Accompanied by a tall, handsome young man (OK, he was carrying my luggage) I wandered down the cedar plank, eager to see the digs I had heard so much about. As he unzipped the white canvas door, a slice of heaven was revealed.
I’ve spent my share of nights inside a tent, but none like this. Forget the unrolled sleeping bags on uneven ground. Think exotic bed, laden with thick, silky linens, elegant antiques and carpets warming the wood floor. The entire room was aglow with more than a dozen candles flickering in the early evening breeze.
And then there was the view. From my private deck overlooking the mouth of the pristine Bedwell River, I could see smoke billowing from the lodge fireplace across the water. A bevy of resident canines frolicked on the deep green lawn. Beyond, tree-covered mountains rose, with still higher peaks looming in the distance.
I had arrived at the remote Clayoquot Wilderness Resort near Tofino on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, via seaplane. Away from the watchful eyes of the male members of my family (my husband and sons), I was looking forward to a little rest and relaxation, and to the camaraderie and nonjudgment of my fellow students—four other “reel women”—for a stress-free, four-day tutorial to hone our fly-fishing skills.
This wilderness lodge and others dotting the planet have combined luxurious, yet eco-friendly amenities with a wilderness setting to create a fresh air-filled getaway some have labeled “glamping” (short for glamorous camping). Somehow, the distinction does not do justice to this elegant outdoor trend. For me, the term thuds to the ground, but the experience is other-worldly.
At Clayoquot, the day begins with coffee or tea service delivered outside your tent door at the time of your choosing. Later, you’ll linger over a delectable breakfast. Consider wild blueberry and cornmeal griddle cakes or homemade muesli along with fresh-squeezed juices, served in the cozy, timbered ranch style lodge, while gathering your strength for an event-filled day.
Guests can choose from guided hiking or horseback riding through old growth forests, deep sea fishing, kayaking, rock wall climbing or relaxing in the wood-fired cedar hot tub overlooking the estuary.
Some opt for a Walk on the Wild Side, a guided outing that combines hiking, strolling deserted beaches, and whale and bear watching.
Heading out for the day? The gourmet dining staff will create a delectable picnic lunch—perhaps free-range roasted chicken, grilled vegetables and aioli on homemade bread—fit for an eco-queen.
And at day’s end, sore muscles are soothed at Healing Grounds where seaside spa tents envelop the weary for a deep tissue massage set to the muffled sounds of water lapping and birds chirping outside canvas walls.
Meanwhile back in the Hemingway-esque fishing tent, the reel women are learning the difference between roll casting and back casting, rainbow and cutthroat trout, and how differently men and women adapt to the sport.
“Women seem to have an easier time learning to cast,” observed Dino, one of two charming and patient instructors. “So many men try to strong arm it and that just isn’t how it is done.”
Our feminine group did express some concern about the well being of the fish. But once we cleared that hurdle it was on to tying our own flies, practicing our casts and preparing for the big catch.
Part of the experience involved testing our skills in the local waters. We rode horseback past massive, moss-covered cedars, climbing through the lush rainforest to cast into deep, clear pools. The following morning we climbed aboard a seaplane and landed on a high mountain lake where Alice, our most determined student, would joyfully land her first big fish.
My only regret: Four days leaves too little time to enjoy this expansive and exquisite wilderness setting. My fly fishing skills had improved, but I hadn’t lounged near the imposing stone fireplace in the outside living room, lingered on my scenic deck, had a second massage, gone Coho salmon fishing or kayaked across the sound.
Remedy: a swift return.
The Clayoquot Wilderness Resort is located within the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve near Tofino, B.C., and is accessible via floatplane from Vancouver, B.C., and via water taxi from Tofino. While intimate and romantic, families are also welcome. Reunions and weddings are common. Rates include all activities, three gourmet meals and seaplane transport from Vancouver; mid-May to mid-July and end of August to the beginning of October.
The Resort at Paws Up. Greenough, Montana. Stay at one of several clamping sites, including River Camp on the Blackfoot River and enjoy horseback riding, fly fishing, hiking and spa services. Tel. 800-473-0601, www.PawsUp.com
KC Ranch River Camp, Nye, Montana. Check into the family-owned camp operated by Donohoe Outfitting where you’ll enjoy a private, four-mile stretch of the Stillwater River. Take time away from fly fishing to enjoy horseback riding, floating the Yellowstone River and hiking in the Montana wilderness. From $250 per person per day including three meals and activities. Discounts for children and large groups.