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Adventure holidays in West Canada
Travelogue from the Canadian province of British Columbia

Text & Photos Fred Vnoucek

On my way flying to Calgary I realise that I know my own expectations of a vacation in the Canadian West. However I have no notion as to what really awaits me. After reading the brochure I expect a cabin with open fire-place and a wide range view: mountains, forest, animals, much peace and a dark-blue sky additionally lakes and rivers with many fish. I do not know yet that my expectations are even exceeded, there in the south of the province British Columbia, in the midst of the Rocky Mountains near the large National Park Banff, Revelstoke and Kootenay - on the Bull River Guest Ranch.

I selected Calgary as destination because it is less than five driving hours away from the Ranch and the route leads across the Rocky Mountains. Thus I combine a part of my sightseeing program with my arrival instead of flying to Cranbrook the nearest airport to the Ranch which would be only one driving hour away from the Bull River Ranch. After two hours I reach Banff, an all-season tourist destination. The winter here is a peak season too, then however for skiing. Often deer or moose are guests of the little town, an additional attraction for visitors. There are numerous overnight accommodations and infrastructure such as restaurants and shops.

The next day I reach the Ranch in less than three hours, where I am welcomed cordially. In the saloon of the ranch I receive first information. The principal interest applies for riding, wild animals and recovery. I learn that there are supposed to be numerous bears around the ranch: black bear and sometimes Grizzlys too. Even cougars sometimes descend to the valley. The heart of an inspired animal photographer already hits faster. By the way I learn that the saloon of the Ranch is an 'antic piece', more than hundred years old and removed from the historical Fort Steele to the ranch years ago.

The native Kokanee beer tastes even better now. At the wall there are hanging different trophies among others the fur of a bear. I personally prefer photographing. The Rancher however swears 'by his honour' that he doesn't hunt; the trophies belong to the previous owner. And this bear was investigating the orchard and nearly came into the Saloon. Therefore he was shot. Well, I imagine, we in Europe have our problems too. I withdraw myself soon to the veranda of my cabin and as it cools down in the evenings I light a fire in the open fire-place.

The next day begins with a wonderful sunrise. Early in the morning I am already active - completely different than at home. Wood chopping for the fire-place ..... must be the healthy air...! Only a few meters away from the cabin there is a barbecue and a comfortable wooden table under a conifer. Thus it is not only possible to cook in the kitchen of the cabin but also out 'in the countryside'. The lady of the house probably does not have much confidence into my fishing arts. She went shopping in Cranbrook and the refrigerator is well filled. I am somewhat offended due to this lack of confidence and immediately take my fishing rod. There is something to prove! Thus I optimistically turn towards the river. When I return some hours later, I am grateful for two things: the expected mockery laughter is missing and the well filled refrigerator waits....

Probably I was still lucky as an enterprising woman already went riding. She states the muscular strain comes from chopping wood. I avoid topics like 'fishing rods' and 'fish'. Instead I listen to how the riding was. In the evening I eat a delicious steak.

I have the impression to be alone in the wilderness although the next cabin is less than fifty meters away. You can only see the smoke from the fire-places. After breakfast a horse expects me. There are animals for each riding level, from beginner to professional. You receive instruction in the 'roundpen' before you start for a first ride into the surrounding area. One riding hour is obligatory for everyone before you receive the 'ok' for a trail. I enjoy this hour, which passes quickly in familiar atmosphere. Training, riding hours and trails are an outstanding experience; everything takes place in the picturesque environment of the Bull River valley.

The days pass by rapidly. Daily and half daily trips lead into the closer and further environment of the Ranch. The land is demanding, mostly it goes through forest and over grassland. On the fourth day it happens: during a common walk we run almost into our first black bears, obviously mother with child. All together we get frightened; the bears use this time in order to climb on the nearest tree. A dead end for family bear! Fortunately I have my camera with me. From a safe distance I shoot photos before we withdraw carefully and open the way.

After a short time you feel "at home" in the saddle and have fun on the rides. I'm persuaded to join a trail which lasts several days. These trips are organized on request and require several participants. Since I am the one person missing, no other choice remains to me. After the first day I realise which ' know how ' and work it takes to organise such an enterprise. Loading the horses alone is a science. We have an experienced guide and everything is well organised. Fun doesn't come to short too. The evenings are spent at the campfire and the nights in the tent; all in all a large adventure and a unique experience. After three days I return tired however content to the Ranch.

Since I planned more sightseeing the day of departure comes. I go on travelling to the north and reach after less than three hours the Yoho National Park. A trekking tour of several days leads me to the snow line at more than three thousand meters above sea-level. I spend one night in the luxurious Lodge at the Emerald Lake before I drive on the 'Glacier Highway' to Jasper passing glacier lakes, eternal ice and a cliffy mountain scenery. From there it is no longer far to the Mount Robson National Park. All of these are absolute highlights of each journey to west Canada. This journey of several days through the Rocky Mountains should not be missed under any circumstances. However time pushes me; my flight home is approaching. There are still two days to travel to Vancouver, the city at the pacific. From there my 'jumbo jet' starts towards Europe.

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