A TASTE OF THE WILD WEST IN BC'S CARIBOO
If you’re in search of a dude ranch that offers five star accommodation, you’ll have to steer your stallion in another direction. If, on the other hand, you’re fancying a taste of the ‘Wild West', then this galloping getaway may end up being your favourite. And after replacing your SUV with 1,200 pounds of horsepower, you may discover that you have some hidden cowboy spirit, just waiting to be rejuvenated.
Accompanied by friends, kids, and western gear, we head into the scenic rolling hills of BC’s Cariboo, a destination reminiscent of Western Canada’s rich frontier. History abounds at The Flying U Guest Ranch, where from behind its timbered entrance, the Old West seems to come alive! Rustic log cabins, accommodating up to 100 some-odd cowboys (and cowgirls), have been witness to the past century at this internationally acclaimed guest ranch in Canada. Their covered porches offer Green Lake views, and creaky wooden floors lead to cozy sleeping quarters. Central heating is provided by wood stoves, plumbing is in a central washhouse and a soothing sauna promises to ease the saddle sores.
We mosey around the property and check out the Flying U village with 44 buildings that dates back to 1800s, at a time when cattle ranching, carried out by The Boyd Family, was the prominent industry. In the general office the historical tale continues, revealing that in 1923, Jack Boyd, hosted an annual rodeo that rivaled the Calgary Stampede. With this acclaim, the property was converted into a guest ranch and the name was changed from 70 Mile Ranch to The Flying U.
For us, this weekend getaway is a refreshing escape from our city pace, and even our kids gladly ditch their electronics to take part in a hayride and an evening bonfire. The still waters of adjacent Green Lake offer lots of fishing, swimming and canoeing, and the riding is a dream come true for all of us wannabe cowboys! In fact, horses are the key focus here, and with the knowledge from experienced ranch-hands, they are individually assigned to suit each rider.
Cowboy Steve Harris is the heart of the flying U. He is assisted with wranglers who are experts at matching guests with their horses. My husband has enough riding experience to feel comfortable on any stud that's willing to giddy up and go. As for me, it is with trepidation that I venture out on the range. I'm relieved to hear that my mount is gentle and receptive to simple commands.
Unlike other guest ranches, after a brief instruction, we are free to roam, unsupervised, along meadows and pastures that lace the property’s forty thousand acres of trails. The flying U is the last ranch in Canada that offers unguided riding which is why people come from all over Canada for the experience.
“Are you ready for a faster pace?” one of our more experienced riders says, after slowly sauntering for the first half hour. How fast does she mean I wonder. Does anybody else feel those stomach butterflies? I sense that my horse has understood as well, for beneath my sweaty thighs, she starts prancing as if she's auditioning for ‘Lord of the Dance.’ Since the beginning of the ride, Brent’s horse has been bringing up the rear and I wonder if the old gray mare will be able to keep up. It’s too bad. He had really been looking forward to a rippin’ adventure.
“Grip em’ tight,” our fearless leader warns. “And hold ‘em back if you need to.” Then with a slap of the reigns and a “yeehaa” command, we're off to the races. With manes tossing, and dust flying we ride full out, over an open field. As the pace accelerates, my adrenaline soars, yet to my surprise the movements are effortless when moving in rhythm with my horse .What surprises me even more is the sight of my husband as he flies by with gracious speed. And Brent is having the time of his life! Yes, it certainly is no pony ride in the park. The last gallop of the day is over way too soon.
After brushing down our horses, we share tales of the trail while sippin’ tall cool ones at The Longhorn, an authentic 1880’s saloon, and later, while decked out in leather and lace, we two-step to the country tunes of the ranch’s live band. It's a grand finale to a memorable getaway for any wannabe cowboy (or cowgirl!) who has a yearning for a taste of the Wild West!
IF YOU GO:
PHOTOS: Courtesy Flying U Ranch.
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