I came to Chilcotin Holidays to do a Sales and Marketing Internship that is required for my studies. However, once you get to the ranch you realize how many more opportunities are offered to you if you take them. Straight from the beginning I realized that my goal was to join one of the many horse pack trips as a mentor guide, to experience the stay at the cabins in the mountains and see the breathtaking views on the way. Everyone that comes back from such a trip has that happy face, and I was determined to experience it as well.
In order to be able to join one of our experienced mentor guides Manon on a 4 day Wildlife Viewing Pack Trip, Lea and I took the initiative to learn how to pack and lead a horse and practiced the required knots. We wanted to do this so we could help Manon during the pack trip, sharing the work with her.
Finally, the day came when our guests, Sheree and Dennis, arrived at the ranch. On the first day, we gave a horse riding orientation where we showed the guests how to saddle the horses and then went on the short river ride in order to get comfortable with riding the horses and learning how to behave on the horse. Afterwards, the map orientation oriented and educated the guests about the area. In the evening, we packed all the food that is required for the pack trip.
The next morning we experienced what it means to go on a pack trip, getting up at 4am to get the horses ready, saddle them, and attach the pack boxes. Despite the tiredness, I felt excited and ready to start our wilderness experience. Strengthened from our breakfast, we left the ranch for our destination: Eldorado Camp. It takes around 6 hours to get there, riding through beautiful landscape. I was riding Hope and leading Tatla, which unmasked itself as quite a challenge as Tatla tended to make sudden stops along the way, pulling me almost off the saddle. However, I was determined to improve my leading skills. Along the way, I came up with the solution to switch places with Lea who was leading Jones. After that, Tatla walked a lot better. At our lunch break we were rewarded with an amazing view over the surrounding area. In this moment I was reminded of how lucky I was to be offered this opportunity.
We continued our journey and arrived at Eldorado Camp in the afternoon. After taking care of the horses, we started the fire in the cabin to warm it up and went to the forest to cut some branches we could use to stake the horses. After hammering the stakes into the ground, which would be later used to secure the horses during the night, we got the horses ready again in order to ride up the mountain, where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset. Back in the camp, we fed the horses and prepared our own dinner. Everyone was tired but happy about the adventure we had that day. Before preparing our night quarters in the tents, we cleaned the dishes and staked the horses and made sure that they were okay. All along the way, Dennis and Sheree were a constant help, joining us in everything and learning a lot of new skills.
After a short and cold night, we got up again at 4am to get the horses from their staked spot, which is scattered around the grassy area. After saddling them for the upcoming ride, we had a quick breakfast with oats and then went out at sunrise in order to have the best chance of seeing wildlife in the meadows. Equipped with our binoculars, we scanned the surrounding mountains for any signs. Time passed and then we finally spotted some white dots on the mountains. It was the first time in my life seeing mountain goats. We were all amazed and happy to be given this opportunity. We watched them along their way, taking in the first rays of sunshine. Continuing our way through the bushes to check whether we could spot more wildlife, we discovered a lot more white dots on the mountains.
Happy with our discoveries, we made our way back to the cabin, having our second big breakfast. We made a campfire outside where we grilled the bacon, prepared the scrambled eggs and grilled the bread. Meanwhile, we prepared a fruit salad and set the table outside, so we could enjoy the sunshine while eating our delicious breakfast. Afterwards, we took down the tents to winterize the camp as it wouldn’t be used again until the next year. At the same time, new stakes were prepared for the coming night as the horses get to grass at different spots every night. No one shied away from getting the jobs done, being supportive and motivated.
At around lunch time we left the camp again to make our way up the mountain to the famous ridge ride. It didn’t take long until we reached the first viewpoint, where we took some pictures to keep the memory. Further along the way it got more windy as we walked on top of the mountains, having the breathtaking view on the right as well as the left side. It gives you an amazing feeling as if you lose all of your sorrows and just live in the moment, enjoying every single bit of it. Again, we were rewarded with the most amazing view at our lunch break, where we also spotted some more mountain goats. Exhausted from the eventful morning we all took some time to relax and enjoy the moment.
On our way back Manon gave me the opportunity to lead the group. As we reached the same spot where we watched the sunset the day before, I knew our way back and I felt confident and challenged to do it. After looking for some more wildlife, we made our way back, with me in the front to lead the way. I felt great and empowered as I was responsible for the people who followed me. I am grateful that I had the chance to take the initiative.
Arriving safely back at the cabin, the same routine as the day before took place. Dennis and Sheree turned out to be a great asset to the team – helping out wherever they could. At Chilcotin Holidays, we value the involvement of our guests in the whole wilderness experience. A saying at the ranch is on a pack trip, being cold, wet, tired and hungry is the surest way to throw you out of your comfort zone because only there is where the real learning process takes place.
After our deserved dinner we got the horses ready for the night, but our work didn’t stop there. Every time after a camp visit we need to make an inventory list with what we have at the camp, so the next group that goes up there knows what they need to pack. Therefore, we counted until late in the evening after which we got a good but short sleep again. This time we slept in the cabin though as we put down the tents the day before.
Our last morning started early again. This time more work had to be done as we needed to saddle and pack the horses and clean the cabin before leaving. Exhausted but happy we started our way back to the ranch after some wildlife viewing in the meadow. On our way, it rained a little, but this just made the whole experience more mystic and dreamy with the clouds hanging low. The whole way back I reflected on my adventure and how happy I was that I had the opportunity to do this. During our lunch break we shared with each other our Hero’s Journey, giving everyone the chance to reflect on their own transformational journey and wilderness experience.
Arriving back at the ranch, everyone was happy to take a warm shower. After giving the certificates to our guests, that summarize the accomplishments they had during the trip, we had to say our goodbyes.
Overall, I can say that it was a worthwhile, unforgettable experience that I advice anyone to try out for themselves. Thank you Chilcotin Holidays for enabling this and giving me the chance to share this wonderful experience with our guests!
Kathrin, 24, Germany