Just Back: Sandy's British Columbia Trip Report
Just Back from British Columbia
Outside GO's founding family takes to the skies to explore the newest offerings on North America's Pacific Coast
By: SANDY CUNNINGHAM
PHOTOS BY: Jeremy Koreski
Twenty-one years ago, Uncharted Outposts, now Outside GO, founded the Bush Homes of East Africa, a boutique collection of privately owned ranches committed to preserving the wildlife and culture surrounding them. Now we have a North American equivalent, an exquisite network in British Columbia comprising Siwash Lake Ranch, Nimmo Bay Resort, and Tweedsmuir Park Lodge. Our family visited the Wild Outposts of the Canadian West last month to find out just what a gorgeous counterpart these destinations are to the African bush homes.
A long time ago in South Africa, my father was offered a job in British Columbia. We feasted on photographs of a lush green wilderness with bears and whales, enormous trees, and moody, wet days. This green country was hugely appealing to all of us kids during a particularly hot and drought-ridden summer. The job would mean living 300 miles from the nearest town, and we were all intrigued and excited, but it wasn’t to be. We stayed put in South Africa, mopping our brows and sucking ice cubes to stay cool.
"Perhaps it was then that I first became obsessed with British Columbia."
This June, our family set off for a two-week adventure in British Columbia. We drove, flew, kayaked, boated, rode bikes and horses, rafted, fished, and floated our way through one of the most breathtaking and enchanting places on earth. The expectations I’d had since childhood were blown to the moon and back.
Our great Canadian Safari started with a spectacular drive through the Vancouver fjords and sounds and through the deep valleys of Whistler and surrounding snowy peaks before dropping down into the golden valleys of the endless prairies—speckled with coniferous forests and many lakes—of Cariboo country. It was here we stayed at the first of the three Outside GO Outposts: Siwash Lake Ranch.
Renowned for horseback riding, five-star wilderness adventures, pasture-to-plate cuisine, and lavish safari tents, Siwash Lake Ranch specializes in high-energy family holidays. The ranch is a remarkable labor of love. Founded by Allyson Rogers and lovingly run with her partner Roy Grinder, Siwash is a completely self-sufficient, off-the-grid property.
We spent our first night above the barn in a gorgeous family suite listening to clucking fat hens and a band of pink pigs. Our last two nights were spent nestled in the forest in gorgeous tents, replete with hot outdoor showers and plump beds that you never wanted to leave. We spent hours learning archery with a top-notch guide, we shot targets and clay pigeons in the forest, we fly-fished, paddleboarded, and romped in the meadows with a rather naughty puppy called Jake for hours on end. We were restored with fresh and intoxicating meals crafted by a talented chef, Derek Bendig.
But don’t be fooled—Siwash is much more than a dude ranch. It is a gem in the vast Cariboo wilderness, made even more special by the loving touches of Allyson and her team. Her soul is expressed throughout the ranch and in every detail.
"It didn’t hurt that this is where my two daughters saw their first black bear."
Next we took the less windy and (allegedly) shorter route back to Vancouver through beautiful river valleys before we headed out to our next destination: Nimmo Bay Resort. We took a small plane to Vancouver Island, where to my husband’s absolute delight we boarded a Grumman G-21 Goose. We flew out across the ocean over a myriad of vast and unsettled islands and sounds. As we approached, we skimmed the treetops until we plunked down softly in the water at Nimmo Bay (pronounced “Nemo”).
We had found heaven. There is nothing I can say about Nimmo Bay that can convey my family’s complete and utter wonderment at this remote outpost. Every lick of the place is sheer rustic perfection: the staff, the guides, and the owners. There is a sense of place here that one finds only when the owners of a property have invested a lifetime of love into their home.
If there was something to do at Nimmo, we did it, and with reckless abandon. We trekked over the spongy forest floor and rappelled down the cliffs; we scoured the bays for the ever elusive “spirit bear”; we fished, kayaked, and picnicked on remote islands; we had morning yoga classes and massages. We even visited Billy, an ancient loner living off the grid who has made a museum of the treasures he has collected over the years. Later, we heard the unmistakable sound of a helicopter touching down into a field of daisies. We hopped on board and flew, skimming trees and pristine mountain rivers, setting down on the top of a glacier so the kids could roll around in the snow and make snow angels. We climbed waterfalls and did whirly birds before landing safely on our deck back at Nimmo. Thank you Peter Barratt!
On our second day at Nimmo we were honored to be a part of a First Nations ceremony led by the charismatic Chief Mike Willie, who has spent the past decade recording the stories and legends of his people and teaching the younger generation to preserve and protect its heritage. This was a first for everyone at Nimmo, and an unexpected highlight for our family.
"On our second day at Nimmo we were very honored to be a part of a First Nations ceremony. Words cannot describe the beauty and sanctity of this experience."
If Nimmo Bay and Siwash Lake Ranch weren’t enough to turn us into complete B.C. junkies, Tweedsmuir Park Lodge tipped the scales. Imagine your own private Grand Teton National Park (seriously, we saw two tourists the entire time we were there). We were able to explore the forests and rivers on bikes and rafts, hike and ride Icelandic ponies—all things we would not have been able to do (with the exception of the rafting) in a few months when it would be peak grizzly season. We adventured in this magnificent wilderness without a grizzly worry in the world.
Tweedsmuir Park Lodge harks back to the old-school national park lodges of North America when they were still small, intimate, and rustic. The lodge is privately owned by three partners, one of whom lives onsite and is one of the world’s greatest raconteurs and heli-skiing operators. Together with his partner Rebecca, he has created a warm and inviting lodge where we wanted for nothing during our stay. We were spoiled by a fabulous performing Irish chef who made succulent racks of lamb and mouthwatering picnics.
PHOTO BY: Travis Burke
Tweedsmuir has a winter side as well as summer—Bella Coola Heli Sports. The operation boasts the largest heli-skiing tenure in British Columbia, and perhaps anywhere in the world. The chopper is captained by the legendary King Richard, who along with the Tweedsmuir team brings over 30 years of ski-filming and heli-skiing experience to the middle of nowhere, BC.
After two weeks of adventure, our trip came to an end. Just like Africa, British Columbia gets its hooks well and truly into you. There is no escaping the allure of this magical land. This is nowhere, but it is everywhere to us and we will be back!
These three lodges, as with our other North American Outposts, are exclusive destinations that book up several seasons in advance. Get in touch below to start planning your stay, and keep in mind that the early bird always gets the worm.
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