In News & Blog, Accessible Travel

When Karen Hodge wanted to escape the bustle of the city with her family, she found a rustic cabin on Salt Spring Island was the perfect place to stop and reflect.

Karen and her two kids enjoying a cabin at Cusheon Lake

It is never easy to travel with a 7 year old and 3 year old.  But there is something magical about staying at Cusheon Lake on Salt Spring Island, in a log cabin overlooking the lake, that makes the quiet that occurs in between the chaos all the more extraordinary.

Our visit to Cusheon Lake this winter was filled with memorable moments that we will carry with us forever.  The joy (and amusement) of watching my city kids become confident country explorers as they learned how to make mud pies, to paddle a canoe and to play in the forest.

Moments such as late one evening going to wake up my son on a clear night to take him outside to see the stars (he was so exited as he loves anything to do with space…but soon pointed out that he was cold and his bed was warm!).  He now refers to this mother/son adventure as “our starry night”, a special moment reserved only for him while his little sister lay sleeping.

Lasting memories of evenings spent curled up on the couch together in front of the fire, roasting marshmallows and reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory aloud until the kids fell asleep in a tangle of arms, legs, blankets and cuddles.

“What makes these experiences with nature all the more precious to me is the fact that due to my spinal cord injury and use of a wheelchair, I so rarely get to share these nature experiences with my children and my husband.”

We even attended a wedding on New Year’s Eve – as coordinated by our three-year-old daughter.  This event was complete with “fancy” clothes, she had asked us to pack in our suitcases, a bouquet (the imitation flowers from the vase found on the kitchen table), music and dancing.  She married her brother and my husband and I married each other, again.   We will cherish these photos and videos, as will the grandparents, aunts and uncles who live far away but enjoyed seeing the big event.

And after the kids go to bed, our stay at the cabin provided a chance for us as a couple to reconnect with each other and to remember who we are as people besides being parents and why we fell in love with each other in the first place.  It was a chance to dream by firelight about our hopes and plans for the future and to connect at a level that seems to elude us in the noisy world of our day-to-day lives.

We experienced icy lakes and snowy marshes, brilliant sunshine and mirror like calm waters, rain that poured down on the cabin roof like buckets of water being dumped from above and wind that stirred up the lake into a sea of movement.  Each extreme inspired in all of us wonder and a new respect for nature; its power and its softness. But no matter the weather outside, we felt safe and warm inside.

What makes these experiences with nature all the more precious to me is the fact that due to my spinal cord injury and use of a wheelchair, I so rarely get to share these nature experiences with my children and my husband.

Our stays at Cusheon Lake mean the world to us.  They open my children’s eyes to the wonder of the world around them, deepen our relationships with each other (parent/child, brother/sister, husband/wife) and remind us even in our busy city lives to sometimes stop, step back and enjoy the moment. We are already counting down the days till our next visit.

Please note, Cusheon Lake Resort will not be accessible to all people.  For me, wheelchair accessible means a path and level entrance with no steps, doorways that I can fit through with my fairly narrow manual wheelchair, and a bathroom that I can fit in with just enough room to close the door.  I bring my own detachable showerhead and shower bench.

Tips when planning a rustic vacation:

Call and ask lots of questions prior to booking.  What is accessible to one person is not accessible to another.

Focus on the many things you ARE able to do at the resort rather than being stuck brooding about the things you cannot access.  For example, it is difficult for me to get down to the water’s edge but we try to find places where I can have a lovely view of the water from the balcony or a large window.

Find out what amenities are nearby and plan accordingly.   Getting away from it all is possible but when travelling with two young children (and my own risk of UTI’s and AD), we tend not to go anywhere too far away from a pharmacy or medical centre.  But, we have still been able to find places to stay that feel rustic but require only a short drive to town.

Bring the essentials.  Even when staying close to town, many of the local shops don’t have all the things or the same variety of items we are used to seeing in city stores.

Bring non-electronic entertainment such as board games, puzzles, books, playing cards, or crafts.  It is so much more meaningful to sit around the table together in the evenings playing games or working on a project together rather than have everyone off on their own staring at their screens.

Take time to talk to the locals to find the best places to explore, to eat and where to find artists’ goods.  I have found used bookstore staff to be the best place to start as they often have the time to chat and have a wealth of information to share.  And, you can pick up a book to read while you are there!

Salt Spring surprisingly has a number of local restaurants, shops, spa and galleries that are wheelchair accessible and many also have accessible washrooms.  Our favourites include Barb’s Bakery and Bistro, Rock Salt Restaurant and Café, Spa by Lenice, and Waterfront Gallery.  In the summer we also enjoy ArtCraft at Mahon Hall and the famous Saturday Farmer’s Market.

A cozy cabin on Salt Spring can be a relaxing family getaway.
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  • Lloyd Muir

    Wonderful sharing and engaging writing. Well done Karen!

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