Home / Rewilded Minds / Transformational Wildlife Viewing Trip

Transformational Wildlife Viewing Trip

with No Comments

Transformational Wildlife Viewing Trip

Nature conservation

My name’s Charlie, I’m 15 and, in June, my family and I spent five days in the mountains around Eldorado on an unforgettable Wildlife Viewing Trip. I wanted to share with you my experiences and thank you for such an amazing time. I came with my parents, Karen and Mark and my 13 year-old brother, Connor, from the UK where our wildlife is very different! We wanted to see grizzly bears, mountain goats, marmots and mule deer and we weren’t disappointed.

Our highly knowledgeable guides did everything they could to find these animals for us, even getting up at 4am every morning to bring in our horses so we could be out before breakfast at first light riding through the valley near camp, searching for deer. Over the week, we had plenty of practice saddling our horses and helping out with the staking, where the horses are tied with a long rope to wood hammered into the ground so they can eat all night. Before coming to Chilcotin Holidays, we’d not ridden very much and didn’t know how to saddle, we all learned quickly though. Our guides talked a lot about empowering us and it was true, we felt a great sense of achievement and more independent that we were able to get our own horses ready, instead of waiting around for our guides to do it for us. This way, we could help them out and make everything more efficient, not expect everything to be done for us.

We rode up trails we never expected our horses to be able to climb, but they did it easily. Connor’s horse, Scout, never stopped, she was always ready to climb another mountain and they became best friends during our time together. My dad rode Nadila, she was a bit slower, but she could be fast, although she loved to stop and eat the huge thistles which grow beside the trail. I had little Tatla who was even slower than Nadila but she’d trot to keep up to the others, she never gave up either. My mum rode Teepee who liked trotting down hill and jumping over logs which was absolutely a ‘first time experience’ for my mum. We loved seeing all the horses’ individual personalities come through and that we could bond with them and learn from them. One of our guides rode Fortress who knows all the game trails, meaning we were able to find loads of deer in the valley each morning.

A really unique experience for us was that we recorded all the animals we saw on a ‘Wildlife Viewing Sheet’ which we all filled in together every evening. Our guides explained to us we collected this data for their partner charity, the Wilderness Stewardship Foundation, to know how many animals are in the area so they can assess the carrying capacity, how many animals the habitat can support, and make plans for conservation based on this. It was amazing to be a part of species conservation, it made us feel like a part of the team, that we were doing something to change the world, it made our trip so much more than just riding horses around and looking for wildlife. We felt a part of the ‘bigger picture’, which our guides also told us all about.

On only our second day, we were privileged enough to see two grizzlies, a mom and cub, playing in the snow in the valley. Being from the UK, we were amazed to see snow in summer, but then our guides pointed out a small black dot on the snow which seemed to be moving. They watched it through their binoculars. We only had one pair between the four of us, so we all shared looking through them and using the zoom on Dad’s camera which he bought especially for this trip. Through the binoculars, we could see it was a grizzly cub, our guides showed us how to distinguish black and grizzly bears. Grizzlies have a shoulder hump and less smooth hair. They have smaller ears and a concave face. Their toes are more in a line, whereas black bears’ toes wrap around their paw. Also, grizzly and black bears can both be black, brown, cinnamon or even blond. Colour is not the way to identify a bear! This cub was black, but was definitely a grizzly, we could see the shoulder hump clearly. Our guides knew so much about these animals, not just how to identify them, but also their behaviour. That’s why we got up so early to scout for animals, because they are most active around dawn and until 8 or 9am. Then they usually sleep during the day and are back out in the evening, it was about 6pm when we saw this cub. As we watched, the cub disappeared and then returned with another bear, the mom. She was a brown grizzly, the only colour we thought grizzlies were before coming here. The bears were a safe distance away and we watched them play together for over half an hour before returning to camp for a hot dinner cooked over the campfire. Lots of the horses here are named after mountains and rivers in the area, so we decided to continue this theme in naming our bears. I called the mom Penrose and Connor called the cub Cardtable.

Of our seven horses, Fortress, Nadila, Tatla, Teepee and our second guide’s horse, Pearson, were named after the area. Scout and our pack horse Apache didn’t have mountain names. From the Ridge Ride, we were able to see Fortress Ridge and Teepee Mountain, Nadila Lake was further away, across the Dil-Dil Plateau. Tatla is named after Tatlayoko Lake near Williams Lake and Pearson Creek runs passed the ranch. During our week in the mountains, we learned to identify lots of mountains and use them as landmarks. If we could see Mount Truax in the distance, we knew that’s where the ranch was. Mount Sheba, with its distinctive twin peaks was always to our west. Our guides were always teaching us the names of mountains, picking edible berries with us and collecting needles for our evening cup of pine needle tea. They taught us about the First Nation use of the wild edibles, it was really interesting and made us feel more connected with nature as we knew what we were looking at. Our guides made us a quiz, where they would point out a tree or plant and ask us to identify it. At the start of the week, we weren’t very good but by the last day, we got all the questions right.

We’d come on a wildlife viewing trip with Chilcotin Holidays to see Canadian animals in their natural habitat, but we’d had a transformational experience as well. Our guides talked to us about the philosophy Chilcotin Holidays embodies, conserving nature, developing yourself and reconnecting with nature. We helped with conservation with the wildlife viewing forms, we learned new skills which made us feel empowered and independent and we now knew more about nature than we ever thought we could learn in just a few days. Our guides, who were both in their early twenties and from Europe really inspired me to aim high, I now know I want to study animal conservation at university, so I can one day be a part of the bigger picture we were told about, maybe I’ll even work here! Everyone at Chilcotin Holidays was so positive and really loved what they did, we felt like a big family and that we’d known them forever, not just a week. We’ll never forget this amazing week, and will ‘for sure’ be back next year to do it all again!