“Don’t pull this plug while in the aircraft,” cautions the floatplane pilot as he places an inflatable lifejacket around my neck and squeezes me into my seat while giving the safety talk.
Cue the anxiety attack. A little plane—both me and the aircraft more than 50 years old—and a tight rubber ring around my neck with a warning label staring me in the face.
In life, we wrestle with ourselves. Our mind tosses a spin-cycle of worries and iceberg-sized obstacles. Sometimes it comes from what we hear at the water cooler, or maybe triggered by the details of our regular routine. Whatever it was, I needed to stop my mind’s running-race.
I was feeling the need to walk into the wild and let nature’s breeze brush the negative energy away. We all need that spontaneous exit that refreshes. Though this one was going to be a bit rougher, wilder and more alone-ish.
My destination was a region known for cowboys, loners and adventurists. Fenced in by the Coast Mountains of British Columbia to the west and the dotted lake country to the east, it’s called the Cariboo Chilcotin. Beauty here is hard to imagine, nothing can compare to the countless big rocky spires, dressed in their glacier best.
When you travel there, at every stop your wings get smaller and your heart-rate picks up a good beat more each time they do. At every airport you change from wide, to smaller, to the tiniest-body planes. Finally, you land and look around for a terminal—a simple log cabin welcomes you to a wilder place.
Nimpo Lake is known as the floatplane capital of British Columbia—home of the legendary De Havilland Beaver, the classic workhorse of the North. A country-style welcome awaits at Stewart’s Lodge, where one can enjoy a hearty meal or stay the night in one of their log cabins.
In-transit to my final destination via Tweedsmuir Air Service, I hop on my next flight—no boarding pass needed for this 1950s hot rod. I am tucked in tighter than a carnival ride, sitting almost in the pilot’s lap—a guy who looks almost Tom Cruise-esque, albeit older, with a russet-brown tan and that look of “I got this, don’t worry about a thing.”
The floatplane accelerates. As we lift, one edge of one float pounds the water; after a quick angle adjust, the wings are aloft, guided by the direction of the sun. My anxiety falls away with each water droplet clinging to the metal clad pontoon. We’re treetop-high at first, climbing slowly, getting higher over hills and then big peaks with white blankets unfolding all around.
From the air, Nuk-Tessli comes into view. It’s a cluster of weathered hand-built log cabins clung tightly to a boulder-strewn point on a high mountain lake. This is a place where your nearest neighbour is over 60 kilometres away, with a multitude of lakes to explore and peaks beckoning.
The owner and his son—one a mountain guide the other an engineer—along with their band of merry staff, make this utopia. Guide Doron Erel, known for his hard-core Seven Summits feats, is filled with kindness; a beacon of inspiration who lifts any weary traveller to a higher place.
This is a place to let the good forces of nature take over. My challenge for the day is simply choosing where to relax—from a hammock, a wood-fired hot tub, lodge deck or the boat dock. Now this was what was needed—to open up to the wisdom of these good people and this healing place. Let that orange ball roll, streaking across a sky of deep navy-blue.
Surrounding us is a cast of peaks. Pick a route to a summit or enjoy paddling bliss on one of the many lakes. Take a walk to an alpine shrine, blanketed with an array of wildflowers, or nose dive into the clearest, coolest pond.
My adventurous appetite is filled. I’m ready to take more inspired steps.
If You Go
The nearest airport, Anahim Lake, British Columbia, is served by Pacific Coastal Airlines. Visit nuktessli.com to coordinate the floatplane to Nuk Tessli; connect in advance with Stewart’s Lodge for airport pickup in transit.
For more information about the Cariboo Chilcotin Region of British Columbia visit landwithoutlimits.com.
More Alpine Lodges
Tesla Lake Lodge can’t get more remote (pictured above). Burns Lake, BC, is your jumping-off point into the wilds of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park.
Boulder Hut is a rustic cabin full of history, hiking and winter powder located high in the Purcell Mountains near Kimberley, BC.
Dave Henry Lodge, where a pioneering family has built a lodge near the edge of Mount Robson Provincial Park, is waiting for you to hike or get waist-deep turns in winter.
Assiniboine Lodge, located in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, harbours classic cabins, and rocky spires dot your view. Summits abound, or spend your day rambling through alpine meadows.