I stand at the heli-pad like a kid on the first day of camp, eyeing the group that arrived by coach out of Banff. Before I can even make introductions, a guide beckons us inside a helicopter that carries us over forested wilderness crisscrossed with logging roads and rivers. The clean, modern lines of the Bobbie Burns Lodge appear below and we set down practically at its doorstep, where we’re ushered inside to pick out gear, eat cookies, and strike up friendships.
Since we’re the first trip of the season, the Canadian Mountain Holidays staff warn they might have to iron out some wrinkles. You would never know it from watching them work. They whirl about with the synchronicity of clockwork. Everyone – guides, chefs, pilot, guest services, bartender, masseuse – fill in wherever needed and go out of their way to ensure our comfort.
Thanks to their exacting care, life at the Bobbie Burns lodge operates on a schedule that is regimented down to the minute yet never feels rushed.
The ting of a little bell gives the heads up for the optional stretch class held in the gym downstairs at 7:30. If you’re anything like me, by the last morning this just prompts a groan.
The louder breakfast bell clangs and you shuffle bleary-eyed to the dining room where a full buffet is laid out. When you’re done, there’s another table covered with sandwiches and snacks where you pack your sack lunch. Then you check your group number for the day and head to the drying room to outfit yourself in the provided boots, packs, and rain gear.
The first group heads out via helicopter. You begin the boarding process by crouching in a “heli-huddle” beneath the dipping rotor’s range. The incoming copter stirs a mixture of awe and suspicion. The wall of wind strikes suddenly and does its darndest to steal your breath, bowl you over, and hurl grit in your face. Its violence is exhilarating.
The guide darts forward to open the door and load up packs. The largest helicopter can accommodate 15 people, including the pilot. After a brief flight over terrain that would take days to navigate on foot, the helicopter deposits you at a pristine “trailhead” with no sign of civilization in sight. Hiking destinations are determined by weather, physical ability, and personal preferences, but you can rest assured it’s going to be awesome.
For the next 6-8 hours, said awesomeness happens (check out the next section!).
When it’s all over, the guide radios in the helicopter for a pick-up. It’s here where you really appreciate the magic of heli-hiking. There’s no backtracking or bumpy drive home, instead you are whisked directly back to the lodge where alcohol (at extra expenditure), full cookie jars, and trays of warm snacks await.
The clamor of the bell signals dinner. Salads and bread are already set out at each place and the table hosts elegantly plate your entree, to be followed by a dessert made with fruit from the patissiere’s parents’ garden.
The rest of the evening is yours to enjoy!
The kids amuse themselves on the basketball court, in the pond, and with the lodge’s various games. Manager Erin’s husky-wolf, Poppy, basks in everyone’s attention.
Or, like us, you may choose to fill it with conversation while lounging on the porch and soaking in the mountain views, surrounded by hummingbirds and swallows.
With up to 40 well-traveled people of all ages from all parts of the world, fascinating stories fly back and forth, fanning the flames of wanderlust and warming you with their wit and humanity.
In a short time, you’ll hopefully grow to love your group as much as I did. When Mary speaks of her husband Bruce, she blushes and giggles and visibly overflows with love, a living Match.com success story. Two enthusiastic travel writers (color me green with envy), Kate and Kristin, act like old friends though they only just met. Pete’s streak of childlike mischief keeps everyone on their toes, whether he’s throwing snowballs on the mountain or theatrically stalking Kristin in an attempt to steal her field journal. I have to cut myself off before I list the whole roster!
You look up at our galaxy’s eponymous milky splatter across the sky before slipping between your bed’s clean white sheets, resting up for the excitement the next day will surely hold.
- The Bobbie Burns Lodge
More information from the CMH website.