Glamping with Bears

Here’s a nice article from Rachel Kristensen:


Routine is the enemy of time.

It’s a phrase I’ve grown to love in my quest of trying something new. Often, I find myself seeking continual adventures in order to ensure monotony doesn’t get the best of me. So when we found out through  (glamorous camping = glamping) about a luxury safari camp, set on raised platforms that overlook feeding grizzlies on one of BC’s remote lakes, it was a no-brainer. We had to go.

On our flight over, when we bobbed and weaved over the towering peaks of BC’s coastal mountains and descended into the arid plateau of its interior, excitement couldn’t help but rush over me. There are places that you stay, where you sleep and then there are places that you experience and remember.

Bear Camp is one of those memorable places.

Found in the Chilcotin region, Bear Camp sits on the crystal clear aquamarine Chilko river, just below the headwaters of the 65 km long Chilko Lake. For thousands of years, the Chilcotins have been home to the people of the river, the literal translation of the region’s name, and it’s easy to understand why.


We arrived around the same time as 3.8 million sockeye salmon had swum into the river’s waters. Their spawning season, which started 700km ago at the mouth of the Fraser River, was coming to an end. Bright red bodies, nearly 3 feet long, shimmered beneath the shallow waters as the fish fought the currents to swim to our shorelines.

Attracted by the abundance of food the salmon represented, grizzlies by the dozens descend from the alpine hillsides to feast within the river. Catching the sockeye salmon or Chinook (king), they snatch their kill and carry it into the wooded shoreline to dine on an all you can eat salmon buffet. Eagles and ravens perched in the towering lodgepole pines and Douglas firs, ready for the scraps left behind, while foxes peered from between the tall grasses looking for their share in nature’s bounty.

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Often to discover these wild places one must find a route far into the backcountry, and while we had indeed travelled a great distance, it was a comfortable trek. Four hours south-west of Williams Lake Airport, we took a twisting and turning dusty road past the ranch lands of Chilcotin and at the end of the road found ourselves at this luxury camp.

Safari tents resting on elevated platforms had a view right onto bear central. Our slice of heaven was situated on a calm section of the river, with small islands and towering mountain peaks within touching distance.

Below our tents were plenty of gear for our choose-your-own-adventure trip ahead: mountain bikes, kayaks, SUPs, horses and saddles, motor and drift boats that would facilitate our desire to explore.


An all-inclusive camp, the day began with a hot cup of coffee delivered right to our tent door while the loon call reverberated in the vast landscape at our feet.

Our days and nights were filled with drinks and food that fed our souls and kept us warm until we crawled under the electrically heated blankets of our king-sized beds. The guides at camp would suggest activities to make the most of our days, while the zero light pollution gave us a night sky we couldn’t resist staying up late for.

Highlights included spying grizzlies from the seat of our kayak, dining at the top of a mountain while peering down a glacial valley, and exploring a remote peninsula isthmus with a sundowner cocktail party.

It was the perfect combination of luxury and adventure with a backdrop of wilderness. Sleeping amongst the trees while grizzlies roamed the rocky shoreline below, we felt as though we were tucked away in one of BC’s best-kept secrets. A temporary home that feels like a family cabin instead of just guests at a hotel, where staff felt like friends and food tasted like your best meal ever.

It’s a place to escape the ordinary and make memories that count.

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Getting there:

Chilko Lake is located in the interior of British Columbia and is accessible with a 4×4 vehicle following many highways and dusty roads or by plane via a one-hour flight from Vancouver, BC. Yes, you can drive but by plane is far more comfortable.

Options can be to take a direct charter flight, or a regularly scheduled 19 seater to Williams Lake, BC – about four hours away.

We took the regularly scheduled flight and while a charter would have been better, still found the flight incredibly scenic due to the low altitude of flying and endless glacial peaks that spread out from the windows.

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What’s included:

Bear Camp offers an all-inclusive getaway including all activities, meals, booze, and guides to show you around. Equipment such as quality kayaks, SUPs, and mountain bikes were also included.

For each of our activities, including the accessible hiking found right at our doorstep, we also had the option to be joined by professional guides who were incredibly knowledgeable about flora, fauna and the history of the area.

A camp chef was onsite to prepare everything from fresh bread to delicious meals created with locally sourced ingredients. Every meal was a battle to not overeat.

The camp is only able to accommodate up to 16 guests, but we lucked out by having only two others joining us making the place almost ours alone. The funky camp had a relaxed vibe with every detail covered and felt like a retreat among friends.

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When to go:

We went mid-September which is prime time for bear viewing until the camp closes in October.

The camp is open from spring to fall, and each season has its appeal. However, I would always return in the fall due to the crisp and clean air alongside with the possibility to view bears feeding on salmon right below your elevated patio.

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Many thanks to Glampinghub.comBear Camp and ROAM Adventures for making this trip possible.

The Concert

Everyone has heard of Woodstock and Carnegie Hall and we’ve even fished with Roger waters of Pink Floyd  – but few have seen Odell Fox at Big Fish.  Last summer James Ramsay of Skytography shot a music video at ROAM’s favourite heli-hiking spot.  We’ll let the music do the talking…

Big Fish is a magical place and is now available for 1 to 3 day base camp adventures in the heart of the BC wilderness, exclusively with ROAM and Bear Camp.

Uncharted Territory – by Larry Pynn

Read part Two of writer Larry Pynn’s Cycle Canada article about his 2500 -km motorcycle journey in the backwoods of British Columbia.  A stop at Bear Camp is an integral part of any backcountry experience in Western Canada.  Talk about immersing yourself in the “real” Canada versus hanging out in carbon copy resorts.

Cycle Canada Article by Larry Pynn

If you like the idea of charting your own destiny, take a good look at ROAM’s self drive, Overland Jeep trips in Southern Patagonia.  We take care of all of the arrangements and let you do the exploring on your own pace.






Roger’s Waters

In June we had the pleasure of hosting Roger Waters and his production manager, Trip (aptly named), for 3 glorious days of trout fishing on the Chilko River. A legendary rock celebrity from the band, Pink Floyd, Roger arrived by A-Star helicopter after his concert in Vancouver. I am not the type to be star-struck but was the first to admit it was all quite surreal – as my favourite song as a youth was “Wish You Were Here”.  For the record, and contrary to rumour, I did not try and force Roger to listen to my acoustic version! I felt his three refusals and threats of a restraining order were a good indication that he was reluctant to hear it.
If you have ever seen Pink Floyd or Mr. Waters in concert, you will know that they are polished and well prepared. This fishing trip was no exception. They sent up a float plane in advance for us to hop from lake to lake to cast lines and check productivity.  We had a crew of experienced guides at their disposal: Avid fisherman and Blackcomb Helicopter founder, Steve Flynn, was the lead reconnaissance and pilot/guide, Peter Nori, was the helicopter pilot extraordinaire. Local knowledge and boat handling was provided by myself and Clint Goyette of Valley Fishing Guides.
Our guests had requested peace and quiet and reserved the entire lodge accordingly. Chef Rebecca, who has cooked in Europe for many dignitaries was up to the task of orchestrating fine dining and we had our sommelier, Andy Butler, sourcing out the finest wines he could muster out of Vancouver.

Roger Waters is an accomplished fly caster and has fished throughout the world. At this time in June, most of the province was washed out (flooding) but the Chilko has the unique distinction of being B.C.’s clearest drainage and the cerulean blue waters did not disappoint. The fishing was not outstanding but good, and our guests were pleased.

The real highlight for me was listening to Roger tell stories about his 40 years in the music industry. He was charming to our staff and thanked each and everyone personally on his departure. To be candid, I hadn’t heard much about Mr. Waters over the years but perhaps him being so friendly and gracious doesn’t make for much in the way of People Magazine fodder?

I also realized that celebrities must love traveling to places like Chilko Lake so they can just be themselves. They can spend time with their colleagues and friends and not have a camera stuck in their face.


In a way, we are as remote as “The Dark Side of the Moon”. But our service is better.














“Guy Getaways”

There is a very interesting article I received about “Guy Getaways” in the Wall Street Journal.  It talks about extreme adventure escapes and mentions our good friends at Nimmo Bay.  However, I think the writer missed the mark on the difference between decadent luxurious wilderness getaways and extreme adventure.


Nimmo Bay is one of my favourite places on the planet but cannot seriously be considered cutting edge when the “hostesses tuck you in with blankets around the floating fire pit while serving you fine wines and single malt”.

Maybe just sitting at a fire pit is adventurous when compared to day-to-day existence in mid-town Manhattan, but for me, Manhattan seems far more scary!


Very nearby Nimmo, lies the Klinaklini River who’s expeditions are the very epitome of extreme.  Float planes, class V rapids, helicopters, hiking mountain tops, grizzlies and camping at the toe of glaciers… yes, that’s an extreme adventure.  However, I must confess that even on these trips you will eat rack of lamb and wash it down with a great Malbec – so perhaps I should not be so judgemental.  Ironically, we discovered the Klinaklini River in conjunction with Nimmo Bay.  (I think I should have some more humble pie after the lamb).


This September up at Bear Camp we are hosting a company called ReBoot.  They have developed a program that helps CEO’s cope with day-to-day challenges and transitioning.  They are combining the decadence of “glamping” at Bear Camp with an “Outward Bound-like” solo experience in the remote wilds of the Coast Mountains.   Neither is “extreme” but will be a lot of fun and the gorgeous topography helps people to be more present and insightful.

Nimmo, Bear Camp, the Klinaklini and all of the cool things listed in the article sound amazing whether you want to call it a “bro cation” or “guys getaway”.   However, I think the most interesting fact at the end of the day is that ROAM’s extreme adventurers are 56% female!




Location, Location, Location

These were the wise words of a retail guru I knew as a young lad growing up in Toronto, Canada.  Apparently these words are also echoed for real estate transactions but the premise clearly did not sink in.  Or did it?

Hosting a Grand Canyon trip for my friend and long-time client, billionaire David Bonderman, he introduced me to his old Harvard Law School grads as a “Canadian with remote and obscure real estate tastes”.  Truly this description fits me well as we most recently purchased a waterfront acreage at the head of Chilko Lake and the Chilko River.  It’s a world-class destination but a 12-hour drive from Vancouver through two mountain passes and does not exactly fit the “convenient location” mantra (but our clients arrive by plane anyways!)

I believe, however, David was referencing (okay, we can say mocking) my affinity for remote beachfront in rural Ecuador.  Three years ago while surfing the Ecuadorian coast with my youngest daughter, Grace,  Ecuadorian surf legend, Leo Govea, took me to the quaintest little beach town called Mompiche.  The minute I set foot in Mompiche, I knew it was my paradise.  Long flat beaches, warm waters and tropic breezes, palm-fringed bays and most importantly an idealistic left-hand point break with multiple sessions and a kid-friendly beach break.

I had surfed with Leo in Montanita, Olon, Canoa and a host of other wonderful places in Ecuador but I had never seen anything so user-friendly with the exception of Hanalei Bay in northern Kauai.

Here’s the difference.  Mompiche has no crowds, very few tourists and the friendliest most accommodating surfers one will ever have the privilege of sharing the waters with.  No aggravating wave crashers.  To the contrary, it was obvious I was an out-of-towner (no one else in Mompiche looks like Chuck Norris) and I was given helpful advice, encouragement and in a few instances better surfers peeled off nice waves and encouraged me to jump on.  But if that’s not enough, the clincher for me was affordable beachfront real estate.  

I don’t think you could buy a parking space in Hanalei for what we paid for a small beach lot and building a 3-bedroom house steps from the water.

In fact, I am certain.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Kauai and the great state of Hawaii.   I would give my left leg to own a beachfront house in Kauai but its not financially plausible and surfing with one leg is too challenging.

Property ownership in Ecuador is not difficult.  Since acquiring our waterfront, we have helped other friends buy on the beach and get them started with construction of their dream beach homes.  Here’s the cool part – my friend Leo, now a proud father – has been able to give up running a dilapidated hostel and is our main-man on our house development (but is still there to teach surfing).  We are employing a number of people in the community and using local bamboo and wood products in a sustainable fashion.

A developer I am not.  

Instead we are just trying to secure all the property in our stretch of the beach to keep out any prospective resorts or towers from going up and, in my opinion, ruining the character of the beach and fishing village.

Location, Location, Location is true… but it is all a matter of perspective. 

Wine and the River, 2014

I am not drinking it as I write (I swear) but rather musing over ROAM’s evolution as an adventure company with respect to the grape.  I do not know what exactly it is about wine and wineries but ROAM has a long history of being associated with some of the world’s best varietals.  Perhaps chance or simply an issue of demographics?  Or maybe wine drinkers enjoy the wilderness for similar and often the more subtle reasons why they enjoy wine.  I am not sure what it is but there must be some correlation? 

A wonderful guest and avid fly fisherman, Dan Duckhorn, once said to me “if you want to make millions in the wine industry start with a billion.”  He speaks from experience as Dan and Margaret Duckhorn co-founded  Duckhorn Vineyards  who are major producers of wine in California.  A year later, Tom Baldacci came to Chilko on a father-son trip shortly after establishing Baldacci Family Vineyards in the Stag Leap District of Northern California.  Originally a real estate investment, something about the land unlocked Tom’s imagination. 

Working for George and Martha Butterfield in 2000, I learned more about wine in one year than I had learned in my cumulative lifetime.  They are partners in not one, but two different Premiere Cru vineyards in France.  Unknowingly, I once betrayed the Butterfield’s during lunch at a famous New York eatery.  Dining with Tom Matthews of Wine Spectator, I inadvertently agreed with his assertion of a certain bordeaux being tastier than a burgundy we were trying, not realizing it was one of George’s.  Martha quickly defended her husband’s honour by saying “Brian’s palate prefers bulls blood” which was, to be fair, an accurate description.  At that juncture of my life, I was more akin to purchasing wine based on price thus making “on sale” my favourite grape.

As my palate has matured (yes, only my palate has matured), I was lucky to make the acquaintance of Robert Wolfe.  A former wine critic and writer, Bob started a cool organization called the Oregon Pinot Noir Club.  I worked a river trip with Bob when he was sommelier on a fancy-pants Y.P.O. trip down the Colorado.  For those unfamiliar with Y.P.O., its an acronym for Young President’s Organization and is where super successful rich people hangout and travel together.  To join you need a minimum net worth that slightly exceeds my guiding salary. 

After some successful wine trips in California, Oregon and even Idaho, the program moved north and had a variety of interesting guest hosts.  For a number of years we focused on BC wines with local expert, Jon Langilles, from BC Wine Guys who has an extensive knowledge of the great local BC vintners and a cellar to match.  Other trips had vintners, Deb and Dana, from Cantinian Wines in Mendoza covering a variety of Argentine wines and last year the theme was Chilean to be reflective of the great Futaleufu River trips in Patagonia.

For 2014, we have Matt Brewster featuring Spanish and Portuguese wines.  Matt spent many years in the wine importing and sales industry and has personally tasted more than 30,000 wines (a lofty achievement I hope to match one day).  The event will be on the Chilko River June 21st and features two nights at Bear Camp followed by a 6-day river adventure and the longest day of the year for drinking vino around the campfire!

 The Wine on The River Trip is always a joyous event and Mr. Brewster’s notoriously heavy pours will certainly keep things flowing.  If that is not enough evidence that wine and adventure are a perfect pairing, believe Homer as he wrote:
“It is the wine that leads me on,
the wild wine
that sets the wisest man to sing
at the top of his lungs,
laugh like a fool – it drives the
man to dancing… it even
tempts him to blurt out stories
better never told.”

Killing Bears and Tourism with One Shot

The world is going crazy for bears these days.  And for good reason as these kings of the forest are fascinating and magnificent beasts.  The government of Alaska recently announced they are accepting applications for the lottery to visit Katmai National Park or McNeill River State Game Sanctuary.  These are two renowned sites for excellent viewing of brown bears in the wild.  If you have never been there, it is an amazing place and you should add it to your bucket list.

Alaska has brilliantly fostered the bear viewing opportunities they have and now the demand to see these animals in the wild is so high they have to run a lottery almost 6 months in advance.  A total of 185 guided viewing access permits are available for the prime viewing spot at McNeill River and another 55 standby viewing permits are given out allowing participants to stay in a nearby campground where the bears also assemble.

This news was covered in the front page of local and US newspapers and is something wildlife enthusiasts in the USA get excited about.  Applicants pay a $25 per person non-refundable application fee to enter the lottery.  If selected, non-residents pay $350 just for a permit to watch the bears.  Wow!  Alaska really has their act together and have cultivated a fair and thorough process for bear viewing.
Recently ROAM Adventures invested more than $700,000 to open our own deluxe bear viewing camp at the juncture of Chilko Lake and Chilko River.  This area has about the same number of bears (70-100) as McNeill River and we take 12 guests per trip to watch the bears feed on 2 million sockeye salmon spawning right in front of the property.

(Bear Camp – ROAM Adventures – safari style camp with a Canadian twist)

There are other lodges, like Tweedsmuir in Bella Coola and the Huston family who have invested millions in private guest ranches and rely on large quantities of bears to draw tourists.  So recently, to encourage and foster such investment, our forward-thinking British Columbia government has decided to completely eliminate the BC Ferry service to get to Bella Coola (all but giving a tourism death sentence to that area) and wants to re-open grizzly hunting in our valley.

Thanks a lot you wizards of foresight! 
The rest of the world is conserving and worshiping their bears and our province 
wants to shoot them. 

I have no quarrel against subsistence hunting by first nations or locals but I am morally opposed to trophy hunting of keynote species like grizzly, cougars and wolves.  I understand the hunter-gatherer ethos but it is not the 1800’s anymore and I truly cannot wrap my mind around the joy of whacking a bear with a gun from 300 feet, especially when accompanied by a guide like me who finds them.

Its an interesting paradox as I do not recall the BC government filling the airwaves during the Winter Olympics with images of hunters holding up wolf heads of their recent kills.

Sure some folks at Whistler did destroy more than 100 unwanted Huskies once the games were over but I did not think this behaviour was being adopted as new ground breaking economic policy?

Moral issues aside, and looking strictly from a practical and business perspective, it does not take a deep-thinker to realize the sustainable ripple effect of tourists on an economy compared to the economics of hunters.  Simply put, a few RV’s and hunters on quads ripping around the backwoods in “camo” does not create the same employment and tax base for the province as sustainable high-yield tourists who arrive by plane, consume local goods and fill the coffers of more than just a few lodges.

  C’mon British Columbia, we can do better than this. 
Lets follow Alaska’s lead and develop this segment of tourism.

The bear viewing season has extended the traditional tourism operating season and the Chilcotin is world class in this category.  Our bear viewing opportunities rival all of the national parks in Alaska and are much easier to get to and have better weather.  The reality is that the bears coming to the Chilko River travel from the surrounding area, which includes the Klinaklini, and even as far as Bute Inlet.  In my opinion, it would be bordering on insanity to re-open grizzly hunting in this area as it would be sending the wrong message to investors and tourists alike.

Hunting, in my opinion and especially given all the negative press about guns in the US and Europe, is not an area of growth.  It is at only an area of controversy.

As I stated earlier, I have no issue with subsistence hunting for traditional purposes or feeding your family but trophy hunting is not a winning formula for a region that is finally getting some positive momentum in this bleak but slowly improving economy.

Bear Camp was designed and built by BC residents and local artisans.  It draws guests from around the globe as well as locally and utilizes airlines, suppliers, restaurants, hotels, wranglers, other lodges and local employment.  We also operate river rafting, multisport and lodge-based programs through out the province.  There are great rivers and beautiful mountains throughout BC but the opportunity to see grizzlies in the wild sets the Chilcotin apart.

If you agree with my sentiment that grizzly bear viewing is a better strategy than re-opening the grizzly hunt then please take a moment and write our government, get outraged, send this to your friends and please support any efforts to stop the BC government from re-opening the bear hunt.

 Many of us rely on the bears for more than just a rug.


ROAM is no ugly duckling….or are we?

Recently we became part of a really cool travel network called My Little Swans.  Started by Katrina Garnett as an outflow from requests for information on her personal travel experiences, this is an eclectic collection of top quality, albeit small, travel outfitters who provide personalized travel experiences.  

As part of this process, I was asked to summarize what ROAM was all about and why we were different than the other gazillion internet-based companies out on the world-wide web.  It’s funny to imagine me at a loss for words but I had to pause and ponder.  Below is an excerpt of what I said…

ROAM is a small boutique adventure company that I started back in the late 80’s.  Everyone else was going clubbing to cheesy 80’s music and I was planning remote expeditions to all corners of the earth to get my kicks.  Some things will never change but our trips have become significantly more service-oriented since I started.  We have however maintained our small group size and personalized attention.  I also think we bring sensibility and accountability to the equation without stifling the adventure.

Sadly (because I am a better guide than marketer) we are not a household name for adventure but we have operated trips for Butterfield & Robinson, Mountain Travel Sobek, Off the Beaten Path Adventures, OARS, Natural Habitat, Nimmo Bay Resort and a number of other large companies over the years.  Now that we are long-established, more than 70% of our clients have traveled 3 times or more while another 20% have traveled with us more than 10 times!  Half of our business comes from custom trips and organizing family vacations that no one will forget. (see, happy family to the right)

Although we started out offering outrageous expeditions we have always prided ourselves on amazing culinary experiences, eclectic wine selections and great service-oriented guide staff.  I always tell people that I was never famous, good looking or rich so I had to rely on amazing food, great gear and friendly demeanor.  Some might argue that over the years, friendly demeanor has morphed into blatant sarcasm, but we still have amazing food and gear! 

Oddly, the fastest growing segment of our trips are lodge-based adventures or what we often refer to as “multisports”.  I suppose a multisport can be camping-based (and lord knows we have tried to sell them) but most people prefer “adventure by day and luxury by night”.  The luxurious components of our trips does not take away or diminish the quality of the daily adventures.  These are authentic experiences ranging from swimming with sea lions, to watching grizzlies teach their young, to rappelling down waterfalls to access exciting stretches of whitewater.  We just have remote adventure lodges exclusively for our guests’ use 🙂

The Lodge at Chilko for example, is a 10-million dollar private guest ranch built completely off-the-grid at the north end of Tyslos Park.  A little known gem, just an hour flight from Vancouver BC, the park includes the 55-mile long Chilko Lake which is surrounded by 10,000 foot peaks and no roads or infrastructure.  Our main lodge is where we dine and most of the socializing occurs but guests are outfitted in decadent 1 or 2 bedroom chalets with vaulted ceilings, stunning views and most importantly, privacy.  From here we raft, kayak, wildlife view, bike, hike, heli hike, fish (both spin and world-class fly fishing) as well as horseback ride, ATV and boat on the main lake.  The Lodge can sleep a group of 28 but we only take 12 guests at a time so you can pick and choose your own itinerary.   I think you can get the picture…

Anyways, we have a nice website (albeit a bit utilitarian) and I always speak to people directly about any of our trips.  People often ask me what my favourite trip is and I have a stock answer stating whatever one I am on.  However, for My Little Swans they were not taking “no” or any diversion for an answer.  Subsequently, my top three suggestions are as follows:

The Lodge at Chilko Multisport as it appeals to all ages and abilities.  Our Patagonia Multisport for similar reasons then add Argentine wines and beef, and if they want a mind-blowing Alaska trip (Alaska is a crowd favorite for Americans) try the Tatshenshini River Expedition through the world’s largest protected wilderness.  It’s camping-based and rugged but we have done multi-generational trips-of-a-lifetime there.  Dining while glaciers calve into the river and enjoying scotch with 10,000 year old ice is pretty decadent no matter where you have traveled.

Being Chuck

Over the last 2 years a very strange phenomenon has been occurring.  It’s not something totally foreign to me as it was pointed by my grandmother 20 years ago, however, it has resurfaced with a vengeance.  It’s not something I embraced initially but I have begun to understand it better over time.

Apparently I look like Chuck Norris…

I couldn’t be lucky enough to look like Brad Pitt or George Clooney.  No, instead it’s the martial arts movie man also known as Walker, Texas Ranger.  I would have been OK with it if it stopped at a cameo fight appearance in “Return of the Dragon” or B-grade cult classic “Delta Force” but really…Texas Ranger? 

Don’t even get me started about “Lone Wolf McQuade”

As stated earlier, almost 2 decades ago I was visiting my grandmother donning a beard (me, not my grandmother) when she told me to shave as I looked like that “hoodlum” Chuck Norris.  The reference didn’t sink in nor did I really see the resemblance at that time but I was impressed grandma even knew who Chuck was.  I once was accused of looking like the Honeycomb Kid (on the cereal box) but Chuck is a lot shorter and a frankly older than yours truly.

In 2009, it reared its ugly head again – in a diner in Kamloops, British Columbia.  Predominantly a mill town, the diner was a place where it was plausible the patrons owned Chuck Norris VHS box sets.  Our waitress told me her co-workers thought I looked like Chuck Norris.  Without hesitation, and for those who know me you will not be surprised, I told her I was Chuck Norris.  She fist pumped and enthusiastically shouted “I knew it”.  After signing a menu for the diner wall, we enjoyed our complimentary meal and left the restaurant with a good chuckle. 

Perhaps knowing that you look like Chuck Norris leads one to carry his subconscious persona?  Nah just kidding… but the recognition did start to escalate soon after as Ashley and I made our way to Africa to run the Zambezi and climb Kilimanjaro.  In our first airport, a few security people joked that I looked like Chuck and we moved through unencumbered.  It wasn’t until  Victoria Falls trying to catch a charter flight to Hwange National Park that dividends stared to flow.  We had recovered the lost bags of another guest and were trying to get the overweight load through a backlog at the check-in desk. 

I was told that one bag was allowed and there were no exceptions.  I tried to explain the additional bags belonged to a 70-year old woman but was not making headway.  This is when “Being Chuck” became very helpful.  One of the intervening supervisors was convinced I had traveled with them before.  I assured him that I had not but was scouting the region for future business.  He was persistent and asked me why I looked so familiar?  Seizing the opportunity, I told him I was Chuck Norris, Texas Ranger and reached across the counter with a firm handshake.

He was so pleased to have a Chuck flying with his airline that we were escorted past security and straight out on to the tarmac.  The excess bag issues were as far behind us as the rest of the tourists waiting in the massive line up.  Being Chuck certainly had some advantages (although I’d still rather look like George Clooney). 

 Two weeks later on Kilimanjaro, the porters would fight each morning over who would carry my bags.  We also noticed our tent was pitched in prime locations at every camp.  I realized that this could present a problem for our paying guests and tried to get our lead trekking guide, Festo, to break it to them gently that I was not Chuck Norris.  The porters refused to believe him as they had been bragging to other groups of porters and would not retreat.  The word is that Chuck Norris films and shows are the rage these days on buses in Zimbabwe.  Who knew?

Later in early 2010, I was also identified as Chuck when traveling through Argentina.  We became further beneficiaries by not being hassled in markets or late-night on the streets Buenos Aires as well as special treatment in hotels, restaurants and shops.  New arrivals to our Futaleufu trip were skeptical of our claims until they all received 25% off their purchases at a local leather shop. 
In Mendoza, I made a comment to Ashley about a group of men who were ogling her in high heels and shorts as we were headed out for dinner.  Much to both of our surprise, they yelled “Hey Chuck” and were all very pleased when I waved in acknowledgment (Ashley also wishes I looked like George Clooney or Brad Pitt!).  That aside,  the ultimate success in this phenomenon was when I missed a connection in Buenos Aires recently.  The nice folks at American Airlines rescheduled me on a Miami flight a few hours later but warned me it was oversold and unlikely I would get on.  When asked if I get told I look like Chuck Norris, I said I was Chuck.  Despite having a Canadian passport with my name on it, I was immediately confirmed and upgraded. 

The benefits of Being Chuck are growing everyday.  So much… I feel obligated to purchase a Total Gym in Chuck’s honour.   With no assembly required, easy storage, convenient payment plans and a money back guarantee how could I go wrong?

Canuck Norris

Follow the Leaders

Its mid-October and the North American adventure season wrapped up since the first of the month. Our final trip of the season could not have been better. We were treated to the largest salmon run on the Chilko River in 98 years, fantastic weather and exceptional bear viewings at Chilko Lake. We watched sows and cubs at close range while our Bears & Whales trip the week prior witnessed a super-pod of more than 60 Orcas.

During the trips the guides are often asked what we do in the off season. Simply put, I would say “more of the same”

Ashley is updating photos on our Facebook site but hiking with Eddy and riding daily. Amy and Niels are surfing in Tofino (Amy cracked her head and got six stitches last week) while Niels was editing his Cotahuasi video. I prefer warmer water so I am working out details for an upcoming Ecuador surfing safari and a new Mexico mainland surf trip.

Mark and Penny are walking the dogs and tuning skis for this winter. Jorge is off climbing Kilimanjaro then paddling in Bhutan before heading to Futaleufu. Chef Cristian is eating at Burger King before heading to gym while Liam is driving a fleet of kayaks to the Baja before joining Brian and Ashley in Ecuador. Josslyn is in New York trying to be discovered by music agents while Chef Nicole is busy catching up with her crazy Frenchman, Jonathon, and shredding the valley’s single track on mountain bike.

The other reality is paperwork… lots and lots of paperwork. ( I do not know how you guys do it all year!). British Columbia was blessed with a new tax for adventure travel. Its called the HST which has thrown another wrench into doing business in BC. That’s another post altogether so don’t let me get me started…