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One Step Further into the Wilderness

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One Step Further into the Wilderness

Into the Wilderness

Summary: Every time we return to the ranch, it’s an opportunity to try something new, to go on another adventure. Florence experienced this working in the kitchen and riding in the mountains. Florence explored deeper into the wilderness and got to experience greater personal growth on her transformational journey.

Hi, my name is Florence and I am from Belgium.

I was at the ranch two years ago, just after finishing my studies. I needed to discover something new, push my limits forward and wanted to live in the huge Canadian forests for a few weeks. A completely different lifestyle to what I am used to in Belgium. Those 9 weeks were incredible. I learned a lot, gained confidence, became more proactive and responsible and fell in love with those mountains and horses. Socially it was also an amazing experience, meeting people from extremely different cultures or backgrounds, each of them evolving on their own way and showing examples of different kinds of leadership. 

Now I am more settled in Belgium. I have a job, moved into my own apartment, have evolved with new responsibility at work and grew in serenity. I decided to come back to the ranch in September as I missed it a lot but also because that past experience has left a big impression on me. The ranch is a place where everything is continuously changing, time is running and every day has a bunch of surprises. In that kind of environment there is always a place for improvement and the daily challenges will make you grow. I also wanted to take a step back from my current life in the city, see again something completely different that puts what I know in perspective. Hoping my memories from two years ago weren’t idealized and that I will enjoy my “holidays” at the ranch. I choose a different time of the year to discover another part of the wilderness life. Those three weeks took me a step further in the wilderness than what I had imagined and in unexpected activities…

As I remembered the headlines of the ranch routine it was easier to jump into this intense period (last time I was there from March to May before pack trips began). I had the chance to see the beautiful colors of fall as the change of season settled down day after day. The fall trips proved to me that even if you focus all your skills to reach your goal, sometimes it is not enough, you have to accept that you can’t control all external conditions. However it also proved that with perseverance, you increase your opportunity to succeed. In such a demanding environment it is sometimes hard to continuously maintain energy and positivity although I firmly believe that something achieved with efforts makes it even more worth it. For sure the ranch does not suit everyone’s expectations and every one has to follow their own path but for those who seek focus, who want to go over their own limits and reflect on themselves in a beautiful environment it is the perfect place.

Unexpectedly I spent most of my time in the kitchen and liked it. Two years ago I really tried to avoid it as I thought it was stressful and complicated. This time, I realized that it is actually the center of everything, where everyone gathers three times a day. I enjoyed preparing breakfast, lunch and dinners around which every one will be pleased to share stories of their day. It was good to take time to do “basic things”, go back to the essential and take the time to do it. It was fun to organize the kitchen stuff and to prepare the meals. I realized that it was more a matter of organization, anticipation and planning. I really enjoyed that challenge, every new day being an opportunity to optimize. And it is actually much easier when you take the time to learn the place of every ingredient. The challenge was increased by the fact that in September there were not a lot of community partners. Most of the time we were only two or three at the ranch, all the mentor guides being up in the mountains with guests. I had the opportunity to learn ranch management : kitchen preparation beginning at 5.30 am, feeding horses and chicken, cleaning, preparing dinner, completing the inventory… all that while watching the phone and the radio and relaying information between the groups spread across the mountain. There was a lot to do, but so much diverse stuff to learn. Of course there is much more to do to sustain the ranch, like office work for example. Who knows maybe I will take this opportunity next time…

Apart from the kitchen activities, I also had the opportunity to explore the wilderness a step further. To make it possible I had first to learn that you are the only one responsible for making opportunities happen. The deal is that opportunities will be proposed but it is up to you to organize and see the “big picture”: have a global view of the ranch activities and schedule and arrange it so that it works for everyone and the ranch continues to run smoothly. If you come with a plan that matches the global picture and respect as much as possible everyone wishes then you will for sure receive support and help to make it concrete. But do not wait for it to happen by itself, build your chances.  I never did guide school and as such did not expect to leave the ranch- except for some day rides and hikes. But I had the chance to spend three days in the mountains for two of the camp take-downs. First time packing a horse, first time sleeping in a cabin with the wolves singing outside and the sound of the horses’ bells in the early morning, first grizzly track… In three days, you learn to know your horse better and the relationship with them becomes more interesting. It was an adventure up there! We also had the chance to see three seasons in those three days: First day it was sunny, the wilderness seemed to welcome us, the second day was fall and its rainbow of colors, the third day was winter and the snow.

After that trip I was also lucky to lead two guests for two rides: the River Ride and Pearson’s Lookout. The second one was a bit more stressful as we encountered a motorbike that frightened the horses but we made it safely and it was a beautiful day to enjoy the landscape. Before going on the River Ride we had to bring back some horses. They are free to graze out of the ranch but sometimes go a bit too far and we have to go find them in the wilderness. By chance they were still near a logging road. The first one we saw was Pika who was really interested by the oats and we caught her (must be tastier than grass) then we saw Cheyenne (one of the wild one) and Tepee. While we were busy preparing those horses two others ran into the group. That’s when I realized that Sorcerer was always next to her best friend, Zola. The bond between those two is so strong that we had to lead them together. Before the ranch I never noticed such a strong relationship between horses. While we were bringing the horses back to the ranch, Cheyenne was following. At the last turn, when we came out of the forest, we heard her “speaking” with some other horses further away and she ran towards them. So we thought “ok we will have to come back later” but they actually all ran back to us. Next lesson for me: horses are herd animals and don’t like to be split up. It was amazing to see those half-wild horses come back following us in line. They could have gone wherever they wanted but were just in a line behind us, happy to come back to the ranch – and this is for me one of the best signs of success of the way we work here with horses and the good relationship we have with them.

It was a really intense holiday and most of my friends in Belgium think I am completely crazy to “volunteer” and “work” during my only real break of the year. But I know why I went to the ranch. Apart from the trip in the wilderness and the kitchen that were by themselves wonderful experiences, I loved to take a jump into a different lifestyle, to learn something different. It was intense (much more than what I do when I am in Belgium) but for me the more you are active, the more you have energy and you 

have to become more efficient, more focused. With the international aspect of the ranch you have to be open-minded and share with really different kinds of people and that is enriching. Those three weeks allowed me to resource myself, inspired by the wildlife, by the lifestyle and by the incredible people I met. Those community partners with their optimistic and strong minds, with their perseverance and joy gave me the will and the strength to begin the changes I want to see in my own life. No more excuses to be lazy or too comfy when you realized what their daily life in the mountains is like. I have been back home for two weeks now; I didn’t turn on the television, did sports daily, cooked healthy meals, took the steps to go to an organic zero waste shop that I wanted to do for a long time and I am looking for a bioclimatic house (a house that tries to respect the environment as much as possible and reduce the energy consumption).

One step further to the ecologic lifestyle that I want to lead. 

Florence, Belgium