Northern British Columbia: Small Town Charm, Big Time Adventure, and Amazing Fresh Seafood

August 5, 2019

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series: Bear Claw Lodge

The peaceful sounds of the Kispiox River and a fresh cup of coffee delivered to your room at your requested time! That is the daily morning routine at Bear Claw Lodge, located 775 miles (1247 km) northwest of Vancouver British Columbia, Canada in what is referred to as Northern BC. However, looking at a map, it is technically in west-central BC. Start at Vancouver Airport and 1.5 hours later, you arrive at Smithers airport where you are then greeted by staff of the lodge who will drive you into the wilderness. Then the adventures begin.

Canoeing at Bear Claw Lodge

Warm summer days call for a guided kayak float down the majestic Kispiox. Getting splashed is very refreshing! Partway through our trip we stopped and donned the snorkel gear to find the salmon and swim with them. Today they were just too fast for us, but the rocks glistening as the sun shined through the waters was special. After the 6-mile (10 km) float, we had homemade bread and Seafood Chowder with corn and, of course, freshly caught salmon. That recharged us for the next adventure.

Horseback riding in Northern BC

Saddle up! After a short break, we hit the dusty trail and took a leisurely ride on the Enchanted Forest Trail. So, relaxing and enjoying the scenery I was surprised that we were out for two hours. I did notice most folks headed to the Jacuzzi to get their body reenergized, but that didn’t last long, with the main event waiting for us.

Green Salad with fish and chive blossoms

What could be better than gourmet food in the wildness!? We enjoyed the breakfast of eggs benedict with Canadian bacon, and the pancakes with fresh strawberries and the lunch of seafood chowder with corn and freshly caught salmon. The highlight was the dinner presented by Kaleigh Allen (co-owner) and Chef Heather. The starter was a special treat of Garden Beet Ravioli, covered with beets and filled arugula pesto, goats’ cheese, and basil, which was quite light and didn’t at all spoil us for the entrée; Pan Seared Fresh Prince Rupert Halibut, lightly garnished with crispy prosciutto, spinach, and swiss chard. Each item could have easily been served as a standalone amuse-bouche they were so delicious. The finish was Hand Picked Wild Saskatoon Galettes with cream cheese ice cream. Most of these items are locally sourced from the lodge grounds or Chef Heather’s garden. 

Hand Picked Wild Saskatoon Galettes with cream cheese ice cream

Who are the people running the lodge? The patriarch is Gene Allen, just your typical guy from the valley who spent prior years working here in logging and the oil and gas fields. Fishing in his spare time, of course, but his major love was training horses for the rodeo. I’m glad the horses we rode earlier in the day were not the ones that had been trained for the rodeo! His daughter Kaleigh Allen is certainly no shrinking violet either. She's killed a bear in self-defense, competed in rodeo events, loves to kayak, rock climb, ski, snowboard, fly fish and hunt, and had a stint in TV as a teenager (at the age of 19 she played in Mantracker). We witnessed her skills firsthand in all our outdoor activities. Her in-door skill set really stood out during dinner with her wine and food pairing.  She just completed her sommelier test and we were confident she passed.

Basketball star? Brother Jim is not a TV star but could have been a basketball star. However, he turned down a college scholarship to stay in the area doing the things that he loved.  Guiding steelhead fishing and playing in the wilderness was a great decision.  Jim is a legend as a fishing guide and has a lengthy waiting list for his fishing trips.

Who is conserving this wilderness? Sister Shannon is, with her role as Executive Director of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition. Their mission is to protect this area from energy exploration, pipelines, and other projects that can harm the area.

We cannot forget mom Joy Allen; she is the glue that keeps this all together. Best to find her at the front desk working on the computer. I was curious about some tents I had noticed in a secluded place and why the campers were not enjoying the amenities of the 15,000 square foot first-class lodge? The tents are part of a kids’ Eco-Wild Camp in the summer. While tent camping the kids enjoy fishing, horseback riding, rafting, and kayaking.

Holey Rocks

Kids attend from the local communities as well as worldwide. Joy thinks it is critical for the kids to learn life skills, which will help them become contributing adults later in life.  Joy likes to make special arrangements to help local kids attend. For example, she will auction off the Holey Rocks seen above that are found in the river. These holes are formed from years of the rocks bouncing around in the river along with the erosion processes taking place.  She can get over $500 contributions for this great cause!

Our last evening was great with the parents, and Jim and Kaleigh sit around after dinner to discuss their interesting lives in this valley.  After all, they have five generations worth of some fascinating tales to tell. If you go, make sure to take the time to get to know them.

I know I need to return here since there are over 700,000 acres to explore, Baldy Mountain to climb, and back-country skiing to enjoy.

Continue reading Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.

Below are some delicious recipes courtesy of Bear Claw Lodge. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Fireweed Jelly

4C. Rinsed fresh fireweed flowers

Water to cover flowers

3 C. Sugar

1t. Lemon juice

1/2 t. Butter

1 pkg. certo dry pectin

 Put fresh flowers in pot with enough water to just cover. Let come to a gentle boil. Remove from heat and let flowers infuse for about 10 min. The liquid will be slightly greyish, don’t worry as soon as the pectin and lemon juice is added the liquid will turn a beautiful pink color. 

Strain, pressing on flowers to drain off all liquid. Measure fireweed liquid and add extra water if needed to get 2 1/2 C. of infused liquid.

Heat fireweed liquid with butter and lemon juice to a gentle boil; add in pectin. Stir to dissolve and let the mixture come to a rolling boil. Boil for 1 min.

Add in sugar, stirring to dissolve. Let mixture come to a full boil for 1 min.

Skim foam from jelly if needed.

Pour into sterilized jars and process in a water bath for 10 min.

Will keep unsterilized in the fridge for 1 week.

Makes 8 125ml glass jars

Garlic Scape & Arugula Pesto

2 generous handfuls of garlic scapes, blossom end discarded.

1 handful of arugula (or spinach)

1/2 C walnuts, lightly toasted

3/4C parmesan cheese, grated

1/2t. Kosher salt


1t. Lemon juice

1C. Extra virgin Olive Oil

1C. Basil leaves. (opt)

Cut up garlic scapes into 1/2” pieces. Pulse in a food processor with arugula, toasted nuts and cheese. When the mixture is a chunky paste add in basil and lightly pulse. Over-processing the basil will cause the mixture to brown. Finally, add in salt & pepper and olive oil. Lightly process to mix.

Will keep in the fridge for 1 week. Also freezes nicely.



Editorial disclosure: travel, food, and accommodations were generously provided.

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