Mountain Topped With Thai Luxury
By Judith Lane & Chris McBeath
The drive from Vancouver to BC's Cariboo is the perfect transition from hectic city life to serene countryside. First, you travel through the fertile Fraser Valley, then into the canyon along the Fraser and Thompson Rivers and finally, passing though the Coast Mountains, you're in ranch land.
Here, atop some of the most spectacular scenery in North America, lies Echo Valley Resort - a getaway destination that's about as far away from urban life as you could hope for.
This five-star wilderness resort offers all the comforts of home and much more. Open year round Echo Valley combines rustic elegance with ranch adventure. Its gourmet cuisine is unparalleled and its spa facilities, which provide everything from hydrotherapy treatments to esthetic services, also include sauna and steam rooms, exercise equipment, a hot tub and an indoor swimming pool. The extraordinary Baan Thai. Designed by Dr. Pinyo Suwankiri, architect to the Thai royal family, this traditionally-styled area includes two Thai-styled houses, complete with Pagoda-like roofs and many custom-made decorative pieces created by Master Craftsmen in Thailand. There's a spa treatment room (for traditional Thai massage), a landscaped courtyard - perfect for meetings and special events, as well an area to relax and drink "Numcha", a herbal Thai tea.
Echo Valley is an impressive spread. Vistas sweep into the valley and across the mountains and guests, who stay in two comfortable lodges and three luxurious log cabins (the honeymoon cabin is particularly private) are free to roam the various barns, paddocks and other ranch buildings. I stayed in one of the lodges and enjoyed being steps away from the great room - a large yet remarkably cozy guest area with a stone fireplace that's big enough to roast a steer or two! Downstairs is a games room, a communal TV and pool table where I brushed up on my cues.
As for the food, it's reason enough to come to Echo Valley. Executive Chef Kim Madsen, ex Danish Consul Chef, a Culinary Olympics medalist and winner of the prestigious Cordon Bleu award, serves up cuisine to die for. He bakes fresh breads and desserts daily, oversees a large kitchen garden and sources local lamb, fish and other supplies. Eggs, poultry, rabbit, beef and pork are all ranch raised. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style, offering a wide selection of savory sausages, vegetable stir fries, aromatic breads and delectable desserts. And dinners are presented with such flair, I wasn't surprised to learn that Madsen had been guest chef at New York's famed James Beard House. High praise indeed.
Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Echo Valley is its location, sitting in an unique geographic continuum amidst four distinct biomes. To the east are the Marble Range and Edge Hill Mountains, to the south is the desert like Fraser Canyon, to the west are grasslands and to the north is a plateau boasting marshland and many lakes. Because each area has its own distinct ecosystem, each region offers explorers, hikers and nature lovers an unparalleled diversity of bird, plant and animal life.
Many guests come here for the fishing while others try white water rafting, gold panning and in winter, cross-country skiing and ice-fishing. I spent my time hiking the alpine meadows and checking out the ranch's stock: herds of cattle, six very big bulls who had obviously earned their keep this year judging from the many calves gamboling in the fields, various poultry from chickens to turkeys and a pack of Border collies who become every visitor's new best friend and were at my side wherever I went .... except when I took to the saddle to explore the mountain trails.
With fifty Tennessee Walkers to choose from horse-back riding here is a must. And be sure to make time for Brian Davies, the ranch's falconer. He trains his birds every day and it's a spectacular show.
And that's what I came for - an ultimate away-from-it-all experience. Saying goodbye to owners Nan and Norm Dove was like parting from long lost friends. So I left full of promises to return; only these promises I intend to keep...... and sooner rather than later.
If You Go:
Echo Valley Ranch Resort
PO Box 16 Jesmond
Canada V0K 1K0
Toll Free: 800-253-8831
Fax: (250) 459-0086
Web site: www.evranch.com
Hosts: Norm and Nan Dove
By car: From Vancouver: about 5 hours and 450 Kilometers.
By air: Charter flights are available from Vancouver via North Van Air directly to Echo Valley or to Kamloops by scheduled carriers, Air Canada or Canadian Airlines. The ranch has its own 3612 foot paved airstrip.
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