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By Irene Butler

The Hills Health Ranch that is, where a path to wellness awaits all who enter this refuge. Nestled within 20,000 acres of BC's Cariboo Region, large doses of Mother Nature's therapy are drawn from the rolling rangelands, lakes and forests. Nurturing encompasses individual preferences - from fitness training, walking the trails, riding the range, soaking up spa sensations or merely being a couch potato.

Being avid hikers, my husband Rick and I opted for a "Three-Night Hike'n Spa Adventure" and with 100 kilometres of mapped trails to choose from, we couldn't wait to don our runners.

Meandering down a shadowy trail amid pine and poplar on our first morning hike, we were transfixed at the sight of gentle saucer eyes glinting through a camouflage of bush. While we watched a doe and her fawn, a buck leapt three feet into the air from the other side of the path, and then all three vanished in the blink of an eye. Exhilarated we moved on, the silence around us broken only by the chirrup of birds, the echoing tap of a woodpecker and the crunch of our runners leaving the wooded paths for flaxen meadow grasses.

As a change from our leisurely twosome walks, we signed up for a guided group hike. Anita, our cardio expert, had our heart rates up and no doubt many calories were torched during our briskly paced excursion. It was easy to picture the winter fun of cross-country skiing and snowmobiling on these trails.

Discovering yet another path by foot power would have been just fine for me, but I caved in at Rick's cajoling, "We can't leave a ranch without a few saddle sores!" Out at the red barn our wrangler Brice assured me that my mild tempered steed, Sarge, knew the trails like the back of his hoof. Safely tucked in the middle of five riders my nervousness dissolved as we skirted marshlands sending waterfowl whooshing skyward and paused to scan the breathtaking vista from the top of a ridge. Rick was right - a few stiff muscles post-dismount paled in the light of the experience.

We were always more than ready to chow-down at the ranch's Trails End Dining Room. Being offered a choice in our all-inclusive package of 'healthy ranch', 'vegetarian' or 'lower and leaner' meals, we went with the last option, with the safety-net of knowing we could switch to a higher calorie selection at any time. But fare such as Ostrich Medallion with Mushroom Leek Sauce and Roasted Butternut Squash, Grapes and Sage (340 calories) or the veggie-stuffed omelette sliding off the chef's pan at the breakfast buffet (210 calories) left us far from feeling deprived. And furthermore, the Victorian Tea Parlour and Coffee Saloon in the nearby 1871 Lodge served ambrosial dessert pick-me-ups.

Evening found us back at the big red barn. I pressed my hand into the thick padding of hay covering the wagon bed to test its springiness. An old pick-up truck drove up with cowpokes Carl and his young son, Michael. I was glad to see them hitch up two hefty-muscled Belgians to the wagon, as the gathering of twenty people climbed aboard for the hayride. No worries - Molly and Dolly's pace ranged from an easy trot to a thunderous gallop all the way to Willy's Wigwam.

Guitar pick'n' Doug was already inside the wigwam strum'n' a welcome tune while we perched on log benches around a blazing fire. Our voices improved with each sip of mulled wine as we each in turn picked an old favourite for the light-hearted sing-along. A zillion stars sparkled above us as we rode back to the barn.

Our last day was designated "Spa Day". We rotated between the pool, sauna and Jacuzzi until it was time for our feet to be lowered into a steamy ped-bath. Skilled hands then kneaded out every kink and knot using copious amounts of rosehip and lavender scented oils in a full body massage.

Back at our chalet, our skin still glowing and scented, we curled up in overstuffed chairs while a rosy sunset beyond our bay window brought our wilderness adventure to a close. My thoughts were on the perfect blend of nature and nurture - the rustic trails, comfy lodging, great cuisine, and relaxing spa treatment. I chuckled at Rick's apropos summary of us leaving the Ranch "more rugged and bronzed, yet also much pampered and moisturized".

Information sidebar:

The Hills Heath Ranch is located at 108 Mile Ranch, BC;
Northwest of Kamloops on Hwy 97.

For all-season updates on the many packages (such as: golf'n spa, ride'n spa, couch potato, couple romance, fitness'n spa, winter ski'n spa) plus the complete Spa Services & Activity Menu go to:

For Reservations:
Ph: (250) 791-5225
Toll Free: 1-800-668-2233

Photos by Rick Butler:

1. Breakfast Chef
2. Carl, Michael and 2 Belgians
3. Hills Health Lodge
4. Riders on the Trail

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