Tucked away from the mainstream, the Backcountry Lodges of B.C. beckon wanderers off the beaten path.
Words :: Erin Moroz.
Article sponsored by Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia.
If you like to be away, truly away, in the splendour and stillness of the wild where the conveniences of modern life cannot reach you—the Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia (BLBCA) are calling. Nestled into some of the most remote wilderness in the province, the more than 30 lodges of the BLBCA share the stage with carpets of wildflowers, glaciated cirques, meandering trails, steep alpine faces, exposed shoulders and dramatic ice heaves.
There’s a reason over 10,000 backcountry users a year love it out there: there’s nothing quite as rejuvenating and bucket-filling as the combination of nature and physical activity.
Wild places allow us to breathe, organize our thoughts and strengthen bonds with friends and family without the constant bombardment of digital information, to which we have become habituated but not immune. “All there is to concern yourself with at a lodge is the sunset or where the wind is coming from,” says Ernst Bergmann, who has visited the BLBCA lodges more than 40 times in the past 20 years, “You’re dealing only with the necessities of life and your brain turns off all the other noise.”
Waking up at 2,000 metres to the smell of French press coffee and the lilt of early morning chatter in a BLBCA lodge is one of life’s great pleasures, says Paul “Harv” Wright, a guest of the lodges since the mid-1970s. When diagnosed with lymphoma in 2016 and after three years of treatment, the 70-year-old Wright couldn’t wait to get back to the wilderness and the lodges, “Spiritually it’s a wonderful place to be in life. When I’m there I feel rejuvenated and alive.”
While it is possible to hike into some of the lodges in the summer, most are helicopter-access only, adding to the off-the-beaten-path appeal. Once guests arrive at the lodge, all activities are human-powered—there are no mechanized modes of travel to shatter the peace, abiding by the association’s credo of “leaving as small a footprint as possible.” And there is also no shortage of self-propelled summer activities to partake in while staying at B.C.’s backcountry lodges: hiking, mountaineering, yoga retreats, photography, painting, mountain biking, canoeing, stand up paddleboarding, birding, trail running, rock climbing; or shift into glide and disappear into a good book and the hum of nature.
If the idea of being unaccompanied in the wilderness makes you pucker, fear not, many of the lodges require guests to hire guides to access the surrounding terrain. And, the guides only add to the allure of the lodges says Jim “Guido” Giuffre, a 30-plus-year guest. “The wonderful thing about a guide is they take you to places you wouldn’t go on your own. I’ve always felt safe and confident with a guide and we never have to spend a lot of time analyzing where to adventure.”
The BLBCA is a member-directed association of privately-owned lodges in the major mountain ranges of British Columbia. Amongst its lodges, there is a mix of fully-catered and self-catered options. While the self-catered lodges appeal to many experienced backcountry users that prefer to run their own trip, the fully-catered option has a wide appeal and may even be considered “glamping,” says Nicki Valentine of Whistler who visits a different lodge every summer with her girlfriends to hike and share a laugh, “Being in the wilderness but without the pressure of running a trip ourselves takes off a lot of pressure…the dynamics and logistics are simplified.”
Imagine enjoying the “outrageously beautiful” views at the oldest of the lodges, iconic Assiniboine Lodge, or a hut-to-hut hike through the Cariboo Mountains with Wells Gray Adventures or perhaps a canoe trip at isolated Nuk Tessli in the West Chilcotin all without the hassle of organizing the details: packing gear, freeze-drying meals, route planning. The holistic experience at the Backcountry Lodges of B.C. leaves users free to truly immerse themselves in the present with friends and family—details are magnified, time slows as life is distilled to its essential elements.
Add to that, comfortable beds, a steam in a cedarwood sauna, hors d’oeuvres and beverages waiting upon return from the day’s adventure and when sleep comes after fresh air and physical exertion, “it’s a different sleep than in your bed at home,” says Bergmann, rest is deep and comes quickly with a quiet mind and tired body.
When asked what advice he’d give to someone contemplating a trip to one of the Backcountry Lodges of B.C., Bergmann replies, “Prepare yourself to turn off,” to which Guiffre adds, “First and foremost, go, don’t delay, it’s such a phenomenal experience. It’s my most favourite type of trip…some of the best experiences in my lifetime were had at B.C.’s backcountry lodges.”
To learn more about the BLBCA and its lodges hit them up on social media @backcountrylodgesofbc. To book your summer 2022 stay with Backcountry Lodges of B.C. check out backcountrylodgesofbc.com and don’t delay, for obvious reasons they book up quickly. In the meantime, inject a little of the B.C. backcountry into your daily life with the association’s Mountain Escapes podcast.