I know alpacas are not horses. I know they are toed and not hoofed.
No, I didn’t ride an alpaca. But I did follow some around a for a weekend.
At Island Spirits on Grasshopper Island in Rice Lake, Ontario everything is either solar powered, or rainwater filled. Very little is wasted. There’s no gas-powered anything and roaming animals are an essential part of keeping this place green. It’s a true eco experience.
Owned by the outdoor loving T.J. Chernuck, everything about this place, which she developed literally from the clearing up, evolved from the quirky vision of an individual who wanted to share these 25 acres with everyone from partiers to meditators; families to corporate retreaters; outdoor hikers to drum circles … as long as you follow her rules and respect the place.
The cabins sleep about six, either upstairs or on the main floor, and have some comforts of home such as couches and electrical lights (thanks to solar panels on the roof). Each unit has a barbecue, a rainwater tank and its own outhouse. There are also campsites if you bring a tent.
What’s missing is running water.
There are two showers inside a circle of wooden poles, above which hangs a large metal water tank. The sun heats the collected water then, thanks to gravity, it flows through pipes and cascades over you. It’s possible to get a hot shower, but with about 50 people (up to 100) staying on the island at one time, jumping in the lake is preferable some days.
All canoes, kayaks, fire pits and some firewood are included. You bring your own food and can buy ice to keep things cool in a metal garbage can lining a hole in the ground. (“That’s our wine cooler,” T.J. says).
But what about the alpacas?
That’s the best part: you share the island with a herd of wandering sheep and three alpacas (all named) that are curious enough to get close, but not close enough to pet.
Sheep and alpacas are part of the eco initiative here. They keep the grass cut. Plus ‘wild’ chickens roam freely and if you find a fresh egg, it’s yours to fry up.
What do you do with your food scrapes? Feed the pigs, of course. Thanks to a pen of four pigs, garbage has been reduced by 50 per cent and you get to feed them two containers of pellets a day.
If you want to get to Island Spirits, you have to climb aboard the ferry. Captain T.J. is in charge of that too. It’s also, by the way, how she gets the alpacas here each summer. Ahoy!