July 14, 2009 | Tips from Us >
100 Mile House, Guest Ranches & Horseback Riding
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As a Brit, cowboys have always conjured up images of John Wayne or the Marlboro Man ads of the 70s. I finally got to meet the real thing at Crystal Waters guest ranch in the Cariboo.
Taking time off around Canada Day, my fiancé and I drove up from Vancouver to Whistler, taking in the colourful Canada Day parade there, before heading up over the Duffy Lake road to Lillooet and onto Highway 97 – the Gold Rush Trail. From towering peaks around Pemberton, the landscape flattened into gently rolling hills as we entered the Cariboo region. Turning right onto highway 24 at 100 Mile House, we arrived at Crystal Waters to be greeted warmly and shown our rustic cabin at the edge of Crystal Lake.
We were truly among real-life cowboys ‘n’ girls. Stetsons, big buckle-belts, blue jeans and pointy boots were the order of the day. Jokes came thick and fast around the dinner table, while home-cooked food was hearty and good old-fashioned family values prevailed.
As newbies we were given the gentlest of their handsome horses to ride – and bumped along like sacks of potatoes behind our guide (appreciating the more comfortable Western-style saddles). The ranch encompasses the Rayburn River Wetlands (a Ducks Unlimited project) and we spotted fluffy goslings, a beaver dam and all kinds of birds. Underfoot, a carpet of wildflowers provided bursts of colour (lupins, roses, Indian Paintbrush and Arnica). We learnt how the ranch cattle are susceptible to wolves, bears and coyotes – a tough job to look after them all. Guests are encouraged to get involved in the workings of this ranch, rounding up cattle, branding and even mucking out stables.
Home on the range, activities included games of horseshoe, canoeing or kayaking around Crystal Lake, swimming, fishing for trout or simply lazing in deck chairs and gazing at the resident bald eagle and osprey through binoculars. Stories were swapped around the fire pit at night and fellow guests admitted they couldn’t bear to leave. In fact many have been returning for over a decade.