Return to the Ranch – one step further in the wilderness

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Return to the Ranch - one step further in the wildernessHi, my name Florence and I am from Belgium.

I was at the ranch two years ago, just after finishing my studies. I needed to discover something new, push my limits forward and wanted to live in the Canadian huge forests for a few weeks. A completly different lifestyle to what I am used to in Belgium. Those 9 weeks were incredible. I learned a lot, gained confidence, became more proactive and responsible and fell in love with those mountains and horses. Socially it was also an amazing experience, meeting people from extremely different cultures or backgrounds, each of them evolving on their own way and showing examples of different kind of leadership.

Now I am more settled in Belgium. I have a job, moved in my own apartment, have evolved with new responsibility at work and grew in serenity. I decided to came back to the ranch in September as I missed it a lot but also because that past experienced has left a big impression on me. The ranch is a place were everything is continuously changing, time is running and every day has a bunch of surprises. In that kind of environment there is always place for improvement and the daily challenges will make you grow. I also wanted to take a step back from my current life in the city, see again something completely different that puts what I know in perspective. Hoping my memories from two years ago weren’t idealized and that I will enjoy my “holidays” at the ranch. I choose a different period of the year to discover another part of the wilderness life. Those three weeks took me a step further in the wilderness than what I had imagined and in unexpected activities…

As I remembered the headlines of the ranch routine it was easier to jump into this intense period (last time I was there from march to may before pack trips began).. I had the chance to see the beautiful colors of fall as the change of season settled down day after day. The fall trips proved me that even if you put all your skills to reach your goal, sometimes it is not enough, you have to accept that you can’t control all external conditions. However it also proved that with perseverance, you increase your luck to succeed. In such demanding environment it is sometimes hard to maintain all the time huge energy and positivity although I firmly believe that something achieved with efforts makes it even more worth it. For sure the ranch does not suit every one expectations and every one has to follow his own path but for those who seek focus, who want to go over their own limits, reflect on themselves, all of that in a beautiful environment it is the perfect place.

Unexpectedly I spent most of my time in the kitchen and liked it. Two years ago I really tried to avoid it as I thought it was stressful and complicated. This time, I realized that is actually the center of everything, where every one gathers three times a day. I enjoyed preparing breakfast, lunch and diners around which every one will be pleased to share stories of their day. It was good to take time to do “basic things”, go back to the essential and take the time to do it. It was fun to organize the kitchen stuffs and to prepare the meals. I realized that it was more a matter of organisation, anticipation and planning. I really enjoyed that challenge, every new day being an opportunity to optimize. And it is actually much easier when you take the time to learn the place of every ingredient. The challenge was increased by the fact that in September there was not a lot of staff. Most of the time we were only two or three at the ranch, all the guides being up in the mountains with guests. I had the feeling to learn ranch management : kitchen preparation beginning at 5.30 am, feeding horses and chicken, cleaning, preparing diner, making inventory,… all that while watching the phone and the radio and relay information between the groups spread in the mountain. There was a lot to do, but so much diversify stuff to learn. Of course there is much more to do to make the ranch sustain, like office work for example. Who knows maybe this will be for next time…

Apart from this kitchen activities, I also had the opportunity to explore the wilderness a step further. To make it possible I had first to learn that you are the only one responsible for making opportunities happen. The deal is that opportunities will be proposed but it is up to you to organize and make sure to see the “big picture” : have a global view of the ranch activities and schedule and arrange it the way it is convenient for every one. If you come with a plan that matches the global picture and respect as much as possible everyone wishes than you will for sure receive attention and help to make it concrete.But do not wait for it to happen by itself, build your chances.  I never did guide school and as such did not expect to leave the ranch- except for some daily rides and hikes. But I had the chance to spend three days in the mountains for two of the camp take down. First time packing a horse, first time sleeping in a cabin with the wolves singing outside and the sound of the horses’s bells in the early morning, first grizzly track,…. In three days, you learn to know your horse better and the relationship with him become more interesting. It was an adventure up there ! Quick advices : better make sure not to drop the sat phone in the river or rescue will come the next morning as everyone at the ranch will be stressed not to receive news from you and if the trees are too low, get down of your horse or your jacket will be stuck in branches and you better have a good horse as Scout that is very sensitive… We had also the chance to see three seasons in those three days : First day it was sunny, the wilderness seemed to welcome us, the second day was fall and its rainbow of colors, the third day was winter and the snow.

After that trip I was also lucky to lead two guest for two rides : the River Trail and Pearson Lookout. The second one was a bit more stressful as we encounter a motorbike that frightened the horses but we made it safe and it was a beautiful day to enjoy the landscape. Before going on the River Trail we had to bring back some horses. They are free to graze out of the ranch but sometimes go a bit too far and we have to go find them in the wilderness. By chance their were still near a logging road. The first one we saw was Pika who was really interested by the oats and we caught her (must be more tasty than grass) then we saw three other ones whose Cheyenne (the wild one) and Tipee. While we were busy preparing those horses three other ones ran into the gathering. That’s when I realized that Sorcerer was always next to her best friend, Zola. The bond between those two is so strong that we had to fasten them together. Before the ranch I never notice such strong relationship between horses. While we were bringing the horses back to the ranch, Cheyenne the wild one was following. At the last turn, when we came out of the forest, we heard her “speaking” with the other horses further away and she run towerds them. So we thought “ok we will have to come back later” but they actually all run back to us. Next lesson for me : horses are herd animals and don’t like to be split in several groups. It was amazing to see those half-wild horses come back following us in line. They could have gone where ever they wanted but were just in a line behind us, happy to come back to the ranch – and this is for me one of the best signs of success of the way they work here with horses and the good relationship they have with them.

It was really intense holidays and most of my friends in Belgium think I am completely crazy to “volunteer” and “work” during my only real time of break of the year. But I know why I went at the ranch. Apart from the trip in the wilderness in the kitchen that were by themselves wonderful experiences, I loved to take a jump in a different lifestyle, to learn something different. It was intense (much more than what I do when I am in Belgium) but for me the more you are active, the more you have energy and you have to become more efficient, more focus. With the international aspect of the ranch you have to be open-minded and share with really different kinds of people and that is enriching. Those three weeks allowed me to resource myself, coming back a bit tired (intense life is great but sometimes you need a break to rest) but inspired by the wildlife, by the lifestyle and by the incredible people I met. Those girls and guys with their optimistic and strong mind, with their perseverance and joy gave me the will and the strength to begin the changes I want to see in my own life. No more excuses to be lazy or too comfy when you realized what’s their daily life in the mountains. I am back since two weeks now; didn’t open the television, did sports daily, cooked healthy meals, take the steps to go to a organic zero waste shop that I wanted to do for a long time and I am looking for a bio-climatic house (a house that try to respect environment as much as possible and reduce the energy consumption)… One step further to the ecologic lifestyle that I want to lead.

So yes exhausting holidays in a way, but in the same time very energizing. So worth it !

Miss you all already ! See you again for the next adventures.