Cushy B.C. retreat provides gourmet food and safari-style tents
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Think of a Somewhere In The Middle Of Nowhere, and Sky Camp, located in the pristine mountain wilds of B.C., is it.
It took developer Dale Douglas, owner of Whistler-based Tyac Air, four years to find this compact slice of heaven, which is snuggled on the shores of Crystal Lake and embraced protectively by the snow-capped Coastal Mountains. He says he selectively hand-logged the land and developed the self-sustaining camp with guest comfort in mind.
There are hot water showers; toilet facilities; a handful of large and comfortable safari-style tents with wood-frame beds; and a main log cabin with a kitchen that is well-equipped and skillfully used to prepare meals far superior to what you’d expect from a wilderness camp.
From Whistler, it’s a 45-minute flight aboard Douglas’ six-seat DeHaviland Beaver float plane. As the plane pulls up to the Sky Camp dock to unload passengers and supplies (everything is flown in and out), we’re met by camp custodian and resident chef Claude Bourbonnière.
If you can’t find Bourbonnière in the kitchen or stoking the wood-burning stove that takes away the early morning chill, you’ll find him guiding guests to his secret fishing spots. Skilled, knowledgeable and all-round “super guides” Ryan Hamm and Brian Jump, who have flown in with our little group, help us unload and get settled in our roomy tents.
Our welcoming meal is home-made gourmet pizza topped with goat cheese, artichoke hearts, black olives and roasted peppers, grilled on the BBQ and served with a green salad.
The camp doesn’t offer alcohol, and while inspirational views alone are intoxicating, a glass of wine with dinner does a civilized touch to “roughing it” in the bush, so it’s BYOB.
One morning, we pack a picnic and set out on the 90-minute trek up to Heavenly Knoll for a bird’s-eye view of camp. Another day, we head for No Moose Falls, a dramatic natural water feature that thunders over a rocky precipice and down into a deep canyon. We stop to partake of a picnic lunch, gorge ourselves on the view and relish the water therapy.
In between daily hikes and meals, outdoor activities such as canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, Frisbee and fly-fishing fill the days. As the stresses of urban life dissipate, the inner kid emerges. Then there’s testosterone.
The combination of the two leads to friendly challenges and competitions that involve things such as push-ups, skipping stones, wood chopping and swimming races in Crystal Lake’s chilly waters.
While my co-campers may have joked about my wearing heeled sandals around camp, they soon learned I was no girly-girl sissy. When Douglas flew in to pick us up on the last day I was still “the man” of push-ups and scissor-kicks.
Following the evening meal — think something equivalent to shrimp and chicken kabobs or grilled salmon — guides help with clean up. Guests pitch in, too, if the mood strikes, but mostly they sit and reflect on the day, play cards or board games, soothe tired muscles in the sauna, or simply head for their tents to crawl in between fresh smelling linens to read or slip into peaceful slumber. I slept like a baby until the stillness woke me. It seemed as though I could hear a pine needle drop. For a downtown Toronto girl who often stirs to the sounds of screaming sirens, the quiet was almost eerie.
The lack of cellphone or BlackBerry service also underscores the ultimate time out. Even political philosopher Thomas Hobbes might agree that here at Sky Camp, the State-of-Nature is the definitive State-of-Calm. For a wilderness camp, it’s mighty cushy, too.
Anne Dimon is a spa and wellness travel writer and founder/editor of www.traveltowellness.com.
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