By NTFFRA 2012
Ambassador Program Committee
Through a few phone calls, the tremendous support of the North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo Association (NTFFRA), and the astounding generosity of a wonderful business owner; several weeks ago a plan was put into motion that would become one of the most memorable trips our NTFFRA Reigning Ambassadors and the 2012 candidates would have the opportunity to experience.
All the young ladies were informed that we would be volunteering for a two day work program clearing brush and digging ditches, and even though their faces showed their true thoughts mulling about, they pleasantly smiled and quickly turned the conversation to how fun it could be to sleep in a tent in the great outdoors. They had no idea what was really in store for them.
On July 18, with sleeping bags and work boots in hand, the young ladies eagerly loaded their gear into the chaperone vehicles to set off on one of the hottest days of the summer to perform their strenuous volunteer duties. We started out of town, headed up Agate Bay Road, and made a turn onto Heffley/Louis Creek Road.
The young ladies were all excited and in very good spirits, despite the thought of having to do all that hard work in the scorching heat. They just wanted to make sure we had brought lots of water. And of course, we had thrown a case of water into the back of the truck, just to keep the charade going.
Along the way we stopped at the Tod Mountain Guest Ranch. After all, there were some beautiful horses to look at and this would be a nice “photo opportunity” before getting to work, or so they were told.
We all piled out of the vehicles and the ladies took their places as we snapped pictures with them and the horses. Next thing they knew they had been invited to take a personal tour of the Ranch. How nice of the owner, Tracey O’Connell, to do that for them.
Tracey proudly showed us around. We saw all the tacked horses waiting in the arena, for those lucky guests to ride, which Tracey said where just “getting ready“ in their cabins.
The guest Lodge was absolutely amazing with a spectacular view of the Louis Creek valley. Tracey gave us a brief history of how the ranch got started, and then we headed up the paths to the guest cabins. As the ladies got their first look at the big, custom made log beds, covered with the fluffiest goose down comforters and pillows, along with the sheik and simple rusticness of the cabins, they all let out audible “oohs” and “aahs”.
“Wouldn’t you just love to be able to stay and enjoy yourselves at a place like this?” they were asked. A unanimous “yes”, was recited from all the ladies.
“Well, you are! And all those horses tacked up in the arena, they’re for you to enjoy for the next two days!”
With gaping mouths and shocked eyes, the girls had a moment of pure silence. (Hmmm, so that’s what it takes.)
Once the shock wore off, the excitement filled the air and they were told to run and get their stuff and choose their rooms; and since we were the only ones there we could choose any cabin we wanted. Like bullets, they were off!
Once settled into our beautiful cabins and changed into our riding gear we all met at the arena where we were introduced to Tracey’s two wranglers’, Steve and Owen. Steve has been working there for a few season’s now and this was Owen’s first year. They were very friendly, inviting and informative.
The young ladies who didn’t have proper riding gear were provided with the required gear, and then we were all assigned horses, based on riding experience. Those young ladies that were a bit nervous were courteously given one-on-one time at the end of the arena with Tracey until they felt more confident; and once we were all ready we headed out.
Most of the trails were in the woods, so the heat was not an issue; although, I think that concern went out the window with all the excitement. We casually wandered up the trails, on our very well trained horses, taking in all the beautiful scenery and fresh air while chatting with one another.
Some of the horses have very distinct personalities and were quite funny to watch. Like ‘Slurpie’, whose favourite thing to do was eat, despite his rider’s desperate attempts to keep his head off the ground. Then there was ‘Red’ who loved to get way too close to little ‘Joker’, who constantly pinned his ears at his insistence. ‘Red’ didn’t seem to worry about it though. ‘Sarge’ has to be one of the sweetest horses ever and was matched perfectly to one of our young ladies, not just in personality and experience, but they actually looked alike and she was excited to take pictures alongside him to show everyone the similarity.
The ride was excellent and we were all a bit sad when it came to an end a few hours later. We filed into the arena, while being greeted by a whitetail deer in the field, who didn’t seem to care that we were there at all. All of us stayed and helped the wranglers’ un-tack and groom the horses and then, like a convoy, we led them across the road to their pasture.
We all headed up to our cabins to wash-up and change into some clean clothes and then meet at the guest Lodge. The ladies helped themselves to some freshly baked cookies and a drink and then we went out to sit on the massive deck that overlooks the breathtaking valley to enjoy our snacks, surroundings and chat about our day. Needless to say, everyone was in very good spirits.
Out came the barbecue, and Tracey began grilling up an absolute feast. The tables were set out on the deck and we were treated to ribs, chicken and a variety of salads, followed by a choice of several different types of cheesecake. It was delicious! Even though we ate as much as we possibly could there was still enough food to feed at least 10 more. We ate and laughed about anything and everything. Chaperone, Sylvia Chivers, even tried to teach us all how to yodel. It was hilarious, and even though everyone tried their best, I don’t think we’ll be putting on any concerts in the near future.
After our fabulous dinner we walked over to the pasture and enjoyed spending some more time with all the horses. Once done there, we headed out on a nice long walk to work off some of that food. The girls sang old songs from childhood and laughed at the stories they shared with one another.
Back at the ranch the young ladies all gathered in one of the cabins to have some alone time to talk and get to know each other better. This was also some down time for us chaperones too, and we thoroughly enjoyed sitting out under the stars relaxing and casually chatting. Curfew time came and the girls all wandered off to their own cozy cabins to settle into their big, comfy beds for a well-needed sleep.
Early morning we all slowly filed into the guest Lodge, where we were warmly greeted by Tracey and a huge spread of fresh fruit, cereals, toast, yogurt and a variety of juices. Unanimously, we all agreed that our beds were absolutely amazing and none of us really wanted to leave them, but as we all woke up a bit more the excitement returned for our day ahead. We were going riding again!
As we ate, Steve and Owen were already hard at work gathering up all the horses and getting them ready for us and once done our delicious breakfast we headed down to the arena. We all mounted up and, once again, we were off.
We took different trails on the second day and went even further up the mountain. It was another beautiful day and we stopped to take some pictures along the way. What good sports Steve and Owen were as they tried desperately to get all of the horses standing in order while running back to snap picture after picture. It was a wonderful ride and we enjoyed signing, laughing and chatting throughout our journey along the old logging roads and cattle trails.
Once again, a few hours later, we all reluctantly headed back into the arena, this time greeted by a curious little coyote. And, once again, we stayed and helped the wranglers’ with their task.
Afterwards, we all headed up to the guest Lodge to wash up for our lunch, which consisted of very yummy grilled meat and cheese sandwiches and fresh veggies. We thoroughly enjoyed sitting at the massive table chatting with Tracey, Steve, Owen and a new wrangler, who had arrived the evening before. The conversation was mainly focused on the NTFFRA Ambassador Program, and everyone graciously listened as the young ladies explained what it was all about, their accomplishments thus far, and what was in store for them in the future.
After lunch it was time to think about getting back to town. Everyone headed up to their cabins and quickly got changed so we could run around and take pictures all over the Tod Mountain Ranch grounds. NTFFRA Queen Hannah Allen and Princess Tianna Weninger presented Tracey with a thank you card, along with some Fall Fair T-shirts and pins for all her, and her staff’s kindness, hospitality and generosity. All the young ladies said their personal ‘good-byes’ and ‘thank-yous’ accompanied with some heartfelt hugs.
Our two-day extraordinary excursion had sadly come to an end, although we were more than satisfied by our adventures. As we drove back to town we reflected on the wonderful time we had just experienced and how we all wanted to just turn around right then and there and go back to the ranch, never to leave.
On behalf of the entire NTFFRA 2012 Ambassador Program committee, Queen Hannah Allen, Princess Tianna Weninger and the 2012 Candidates we would like to extend sincere appreciation to Tracey and the rest of her great staff at Tod Mountain Ranch. You have done an amazing job bringing your vision, from all those years ago, into a stunning reality. The warm welcome, friendly atmosphere, delicious food, wonderful horses, peaceful environment and remarkable hospitality we all experienced will forever be remembered and genuinely appreciated.
Thank you so much for creating an unforgettable memory for the young ladies of the 2012 Ambassador Program!
I encourage everyone to visit the Tod Mountain Ranch website at www.todmountainranch.com to see what this incredible facility has to offer, right in our very own “backyard”. Tracey also hosts weddings and family reunions.