British Columbia offers a magical retreat from the normality of everyday life. In our latest blog Chris Day recounts her recent trip to the wonderful destination of Tsylos in British Columbia…
Tsylos is less than a one hour flight from Vancouver and is situated at the north end of the Chilko Lake in British Columbia. I had an amazing flight! We had clear skies and fabulous views. The flight (on about a twelve-seater plane) was about 45 minutes. Our driver for the journey from the airport to the Lodge was Pat, one of the fishing guides. He was knowledgeable about the area and kept us amused on the journey.
Sunday 21st September
We arrived at Tsylos at about 12:30, waited for everyone else to arrive and then sat down to a welcome lunch of macaroni cheese. We then had a general briefing before sitting with Theresa, our guide, who asked us about our riding experience and the type of horse we preferred. After an hour to ourselves, settling into our rooms, we met at the barn for our introductory ride. Theresa gave us a full briefing and demo on catching your horse, putting on the halter, tying up to the hitching rail, brushing off, tacking up, mounting and dismounting. Then we went to the corral and caught our horses. I was assigned ‘Joe’, a good looking bay gelding.
We rode out for about 1 ½ hours, with Theresa leading and Dave as back-up. We were mainly walking but we had a short canter too. Back at the barn we washed down the horses and were back in our rooms by 17:00. Time to freshen up before heading to the lodge at 18:00, where pre-dinner nibbles are left on the bar for guests. It was a splendid first dinner of wild sea trout, salad, potatoes and asparagus, all washed down with nice Canadian wines.
Monday 22nd September 2014
It was cold this morning. I slept quite well then headed down to the lodge where coffee was ready and everyone was gathering for breakfast. Breakfast was homestyle hash browns and a scrambled egg medley (ie with bacon, cheese, tomatoes etc), fruit, cereal, yoghurt and bread.
Quickly over, we collected our sandwiches and made our way up to the barn for 09:30. We caught our horses, groomed and tacked up, and were away by 10:00. We went a different route today, following the road for a while, past Chilko campsite (closed to camping due to bear activity!!!) and then on to Green Lake. After lunch we followed the same route back for the majority of the way, but diverted to have a short canter on an undulating track. We were back at the barn by 14:00 which gave people the chance to have a beer on the deck or head for the hot tub!
Tuesday 23rd September 2014
What a lovely morning! I was ready for the splendid breakfast of French toast and bacon. Today we headed out on the Mountain Ride. This ride is all at a walk due to the terrain. We left the barn at about 10:00 and started to climb immediately. There were some very scenic bits as we left the treeline and it got very steep in places. We stopped to rest the horses several times and reached the top of the mountain at about 13:00.
What a view! We sat and ate our lunch looking over the spectacular Chilko Lake. It was magnificent! We lead the horses off the top, which was shingle and steep. It took about 2 ½ hours to get back to the barn and we lead the horses several times. We got back to the lodge for a well deserved drink by 16:30!
Wednesday 24th September 2014
It was a cold, bleak and drizzly morning, but breakfast (bacon, egg, cheese and tomato pie) got me going just fine! The plan today had been to do the boat trip up the lake, but due to the weather it was decided to postpone this and to do a cantering ride instead. I had a change of horse to one of the veterans, a coloured horse called Charlie. I think he’s the boss! Again we set off at about 10:00 and rode along the scenic river. We had about three canters on the way to an abandoned lodge. As we were cantering up a trail towards the lodge, we heard the dogs barking and some strange snorting (not unlike a stallion) and looking back we saw three bears (mother and two cubs) crossing the trail, thankfully after the last horses had passed! We tried to track them, but could not find where they had gone.
We reached the lodge at about 11:45 and stopped here for lunch. This time of year it is the peak of the salmon run, which is great for bringing the bears down to the river, but not so nice for the amount of dead salmon everywhere. We stayed around the lodge for a couple of hours, and went to investigate a beaver lodge. It was amazing to see the trees they had taken down. Incredible!
The meals we had throughout the week were really delicious, and tonight’s rack of lamb was no exception. We had fun after dinner reciting poems and playing a game not dissimilar to charades.
Thursday 25th September 2014
Today is a rest day for the horses and so we all headed out in the boat with Bud to Chilko Lake. It was an amazing day with some incredible views. The mountain scenery is really stunning. After about an hour we stopped and walked to a small lake often frequented by moose. We carried on down an inlet, which was calmer, to an old miner’s cabin. From here it was a further five minutes to our lunch spot on a beach. A fire was lit and hot drinks handed round to warm us up.
Back into the boat after lunch had settled, for another hour continuing up the lake. We reached a spot where we walked to a small lake known as ‘Spectacular Lake’. And it was! On the way back up the lake we passed a structure being built by an old Vietnam draft dodger. Bud had a few stories to tell about him! (Walks about in bare feet apparently!) Then, finally, we saw bears! A mother and cub running along the shore (well, they were eating fish until we came along!) and then a little further along there was a mother and two cubs running up the scree into some trees. Amazing!
We got back to the lodge for about 17:30, and were pleased to get back into the warmth. It had been a fantastic trip, and a wonderful way to see Chilko Lake, but boy it was cold on the back of the boat!
Friday 26th September
Today we had some great cantering rides, through the trees with some great switchbacks – you really had to be in tune with your horse. We rode back to the abandoned lodge where we saw the mother and cubs the other day, as one of the ladies had dropped her sunglasses. When we got to the abandoned lodge there was a group of photographers totally absorbed in photographing the mother bear and her cubs as they sat in the river eating the abundant salmon. We tried to be very quiet and were able to watch the bears for a while, before she spotted one of our dogs, let out a snort and disappeared!
After lunch we had some more canters and opened up on the old airfield and also a nice paddock, which gave for some nice photo opportunities. Back at the lodge there was a mother bear and two cubs just down by the jetty. We dashed down and spent a long time watching them from just 50yds away. Amazing.
Saturday 27th September
A repeat today of the upper and lower ‘roller coaster’ rides, lovely winding canters through the trees and then out onto the ridge; “don’t look down!” We crossed the river via the bridge and stopped in a very scenic spot for lunch. After lunch we had some nice canters along the sandy trails before we reached the river. Here we untacked the horses and the tack was taken back to the lodge by boat. We waited with the horses until our guides returned (lots of hilarity singing very loud songs to keep the bears away!) and then the horses swam across the river and made their own way back to the stables at Tsylos Lodge. This evening was ‘BBQ’ night and we had lovely steaks cooked to perfection! Bit of a party atmosphere and lots of recounting of our adventures!
Sunday 28th September
After breakfast we left the lodge at about 09:30 and travelled the hour and a half back to the airstrip. It was quite sad to see the mountains disappearing into the distance.
To find out more about how you can create your own British Columbian equestrian adventure visit www.inthesaddle.com