The World’s Best River trip remains in the shadows…

This is a great title for this entry since the Klinaklini River cuts through the heart of the Coast Mountain ranges and wraps itself around BC’s highest mountain – Mt. Waddington. Measured at more than 13,000 feet, the vertical relief from sea level to peak is extremely dramatic. Since ROAM completed a first descent of the river in 1997 and a year later pioneering commercial expeditions, the Klinaklini River remains very much in the shadows.

It could be argued that the price tag of such an adventure, $6495 US per person, makes it cost prohibitive for most but when you factor in the outlay of time and money to get to trips like the Firth, Alsek or Tatshenshini, the Klinaklini is right on par and offers incredible value. The river has better whitewater than the rivers mentioned above, equally spectacular scenery and even includes a day of heli-hiking in a location second to none. The weather is definitely more hospitable than Alaska and it is easily accessible out of Vancouver, British Columbia saving at least 2 travel days.

In nutshell, the Klinaklini has it all – big rapids (that can be walked if need be), high grizzly bear populations, moose that watch you (unaffected by our presence) from the shoreline, packs of wolves, glaciers that come straight down to the river’s edge, exciting float plane rides in and out of the river valley, a night at a remote wilderness lodge (Chilko Lake), heli-hiking on a wildflower covered plateau, campsites surrounded by waterfalls and glaciers, and last but most perplexing… no crowds. Less than 200 people have traveled down the river and we still cannot explain why?

“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-heli-venture-waterfall

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!

 

kk8

 

Thanksgiving and Iconic America

There is nothing more American than Thanksgiving weekend.  In Canada, it happens on the second week of October while the USA is much later.  In either case, and after three decades in the travel industry, it has become apparent to me that this holiday weekend is a focal point for trip planning with friends and family.  And for good reason – the weather has started to turn, days are shorter and it’s a rare opportunity to have a quorum of family members available in person to cast a vote for the next exotic destination.  With more than 45 million Americans flying this weekend, it’s also a time when families are truly connected face-to-face (rather than the a Verizon telecommunications alternative that suggests a family connects through phone and text packages).

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday because there are no religious overtones or gifts involved so one can simply enjoy a long weekend to chill out with family and friends.  And my American neighbours have much to be thankful for in November.  An extra down to get 10 yards in football (we Canadians only need three),  Black Friday for discount electronics (everyday in November day is dark in Canada at these latitudes) and most importantly, the launch of Christmas season shopping and carol soundtracks (two out of three ain’t bad).

OK, all kidding aside if you want to talk “Americana” beyond apple pie and football, what could be more American than a compelling, dramatic and gripping story about the Grand Canyon?  This natural wonder of the world is certainly one of most amazing spectacles on earth and when combined with the dam that blockades it, truly represents the complex psyche of “America” like no other.

With this in mind, I suggest you take some time among the Thanksgiving family mayhem to find a comfortable chair and curl up with the newest adventure book called “The Emerald Mile“.

Written by Kevin Fedarko, a former senior editor at Outside Magazine, it is already being heralded as the greatest adventure story ever written and I couldn’t agree more – even surpassing my former favourite, “Touching the Void” by Joe Simpson.   Kevin’s book is also a true story but blends a brilliant mix of history, introspect and drama into a tapestry of adventure that will not allow you to put it down (except maybe for pumpkin pie).  The main story is about the fastest ride in history through the heart of the Grand Canyon during an El Nino flood period at the brink of a near collapse of the Glen Canyon dam in Arizona.

What’s even more exciting is that Kevin is going to be hosting our “Reading the River” series this coming July 19th on the Chilko River.  An eight-day adventure of its own grandeur, the Chilko will make for wonderful campfire readings of the Emerald Mile by the author himself.  How cool is that?   


 The Chilko River could not be more different than the Grand Canyon on so many levels but does boast the longest stretch of commercially navigable whitewater in North America.  It’s free flowing, non-stop Lava Canyon stretch is more akin to what these three crazy river guides pulled off in 1983 during the Colorado’s flooding outlined in The Emerald Mile.

Like the book, every aspect of a Chilko River expedition builds in excitement.  The flight to Chilko is spectacular and makes one realize that we are miniscule in the grand scale of things.  The river is still pristine and you can drink from it without filtration or need to purify.  The “yin” and “yang” of the expedition will overwhelm your senses as we go from relative tranquility to absolute madness in the raging whitewater and back again.

The Chilko River’s energy has yet to be harnessed or impeded by man-made structures like Glen Canyon dam.  The vastness of the British Columbia wilderness is one of the few things that can dwarf the Colorado Plateau and at the end of the trip we drift silently on the mighty Fraser River which is on average 10 times the volume of the modern day Colorado River.

Here’s to hoping that turquoise river, superfluous whitewater, northern lights and surreal sunsets in Chilcotin country will inspire Mr. Fedarko to write another book…   Even if his next book is half as good as The Emerald Mile, we will be waiting anxiously.

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?

Cheers,
Canuck Norris