Sunday, September 4, 2016

Chilcotin Holidays

How to become a Wilderness Guide (Guide School)


Being passionate about horses, having been riding for many years at home and loving the great outdoors of North America, a horse pack trip in the Chilcotin Mountains sounded like the right adventure for me. On the internet I found Chilcotin Holidays offering full service pack trips to the Chilcotin Mountains, but full service was not what I was looking for. I wanted to be an active member of the trip, seeing and helping with packing and everything that needs to be done on a horseback adventure. The reason why I decided to take the two week guide school, was to learn everything in the first week at the ranch and practice it afterwards on a seven day pack trip.

After a long drive from Vancouver along the Fraser River, passing Lillooet and continuing along Carpenter Lake, I arrived at the beautiful remote guest ranch of Chilcotin Holidays in early June together with other guide school students from different places in Canada and Europe. Right after lunch we fitted saddles to everybody and afterwards, to one of the surefooted Cayuse mountain horses that would become our best buddies during the next two weeks (special thanks to Blue who carried me safely through the wilderness and back to the ranch). Then we got instructions on how to ride in difficult terrain (over snow, rocks, logs, on steep slopes etc.) and how to react when encountering wildlife like bears on or near the trail. Right after the riding orientation and a tasty dinner we practiced our newly learned skills while heading out on the beautiful river ride.

We spent the next days learning and practicing shoeing horses, packing pack boxes, duffels and other things to pack horses and to lead those pack horses up and down steep hills over rocky terrain and across dangerous slopes. We also got insights on horse-logging, target shooting and bareback riding.

I was especially surprised that we got to learn how to shoe and actually shoe a horse within 1.5 days while back home in Switzerland you get shoeing done by a professional farrier who went through a four year apprenticeship before. Of course they cannot teach you the skills of a professional farrier at the ranch but we got taught how to put shoes on a horse without hurting the horse and ourselves which is basically all you need to know to be able to shoe a horse when a shoe gets lost in the wilderness.

After a bear safety video and an instruction on how to use bear spray and a bear banger we had to plan and pack food for seven days. The following day our wilderness adventure started and we headed out towards Leckie Camp where we would spend our first night before continuing to our second camp at the shore of the stunning Spruce Lake. It was only after 30 minutes that we saw our first black bear pretty close by. It should remain the only one for the whole trip, but we saw other wildlife... a lynx (for the first time in my life), marmots, a mountain goat and a lot of deer.

On our rides from camp to camp and during the days at Spruce Lake up to Hummingbird Lake, Open Heart and Windy Pass we rode through dense forests that opened from time to time to blooming mountain meadows offering views of snowy mountain caps and deep blue lakes. We collected wild potatoes and wild onions to cook for dinner, enjoyed great views from different lookouts, saw bear prints in deep snow, paddled a canoe on Spruce Lake, brought the horses to the grazing meadows where they would stay throughout the night, hobbled or staked them, hiked back to camp, made Indian bread on the fire, listened to another student playing guitar and singing at the shore of Spruce Lake, played cards inside the log cabin and after all that we fell happily asleep in our prospector tents looking forward to the only few hours of actually being really warm (special thanks to my warm sleeping bag) until getting up again early in the morning at a temperature of 0 degrees celcius.

After one week full of new experiences and adventures, the wilderness guides of Chilcotin Holidays Guest Ranch guided us safely back to the ranch where we received our certificates stating that all of us had successfully completed the two week guide school. The 'graduation' was followed by a farewell lunch after which we had to say good bye to the other students, the amazing guides and other staff and this beautiful place called Chilcotin Holidays Guest Ranch.

Chilcotin Holidays

About Chilcotin Holidays

We are a licensed guide outfitter and we conduct guided wilderness adventures throughout our 5,000 square km operating area. This guide area has been operational since 1880, making it the oldest in British Columbia. More about us HERE.

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