The Great Camp – Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Canada

canadian-resort-2With the natural world ever-present – and so astoundingly stunning – I kept myself busy. Horse riding took me through new-growth forest (a mere 200 years old) and across rivers and gullies in the footsteps of fearless Ranger, one of the resident bear dogs (meant to chase away visiting bears, their antics instead make them a constant source of amusement). The cacophony of greenery was broken by splashes of purple foxgloves and yellow dandelions and, while my horse munched on the false lilies lining the old elk trail we rode along, I had time to admire the colourful palette.

Despite being a novice contending with tricky gusts and an innate lack of balance, I attempted paddle-boarding, the shouts of “awesome” from my guide spurring me on. With an inquisitive harbour seal swimming alongside I had all the encouragement needed to master the craft – or at least avoid any unscheduled swims.

It was on the Wild Side boat tour that I finally saw bears. Big, black and powerful, their huge paws tumbled rocks along the water’s-edge as they searched for unsuspecting crabs. I explored turquoise water and sandy beaches dotted with petrifying timbers while, in deeper waters, seals, sea otters and whales put on a show. Back on dry land I hiked, with a guide, under trees with witch’s-hair lichen draped over their limbs like tattered overcoats and hauled myself up steep inclines to reach the top of Penny Falls where, dipping my feet into the freezing water, I appreciated the magnificent, well-earned view. Later, recovering in the soothing bubbles of the outdoor spa, I pondered the resort’s tiny place within the immense vista … and when I could plan my hot stone massage.

Of course all this fresh air and activity creates hearty appetites which are amply met at the Clayoquot Cookhouse where guests eat with relish and conversation hums. Chef Justin Witcher and his team use imagination to turn local and foraged ingredients into flavoursome dishes. The staff obviously enjoy the freedom to be creative – even the dubiously- named gooseneck barnacles proving delicious. Here food is their show.

Chicken is massaged and truffle-poached, ‘cracky’ Dungeness crab is succulent in kombu garlic butter and spring lamb with purple potato fondant is crusted in bright pistachios.

Pastry-chef Merri Schwartz also forages for the ingredients that shape her sweet, seasonal menu with spruce tips, salmon berries and wild roses (infused into a custard) providing the fine nuances necessary to create perfect desserts. Gaining her foraging prowess though interest and experience, Schwartz draws on her artistic background to create granola, trail mix, power bars of a new persuasion, truffles and cakes that, together with the all-day candy bar, offer plenty of sustenance for sweet-­toothed adults and children alike.canadian-resort-4

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