The magic of this country never ceases to astound me. On my tenth trip in the past decade I discovered things I never knew about this magical place, and I’m so glad I have the opportunity to share them with you.
Kim Syrus and I started this particular journey 7,700ft (2,347m) up in the magnificent Columbia mountains that include the world-famous Rocky Mountains, home to some of the world’s most pristine and revered landscapes.
Bobbie Burns Lodge
Our first destination for this journey through Canada was Bobbie Burns Lodge and the only way in is by helicopter. This involves the chopper working its way up into and through the mountains in one of those experiences you will always remember. Initially it’s a feeling of apprehension that swells through your mind and body, but as the chopper lifts above the landscape and you take in the enormous panorama, this apprehension quickly evolves into awe. If you’ve never flown in a helicopter before, I can assure you it’s a truly exhilarating experience, made even more special by the stunningly rugged landscape not that far below us.
Bobbie Burns is stunning, a classic in my mind anyway. The stereotypical mountainside log timber lodge boasts exceptionally comfortable rooms and a massive common room designed to allow guests the chance to wind down and share stories of their day’s adventures whilst sipping a fine wine in a huge comfy chair by a log fire. Sounds awful, doesn’t it?
The lodge itself is the launching platform for heli-hiking experiences further up into the mountain itself. The higher levels of the area allow for access to spectacular landscapes unlike most other places on the planet. The stunning glaciers, rugged mountain climbs and incredible valleys alive with alpine flowering plants such as edelweiss, heather and anemones make every step remarkable and precious. Of course there’s wildlife too; bears, squirrels, deer and moose can all be found here as part of your adventure experience.
Kicking Horse Mountain
I could have stayed there forever, it’s truly beautiful, exciting and relaxing all at once. However, as TV production filming goes, we squeeze a week’s activities into a few days then are off to another mountain location a few hours from Bobbie Burns, a place known as Kicking Horse Mountain. At the base of this place not far from the stunning Rocky Mountain town of Golden you will find an amazing lodge. Here, you have access to the mountain in summer for different reasons than winter – not skiing, but mountain biking, hiking and eating. The spectacular views over the Rocky Mountains are simply breathtaking, but there’s a lot to do here so no time to sit back and relax!
If you’re into mountain biking, the ride from the top of the mountain at 8,000ft (2,438m) must be adrenaline pumping exhilaration – it was to watch. To ride it? That would be another level of excitement I’m not sure how you’d describe.
The mountain is home to a grizzly bear refuge where an orphaned bear cub has lived free ranging since he was saved when his mother was shot by hunters. Boo is a beautiful, huge grizzly bear and the ability to get up and close with such a handsome beast is rare, as they remain the top level predator of the forests here. The retreat is very much about studying the bears and understanding them better. Already there’s been so much learnt; whilst Boo was never taught about plants and there are hundreds of species on the refuge, he knows which ones to eat and which ones not to eat. He knows that some you eat the roots, some the leaves and others the flowers and fruit. How he knows is something the carers cannot explain, but they learn something about him every day.
On top of the mountain there’s a restaurant that you mustn’t miss. You will have to take the gondola all the way to the top to experience one of Canada’s most talked about culinary experiences, the Eagle Eye Restaurant. Perched atop the mountain it overlooks some absolutely amazing scenery. Five different mountain ranges can be seen from this point and their expansive landscapes are something to take in as you enjoy your quality meal.
I cannot recommend this experience highly enough. Whilst Kim and I snacked on elk burgers, the restaurant’s fine food selection is brilliant, so make a day of it and really enjoy what is a unique experience. It’s actually a very popular place for people to marry and they have an outdoor function setting that is simply amazing, making the event one you will never forget for more reasons than one.
South to Alberta
When most people talk about Alberta, they think of ranging plains, undulating prairies with cowboys, cattle and big trucks – and maybe even huge cowboy hats. Well, that’s how Kim and I saw it anyway, so that’s the image we created for our journey south. We crossed from the mountains of British Columbia into Alberta and onto the cowboy trail, a journey through time to a day when this country echoed with the hooves of bison. The roads are amazing big wide strips of bitumen and driving in Canada is simple, even in a giant Dodge RAM 360, which is bigger than the biggest SUV but smaller (only just) than a truck. Alberta is beautiful in summer, in a way that any country-loving person would adore.
Our journey south to the spectacular town of Waterton took five hours. We arrived in the national park that surrounds the town just before sunset, as the sky turned a golden colour tinged with red. The drive into town from the front gate was a slow cruise as we passed moose, deer, enormous bison and, as we arrived on the edge of town, a view of the Prince of Wales Hotel. This is one of the most photographed places on the planet. We also saw a couple of black bear working their way through the hillside and joined many visitors to watch them.
About 80km from Waterton the Rocky Mountains reappear. This is their most southern point, surrounding Waterton and making the town a stunning place to take photos. The next morning we had a trip across the lake planned, but first up I sat and took some shots of the town’s local deer nibbling away at pot plants on the streetside. I am a big fan of nature, but seeing a place where man resides amongst the wildlife harmoniously was a big thrill.
The lake journey is something many tourists do, and the journey sees you cross the border into the USA state of Montana. You need to pull the passport out here and get it stamped before you can head down the tracks that lead you into the wilderness that surrounds.
There’s so much to do in this part of the world and a visit to the canyons surrounding Waterton is well worth the journey. In spring the wildflower display is simply incredible, but summer is the best time to visit because it’s also a chance to stay at the Prince of Wales Hotel. If you can’t stay, at least visit and see this stunning hotel that sits atop a hill, overlooking the township. The high tea is definitely a good reason to head there and when you are inside you cannot help but feel you are transported back to an era long gone. Its position on the exposed hill overlooking the township leaves it open to the howling winds of winter, which meant it had to be specially engineered to stay there with sway cables and a heavily fortified foundation designed to hang on.
The trouble with writing about our travel journeys for Explore TV is that 1,500 words could never do justice to the amazing experiences we enjoy. It seems that it doesn’t matter where you go in Canada, it’s an amazing travel experience; an experience we will (and I am sure you will) remember forever. Isn’t that what great travel is all about?
See our Explore TV clips and read more about these fantastic destinations here.
About the Author – Trevor Cochrane
Trevor is a born-and-bred proud West Australian who grew up on a dairy farm in Mundijong, just outside of Perth, WA. He launched the media company Guru Productions in 2002 that has since produced over 750 episodes of television telecast on Channel 9 nationally and is now seen in over 100 countries across the globe in 14 different languages. In the years since creating The Garden Gurus he has created and produced over 50 hours of international travel shows, food and wine programs, local WA food program Our State on a Plate and the Destination WA travel series. All Guru Productions projects appear on Channel 9 and WIN Television, as well as nationally on the popular digital TV channel 9 Life. Trevor’s passion for gardening has seen him write four books and regular columns for the The Sunday Times and The West Australian Newspaper.