“Your lips move, but I can’t hear what you’re saying…”Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” reverberates through my headset as our soundtrack-equipped helicopter soars over the bluest lake I've ever seen.
At that moment, the lips in question belong to the awestruck passenger next to me. But it’s easy to see what she’s saying: “Wow!”
Her mic isn't working, but no matter. All six passengers in the West Coast Helicopters chopper are clearly dumbfounded by the Coast Mountain scenery assaulting their senses.
An hour earlier, our lift-off from Nimmo Bay Resort shattered the misty-morning serenity of the luxurious eco-lodge. Here on the southwestern edge of B.C.’s remote and rugged Great Bear Rainforest, exploration is only viable by sea or air.
If the tiered waterfall powering the resort, the bronze grizzly bear statues in its effluence, and our towering breakfast skillets had seemed like aspects of a wonderful dream, then the next seven hours push the experience into died-and-gone-to-heaven territory. I expect “Stairway to Heaven” to continue the classic-rock theme as our chopper veers away from Corsan Peak and its impossibly blue kettle lake, and returns to a wide river valley where larch trees mottle the banks with their autumnal yellows.
We’ve touched down just once so far: On a parking space-sized boulder near the base of a gushing waterfall, where Dave Wigard, our good-natured pilot, demonstrates the chopper’s remarkable versatility.
His point is driven home emphatically as we approach Silverthrone Glacier. As its jagged expanse unfolds below us and its namesake peak looms ahead, I half expect to see Superman emerge from what looks like his Fortress of Solitude. I also realize just how lucky we are to admire scenery that would otherwise require some serious mountaineering skills to reach.
Wigard skillfully lands the chopper on a moraine flanking the glacier, where we rendez-vous with the tour’s other two birds. Within minutes our guides cover a flat-topped boulder with a decadent lunch spread, which tastes that much better 8,000 feet up.
After cramming our memory cards with “I’m King of the World!” snapshots, we climb back into the choppers and leave the glacier in dramatic fashion. We fly low over the ice, past sinewy waterfalls and towering cliffs, then suddenly swoop upward. Within seconds, we’re looking down on Silverthrone Mountain, its snowy peak punctured by dark pillars of volcanic rock that resemble giant claws bursting from an icy lair. Forget Superman: This is more like something out of Lord of the Rings.
Our final stop, the “Paint Pots,” demonstrates the incredible variety of alpine scenery in the region. Instead of ice, these meadows are carpeted with low-lying plants and bushes displaying their fiery fall colours. We wander around lakes and ponds whose myriad hues give the valley its name. But we don’t stroll too far. This is prime bear territory, the daylight is fading, and besides: After all we’ve seen, the jaw-dropping waterfall at the bottom of the valley is almost old hat.
Thirty minutes and one mountainside bear sighting later, we’re back at Nimmo Bay. I waste no time in peeling off my damp attire, grabbing a cold beverage, and racing for the hot tubs that bubble next to the resort’s hydroelectric waterfall.
After a 10-minute soak, I ease myself out of the heat and into the very cold cascade via a set of wooden steps. I linger for, oh, about two seconds, before leaping back into the tub.
How does that feel? You guessed it: I'm comfortably numb.