After travelling to over 100 countries, Robin Esrock set out to tick off The Great Canadian Bucket List for his first book. A smash bestseller of the same name, he recently expanded his bucket list with regional editions. Here are some of his highlights from British Columbia:
When a helicopter becomes your own personal ski chair, dropping you on top of mountains with deep, virgin powder stretching in every direction, it's hard to go back to Seventh Heaven. CMH Heli Skiing's 11 lodges, operating in the Columbia Mountains, attract clients from around the world. Joining a group of Americans, Brits and Australians, I quickly understood why. We averaged about 12 runs a day through terrain that froze grins on our faces. It takes a while to get the hang of such deep powder, and strong winds and avalanches can ground both helicopters and skiers. That's why CMH recommend booking at least three to five days to tick this one off the Bucket List. Admittedly a whirlybird ski-chair is not cheap, but with a guaranteed amount of untracked vertical metres, the exhilaration is unforgettable.
Sailing in Haida Gwaii
Only 2,000 visitors are allowed each year into the 1,470-square-kilometre Gwaii Haanas National Park, accessed by floatplane or boat. I boarded Bluewater Adventure's Island Roamer for a week of sailing, visiting the five Haida National Heritage village sites, exploring islands with giant forests of western red cedar, Sitka spruce and hemlock. Humpback whales spray mist on the horizon, bald eagles soar overhead, the nation's largest black bears feast on salmon. This is B.C.'s untamed West Coast, uniquely protected from the seabed to the mountain peaks, and guarded by a proud nation. SGang Gwaay on Anthony Island, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with faded, carved mortuary poles facing the sea breeze. It reminded me of Machu Pichu, or Petra, or Stonehenge — places on Earth that lure us with history, beauty, mystery, and undeniable significance.
Float down the Penticton River Channel
Personally, I'm a huge fan of kicking back on a hot summer day. Especially when I can do so on a giant rubber tube, and let a river carry me along its current for a couple hours, enjoying some "beverages" floating in a cooler alongside me. It's free to float down this seven-kilometre channel. All you need is a floatation device, but if you don't have one, you can rent a tube at the launch site. It's a three-to-four hour ride, depending on the strength of the current, with a halfway point if you've had enough. Once you reach the end, hop on the shuttle service to return to your car. It's a quirky way to spend the afternoon on the water, exerting the least amount of effort possible.
Snorkel with Salmon
Is there a creature more connected with the B.C. coast than the humble salmon? Smoked, dried, and cured for centuries, grilled, poached and rolled in seaweed today. Just outside of Campbell River, Destiny River Adventures offers an unusual snorkelling with salmon excursion. It takes place along a stretch of river regulated by a hydroelectric dam, making it particularly calm and easy to float downstream. Once in the water, I see a wall of shimmering rock. Only the wall is salmon, and the shimmering is the sun reflecting off their skin. There are thousands of kings, pinks and coho in every direction. The current gently carries me forward, and now I'm part of the school, gliding in the opposite direction, like a dumpster truck reversing down a gridlocked highway.
West Coast Trail
The seventy-seven-kilometre-long coastal odyssey known as the West Coast Trail is puberty for B.C.'s hikers. It's something we all have to go through, challenging as hell, but we'll fall in love with the world a dozen times along the way, and walk tall and proud when its over. There's few trails anywhere that offer such extreme challenges and rewards, the technical mayhem of ladders and tides with the wonders of bristling tidal pools and icy waterfalls. This is not an adventure you choose on a whim, or one to consider lightly. For starters, hikers come from all over the world, space is limited, and Parks Canada allows just 52 hikers in each day (split at each trailhead). Fifteen centimetres of rain can fall in 24 hours, civilization is sparse, and the only animals you might encounter are bears, wolves and cougars.
Wining in the Okanagan
Visiting over the years, I'm always surprised just how beautiful this part of the world is. I'm on an electric-assist bike scooting alongside vineyards, the wind in my hair. It's a honeymoon of sorts, but since my wife and I cannot afford jet-setting to Tuscany, we drove four hours from Vancouver into the B.C. Interior for our very own Canadian wine adventure. Certainly, there is nothing in Tuscany that remotely resembles the sparkling 135-kilometre Lake Okanagan. Wine in the Okanagan's Lake County more accurately resembles those produced along the Rhine in Germany. Yet, like all great wine regions, the caramel-coloured countryside here has the fragrance of a farmer's market. Fine wine is a taste to be acquired, and the Okanagan provides ample opportunity to do so.
The Great Canadian Bucket List and Great Western Canadian Bucket List are available at local booksellers. Visit Robin's companion website — canadianbucketlist.com for more experiences.