This weekend I got to ride in a helicopter for the first time ever, and what a ride it was! I didn't just hop into a helicopter and flit about over top of a city or prairie landscape - I flew over the Rocky Mountains of Alberta! How spectacular is that? If you don't have any idea just how spectacular, keep on reading!
|Flying over Barrier Lake in the Alberta Rocky Mountains|
I bought the helicopter flight tickets for my husband as his Christmas present. We weren't going to get each other a gift this year, since our plan was to spend our money on renovating the bathroom, but old habits die hard. A few days before the 25th of December, I poked about online and found this amazing 50% off Groupon (think online-coupon) for a Kananaskis Helicopter Tour over the Rocky Mountains. The price was right, and so I went for it. (Good thing too, since my husband broke the rule and bought me a gift as well. I would have felt horrible if I had ended up not buying anything for him!)
|One of my favorite mountain formations in the Rocky Mountains|
The romance of our helicopter tour was subdued slightly when we learned we were teamed with two other couples, but as Joey jokingly pointed out, romance with us usually ends in bickering and squabbling, so we were probably better off. Besides, the two couples we were grouped with were unbelievably friendly and funny, and we all got along splendidly. We got to know each other in the tour office as we listened to the safety spiel and prepared ourselves for the flight tour.
|The Rockies are simply stunning|
Rules for being near a helicopter:
1. Keep your head down! I can guess the gory reason for this. The trick our tour lady suggested was to keep one hand on the knee at all times, as this automatically bends your body to the right height.
2. Stay on the path. No one wants to get hit by a wayward helicopter.
3. Let the pilots buckle you in. No one wants to fall out of a helicopter either.
|What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning!|
We all jammed into the helicopter like sardines. I got to sit in the front for the first portion of the flight, and was lucky enough to have an amazing view. The sides of the helicopter were clear plastic, as well as the entire front portion and a little clear plastic hole down by my feet. A photographer / videographer's dream! The pilot checked our headsets, and with a slight tilt that you could barely notice, we were up in the air.
In my newfound opinion, a helicopter is much smoother than any plane I've ever traveled on, and even smoother than driving down the highway in our SUV. You can barely feel the craft moving through the air, other than the vibrations of the rotors. It was quite relaxing.
|The red "Mayday" button. The word 'mayday' derives from the French term "M'aidez" which means "Help me!"|
I won't even begin to describe to you in words the majesty of the Rocky Mountains from above. This experience was much different than flying over the mountains way up high in a jet - this was up-close and personal, with every tree distinct and clear, every shadow on the rocks visible in high definition. Instead of trying to verbalize this, I put together a video on our experience. (It's at the end of this post - watch it last and it will make more sense!)
|Starting our wilderness hike around Broken Leg Lake|
After 15 minutes of flying, we set down in the middle of nowhere on the edge of a frozen lake called 'Broken Leg Lake'. Our pilot shut down the craft and we all disembarked for a one-hour wilderness trek around and across the solid lake. Our pilot pointed out frozen bubbles inside the meter or more thick ice - very neat!
|Cool frozen bubbles inside the ice|
I also had a fun time making snow angels on the frozen lake - sadly, no one joined me.
|Making a snow angel, by my lonesome, on a snowy frozen lake|
Once our trek around the lake was complete, we sat down on little red blankets and enjoyed a frosty glass of champagne and a single chocolate - a nice sweet treat in the middle of Mother Nature's finest creations. All too soon, it was time to get back into the helicopter for one last go-round over top the Rockies. This time I sat in the back, but even tucked in behind the pilot I still had a great view (especially when we banked very deeply to the right and I found myself pressed up against the little plastic door).
|One teensy glass of bubbly on a snowy mountainside!|
Our trip lasted for about 1 1/2 hours. Back at the base, we all gushed about how beautiful the experience had been. I would certainly recommend it to others - and tell them to pack their hiking shoes!
Watch our amazing flight in the helicopter here!