A wilderness reunion and what happened there

If a magical family reunion has to come to an end, at least wrap it up with a seven-foot charcuterie board and an enormous chocolate cake, right?

At least that was the plan, before an intense rainstorm blew down from the mountains, and I accidentally knocked myself out cold on the low eaves of a cabin.

Oh, and did I mention the roaming mama black bear and cubs? Don’t worry, it all worked out and a good time was had by all. Which is precisely why I’m sharing this tale.

Rocky Ridge Resort

Family photos by Matt Slaa

It had been six long years since our last family reunion. (Remember An island rental kitchen and a wedding cake?) We chose another remote wilderness setting for our all-vaccinated gathering: Rocky Ridge Resort, in Northern BC, and it took place a few weeks ago.

No staff? No problem. We Wimbushes love to hang out in the kitchen and worked out 4 ‘teams’ for meals and clean up (pro tip: harness that teen workforce).

Our five cabins at Rocky Ridge Resort had no power or Wifi, no cell service at all, actually. This allowed for plenty of relaxing, memory making and bonding during our unplugged stay.

For my siblings and I – four kids who grew up off-grid in the Yukon – the return to propane lights and wood stoves was like revisiting childhood. Only now it was our kids splitting kindling, running barefoot and stargazing at midnight. (We won’t mention that incident with the bear spray. Ahem.)

So for five days we hiked and swam, played lawn games and held art hour on the picnic tables. When it rained, we relaxed in the sauna or busted out board games in the ‘saloon’.

Every evening at dusk, there was a campfire under the towering mountain peaks. I simmered hot spiced apple cider, made fresh from Laura’s apple press, and the kids toasted marshmallows.

Two mama black bears roamed the outskirts of the resort occasionally, with their cute cubs tumbling along after them. We mostly spotted them in the early mornings, watching from our windows with coffee in hand.

They didn’t bother us, nor us them. It’s beautiful how man and wild can indeed coexist when the respect is mutual. (Another pro tip: don’t wander into the woods alone!)

Speaking of wild, we had a glorious day of fishing for Sockeye salmon in the ice cold rivers of the beautiful Bulkley-Nechako region. Thanks to the expertise of my brother Josh and his wife, Laura, each of our kiddos and Danny reeled in a fish. Oh the thrill!

My brother-in-law Nick grilled the wild salmon and my sister Haidi made a wild huckleberry relish to garnish the fish. Together with freshly dug red potatoes and steamed garden green beans, it made for an exquisite dinner that was all locally sourced.

A Seven-Foot Charcuterie Board

On our last evening, we surprised my parents with a small 50th anniversary party. They officially celebrate next May, but if we’ve learned anything at all over the past 2 years, all the time we have is now.

It won’t surprise you to know that I volunteered myself to head up the evening’s festivities. I love nothing more than a 100% homemade party, be it a backyard wedding or a harvest dinner.

The plan was to lay a spread of cheese and charcuterie out under a great big tree with a view of the mountain, but we party planners must be flexible. When a furious rainstorm swept down the mountain and hit our party space sideways, I pivoted and moved everything indoors.

Down but not out

Here’s where things went dark – for me at least. I was running to get out of the rain, a jacket pulled low over my eyes. I ran smack dab into a low wooden eve of the cabin and whacked the top of my head – hard.

Danny was in front of me and he says he heard ‘Thud’ and then ‘Thump’. When he looked back, I was lying on the soaking grass in my full length dress, arms flung out, with a plate of sliced cheese lying next to me (it was okay!).

He waited for me to get up, knowing I was trying to keep the dress clean and the hair dry – so why was I prostrate in the pelting rain? Apparently I had knocked myself unconscious.

I only remember the initial pain, and then seeing the sky and Danny’s white face above me. “Are you OKAY?” he was asking, over and over. Well, I was. I was fine, except for that horrible scared look on his face. His concern made me cry, and my tears made him cry.

But the show must go on! I had a cheeseboard to build.

As a terrific headache set in, my darling nieces and I sliced pears and turned out salami roses. We assembled the epic board in 30 minutes flat – just in time for the hungry hoards to descend, admire for a brief minute — and then devour.

Feed-a-Crowd Perfect Chocolate Cake

On to the party!

For this portion of the evening, the rain stopped. A huge rainbow called us all outside – and the photographer I had booked showed up. He was just in time to capture the toast to our parents and the cutting of the cake.

I was all smiles, despite my hair looking a tad bedraggled from the rain; now this was how I had envisioned our last evening in the wilderness. Golden hour. Chilled prosecco. Not lying in a ditch in the rain!

The best cake in every way

Originally I had wanted to make my Lemon Berry Stripe cake (it’s just so elegant) but the chocolate cake won out for the following reasons:

  • It really feeds a crowd. We sliced it into 24 and had leftovers. Even with 7 teens!
  • It freezes so well. The do-ahead option was a must for me as I wasn’t going to trust the propane ovens at the resort. My niece Ava and I baked it at her house back in Smithers.
  • Chocolate? Duh. It really is a crowd-pleaser and this decadent cake delivers.

Get the Recipe > Feed-a-Crowd Perfect Chocolate Cake

Cheers to my parent’s 50th anniversary! Cheers to everything working out for the best. And cheers to making memories as a family, every last one of us.

A huge thanks to Matt Slaa for coming out and shooting our evening’s festivities. He certainly captured our joy, the love, and the kids’ sugar rush from the cake.

I want to acknowledge that we were enormously privileged to be able to make this trip to the West Coast and have a family reunion. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to see my parents after so many years and meet my youngest nephew, Taj, for the first time (he’s already 4!).

You know, between Danny and I, we lost three loved ones over the pandemic, and that pain has helped to sharpen our focus even more. We’re as committed as ever to slowing down, living in the moment and not taking a single day for granted. I can’t imagine what went through Danny’s head while I was briefly unconscious….at any rate, it was a reminder that life is indeed precious and fragile.

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Thank you for sharing about your family reunion. A week of being unplugged sounds very appealing. I am glad you are okay!

  2. Haidi Telles says

    Great recap of an amazing week! That last day was definitely epic, in more ways than one. SO glad we made the effort to come together and celebrate. So much to celebrate. 💗

  3. Thank you for this beautiful story of your family, your family’s life together, and the importance of slowing down and soaking it all in right now.

  4. Sounds like an amazing experience. And the charcuterie board looks so unbelievably delicious! We also saw family this summer after being separated for 2 years and it was so lovely.

  5. Wow! Precious moments! privileged people! Do you realize the good things God has done!?

    Thanks for sharing your special times. I’m glad y’all are okay! (And well fed! )

  6. Such a wonderful story Aimee (apart from the headache 🥴). Thank you for sharing! Oh, and salami roses, never saw them before. Great inspiration!

  7. Oh my goodness, so glad you’re okay–and went on to make a 7 foot charcuterie board…wow, you’re such a trooper.

    Also, the bear spray fiascos …I know something about those, too. LOL!

  8. Such a beautiful recap of a previous time! So incredibly grateful that we made it happen and for each member of our family 💫

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