it was in our case, for the right to camp. Sadly, even if we were not camping in a tent, we had to pay an overnight fee of about $10 CDN per person, per night. That included parking for our car. Add to that the fee for the treehouse rental and you are looking at about $350 for 3 nights. Not cheap but totally worth it!
The one bummer was that we were informed we would not be able to use our fire pit (the BBQ was ok) due to extreme dryness. It had not rained in far too long! Our dream of sitting by the bonfire every evening evaporated. But we understood the ban all too well; after all, Fort McMurray, although in a different province, was still fresh in our minds.
After we paid, we drove another kilometre to the welcoming pavilion for the tree houses, where we checked in. The welcoming pavilion is a big place, complete with welcoming centre, a rec room, showers, and the fresh drinking-water tap. This is where you park your car and is as far as the car can go.
We met our wonderful and SUPER helpful host who works on the weekend: Lesly. He cheerfully checked us in a little early, something we really appreciated. We picked up our little packet (an extra $19) that included a container we could use to haul drinking water to our treehouse, two small propane tanks for the little kitchen and BBQ, some matches and tea light candles for the lanterns, a water purifier device should we want to drink lake water while on a hike, and a tiny battery generator for the single light in our treehouse. Lesly also ensured we understood the rules:
- Dogs are allowed but must stay on leash at all times. (They had one get loose last year and it took a week to find it in the woods. The dog nearly didn’t make it. There are bears and coyotes in the area.
- Dogs must not disturb other guests staying in nearby tree houses with incessant barking and must not chase wildlife or trample fauna off-trail.
- You MUST pick up all dog poop. (Don’t do the “it’s natural” thing. It’s not natural to that forest. Pick up!)
- Large dogs are not allowed on the beds. This is to prevent their claws from damaging the mattress covering.
- No motor vehicles are allowed. No all-terrain vehicles on the trails or motorboats in the lakes. (Only one motorboat is allowed and it’s for the person looking after the tree houses that day.)
- A permit is required for fishing.
- No fishing allowed from docks, bridges, hiking trails, etc. Use designated areas only.
- No mountain bikes.
- No picking of flowers or doing any other kind of harvesting, including rocks. (The area had a quartz mine. People are destroying what is left.)
- No noise! No radios, music, screaming, shouting, etc. Always respect the silence and sounds of nature.
- No building of any structures (such as an extra tent).
- No detergents with phosphates allowed. Tree houses have eco soap provided.
- No peeing over the edge of the tree house. (Really? People were doing this?) Use the dry outhouses for all needs.
- Even if compostable, do not discard garbage anywhere other than in the compost bin or garbage bin at the tree house. No littering on the trails.
- Remove all garbage from the tree house at departure. Dispose of all garbage in the garbage area at the pavilion parking lot.
- Dispose of grey water from the kitchen sink (bucket) in designated areas near dry outhouses. Never dump grey water into the woods or lake.
- Fires are allowed only at the fire pit and only when there is no ban in place.
- Fines can be given out for breaking the rules.
- Check-in is between 14:00–15:00.
- Check-out is at 13:00
- There is no one at the pavilion after 17:00. There is an emergency phone at the pavilion.
- There is no phone service or cell service in the tree houses.
- Cover the provided pillows with a pillow case. If you forgot some, you can rent them at the pavilion. Bring your own blanket or sleeping bag.
- All dishes needed are provided in each tree house. You must do the dishes before leaving.
It all seemed fine to us, so we nodded our agreement and left a credit card number for the damage deposit ($239). We loaded everything into a two-wheeled cart that’s provided. It’s a sled in winter! (You get two—a small and a large one—but we had packed lightly and only needed the one.) And off we headed to find tree house #7.
The walk from the main pavilion to the tree houses is easily a 15 to 20 minute walk on a gorgeous little trail. The little walk had us beaming; it was that beautiful. Butterflies and dragonflies were everywhere. Birds of all sorts were singing. We even heard a loon in the distance! It was like being welcomed to the enchanted forest.
And then we saw the first glimpse of our tree house and right away, we loved it! Even our little dry outhouse was cute. And not stinky. Mom was relieved.
Our tree house was so much more than we expected! It had its own large deck and an indoor wood stove—with chopped wood already provided. It was too hot to use the stove, but providing chopped wood was such a nice touch.
The bed was a normal queen-size bed. A couch provided extra beds if we needed that. In all, four people could sleep in our little home away from home. There were even some decorative pillows!
We found the teak table and chairs and set them up outside on our deck near the BBQ. This was where we would eat. Moments later, a little chipmunk darted out from between the tree and the planks of our deck! He was fearless! From then on, I kept watch on that spot.
The little kitchen was well appointed and came with a 60 litre cooler for our food. We quickly dumped the bag of ice we had bought at the pavilion into the cooler and added all our food, eager to set off on our first adventure!
Right at our doorstep, we had over 36 km of hiking trails to explore. We set out and did a big loop called “le tour du lac” (around the lake) and added the loop known as “la Mine” (the mine). This trail covers about 7 km and was just … well, take a look:
We made it back, tired and happy. The only thing putting a damper on things was that poor Mom was being bitten. A lot. This is deep woods country and the blackflies, deer flies, and worse … the mosquitoes … seemed to think that Mom was an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Her eco-friendly, all natural, organic, essential oil bug repellant was NOT working. Still, we settled down for a BBQ dinner of chicken and a nice big salad, then went to the little dock allocated to our tree house (shared with five other tree houses but deserted) to watch the sun set.
The next day, we first returned to the pavilion to get some more drinking water and some fresh ice for the cooler. Lesly greeted us with his big infectious smile. He asked how things were going and what we had planned for the day. Mom mentioned her bug repellant oil was not working; Lesly laughed and said Mom wasn’t the first to have that problem. “Oh and you are now attractive to bears. They love citronella,” he added. Mom was a little concerned about that! But Lesly gallantly shared some of his own hard core bug repellant to tide Mom over until the park entrance office opened and she could buy some for herself! THAT is service, Dear Reader!
Armed with a chemical shield against the bugs (you could tell Mom hated the chemicals, but it was survival at this point!), we set off to a trail called the “Panoramique” (Panoramic). It was all uphill. Complete with steps around big, enormous boulders.
Culminating with the most GORGEOUS view at the lookout.
Back at the tree house and after a quick lunch, I was in for a treat: my first ever KAYAK ride! The bipeds rented a tandem kayak for $25 for three hours. Worth every penny!
I took to it naturally! (I didn’t have to get in the water, after all!)
We enjoyed the most glorious afternoon on the lake. We even docked at a tiny island where you could camp for the night (in a tent) but with no one there … Dad decided to skinny-dip!
It was so pretty to see the area we had hiked the previous day but from the water. We also made a mental note that we wanted to stay at cabin #4 next time since it seemed to be the only one with a view of the lake.
That night, again we lounged on the dock near our tree house after a nice big dinner. We tried BBQ’d sweet potato and it was delicious. Dad even smoked a cigar.
On our last day, we did the trail called “L’aquatique” (The Aquatic). It’s SO MUCH FUN!!! This trail has a tonne of wooded bridges and pathways.
And a huge wood promenade that curves along the shoreline. It’s fun to walk over the lake proper!
I got to see a beaver dam too! And I discovered that the area has carnivorous plants! Who knew?!
And we walked through some marshlands. (Mom was SO grateful for the heavy duty bug repellant!)
We spent the day wandering the trails and then headed home to our lucky #7. The wind had picked up in a stormy kind of way; we could feel that the weather was about to turn. And did it EVER!
We ate dinner inside. (We brought the little table and chairs in). The sun was setting, it was late, and Mom was making a last pot of tea when the sky turned from a dark grey to a dark, deep, menacing orange. The sound of thunder had joined that of the howling wind. But we felt safe in our little tree house. So, with little light left in the day and a long exhausting day of hiking behind us, we decided to go to bed super early. We all curled up and fell asleep.
Until … CRACK!!!
In the pitch black—-the kind of black found only when so far away from city lights—-the entire tree house shifted. It literally moved. Not just a little. A lot! Enough for Mom to lose her balance as she was walking over to the generator to flick the switch so we could turn on the tiny light.
Again … CRACK!!!
The tree house shifted again and this time, we figured out why: a large maple tree had snapped in half and the entire top of the tree landed on our little nest. Mom was very concerned, looking at the ceiling, hoping that there was no damage to the roof as the rain poured with renewed vigour outside.
We were still dry. That was good. But we also had no way to leave. Our path to the stairs was completely blocked. After giggling nervously, Mom just shrugged and said, “I guess we pee in the bucket tonight!” And we went back to bed as the wind started to calm down. We figured we’d deal with it all in the morning.
The next day, Dad went out and with his small butterfly knife and a lot of brute strength, he hewed a tunnel in the tree branches. It was all green wood so it didn’t snap or break, but Dad managed to bend it all out of the way. Once down the stairs, Mom made a mad dash for the outhouse … and I had a pee on the trail. (No overnight bucket for me, Dear Readers!)
On the way back, Mom took note of the damage and took some photos. The park crew was going to have a very busy day!
Finally we packed up, left the tree house as clean as we had found it, and made our way to the pavilion to check out. Along the way, we were stunned by the damage the storm had created. We really had been in the eye of the storm. Trees large and small littered the path. There was a moment of sadness there; to see all that damage was a little heartbreaking. Some animals had lost their homes that night. We got blocked on our path at one point, uncertain how we would get our cart with all our gear over a massive tree fallen on the trail. Again, Dad’s brute strength came to the rescue!
At the pavilion, we met with the owner and explained what had happened to our tree house and even shared our photos. (She told us most of the region had lost electricity.) The owner quickly walkie-talkied the park crew to add our tree house to their clean-up route.
We returned whatever needed to be returned and after a cuddle …
… and a final farewell, we headed home. We had come seeking the adventure of the great outdoors and we’d gotten it in spades!
In review: Our glamping at the Refuges Perchés with a small dog experience has us checking Glamping Hub for other adventures to try out! There are a few more within a two- to three-hour drive that we are now eager to try. Is being nowhere near a phone or out of Wi-Fi range a challenge? Sure. In a storm, it might mean feeling cut off. But it’s also invigorating to feel independent. And there are enormous benefits to being unplugged the way we were. The benefits make it absolutely worthwhile. For three days, we reconnected with nature (bugs and all). We connected to each other and re-familiarized ourselves with: silence. And it was absolutely glorious.