Hidden in the Louis Creek Valley, surrounded by mountains, there is a small and exclusive guest ranch that offers visitors a relaxing, tranquil environment where they can enjoy a unique, hands-on horseback riding vacation.
Located a short drive north of Kamloops, minutes from Sun Peaks Resort and only approximately 30 minutes from Barriere this dude ranch is already starting to become a “must stop” destination for Western Canada travellers.
Tod Mountain Guest Ranch is owned and managed by Tracey O’Connell, a modern day lady pioneer who immigrated to Canada from the UK in 2007 with big dreams and huge passion. Tracey says her dream was, “To build and open one of British Columbia’s finest guest ranches and offer unique horse riding holidays to guests from around the world.”
Tracey was born in Dublin, Ireland, and as a teenager moved with her family to Leeds in West Yorkshire, England. Her career with international organizations saw her spend time living and working in some of the world’s busiest cities.
She was born with itchy feet. From getting her first passport at aged 18 she spent the next 20 plus years of her life travelling all over the world, some of it for work, but a great deal of it for pleasure. It was during one of those trips that she sat on a horse for the first time whilst visiting family in Texas and her love affair with horses began. She started to take riding lessons at stables close to her home in England and took her first Dude Ranch Vacation in the early 90’s.
Since then, she has travelled to all corners of the world on horseback riding vacations. She has experienced many different countries and cultures, various breeds of horses and several different riding styles. From galloping with zebra and giraffe in Africa, to pushing a slow lazy herd of cows though the bush in Wyoming. Always during these trips she would think “wouldn’t this be a great way to live…”
In the summer of 2007, Tracey took a career break and came to Canada for a six month visit. During this visit she bought Tod Mountain Ranch, an 80-acre former cattle ranch in the Louis Creek Valley, surrounded by thousands of hectares of Crown Land and began to build her guest ranch.
Tracey says she has survived forest fires and several amazing winters with temperatures down to minus 40°C and six foot snow drifts. She’s learned to drive a tractor, build and mend fences, chop firewood and break ice on the creek. She’s proud to have swapped her kitten heels and silk shirts for gumboots and Carhartts and her beloved two-seater sports car for a pick-up truck.
Call her crazy or brave, she’s certainly unique and loves to share this amazing place with visitors from far and wide.
Tracey’s says the dude ranch in some ways is unique. Horseback riding is all they do, and because they are small, they can offer complete flexibility in the riding programme so that it can be tailored to the interest and experience level of the guests.
The staff encourage all their guests to spend time at the barn getting to know the horses they’ll be riding, and for those who want to have a more hands-on experience, they invite getting involved with all aspects of the care and ownership of the horse.
“This is a horseback riding vacation that lets you do more than just ride,” says Tracey.
Guided by experienced wranglers, guests ride up into the mountains surrounding the ranch on an extensive network of old logging roads and cattle trails through the forest.
When guests are not riding, the lodge is the hub of activity at the ranch where everyone gathers for meals, activities and socializing. Being a small guest ranch, visitors quickly become a member of the “ranch family”.
The lodge serves up delicious home cooked meals, and there is always time to share a drink and stories with new found friends. Some relax watching an old western movie, or try their hand at cards before falling into bed in the peace and quiet of a private cabin.
It’s not unusual to find Tracey serving breakfast, followed by guiding the morning ride and then hosting lunch.
Her favourite time of day is relaxing on the porch as the sun sets, glass of wine in hand, reliving the highlights of the day with her dude ranch guests.
Tracey O’Connell is currently president of the Lower North Thompson Tourism Society, serves as director and past president of the BC Guest Ranchers’ Association (BCGRA), past director of the Barriere and District Chamber of Commerce, stakeholder member of Wilderness Tourism Association and stakeholder member of Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association.
For more information about Tod Mountain Guest Ranch go to: http://www.todmountainranch.com
Article information courtesy of Tod Mountain Guest Ranch.