I’m on my way to Ridgeback Lodge in Kingston, New Brunswick, to stay in a year-round geodesic glamping dome, one of the first in Canada. And I’m here to tell you, it’s a thing… a very sexy thing.
Could I be one of the original glampers back when it was not quite a thing? In my twenties, I had a boisterous group of girlfriends and we were determined to camp. We’d don camping skorts (or perhaps that was just me), spaghetti strap tank tops, platform flip flops and drive out to the wilderness. We had oversized tents from Canadian Tire, inflatable furniture including beds on frames, battery-operated fairy lights and disco balls, coolers packed full of ice and all the fixings. We would divide and conquer–one on the drinks, one on the snacks, one on the music and three to struggle with the tent. And, we camped in some incredible places that we didn’t see–but isn’t that just it–the height of youth in the heat of summer and always in the most beautiful sought-after places in the Maritimes.
Ridgeback Lodge owners Robert van de Straat and Christel Postel moved from the small hamlet of Zwiep close to the German border in the Netherlands to New Brunswick five years ago in pursuit of a dream. It all started with a simple trip to British Columbia back in 2005, and gradually developed into annual holiday habit. Poised to take over a sixth-generation family recreational business, they were just too romanced by Canada, to see it through. The focus was and remains the Rockies and British Columbia, but New Brunswick was within their means and they haven’t looked back.
When they purchased the land and business, it came with a house and two cabins that been there for over 25 years. Within the first six months, they designed and built their first two domes and their business model shifted dramatically. Today, there are three small dream domes and four larger stargazer domes that are usually rented in concert for larger groups. They have continued to expand each year and have steadily built their business on word of mouth and a strong roster of returning clients who often book multiple times a year, as it’s a different experience with each season.
Buckminister Fuller, the inventor of the geodesic dome in the early 20th century, discovered that if a spherical structure was created from triangles, it would have unparalleled strength. It’s the ultimate human shelter with one of the most efficient interiors; as air and energy circulate without the obstruction of walls allowing for heating and cooling to occur naturally. Geodesic domes have been built all around the world in different climates. It’s Spring (Winter) in New Brunswick and I’m feeling no pain. Christel says that studies have shown the rounded shape of the dome has a calming effect on the mind and body; soothing the soul. Serenity now. I feel no pressure to look up any studies; I’m in it and its definitely working for me.
I’m in a Dream Dome for two on a slowly sloping, wooded hilltop with one heck of a view. There’s a king size bed with warm linens and pillows. The propane stove is on, so it’s nice and toasty. The dome is open, bright and airy with a large bay window and half a dozen large portholes exposing sky views. It has a modern, rustic kind of feel with a definitive European touch–serene grey fabrics and warm wood. All the luxury amenities are here – a fully equipped kitchenette with a fridge and induction burners and a bathroom with a curved glass shower and plush towels. Outside there’s a picnic table, a propane BBQ… and a private wood-fired hot tub… full stop.
Christel lets me know that guests often show up with a whole roster of activities in the surrounding area, but often get situated and don’t want to leave. Who can blame them? We don’t need to know the way home, All we want is life IN the Thunderdome…
Once basically settled in, I take a five-minute drive over to Dunham’s Run Estate Winery for a private tasting and tour with winemaker Macey Ruff. This six-year-old winery is owned by Tony Rickett, who has been growing grapes in the region for over 20 years; he also happens to be the former owner of The Grape Vine in Saint John, Atlantic Canada’s first wine bar in the early eighties. The winery boasts New Brunswick’s first sparkling wines and has an arsenal of over a dozen products including red and white wines, meads and ciders–of note, Macey’s FrizzUncle (get it?). Dunham’s Run is open to the public June to October and by appointment or chance during the rest of the year. I power taste my way through nine selections, but Ridgeback Lodge owner Christel was right, I’m anxious to get back to my cozy cocoon.
Back to my dream dome, and priorities, diving into a glass of Dunhams Marquette wine. There’s no phone service, no internet, no TV… after the first waves of panic dissipate, as I did intend to still do some work, I turn my attention to figuring out the hot tub while making myself a cheese plate.
I stopped for provisions in Moncton on my way at Les Gourmandes Cheese Delicatessen & Chocolates for a selection of New Brunswick and Quebéc cheeses; fresh lobster and wine from the grocery store; fruit and coffee for the morning. C’mon, I’m roughing it. The instructional video on ‘how to start and maintain your wood-fired hot tub’ is actually a wall-mounted iPad set to a slick remix of Nina Simone’s Sinner Man. Thus, setting the tone for a wine-infused, low and slow burn of me actually getting it all rolling throughout the evening, including a bit of an unorthodox cooling system once in the tub taking full advantage of the privacy fence and shovelfuls of snow. The other domes are nearby and you can hear murmurs and occasional laughter, but it’s all quite pleasant especially from deep within that hot tub–exposed to nature and the cool night air. The whole experience definitely captures the essence of camping, because you have to work at it a bit–making it all the more rewarding once you’re in it.
There’s five kilometres of trails for hiking and snowshoeing and groomed cross-country trails about ten minutes away. In summer, you can swim in the spring-fed pond or take the free-to-guests canoes and kayaks out on Kingston Creek which eventually feeds into the Saint John River.
And now for the bad news, or really good news depending on how you look at it, they’re fully booked for 2018 with a waiting list BUT, that said, get thee on that list. With regulars booking so far in advance, there’s often cancellations on a weekly basis. If you’re reading this, I’m pretty sure you don’t need much convincing… you wanted to like this all, didn’t you? You’re welcome. There’s a two-night minimum stay and a night in one of these pleasure domes run you between $155-$175. http://www.ridgebacklodge.com