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The Best Cattle Ranch Vacation in British Columbia

Updated on June 27, 2013

A working vacation? Why not!

For some reason, I guess I always had the idea that in order to properly 'vacation' you needed to travel far away to a hot and sunny ocean playground. But that's just not the case, you can even have a vacation in your own back yard with a 'staycation'!

Well, we didn't want to stay home, but we weren't sure what to do, so me and a work-mate started looking into some alternatives to sand and beach! We were looking into a short cruise when we watched Billy Crystal's film 'City Slickers' and we got the idea to check around for a Ranch Holiday!

We live in British Columbia, so there were indeed Ranch Vacations to be had! Gidee-up!

(Photo courtesy http://www.bigbarranch.com/)

The movie that started it all! - (Well, for us anyway!)

“When all else fails, take a vacation.”

Betty Williams

Why we chose this trip over others

I have to admit, once we realized we could do this, all other vacations dropped from our minds.

AND I admit there are times when all I wanted to was to lay on the beach in Hawaii! I have done my share of driving all over the continent too, so we were both searching for something a little different.

Only having a week off, and not wanting to break the bank, we were searching for something that would be; interesting, relaxing, where we could come back refreshed, maybe having met some interesting people and maybe having learned a bit about something new.

Well this vacation certainly met all of our criteria! And was practically in our own backyard!

Seriously, I feel like I live in the most beautiful place on earth, so we never have to look far for the spectacular! British Columbia should be on everyone's bucket-list, I am convinced of that every time I look around me, and I have lived here all my life!

On-line travel booking

It's really not that far to get from anywhere in the US to Vancouver, Canada and out the the ranch lands of BC!

Train Travel in British Columbia

I love train travel and on this trip we took the Greyhound from Vancouver to Clinton and we took the train back, it was just spectacular. It is a brilliant and inexpensive way to travel, and the scenery is breathtaking off the beaten path.

Books for the road

Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination
Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination

I read this every year - Female James Bond - brilliant!

 
Wired
Wired

On my list this year!

 

Packing and planning for the Ranch

Packing for a Ranch Vacation is quite a bit different from packing for any other type of vacation! It is probably the closest to a camping vacation, but with a twist!

Here is what I packed, and some things I 'should' have packed, because up in the mountains, especially in BC in the spring, the weather can change quickly.

The nice thing was that once were were there, we didn't need to pack and travel anywhere else, but we still had to get there, and because we didn't take a car, we did pack a bit lighter (though my friend brought her own pillow!).

- Socks! Bring socks that will fit comfortably inside your boots, and also bring bed socks for nights, which can be quite cool! (Don't forget, no laundry!!).

- Boots! I brought my old cowboy boots, but when I got there I realized that they no longer fit, my calves had gotten thicker from running!! Thankfully they had a spare pair that fit me at the Ranch. But you will need good working boots, don't just buy a pair of stylish cowboy boots, they'll end up getting ruined.

- Layers! You can go from hot sun to freezing cold all in one ride, so layer up! I brought (and wore!) t-shirts, flannel button-up collar shirts, a light sweater, a jean jacket and a water proof cycling jacket (that can fit over everything else, even a rain poncho would be great).

- For a hat, some people had cowboy hats, which I should have taken, but I just took an old baseball hat and sun glasses (don't forget those!). Any kind of hat would do, it's mainly to keep the sun and rain off your head.

- Jeans. Ok I brought jeans, and I know they are the most rugged for riding etc., but DO bring something for afterwards, especially if you are a new rider, or haven't ridden in a while, bring some sweats or something looser and comfortable in case you are rubbed raw or chapped!

- And speaking of chaps, you probably won't need these and no spurs please!

- Bring some leather gloves if you'll be doing the longer rides, and/or gloves for warmth. While we were there it did snow one day and that makes it pretty darn cold for riding.

- And speaking of cold, do take a scarf or bandana. If you take a scarf, nothing long and flow-y that may get caught in your horse tack while getting on and off your horse, just something small and warm (even a turtleneck would do), because the wind is right in your chest and it can be dang cold!

- Comfortable underwear!! This is no joke, ladies no thongs!!! You want your big full-on cotton panties for this trip, comfort all the way!! And bring a sports bra - trust me on this. A long day in the saddle is no joke!

- You'll maybe want something more comfortable for dinner, but nothing fancy, it is usually a serve yourself type dining room buffet, and plus you will most likely be bundled up around the fire later on, so just think of comfort as your #1 criteria.

- Do bring sunscreen, chapstick or lip balm, even a good body butter as you'll be out in the elements all day and around the fire for hours afterwards. And toiletries as needed, though I can't remember showering often I was usually barely able to get into bed before dropping off to sleep!

- I always take snacks wherever I go, for late nights or if I get up before breakfast is served etc. On this trip we packed trail mix and nuts etc, especially because when we were dropped off on the first night in the small town, there was nothing open and we had missed dinner on the bus trip. We did not have a cabin, and knew there would be no fridge in our room, so we packed snacks that did not need to be refrigerated.

- Water bottle - I never go anywhere without mine - get an unbreakable one and stay hydrated!

Would you consider a working vacation? - Or a vacation off the beaten path?

Would you consider an alternative vacation?

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A good all round video includes correct posture

Correct posture is really important on a first long ride, you want to be able to ride all week!

There will be cowboys around to show you how to get on, off and ride properly. The horses will most likely be use to being ridden and be very gentle, but always hang on - I had a 'gentle' horse, but he was a 'barn-runner'! As soon as he saw home he bolted for his dinner and I nearly went flying!!

What our week at the Ranch looked like

Even though there are many things to do while at the ranch, here is a quick breakdown of our trip and our daily activity.

We left Vancouver early in the morning, via Greyhound. We were really keen to see the sights and not have to worry about driving. The bus is a great way to do this and if you want you can even bring your computer, book or pillow!

We arrived in Clinton late at night so had already booked a local hotel room for the night, the bus let us off right at the front door. I think we ate some snacks,made a cup of tea and pretty much dropped in exhaustion from the work week! Plus the people from the Ranch were coming to pick us up very early the next day.

The next day we were ready to roll, and the ranch-hand in his big truck came and picked us up, and two others along the way. It was about 25 miles up into the mountains and country, about half of it on a gravel road before we finally got there. It was dusty and bumpy but we were so excited we didn't notice, we even saw a few bears along the road! (Gulp!).

When we finally got to the ranch it was already a bustle of activity, but there was someone there to welcome us and show us to our rooms and give us the schedule. There was a ride getting ready to go out right away, so we threw our stuff in our room and got in our first ride immediately.

I had ridden before, but not in a long while, so the instruction they gave was great. They also broke us into two groups, beginners and advanced. The advanced group would go on a more difficult and longer ride. We stayed in the beginner group for the first few days.

So even though we were on a working ranch, there were different levels of participation, and you could basically do anything from stay in a watch a movie to being out on horseback all day long. Different Ranches have different programs, so check them carefully.

Meals were amazing, and we were surprised when we sat down for dinner, they came in and said: 'Ok, now every second person change tables.'!! So I was not even sitting with my friend, but this was perfect, we got to meet more people and it really broadened our experience. Being quite shy, it was actually good to be forced out of my shell!

At night after supper they made a huge camp fire and there were stories and singing, it was everything you would see in the movies. Having lived in the city for years, it was such a nice experience, and so close to home.

Our week went on, and at the end of it we had made some great friends and experienced a lot of new things. There was a big rainstorm the morning we left, so while we waited for our ride, we watched City Slicker in the TV room, and felt quite smug!

We were then taken and dropped off at the train station for the beautiful trip home.

During our train ride we went up and sat with the Engineer right at the front of the train and heard some amazing stories! The food was great, and we felt like princesses after being in the dust and on horseback for a week!

I would recommend this experience to everyone, it was an eyeopener. We certainly came home refreshed, stronger, a bit leaner and very happy!

A great video how to use your legs while on horseback.

My other Billy Crystal Favourites - While we're on the subject!

Gateway to the Caribou

Oh yes my friends, you will want lots of this when you get home! - I'm not even kidding!

..and be prepared for the joking to begin back at the office - you WILL look like you just got off a horse!

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We're always talking about music, internet stuff, peace, film, cooking and of course, Rat Terriers.

See you out there!

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    • JennAshton profile image
      Author

      Jenn Ashton 4 years ago from Canada

      @CampingmanNW: Thanks so much, it was a lot of fun;-) Loads of memories!

    • CampingmanNW profile image

      CampingmanNW 4 years ago

      Having grown up on a working horse ranch, I can certainly relate to your story. It sounds like you picked a really great ranch to visit and had a great time. Thanks for sharing.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 4 years ago

      We'd love to visit British Columbia but probably not do a ranch vacation. Thanks for sharing.