Empowering Dude Ranch Experience
Our dude ranch experience with Chilcotin Holidays was unforgettable! We spent a week in June at the ranch in the spectacular South Chilcotin Mountains. As a family, we couldn’t quite decide what we wanted from our holiday, our 15-year old daughter Uri wanted anything with animals, I wanted to spend some time with horses, but didn’t think I could handle a full pack trip and my husband, Roland, had never ridden a horse before. After expressing all these details to Chilcotin Holidays’ wonderful office manager over the phone, she suggested we try a dude ranch, explaining we could ride, try target shooting, lassoing and go out in the car to scout for wildlife or learn about the local area. This sounded perfect.
On our first day, we had our riding orientation, the ‘short’ two hour River Ride, however for people not used to riding this was a long ride, through water and trees and over rocks. Roland was uncertain at first, but his horse Billy guided him safely throughout the ride and he enjoyed the ride as much as Uri who has had riding lessons for five years. However, being from Scotland, she learned English riding, she said she felt like a real cowgirl riding Western!
The next day, we tried our hands at target shooting, our guides explained we were using a biathlon target, we might not have been Olympians, but we had a great time and hit the target with most of our shots. While we were shooting, I noticed the archery target next to us. I’d done archery years and years ago at university and asked if I could have a go. As with everything here, the answer was ‘of course’, so that was our afternoon sorted. I loved doing archery again, Uri even said ‘wow, Mum, I didn’t know you could do that!’.
We also had the chance to hike to Pearson’s Lookout where we were treated to stunning views and learned lots about nature. Our guides taught us the names of so many different trees and plants. We collected pine needles which we made tea with back at the ranch. We also got to try soopalallie berries and Saskatoon berries, which we’d never even heard of before we came here. Listening to the stories about First Nations culture and traditions was fascinating for us, making us appreciate the long heritage of this land and how it’s supported humans for tens of thousands of years. We felt a greater connection with nature as we realized how much food was around us, we’d never have known if our guides hadn’t taught us, but suddenly it seemed there were edible berries everywhere!
We were given the ‘Hero’s Journey’ to fill out during our trip, which helped us focus on the environment around us and see how we were developing on our ‘transformational journey’. We all learned new skills and are now confident enough to go on a pack trip – we’ll definitely come back here! The positive mentality and problem-solving skills of everyone at the ranch was empowering, encouraging us to act the same. One morning, we volunteered to help bring the horses in from the field, we had to work as a team, which to start with we weren’t very good at. Our guides were amazing, letting us work out for ourselves how to move a huge group of horses without using halters. They had to give us a few hints, but in the end the three of us were able to bring in all the horses. We were all happy with our success and had learned through trial and error.
We loved the family feeling of the ranch, all the guests and staff eat together and everyone does their own dishes – this was a particularly humbling experience for a 15-year-old! So many of the staff here refer to the ranch as home, or talk about their colleagues as their family, their passion for this place is obvious and they made us feel so welcome, that we were part of their family too, not just guests. After our stay with Chilcotin Holidays, we felt closer and more connected as a family and made some amazing friends at the ranch.