Being a mentor guide with Chilcotin Holidays is more than simply showing our guests the mountains, it is teaching and encouraging them to grow and evolve, to push them out of their comfort zones in a true wilderness experience, resulting in a personal transformation.
So, what does a Chilcotin Holidays mentor guide do? We introduce our guests to their horses and take them on an introductory ride. We ride with them to one of our mountain camps. We stake and hobble the horses. We cook meals over the campfire. We bring them into close proximity to nature by riding through the wilderness, up to the mountain tops of the unique South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park.
But, really, we do so much more than that. Not only do we introduce our guests to their horses, we teach them how to saddle and put on a bridle. In this way, our guests learn a new skill and are empowered to be self-reliant as they are able to saddle their own horse.
Instead of always riding first, in front of our guests, we give them the opportunity to take the lead. In this way, they can orientate themselves to their environment, if they’re in front, they pay more attention to where they are going, teaching themselves wilderness navigation skills, with our guidance. Our guests can also practice their leadership skills, giving them the chance to make their own decisions about when they need to lean forward or back (when riding uphill or downhill), or take their high side out the stirrup (when traversing a mountain side), knowing we are always close behind to support them. I’ve noticed, children in particular enjoy shouting back to their parents ‘Feet out!’ as the horses cross a creek or walk over a log.
We don’t just take the horses up to the meadows and leave the guests to relax at camp. They are fully encouraged to join us, cutting trees to make stakes, hammering the three-foot wooden stakes into the ground, learning to tie the rope to the horse’s ankle and the stake. In this way, they learn valuable teamwork skills, staking is a lot easier when everyone works together. If two people unsaddle the horses while another hammers in the first stake and someone else starts laying out stakes at the right distance apart, the job is accomplished much quicker. It can also be a bonding experience, between the guests themselves, or between the guides and guests, a task completed together is a shared achievement, and that brings people closer together. It is here our guests often begin their transformation, when they see they are taking every opportunity to make the most of their transformational journey.
When making the campfire, our guests are often keen to help split wood, especially if they’re from the city where wood fires are a novelty. We teach them how to split wood safely and build a fire, empowering our guests to contribute to running the camp, making them feel a valued and valuable member of the team, not a pampered guest.
We don’t simply ride through the wilderness, we teach our guests the names of trees and plants, creating a true wilderness experience through nature connection. We pick wild edibles together such as soopolallie berries, wild potatoes, mountain sorrel and wild onions. Especially with the wild potatoes, this involves our guests getting down in the dirt, digging for those tiny vegetables. When we find these wild edibles, we explain their importance to the First Nations people who have harvested them straight from the wild for thousands of years. This allows our guests to develop a greater connection to and appreciation for nature. They understand the history of the land and, with our wildlife sightings forms, are encouraged to help us conserve nature, again increasing their sense of nature connection. Our guests will usually point out any wildlife they see, but once they know that we record that data for Chilcotin Holidays’ partner the Wilderness Stewardship Foundation (WSF) to understand population numbers and implement conservation projects, they see how they are contributing to a bigger picture effort. This again is empowering as they become part of something bigger than themselves.
By the end of a pack trip, there is usually a close almost familial bond between the guides and guests, we thrive as a team, sharing our common factor which is the wilderness experience we have shared. The powerful transformations we see in our guests is often by the end of a pack trip we cannot tell the difference between guides and guests. Our guests help out with the horse care, they know the names of wild flowers, they have a greater nature connection, they are more confident, they know how to saddle, stake and hobble horses. By the end of a pack trip, we aren’t guides and guests. We are a team, a family, a cohesive unit. This is what being a mentor guide with Chilcotin Holidays means. We empower each other to reach for our full potential, to contribute, to connect to nature, ourselves and each other.
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