Yurt bedOriginally designed to provide shelter in the cold northern Asian climate, the yurt is no stranger to snow. A special insulated wall covering and an abundance of warming features inside make it a comfortable Saskatchewan abode.
Genghis Khan saw something palatial in his yurt. He referred to his felt-walled tent as simply that: a palace. Flora Bora Forest Lodging has matched the traditional Mongolian dwelling to a modern, boreal forest setting with a kind of comfort that likely never crossed the Mongol leader’s mind.
What today’s yurt has retained from its 3,000-year past is extremely special: a sense of closeness with the outdoors and with the peace of the natural space in which it stands.
The transparent dome at the circular structure’s centre is transfixing. Stars and illuminated clouds pass by this lens for a sleepless watcher at night. The morning sky beams unobtrusively in the frame for those with no reason to wake. If you can relax nowhere else, you can in a yurt.
This is especially true at Flora Bora. Owners Karen and Justin Wasylyk have preserved the simplicity of the yurt’s nomadic design. There is no television, no Internet, no telephone, and no red LED clock reminding you that somewhere there is a deadline with your name on it. That’s a courageous kind of philosophy in a world where travellers rarely lose sight of the six o’clock news and the latest social media feed.
We wanted to create a place that fits into the 30 acres,” says Karen. “The yurts are set up so guests can leave everything else behind.”
Both Karen and Justin travelled extensively after university. Asia and other international touring gave them a good sense of what people who are touring are looking for. They wanted to settle into a long-term project but they were not ready to give up the fascinations of other people and places. “We wanted to bring the travellers to us,” says Karen.
In 2003, the couple purchased their 30-acre site that includes a generous piece of shoreline on Tuddle’s Lake, a few miles west of Christopher Lake Village. The original home on the property was the only development. The wooded, contoured land was a blank canvas on which the couple allowed their imaginations to work.
They had seen yurts in provincial parks and kept the structure in mind as they watched for the right piece of land. North American yurts come in packages that are relatively easy to erect. An insulated platform, with generous deck space, supports the mixed fabric structure. Wooden poles and rafters create the sturdy frame. The door frame is the first step in the constructionof the internal structure. “It’s an easy job for two people,” Justin says of his experience building the two yurts. The guest dwellings are called The Yeti’s Yurt and Betty’s Abode (Yeti and Betty for short.)
The guest yurts are part of a larger intention the Wasylyks share to introduce people to the complexity and value of the boreal forest. Trails wind through the 30 acres and the couple plans to enhance the experience of the woodland with interpretive tools and guidance. Both Karen and Justin have studied biology. As the Flora Bora project grows, their knowledge will be made available to guests.
For the moment, seasonal herbs in pots stand by the yurt entrances to add a little flavour to a meal. The yurts are stocked with the essentials (including excellent coffee) and are, as a nomadic home should be, self-contained.
Emma and Christopher Lakes are very short drives from Flora Bora. The magnitude of Saskatchewan’s boreal forest begins roughly at these lakes and continues unbroken to the tundra. The last decade has seen an explosion of new building in the area that has also created new places to eat and experience local arts.
The Wasylyks have teamed up with the Yellow Fender Coffee House and Eatery to bring some extraordinary local food into the yurt/boreal experience. Sundogs Sled Excursions is also at Christopher Lake. Touring the forest by dog sled is a magical immersion in this environment. The restfulness that defines the boreal forest is uniquely accessible both inside and outside a Flora Bora yurt.
The Yellow Fender Coffee House and Eatery (operated by Heidi O'Brodovich and her mother Connie Freedy, a Red Seal chef) shares its recipe for Saskatchewan Red Rhubarb Square—the most popular dessert they serve when catering events at the Flora Bora Yurts.
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