July 29, 2009 | Tips from Travellers >
Quesnel, Guest Ranches & Horseback Riding
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In 1977 Dale Dunn and a group of friends rode from the family ranch, just west of Quesnel, to attend the 41st annual Anahim Lake Stampede. That year, 57 head of horses were ridden or driven to Anahim Lake on this annual pilgrimage. Significantly, at one of their overnight stops, they were hosted by the legendary Pan Phillips at his fly-in fish camp on the Blackwater River. Over the years the number of visitors arriving by horse for the Stampede steadily declined until they were just a memory. This year Dale and Yvonne Dunn, owners of the Blackwater Spruce Ranch, organized and led the first horse-powered expedition to Anahim Lake in over 20 years. I had the distinct pleasure of participating in this almost historic adventure. Leaving from their property on Titetown Lake on 24 June, three wagons and nine riders (15 people, 17 horses and two dogs) crossed the Euchineko River and picked up the old wagon road to Kluskus and beyond. Ten days later on 3 July, after riding and driving almost 200 miles, we arrived, somewhat trail-worn, at Anahim Lake. Enroute we visited Robbie and Linda Phillips, who live year-round at, and still operate Pan Phillips' fish camp. Five miles further on we camped overnight at the famous, but now deserted, Home Ranch. Many of the other ranches along the trail have also been deserted over the years, but Jim Chadwell, and Walter and Norah Lambert still pursue their traditional lifestyles on the interior plateau. Our welcome at Anahim Lake could not possibly have been any warmer, and the 73rd annual Anahim Lake Stampede provided a much appreciated and truly memorable interlude, after which we retraced our route back to Titetown Lake. The horses, refreshed after their two day respite, were quick to recognize that their noses were now pointed east, and as a result the return trip was completed in just nine days. I characterized this trip as an expedition, and not by accident. We camped out nightly, experienced a wide variety of weather conditions, crossed and recrossed the Euchineko and Blackwater Rivers, cleared deadfalls, repaired wagons and a bridge, shod horses and just generally lived a lifestyle that most can only read about. Dale and Yvonne did a truly amazing job of planning and conducting this adventure, and everyone who participated in it has lived a piece of history. This was an amazing trip and it ought to be on the "bucket list" of every horse person who truly wishes to re-live a long-forgotten, and much simpler lifestyle.