Golden, British Columbia: Outdoor Fun and Dining Await

September 13, 2016

Golden, BC is located in Southeastern British Columba with easy access to six national parks, Kicking Horse River, and a huge number of wonderful places to eat! In fact, the biggest challenge will be figuring out which restaurants you should try.

After a stunning drive through the mountain passes and coasting into town, both our car and our stomachs needed to be fueled. So we came first. The Wolf’s Den was prefect for sampling some local brew from the Fernie Brewing Company. The sampler led with Project 9 Pils which is one my favorites in the Bavarian Pilsner style with a good body. However, the favorite for my wife was the Huckleberry Wheat Ale. The rich taste of the ale was wonderfully balanced by the huckleberries. Fernie Brewing Company is located south of Golden. Beer lovers in Golden are also looking forward to their first in-town brewery, Whitetooth Brewing Company, opening soon.

For the active outdoors person, burgers are always a priority. However before that, we started our meal with the bruschetta, served on flatbread with grape tomatoes, mozzarella and balsamic glaze. Absolutely delicious! It is a good idea to start with one of their scrumptious appetizers, if only to give you fortification for the huge task of deciding which of the 21 (!) burgers offered. For my wife it was the Mountain Burger, which is a 6 oz. prime rib patty, Cajun blackened with banana peppers, jalapenos poppers, Monterey jack cheese and chipotle mayo. Quite a kick! I took a walk on the wild side with the Wild Boar Burger, also a 6 oz. patty, cooked in red wine jus, sautéed in onions and mushrooms and topped off with Swiss cheese and an onion ring. Nice ending to the day, but would definitely call for some calorie burning tomorrow.

We quickly settled for the night at the Prestige Inn. The Prestige Inn is part of a family owned chain, and the beauty and amenities of the hotel and welcoming staff are a testament to the values of the Huber family business. After immigrating to Canada in 1950 with $22 in his pocket, Josef and his wife Anna began a journey which was to result in the Prestige Hotels and Resorts Corporation, currently with properties in Okanagan Valley, Kootenay Rockies, Vancouver Island and Northern BC. We loved our stay there, and probably could have easily spent the day lounging in the room, taking in the views, but the outdoors were calling.

Our first stop was about thirty minutes east of Golden, where we hiked to Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park. Only 1.5 miles one way this kid-friendly hike takes you to the largest waterfall of the Kicking Horse River, about 100 feet high and 450 feet wide. I told my wife there are only another 250 miles to hike in Yoyo National Park, so with that in mind we set off to our next spot just east of here, Emerald Lake.

We thought about hiking around this picturesque lake, just over 3 miles, and also thought about renting a canoe. However, we chose to sit on a rock and just enjoy the peace and quiet and the spectacular views. More dining awaited us though, so it was soon time to drive along the Kicking Horse River west back to Golden.

We enjoy the cozy dining in a historic building that dates back to the 1900’s, Eleven 22 offers a modern take on comfort food with a fusion of Western Canada, Asian and European cuisine, done brilliantly by owner and Chef Konan Mar.  He has worked his magic here for over 15 years.

To begin, we had the lamb meatballs, cooked with a bourbon and maple glaze, cucumbers, cilantro and yogurt. We also sampled the Calamari Wok Style which was lightly breaded and had a nice little kick, thanks to the cilantro, onions, ginger, and sweet chili sauce.

For the main course my wife enjoyed the SausageWurst which is bratwurst and seasoned Mennonite sausage covered with cabbage kraut and served with hot mustard. We had a chuckle with the wait staff over the acknowledgement that “wurst” is German for sausage, so the name of the dish is actually sausage sausage. I wrestled my wife for a bite, which brought to mind the brats and beer I enjoyed going to baseball games in Milwaukee. Nothing like baseball, brats, and beer on a warm summer day!  

Well the wrestling stopped when I was served their daily cannoli special with tomatoes, light cheese and chicken. So good, it was tempting to come back tomorrow to see what tomorrow’s daily cannoli would be. Our host had his usual: King Duck which was pan seared, served over couscous and was tender and moist. He apparently dines there often enough that the waiter simply asked him “the usual?”

Another day of exercise in the great outdoors, site seeing, and impressive dining in Golden then requited us to retreat to bed at the Ramada Limited in town and rested up for our last day.

We were really excited to see Kicking Horse Resort which is just a short ride from Golden. We had a scheduled appointment with staff member, Emile, but we got sidetracked and paid a visit to Boo instead. Boo lives in the Grizzly Bear Interpretive Center at Kicking Horse Resort. 

Once in the resort we hopped onto the chair lift and ten minutes later we saw Boo enjoying his surroundings in his own 20 acre resort. There is good news and bad news here. The bad news is Boo’s mom was killed by a poacher in 2003 in the Cariboo Mountains (north of here) and the cub Boo and his sister Cari were orphaned. (I trust you noted the names of the bears come from the name of the mountains.)

The good news is that the president of Kicking Horse, as a humanitarian gesture, wanted to provide a refuge for the bears. Sadly, Cari died during their first year’s hibernation, but Boo is alive and is very happy in his large natural environment. His diet is made up of 70% foraged from his surroundings and 30% supplemented with protein by the staff.

The fenced in 20 acres is mainly forested, and so it is sometimes hard to catch a glimpse of Boo. We were so lucky that he was hanging out near the fence when we arrived, and then he entertained us for about 20 minutes by frolicking in his favorite pond. Because of the proximity of people, and the fact that he has gotten used to a small amount of human interaction, he can never be re-introduced to the wild. However, since the establishment of Boo’s refuge, there have been bear sanctuaries established in BC whose mission is to re-introduce orphan bears. In order to do that successfully, those bears have little to no contact with humans after they arrive. They have been successful, largely due to what has been learned at Kicking Horse.

We had to say goodbye to Boo and the rangers who had given us a very informative talk, and return back down to the village to meet Emile Lavoie the Marketing, Media and Event Coordinator for Kicking Horse Resort. We apologized to our host for being an hour late, and that it was really Boo’s fault. Emile said that was not the first time that happened.

This trip up the mountain with Emile was on the gondola, which travels from the base of the village, 4,133 feet, and then arrives near the top of the mountain at 7700 feet .

Then  we took the short walk to the restaurant and enjoyed the unlimited views of mountains, hikers, climbers and mountain bikers.

Waiting at our table was the Classic Eagle’s Eye, Mountain Top Caesar. For those who don’t know – a Caesar is a Bloody Mary made with Clamato juice rather than tomato juice. The Classic is made with Stolichnaya Vodka, celery, pickled asparagus and olive with a celery salt rim. It is just one of five varieties of Caesars to choose from.

Then a favorite summer treat awaited me, gazpacho soup with watermelon, tomatoes, and cucumbers. The very refreshing flavors of the soup were complemented delightfully by the spices, peppers, mint, and shallots, which gave it that nice kick I always like. My wife insisted that her tomato based chowder was better and it was somewhat hard (but not impossible) to argue with that. Our entrees were a chicken grilled sandwich with salad for me and the Fish and Chips for my wife. We immensely enjoyed both of them, my wife especially liked the apple and fennel slaw which accompanied the fish and chips.

As we chatted with Emile, we found that he is a native of Quebec. So we discussed our time in the quaint wine region of the Eastern Townships, just east of Montreal. We all agreed how much we enjoyed some of their famous ice wine and ice cider products.   

After this relaxing lunch we stepped outside where Emile spoke of his true passion, snow! He has spent time at Whistler Blackcomb Resort, certainly one the elite ski areas in North American and he has spent time in Revelstoke, just west of here. But now - Emile is now at his favorite place! With over 270 inches of powder snow (aka Champagne Powder) a year and over 4000 feet of vertical skiing for all levels, this resort is a skier’s dream come true. At this elevation and this far north one can ski early and often, sometimes as early as November.

For the non-downhill skiers, there is snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, tubing, and ice skating. Finally, Emile is never bored here as he has lots of events to be planned from Brewmaster’s dinner to the New Year’s Eve Dinner at 7700 feet. Also some snowboard competition events. I guess we better come back soon.

We slowly worked our way down the mountain and noticed a hike to Gorman Lake but had to pass it by, as we needed to get back to the hotel and get ready for more dining and an evening sunset boat trip down the Columbia.

We met Andy Brown with Tourism Golden for another great dining extravaganza: in Golden at The Island Restaurant. On the banks of the Kicking Horse River this sure offers a great ambiance. Before ordering the wine we needed to huddle up and decide the type of food, which was quickly accomplished. We then decided on our favorite wine, Pinot Noir, from Gehringer Brothers in a region known as the “Golden Mile.” The: Golden Mile” is not in Golden but is well to the south and west of here near the town of Oliver.

We ordered small portions to split, starting with the Roast Duck Salad with asparagus, which was light and tangy and really paired well with the wine. Then came the Lamb Meatball Linguine made with house-made fresh pasta and lamb meatballs with a nice mix of red peppers, onions and house-made tomato sauce.

In between all of these food delights Andy explained how he arrived here from his roots in Ontario. He went to college in Calgary and fell in love with the mountains during his breaks. After college he travelled, hiked, and biked at many locations around the world and ended up in this great playground. Andy first worked at Kicking Horse Resort as Marketing and Social Media Coordinator and during his days off and before work shifts, he did plenty of skiing, mountain biking and hiking.

Andy gave us a quick overview of the history of the area. When Golden was first getting settled, the town leaders wanted to attract tourism to this mountainous terrain, so they brought mountaineer guides in from Switzerland. In fact, some 35 Swiss guides would take tourists to the surrounding mountains; Selkirk and the Rocky Mountains. This was the start of a great tradition and a hallmark of this area. Enjoying the mountains!

This mountaineering talk brought back our appetite, just in time for the Red Snapper, served with Tasmanian ginseng spice, quinoa risotto and spicy vegetables.

It was time to move on to our next adventure: to boat down the Columbia River. When we asked Andy for directions to the office, he simply told us to “drive until you see the worlds biggest paddle on the left."  We did and found Columbia Wetlands Adventures.

We arrived early for our evening float so we walked the boardwalk and enjoyed Beaver Pond, Loon Lagoon and a ship that the locals built, which was an obvious photo op.

We went on the Eco boat tour and our guide enlightened us about the mighty Columbia River. This part of the Columbia is very calm and meanders through a vast area managed by the Columbia Wetlands Wildlife Management Area. How vast? Over 37,000 acres and it is one of the longest intact river stretches (no dams) in North America. This region is near the headwaters of the Columbia before it takes a long and circuitous route north to Donald then west to Revelstoke and south to Casstlegard and then crosses the border to Washington.

No need for us to take that long journey as we enjoyed the local views of the Rocky and Purcell Mountains. There are over 300 species of wildlife that can be found here.   Our guide also told us this is part of the Pacific Flyway which is a waterfowl migration path that goes from nesting areas on the Arctic Ocean to wintering grounds in South America. Only 22% of Canadian bird species spend the whole year in Canada, the rest migrate to the south. We did see a Great Blue Heron that was flying south and we wondered if it was getting an early start to their typical winter grounds in the Caribbean.

Well as much as we wanted to stay it was time for us to also migrate to the south, so we headed back home to Washington State. Our sunset tour was the perfect ending to our trip to Golden, and we just know that a return migration is in the cards.