Hollywood films have romanticised the Wild West. John Wayne black and white movies repeated on Sunday afternoon television have made the United States home of the cowboy. They’ve made us dream of donning a Stetson, rounding up cattle, cooking out under the stars and rowdy Saloon Bars. I thought of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and even Arizona as home to the cowboy, until a recent road-trip through the Canadian Rockies, when I stayed at the sublime Siwash Ranch.
There’s a whole swathe of British Columbia wilderness that is known as ‘Cowboy Country’. Siwash Ranch is located down a bumpy dirt road around 30kms from 70 Mile House, so named as it sits 70 miles from Zero Mile, where the famed Canadian Fraser Canyon Gold Rush began. Gold rushes bought miners to little known spots in the Canadian Rockies, just as in the United States in the mid-1800’s, creating pioneers and outlaws and later ranches and ranchers.
Owner Allyson purchased her little piece of Paradise in 1991 when there wasn’t a road in place, and built the ranch from the ground up. Camping around the property, getting the lay of the land she then forged her way to create an ultra-luxury hideaway fuelled by her passion for nature, horsemanship and the wilderness. Today, Allyson and her partner Roy, who grew up in nearby Lillooet (0 Mile) and her teenagers welcome people into their spectacular home on the ranch. Whether you choose to stay in the original ranch house with cosy western furnishings complete with copper bathtubs, the private two-bedroom Caribou Barn perfect for a family or a secluded two-bedroom yurt with log-burning stove, heated floor, outdoor shower and a deck that overlooks Siwash Lake, the experience is rustic luxury at its best.
It doesn’t matter if you are horse mad or a complete novice, Allyson and her team of wranglers have the experience to match you up to your perfect ride. All guests however knowledgeable will begin their stay with an introduction into Allyson’s gentle way of horsemanship, which is about finding a partner in your horse. Your orientation will also familiarise you with Western riding signals, grooming and saddling up so that by the time you climb aboard, you and your horse are firm friends. This horse will be your personal horse for as long as you are at Siwash. With seemingly endless wilderness to explore, the trails are spectacularly beautiful with endless wildflower meadows cutting through woodland trails. The ranch dogs accompany us on the ride, even alerting us to a mother black bear and cub at the edge of the woods that we are lucky enough to encounter. There is no nose-to-tail at Siwash that you can experience at other ranches, meaning you can really ride and learn to ride. For children, it’s an idyllic setting as they spend the day with their own pony, platting meadow flowers into their manes or learning gymkhana.
Horseplay aside, there’s shooting with Roy and Paul on the range (clay pigeon, target and rifle), fly fishing for fresh trout to catch for dinner, swimming in Crater Lake and cooling off in the waterfall, wilderness survival (a favourite with the boys) and hiking to spot wildlife from black bear to white-tailed deer. Next to the ranch house sits Siwash Lake with its swimming pontoons, paddle boards and canoes for exploring. There’s no need to ask, just help yourself. This is where you’ll find kids leaping off the pontoons in the sunshine. At dusk I took a canoe out into the middle of the lake and marvelled in the silence that could have heard a pin drop, watching deer graze by the lakeside and birds nesting for the night. There’s no need to sign up for activities in advance, someone will be round to chat to you about the next day’s adventures at dinner time and see what takes your fancy. There’s daily yoga on a peaceful platform in the woods and a spa tent complete with log-burning stove for massages to sooth aching muscles.
Derek and his team cook fresh from the garden with the provenance explained as each dish is presented to the table – fresh salad from the vegetable patch, edible flowers that are also a favourite with the deer, foraged chanterelles from the woods or beef from the ranch. Be sure to ask for a tour of the garden and you’ll be amazed at what is growing. The freshly baked cookie jar is always full, sweet cherry bowls abundant and the wine always flowing. Sit as a family or gather with new friends, roast s’mores around the camp fire or sit on the deck and stargaze.
Allyson and Roy seem to have struck gold on creating something entirely unique and utterly spoiling in Siwash. It’s genuine, authentic – and it is luxurious. Open to guests from May through September, Siwash is like home but only ten-times better, your dream home down on the ranch.
To find out more on Siwash Lake Ranch, give one of our North America Consultants a call on 020 8682 5030 or visit scottdunn.com