A Taste of The Wild West in BC's Cariboo Country
By Jane Cassie
Photos by Linda Koot
Contributors to Travelink Publishing

If you're in search of a dude ranch that offers five star accommodation and cuisine, you'll have to steer your stallion in a different direction

If, on the other hand, you're fancying a true blue taste of 'The Old West,' complete with cozy log cabins and ranch-style home-cookin,' then this getaway may wind up being one of your favourites. It certainly is for our friends Larry & Bev VanHatten. In fact, every year they replace their city duds with denim, and their Suburban with 1,200 pounds of authentic horsepower, in the adventurous pursuit of some cowboy spirit. And every year they come back raving about it. So, when we were invited to tag along for a weekend in celebration of Larry's fiftieth birthday, we too looked forward to exchanging our metropolitan comforts for a journey back in time to an unspoiled and unhurried era.

Accompanied by friends, kids, and western gear, we headed into the scenic rolling hills of BC's Cariboo, a destination reminiscent of Western Canada's rich frontier, where countless pioneers, miners, and cowboys once staked their claims. History abounds at The Flying U Guest Ranch, where, from behind its timbered entrance, the Old West seems to come alive! Twenty-three rustic log-strewn cabins, accommodating up to ninety-six cowboys (and cowgirls), have been witness to the past century at this oldest and most internationally acclaimed guest ranch in Canada. Their covered porches offer Green Lake views and creaky wooden floors lead to quilt covered timber-made sleeping quarters where central heating is provided by wood stoves. And as for the plumbing, a central washhouse, complete with a sauna to ease those saddle sores, is located within a short hoof from the humble abodes.

We moseyed around the property and ogled over stagecoaches and other museum relics that dated as far back as the late 1800s, to a time when cattle ranching, carried out by The Boyd Family, was the prominent industry. In the general office the historical tale continued, revealing that in 1923, son of the owners, Jack Boyd, hosted an annual rodeo that rivaled even the Calgary Stampede for prestige and top riders. 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 was a refreshing escape from our urban high-tech pace and even our kids gladly ditched their Discmans to take part in a hayride, a roaring game of baseball and an evening bonfire. The still waters of adjacent Green Lake also offered idyllic recreation opportunities for those who wanted to fish, swim and canoe. And the horse back riding was 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 the experience of each rider.

"Sam is one of our old timers," informed Gloria, the Head Wrangler, as she handed Brent the reigns, "but he's still got some spunk." I caught a glimpse of my husband's disappointed expression as he mounted. He had had enough past riding experience to feel comfortable on any stud that was willing to giddy up and go. As for me, it was with some trepidation that I venture out on the range. I was relieved to hear that my equine companion, Freckles, was gentle by nature and receptive to the simplest of commands.

Unlike other guest ranches, after a brief instruction, we were free to roam, unsupervised, in serene green pastures, up meandering hillsides and along lakeshore trails that laced the property's 40,000 acres.

"Are you ready for a faster pace?" Bev inquired after a lengthy time of leading our group at a sauntering plod. How fast did she mean? I wondered. Does anybody else feel those butterflies somersaulting in their stomachs? I sensed that Freckles had heard and understood Bev's comment as well, for beneath my sweaty thighs, she started prancing about as if she were auditioning for 'Lord of the Dance.' Since the beginning of the ride, Brent's horse had been bringing up the rear and I wondered if the 'old gray mare' would be able to keep up with our galloping group. It's too bad, I thought, he had been really looking forward to a rippin' Roy Rogers adventure. "Grip em' tight," our leader warned, "and hold 'em back if you need to." Then with a slap of the reigns and a "yeehaa" command, we were off to the races. With manes tossing, and dust flying we rode, full out, together over an open field.

As the pace accelerated, my adrenaline soared, yet to my surprise the movements were effortless once I moved in rhythm with Freckles' graceful cantering gait. What was even more of a surprise was to see old Sam the steed fly by with gracious speed, and Brent, having the time of his life! Yes, it certainly was no pony ride in the park and we all found that the last gallop of the day was over way too soon.
The Longhorn, an authentic 1880's saloon was a meeting place where, after brushing down our horses, we shared tales of the trail while sippin' on tall cool ones. And later decked out in leather and lace, we two-stepped our way into the night to the country classic tunes of the ranch's live band. It was a definite grand finale to a great weekend, and a memorable birthday celebration for any wannabe cowboy who has a yearning for a taste of the Wild West!

The Flying U Ranch
P.O. Box 69,
70 Mile House, BC
Canada V0K 2K0
Phone: 250-456-7717
Fax: 250-456-7455
Email: flyingu@bcinternet.net
Web site: www.flyingu.com

From the city of Vancouver BC:

Highway #1 to Cache Creek
North on Hwy 97
Right at 70 Mile House
Go 8 km and take the left fork
Continue 13 km to the ranch
The ranch also has 3000 ft. private airstrip and float plane dock

© Travelink Publishing - All Rights Reserved