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By Viv Chapleo, photos by Jill Hoelting
While staying with family in the spring, my niece had a request. “Auntie Viv, will you take me horse riding?” asked 7-year-old Jada. “Nanny said you will!” she added with gusto. Well, with a plea like that, who could say no? So the pressure was on to fulfill Jada’s request – which turned out to be not such a simple undertaking. Everyday for a week she bugged me, “Have you found a place to take me riding yet?” Each time my reply was, “No, but I’ve left messages with lots of places and I’m still trying.” Finally, it was Friday night and nobody had returned any of my numerous messages. Jada stood next to me as I made one last call to try and find somewhere to take her riding the next day. This time, the phone was answered at a riding school about 35 km/22 miles away and I was able to persuade them to let me bring Jada for a pony ride the next morning. The hoots and hollers of joy from Jada were priceless!
The pony ride was very successful. Thankfully, the woman in charge allowed me to spend an hour giving Jada a riding lesson (I grew up riding and did some teaching back in the 80s) and lead her through a wooded area next to the arena. Jada was super-excited and didn’t want the ride to end. But then came the next request… “Will you take me riding where we can both ride together next time you visit?” Who could say no to that? Again, not I!
Fast forward to summer… Jada wanted to know when I was going to take her horse riding again. This time I decided that it would be much more fun if Jada, Jill and I went on a little family adventure together – somewhere that Jada could experience a few days of ranch life, be around horses and other animals, spend time in the great outdoors and spend some time alone with her “crazy aunties” (we try our best to live up to that title).
The problem we encountered when looking for a ranch that would fit the bill was that kids needed to be 8 years old and older in order to ride the range. Anyone younger would need to spend their riding time in an arena with other kids – unable to ride out on the trails with the adults. Well that just wasn’t going to work! We have a very persistent niece that knows what she wants… and she wanted to ride the trails with her aunties.
Fortunately, The Hills Health Ranch in 108 Mile Ranch, British Columbia, Canada has activities and experiences to suit all ages and interests, plus they allow younger kids to take trail rides with everyone else. Jill and I had spent a few days at The Hills back in summer 2010 when we tried their fitness programs and spa cuisine, so we had confidence we would enjoy a fantastic time with Jada experiencing the horse and ranch activities. When we contacted The Hills we asked them to book us up as much as possible for a 3-night stay that would suit a high-energy, inquisitive 7-year-old that wanted to have her first ranch and riding holiday – they did and we were not disappointed!
One of the best things about The Hills is the people that work there. We know that owners Pat and Juanita Corbett are the very best ambassadors for their ranch, but all of their staff are also exceedingly warm, friendly, caring and excellent at what they do. From the moment we arrived we felt like we were old friends returning, and by the end of our stay we knew we’d return again… soon.
DAY 1 – HAYRIDE AND MUCH MORE…
The drive from the Fraser Valley (the area from Langley to Hope) to 108 Mile Ranch in British Columbia, Canada’s spectacular Cariboo Region, is approximately 400 km/250 miles. This journey through the very scenic Fraser Canyon and along the Fraser River takes about 5 hours (if you don’t stop too much).
Jill did the honors of safely driving our trio to The Hills Health Ranch while Jada and I sat in the back seat and tormented each other. Every 10 minutes or so the words, “How much longer” rang out. Telling a 7 year old that can count down on the clock that the 5-hour journey is only about 3 hours led to, “We’ve been driving for 3 hours. Where is it?” To which Jill replied, “Viv, did you goof when you mapped the distance?” And then I squeamishly responded, “Oops! I must have put the wrong address in. It’s about another 90 minutes from here.” Hmm… how bad is it to tell a kid a white lie?
Finally we arrived and the excitement welled. We would spend 3 nights hunkered down in Chalet #7 (that made perfect sense as Jada is 7 – her logic) – a rustic, but clean and comfortable 3-bedroom cabin with a kitchen, dining area, living room and full bathroom. The first thing Jada wanted to know was if she could go riding right away. The answer was an unfortunate No as it was late afternoon and the rides were already out. But there were plenty of other things to do – starting with a visit to the miniature donkeys, as soon as we’d settled ourselves in the chalet.
Armed with carrots, we set off for the short hike to the barn and the corral where the miniature donkeys hang out. It was priceless to witness Jada feeding and petting them – and really, really hard to drag her away so that we could do some more exploring. Next we stopped to see the horses by the barn. A very pretty black and white horse named Trixie immediately came over to Jada and snuggled up to her – we’ve never seen this little girl so thrilled!
Finally, Jada agreed that we could go up to the main buildings and see what we could find to do there (with the promise that we’d come back to the barn later… with more carrots). In the 1871 Angus McVee building we spent time playing pool, magnetic darts and table tennis before looking around the gift shop.
Then it was time to make our way back to our chalet and clean up before dinner in the Angus McVee dining room. Jada was delighted with the Kid’s Menu choices and the waitress was more than accommodating with Jada’s instructions on how she prefers her pasta. Jill and I both thoroughly enjoyed delicious entrees of pork loin and steak with potatoes and vegetables (the steak was big enough to take a portion back to our chalet and save for tomorrow’s lunch). We all shared the decadent sticky toffee cake that was so big there was even some of that left to take with us.
After dinner it was time to dress in long pants and grab a jacket for the evening hayride. At 8 PM on Wednesday and Saturday the Belgian draft horses pull the hayride out to the nearby teepee for cowboy music and roasting marshmallows on the campfire while sipping on hot chocolate or mulled wine. This was a fun event for all of us, especially as Jada enjoyed burning (I mean roasting) the marshmallows for everyone. By the time we were leaving the teepee it was dark, and on the hayride back to the barn the three of us laid back on the hay and watched the stars as we bounced along.
We totally loved our first afternoon and evening at The Hills and needed to get some good rest. Tomorrow’s schedule promised to be full of activities!
IF YOU GO:
THE RANCH WILL REOPEN JULY 18, 2016 as Spruce Hill Resort
Spruce Hill Resort
108 Mile Ranch, British Columbia, Canada
Note: WAVEJourney were guests at The Hills Health Ranch for this review in August, 2014. All opinions, reviews and commentary are our own. Read our full disclosure statement to see our review policy.