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“They were pretty excited. Really stoked.”
Thom, too, was stoked, albeit for different reasons. With the series ready to debut next week (Wednesday, March 28 on Knowledge) his optimism is reaching a fever pitch.
“It was absolutely incredible. It was an amazing, amazing opportunity. Publicity wise, I have a feeling it will do wonders for my artwork. It was fascinating; I got to do things I’d always wanted to do.”
One of those things was repelling deep inside the earth. For more than 14 hours Thom, the film crew and the participants found themselves deep inside Horne Lake.
“Horne Lake caves are mind blowing. In this one chamber, Achilles Pot, there’s this 90-foot stalactite crystal coming down to this bluey-green crystal clear little pond, and there’s bubbly calcite flowstone all over the walls — sparkling.”
He also got to don a cowboy hat, six-shooters and ride into the Rockies, fulfilling a childhood dream that left a grin etched on his face through the entire shoot. It also got him to forget an unfortunate equine incident as a kid.
“Horses can always tell if you’re afraid. They look at you a little shifty,” he explains, indicating that horseback riding probably still comes a distinct second to mountain biking.
Wild at Heart’s mountain biking adventure on Babine Mountain proved the series’ most challenging episode for Thom. It was a far cry from the show’s comparitively gentle Myra Canyon ride that showcases the trestle bridges replaced after 2003’s devastating forest fires.
“I did a 18-km uphill ride with a 35-pound pack on my back. It was exhausting. As the host and guide I had a lot of responsibilities… there’s a lot of metaphorical weight as well,” says Thom.
The real payoff for the host was sharing in the triumphs of the show's participants, who ranged from couples trying to revitalize their relationships and families trying to escape their sedentary ruts to breast cancer survivors reclaiming their lives. Seeing people push themselves and succeed was incredibly empowering for the longtime guide.
“That was one of the reasons when I started guiding that I really enjoyed it. You can live vicariously through these people and their first experiences.
“The first time you see a whale when you’re kayaking is incredible. You just see the little child in them.”