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Black Cat Guest Ranch

Updated on August 22, 2013

Spending Time At Black Cat Ranch

I was presented with an opportunity to trade time and labor for room and board at one of my favorite guest ranches on the east side of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Work-sharing is a popular way to have a vacation as well as getting to know local people. I've been toying with the idea of going abroad with this concept but decided to try local for our first adventure. If it worked, we'd try elsewhere knowing what we were capable of.

On my first trip to the ranch many years ago,I saw this picture on the wall and thought it had a great story to tell about the place I have come to love. It's the story of how the Black Cat Ranch got its name.

The original photo was taken in 1927 after a series of fires left the image of a Halloween cat showing on the mountainside. At the time is was just called the Brule Cat because of its proximity to Brule Alberta.(a small mining town north west of Hinton) In 1935 the Black Cat Ranch was established and the named was taken from the now famous black cat.

This a place is dear to our heart, as I said, and we come here to relax and recharge. Except this time. We came to work. Let me show you what goes on here.

Things You Need For A Guest Ranch Visit

Hikker HP-5 Anti-shock Hiking Pole, 2-pack, Anti Shock Hiking / Walking / Trekking Trail Poles - 1 Pair With Compass & Thermometer
Hikker HP-5 Anti-shock Hiking Pole, 2-pack, Anti Shock Hiking / Walking / Trekking Trail Poles - 1 Pair With Compass & Thermometer

Walking sticks come in various styles and are important to use when walking in brush or hilly country. They not only help yoo keep your balance on the steep terrain but also allow you to poke into areas where you are suspect of hiding creatures that may be delving in the shadows. They are also good for whacking dandelion heaps. Good fun.

 
Merrell  Moab Mid GORE-TEX Boot,Dark Earth,10
Merrell Moab Mid GORE-TEX Boot,Dark Earth,10

For whatever you are doing up at the ranch, you need good footwear. Riding horses, hiking the trails or just looking the part. You need good hiking boots.

 
Canon PowerShot SX260 HS 12.1 MP CMOS Digital Camera with 20x Image Stabilized Zoom 25mm Wide-Angle Optical Lens and 1080p HD Video (Red) (OLD MODEL)
Canon PowerShot SX260 HS 12.1 MP CMOS Digital Camera with 20x Image Stabilized Zoom 25mm Wide-Angle Optical Lens and 1080p HD Video (Red) (OLD MODEL)

You need 20x zoom or better for wildlife shots. We're not talking zoo distances here. Sometimes getting close is too close.

 
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX300/BC 20.4 MP Digital Camera with 50x Optical Zoom and 3-Inch Xtra Fine LCD (Black)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX300/BC 20.4 MP Digital Camera with 50x Optical Zoom and 3-Inch Xtra Fine LCD (Black)

If weight and size are not an issue. 50x optical zoom will keep you safe and still get you great animal shots. But do you really want to carry around 2.1 lbs of camera all the time waiting for that surprise shot?

 
X-loop Polarized Sunglasses Grey Frame
X-loop Polarized Sunglasses Grey Frame

I can't believe the difference good polarized sun glasses makes to being comfortable when the sun comes out.

 
Wild life that Knows it is safe,,
Wild life that Knows it is safe,,

Would You Work For Your Vacation?

We are having a working vacation. That means instead of paying and relaxing we are doing chores in a wonderful environment and being compensated accordingly. We come up here quite often in the last 10 years that we are like family so this year we volunteered our services for our vacation to help with the chores and spruce up the place during the slow time of the year for the ranch.

The owners have skipped town for a well deserved ten day jaunt in a newly aquired travel trailer leaving us with a small staff and little in the way of guests but a long list of chores to chew through. It still leaves us time to explore the area though so it is not all work and no play.

We went for a walk in town (Hinton AB.) to pick up a few forgotten items and got side tracked by a new Beaver Boardwalk area. 3 kilometers of boardwalk surrounding a beaver dam and ponds and was a wonderful wildlife area and sanctuary. True to its name we did see a beaver, but also a snipe, some ducks. The red-wing black birds were singing up a storm as well.

Tomorrow we start the chore list.

Places To See Near Black Cat Guest Ranch - - besides the miles of hiking and horse trails around the ranch

  • Beaver Boardwalk

    Over 3 kilometers of boardwalk surrounds Maxwell Lake and is a wonderful place to see wildlife in the round. Countless birds fill the area with song. Come early or stay late. Those are the best times to see the beavers in action who have resided in the area for over 20 years. Located minutes from downtown Hinton.

  • Miette Hotsprings

    Located just inside the east gate of Jasper National Park, just 17 kilometers off the main highway. Be careful driving the switchback road to the hot springs. There are many blind corners. These natural mineral waters are some of the hottest in Canada and are collected and funneled into two pools; one shallow and one deep, for your soaking pleasure. There are also a few cool and cold water dipping pools to get the most out of the therapeutic experience.

  • William A Switzer Provincial Park

    Just 15 minutes north of Hinton on highway 40. This is a jewel of a recreation area open year round. Canoeing hiking water-skiing and beach fun in the summer and cross country skiing and snow shoeing in the winter. This park has it all. The self guided canoe trail along Jarvis creek to Gregg Lake goes along one of Alberta's most intact river valley system in the foothills. Great for wildlife viewing and easy enough for beginner or novice canoeists.

  • Wildlife Watching in Jasper National Park

    There are lots of things to do and see for cheap in Jasper. The wildlife is plentiful along the roadside just don't feed the wildlife. Leave them to do what they do best. The shoulders of the highway are wide but make sure you watch for highway traffic before exiting you vehicle.

    Be smart and stay safe.

Beaver Boardwalk - 20 minutes away

Beaver Boardwalk - 20 minutes away
Beaver Boardwalk - 20 minutes away

Miette Hot Springs - 1 hour away

Miette Hot Springs - 1 hour away
Miette Hot Springs - 1 hour away

William A. Switzer Provincial Park

William A. Switzer Provincial Park
William A. Switzer Provincial Park

Wildlife Watching In Jasper National Park

Wildlife Watching In Jasper National Park
Wildlife Watching In Jasper National Park

Would You Consider A Working Vacation?

It's not often I volunteer for things because I am really busy at this point in my life but I do consider a job once in awhile. We visit this guest ranch once (or twice in some case) a year and have gotten to know the owners quite well over the last ten years.

This year one of the owners was in a position where they couldn't do some of the trail chores that one does on a ranch that runs horses. Chores like fence mending and trail clearing. These are spring time jobs, before it gets too busy with guest coming over the summer months.

When we were out in the winter to do some snowshoeing, we put to idea in their head for us to come out and volunteer our time in exchange for staying at the ranch for two weeks. It helps them and we get the holiday we needed.

Would you consider a working vacation?

No. A vacation if doing what I want to do where and when I want to do it.

No. A vacation if doing what I want to do where and when I want to do it.

Submit a Comment

  • lesliesinclair 4 years ago

    Maybe in younger days I would, but now I'd need the refreshment.

  • anonymous 4 years ago

    I want to relax with my family.

Yes. You given me an idea where I can do the same sort of thing.

Submit a Comment

  • Northerntrials 3 years ago

    @johnrh1: The Jasper ski hill is close. The cross country ski Nordic Center is 15 minutes down the road. You'll have to come an see for yourself.

  • johnrh1 3 years ago

    Interesting looking place! I love the snow and cold whether - skying is a great idea for a vacation..:)

  • Northerntrials 4 years ago

    @gracyelala: It's such a different way to look at things - from the other side.

  • gracyelala 4 years ago

    Last year I took a working vacation to South Africa - I traveled all expenses paid as a companion aide.

Take A look and Meet The Real Staff

Take a look at the website. Sign up for the newsletter and even register online for a stay. Pick a theme weekend or just come out and enjoy what there is here and about.

Todays Challenge - - before and after shot

before and after - not quite lined up though
before and after - not quite lined up though

Ok. I never claimed to be the handy man but, hey, anyone can paint a picnic table. First I used a wire brush to remove any old dirt and loose paint chips that were flaking off. It looks like the tables have been neglected for a few seasons. The brush off everything and paint.

After the first table I think I had the same amount of paint on me as on the tables. It started when I painted the bench seat first. Silly. When I started the top of course one has to lean in and now my green work pants are turning a camouflaged color.

I'm feeling the painting muscles today. Who knows about tomorrow.

black cat guest ranch
black cat guest ranch

20 Years Worth...

Who needs lights

I'm glad I got painting duty, if anyone can claim to be glad of that. It is better than cleaning the barn windows. "They haven't been cleaned in 20 years..." I think the owner said that to scare off the volunteers. But like my picnic tables, they turned out fine.

My next task was painting the decks as everyone knows I like painting, so it seems. No complaints. We spent the morning pulling off all the deck furniture and sweeping and washing the decks. Working as a team we accomplished a lot but it started to rain and painting with latex in the rain is a waste of time and money.

My next task was indoors. It was plumbing. The commercial dishwasher has been leaking for quite awhile "but only when its on, so its not half bad.." The problem is it was leaking into the workshop below so it was starting to make a mess of things,

From looking below it looked like the leak was coming from up in the ceiling. I guess that is why the job was put off for so long. I climbed a ladder to inspect and found it was just a cracked and broken fitting and a trip to the hardware store for a few fittings and everything is flowing fine again.

Another grand day done. Time for a massage and a light meal and maybe a fire in the great room fireplace tonight.

Watercolor Weekend At Black Cat Guest Ranch

Watercolor Weekend At Black Cat Guest Ranch
Watercolor Weekend At Black Cat Guest Ranch

A Kitchen To Die For - - and my back feels it.

what a kitchen
what a kitchen

What a kitchen. A true ranch style farm kitchen. I would think I died and gone to heaven with a kitchen like this at home. If I could I would throw out the TV, move the dining table and build an island to work off of instead of a small counter. I would throw out my electric stove and put in a gas range.

I must confess it has been close to 25 years since I cooked on a flat top grill. It wouldn't take me long to learn how but I'm definitely out of practice. A gas cook top. It heats up so quickly and you can control the temperature so easily. I love it.

We had pizza the other night and I make a lot of pizzas at home but using an electric oven and a pizza stone. It the gas range the pizza crisped up nice and was a wonder to behold. I was so pleasantly surprised.

The only complaint I have about this kitchen is that it was custom built for the owners and they were just pushing 5 foot. Everything is low except the standard counter along the back wall with the range.

I was making sandwiches for a party of 10 and my back paid the price for it. Now when I do counter work in is along the back wall. But for making bread or pizza dough. The island is perfect height to knead dough.

Gas or Electric ? - - That's to cook on not drive...

What do You Prefer for cooking? Gas or Electric?

See results

Today Was Fences - - someone has to do it

The started bright and sunny so I tackled the front deck and had it all painted before lunch. It looks so much better now. That leaves only one more top deck to do and my painting is done for this trip.

Repairing fences is a full-time job on a ranch. Lucky for me I am not a full time ranch hand. I walked the line around the lower pasture pulling the cart with chainsaw in tow. This is the last part of the fence line that hasn't been done since the Spring break up.

There were a few trees down over the fences that had to be cut up and removed as well as a few that were going to be trouble in the future. I was volunteered because I have had chainsaw experience. There were a few nasty spots but we cleared the line in a few hours and had the fences all repaired allowing the horses access to a new section for grazing.

All in a good day's work.

Along the way we were accosted by an angry red squirrel. I guess he heard the chain saw and felt threatened.

There was also a gathering of blue butterflies and I happened to get close enough to one... it was very tiny about the size of a nickle.

A Rainy Day On The Ranch

rainy day cooking
rainy day cooking

We had such a great time in Jasper the other day I had to write all about it here. I finished off the deck painting this morning and the afternoon the rains started. And it rained harder as the day wore on.

I am just glad the deck paint dries quickly and was more or less dry before the rains really came down. Mind you there was no wind and the decks have huge overhangs so they were protected.

So nothing stops with the weather. There are ranch duties inside as well. The afternoon was spent baking. and not just little things. 12 loaves of brown bread, 3 huge pans of brownies, 2 massive pans of dump cake and cookies by the bucket load. All cooked prepared packaged and frozen. All that will go in a weekend with a full house.

What's a Ranch Without Horses

What's a Ranch Without Horses
What's a Ranch Without Horses

$#!! Happens,,,,

- Mother Nature Rules

Mother Nature has blessed us with rain this week. It's been sunny on and off at the ranch but up in the hills the rain has been coming down enough that the rivers and creeks are over flowing and cutting new channels.

The ford over the creek coming into the ranch washed out a few times. It nothing new; it is built to withstand such a flood but when the creek is high and the flow is deep the ford is covered with rocks and boulders so car access is out. I ferried a few guests over the creek in my Ford Escape ( which we love) so I am not stranded yet. Good thing because we are supposed to leave this weekend. Monday morning we are expected back to our real jobs.

Our little problem is nothing like what is happening in other parts of the province as we hear reports of massive flooding down south and road closures all over. In a way it's good for the ranch as the place has filled up with tourists who had no where to go until road closures were lifted. It is a blessing many are saying because they found this place so beautiful.

Time to fill out the guestbook and start planning for a return visit.

Word of mouth is the best form of advertising so if you come to the ranch tell them I sent you and you may get a discount on the room rate. Just saying!

How to Get Here

show route and directions
A markerBlack Cat Guest Ranch -
50508 Range Road 271A, Yellowhead County, Alberta
get directions

B markerThings to see in Jasper Park -
Miette Hotsprings, Jasper National Park
get directions

Everyone has an opinion on everything but most of us keep those opinions to ourselves. I would appreciate it if my writings have given you any ideas, to share them. Past experiences, future plans or just idle thoughts. Anything would be awesome and most appreciated.

Sign The Guest Book - - every guest ranch has one...

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    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 3 years ago

      @cookiebear98: This was the first time we tried it and I highly recommend it.

    • profile image

      cookiebear98 3 years ago

      Super lens. I've always wanted to go out West and work a couple weeks on a ranch. This has inspired me to do it. Thank you.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @VladimirCat: I like it too.

    • VladimirCat profile image

      Vladimir 4 years ago from Australia

      An excellent name for a ranch, any ranch

    • Northerntrials profile image
      Author

      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @LiteraryMind: It is a wonderful place to be... even if it is just for a short while. Most people have blinders on and see only the flaws of a run down old ranch. They expect 4 star hotel accommodations and to be pampered. Suck it up buttercup! This is a ranch no excuses allowed. Enjoy the scenery because it is a special place and they are few and far between. Enjoy it for what it is. We love it.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @Ruthi: Isn't it more fun when there is history behind the place? I love history and knowing the story behind things. I guess it stems from my lack of roots... I must have gypsy blood somewhere in my family tree. Still it is better knowing - I think so. If you are planning to be in the area - give them a call and see what turns out.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @CaztyBon: Well one of the partners were there so we weren't left totally in the dark. We had a list of things to do more on the list than we could do but it all depended on the weather. That's what it is like on a ranch, everything swings with the weather. It more relaxing that way. Better than running your life by a punch clock.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Looks like a great place to visit.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 4 years ago

      I would certainly exchange work for a stay at the ranch! What a fabulous time you seem to have had, working and vacationing. Amazing how the fire burned the black cat into the mountain!

    • mcstacy profile image

      mcstacy 4 years ago

      Never heard of this concept. Thanks for sharing the information.

    • CaztyBon profile image

      CaztyBon 4 years ago

      I really enjoyed your lens. I wouldn't mind helping the owners while they were there I don't think I would want them to leave me there alone. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself that's what counts your vacation. Thanks for sharing.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @lesliesinclair: That's cool. I think my next house is going to have a big country kitchen in it.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      That kitchen reminds me of one up in the Okanogan (Washington side)

    • Northerntrials profile image
      Author

      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @PromptWriter: Thanks... See Mom I really do work for food... :)

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 4 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      What a great adventure. Great job on the picnic tables!

    • Northerntrials profile image
      Author

      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @TolovajWordsmith: It has been a blast and its something we'll be doing more often.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 4 years ago from Ljubljana

      Even on vacation I like to be active, so this definitely sounds like my kind of fun!

    • Northerntrials profile image
      Author

      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @anonymous: It was not as hard as I was expecting and I've had plenty of off time to explore and write so I am happy. It was mainly to help out friends so that what really mattered in the end.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Looks like something that people might enjoy. I'm just a little too lazy for this kind of vacation :)

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @favored: My best ones were. Vacation with a purpose. Awesome.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @WriterJanis2: Thanks... and that was day one. :) I think getting out to visit the area was more strenuous though. Whirlwind touring is not fun when the area you have to cover is so huge. But we did fine with the time we had and our guest was simply over-joyed.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      It looks like you got a lot accomplished. The picnic table looks great.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 4 years ago from USA

      Most of my "vacations" have been working ones, but they have been good ones.

    • Northerntrials profile image
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      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      @sybil watson: I love it here. Sure the work is hard at times but where isn't it. I've learned ranch work depends a lot on the weather. We've had some great time to visit surrounding areas too.

    • profile image

      sybil watson 4 years ago

      A working vacation sounds like a lot of fun. I've never even seen a beaver! I agree, that kitchen looks like a great space for making some hearty ranch food.