By Joan Larsen
My helicopter has landed. . . and with that first step into a world completely unknown to most humans, I could find no words that could express the feelings of beauty – beauty that seemed to stretch to the heavens no matter in which direction I looked.
What was this feeling I had – this feeling I had never had before? Could it be the clear mountain air, the brilliant blue skies, or maybe it was the majestic snow-covered peaks that seemed to stretch out in every direction? The few others — who had stepped onto flower-strewn grass along with me — seemed to also want to stand apart in silence, soaking in the scene.
We had had only a short flight from the outskirts of Banff in Canada’s Alberta to the high peaks of eastern British Columbia – and yet . . . yet, we were in untouched and unrivaled natural surroundings now that, in all my years of travelling the world, had all the ingredients of a truly breathtaking destination with few rivals.
And, little did our small group know that we were to embark on a journey that could not be equaled.
The most welcoming home (above) is called Bugaboo Lodge, named after the spires that surround it. The staff became our best friends. . . with no stone left unturned to see that each of us – no matter our ages and our capabilities — would be taken by helicopter from small walks and longer hikes to much more challenging situations for those who were very fit. We never wandered totally alone as this was a wilderness that really required a guide who would see that we had not taken on too much.
The food and drink were some of the best ever savored, and the chefs were able to please even the most hard-to-satisfy palates. Our small group became fast friends so easily, and I found myself talking late into the night with staff and my new friends at a time when laughter abounded.
A leisurely walk that first day out was fine. With views like this who could resist? More daredevils than you might believe decided that even a cold lake would be worth a swim. Between new hiking destinations — by helicopter, of course – I was able to capture some of the most beautiful photos of the Bugaboo Mountains. The pilot was always agreeable for another swing around for an even better shot.
I somehow think this is what “breathtaking” looks like.
Easy hikes are a bit mild for some of the young. . . and my grandchildren were excited to be offered some mountain climbing challenges. The most expert rock and mountain climbing staff members taught them — on all-day journeys upward into the high peaks — with lots of instructions (and an array of safety harnesses to assuage all my concerns.)
Even in mountainous Switzerland I had never seen a peak so narrow! And let’s not even mention that the bridge to cross to reach the pinnacle seemed, to me, more of a challenge than anyone would attempt.
To my 19-year-old granddaughter (and all the rest of the novice mountain climbers) the peak and bridge may have been a challenge, but they had now climbed to heights that others would never dream of. And here is Sydney, completely joyous as I have never seen her before, after finding out that her two brothers are just not going to be able to beat her out – ever!!
Every day had its share of new wonders. In an area of no roads for hundreds of miles, we became agile getting in and out of helicopters that brought us to the unseen, seemingly endless wonders still left in our world.
Little did we know when we embarked on this journey into the British Columbia wilderness that we had taken flight into a world in nature, shared with only a handful of others, that would lead to memories that would never leave us . . . and bond us, as never before, as family.
Writer Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth. But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again. She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”