The Finest of Holidays
While some of our sane friends are visiting Italy this summer, eating pasta and knocking back wine, my husband and I are excited about an equally exotic trip. Our journey begins with a 20-minute floatplane ride that drops us into the heart of British Columbia's North Coast Mountains - a place of abundant water and huge glaciated peaks. We land on Upper Burnie Lake and trek 3 kilometres through lush coastal forest, suddenly breaking into the open alpine where the mist appears to be holding up the mountain peaks. We have our first glimpse of the Burnie Glacier Chalet, our home for the next 6 days.
Every summer an interesting cast of character are summoned at the last minute to partake in what we lovingly refer to as "Christoph's all expense paid boot camp." This year we range in age from 4 1/2 to 65 and all come with a set of useful skills. Carpenter, cook, sawyer, labourer, organizer, teens, and tot make up this year's group of nine.
In 2001, Christoph Deitzfelbinger, ACMG mountain guide, built the Burnie Chalet at the toe of Burnie Glacier, SW of Smithers, British Columbia, in order to host and introduce backcountry skiers to the unparalleled terrain. After 14 years the chalet is verging on luxurious. Comfy beds, duvets, running water, showers, sauna and gourmet food make this place so comfortable you hardly notice the trip to the outhouse. What you do notice on your walk to the outhouse is towering Mount Polemic, tumbling icefalls, fresh air and quiet.
Up at 7 am, we cozy up to the wood cook stove for a steaming cup of coffee and hot breakfast while Christoph assigns tasks for the day. Most of us will hack, cut, grub and snip our way up the trail beside the glacier...except for Joe, the carpenter, who will be laying a new floor in the downstairs bedrooms. Adrianne, the cook, will keep us so very happy making sure we get enough scrumptious calories every day. Homemade pies, wild salmon, pasta, fresh salads, hearty soups, appies, dips and yummy sauces. Mushtaq, Adrianne's 4 1/2 year old son will happily play around the chalet all day. Irene, Christoph's wife can swing a grub hoe like superwoman but seems powerless when trying to convince their 15-year old daughter Teslin to work on the trails. "I hate hiking and skiing," Teslin impishly declares daily, even though she can likely out hike and ski most 15 year olds. She will be happy to paint and stain all day. Wyatt, Teslin's boyfriend wisely does whatever Christoph asks him to do. He's young and strong and hungry most of the time. My job is to clear debris, move rocks, snip brush and carry supplies. Brian, my husband and oldest crew member, is happiest with a chain saw or grub hoe in his hand all day. He's been building trails most of his life and introduced me to trailbuilding 25 years ago. I get it. There's nothing else in the world we would rather be doing.
We literally stumble home by 5 pm every day, exhausted but happy. Nap and sauna time, then appies and wine, dinner at 7 - this gives me time to wonder why this holiday is so satisfying. I know I feel happiest when I am being creative, my body feels better when it moves and appreciates good food, my whole being is touched when I am out in nature, and it feels good to make something that enables others to walk these sacred mountains. Seems like trailbuilding could be the finest of holidays. Holy Days indeed.
And like our friends in Italy, we too ate pasta, knocked back wine and took in amazing sites. And when I get to Italy someday, I will remember to add the right ingredients to make it the finest of holidays.
To enjoy a summer holiday on these beautiful trails go to www.bearmountaineering.ca