Hugo raced up the dirt road driving like a mad man in the beat up truck that looked like it was held together with duct tape. Dirt flew as we rounded hairpin turns way faster than I was comfortable with. We screech to a halt at the top of the mountain when we could go no further. And soon I found myself running at full speed, the adrenaline racing through me as I looked ahead and saw the cliff. This was it. Do or die. My feet kept moving but the ground had disappeared I was airborne and my stomach was in knots.
No, this isn’t the beginning to a James Bond movie, it’s the beginning of my paragliding experience in the Adventure capital of the Canadian Rockies, Golden BC.
Golden BC is a little known town nestled in the Canadian Rockies surrounded by peaks and parks. It sort of plays 2nd fiddle to it’s bigger neighbor Bannf in the winter, but in the summer – it’s king. If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, or simply some great outdoor experiences, or a new place to expend your summer adventure fever – Golden has it all.
Golden is known to be a paragliders paradise allowing them to do super long flights up to 165 km thanks to the mountain ranges and thermals from the river. And my Altitude Adventures instructor, Scott, was a pro at long term gliding – I was in pretty good hands. Once we got through the hardest part, running at full speed off a cliff, the rest was pretty easy. All I had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride down among beautiful mountain peaks. Scott would nimbly steer us towards the mountains so I could get pictures and he even let me steer once. It was really a soothing ride and was a great way to get some pictures from an unusual vantage point. We had an easy landing and it seemed to be over too quickly!
Kicking Horse Mountain is known for winter skiing, but in the summer it turns into a mountain bikers playground. In fact it’s so popular that the SingleTrack6 competition is being held there in July of 2014. For the non-professionals, you can rent bikes and proper gear from the store at the bottom of the mountain and then take it all up on the gondola to Eagles Nest Lodge where all the trails start from. They range from advanced to beginner and it’s 10 km to get to the bottom. That’s 10km of pure adrenaline. Looking at the difficulty of the trails – I decided to forgo 2 wheels, however my friend Matt from , ExpertVagabond.com , was ready to take a ride. I watched as he started down the narrow trail and out of my site – needless to say – mountain biking is the fastest way down Kicking Horse Mountain. Read about Matt’s experience here.
Since Mountain Biking wasn’t my speed, I instead road the gondola up to the top of Kicking Horse Mountain and did some ridge hikes. The views were mind blowing – so many peaks surrounding you and you could see 5 national parks from the top. After the hike I made my way to the Eagles Nest – the highest restaurant in Golden at 4,000 ft. Eagles Nest is a beautiful restaurant and bar that serves up exquisite food and a famous Caesar cocktail (similar to a Bloody Mary with Clamato juice). In fact – this was the best view in a bar that I’ve ever seen. If you can’t get enough hiking then try out Yoho National Park nearby for great trails too.
“It’s a hotbed of exotic duck activity,” Wally said with a big excited grin on his face. Our wetlands tour guide was giddy with excitement about taking us out on the Columbia River. Wetlands Adventures offer a variety of ways for you to see wildlife on the Columbia River – by canoe, stand up paddle board, or by electrical pontoon boat so you will remain super quiet. We took the pontoon on a foggy, cool morning.
“In weather like this everyone comes down to the river banks to eat, “ said Wally – so we were hoping for some great animal activity. We saw some eagles and various birds – but I just sat back and enjoyed the somewhat eerie scenery and the complete quiet.
Next we found ourselves on a river that wasn’t so calm – in fact it had class 4 rapids! Kicking Horse River was overflowing and the power of the current intimidated me at the beginning. After some instruction from our Wet and Wild guides though, we took off prepared to paddle our hearts out and get wet. Happy to report we all stayed in the raft thanks to good teamwork and no one went overboard!
If you are looking for one stop for summer adventure travel, then consider Golden, BC. After all of these experiences – I did sort of feel like James Bond at the end of the weekend. I’ll have the Caesar…shaken not stirred.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Tourism Golden and Destination BC for this trip. However all of the opinions expressed here are my own. I had been wanting to see the Canadian Rockies for a long time and getting to the lesser known town of Golden was the perfect destination for my style of travel.