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There’s this skit by the Frantics, Ti Kwan Leep, that features the catch phrase “Boot to the head”. That’s the phrase that came to mind this morning as Spy was divested of one of his front teeth.

Paikea: “Spyder, you fail to grasp proper dog manners regarding horses. Approach me so that you may see.”

Spy: “Alright, finally some action!”

Pai: “Observe closely…Boot to the Head.” (Boom)

Spy: “Ow, you booted me in the head!”

We have sometimes wondered whether the true reason Spy’s former owner wanted to be quit of him was that he has no interest in herding anything. He’s been around the horses since day one, and the only interest they hold for him is that (1) horses have feeders on the ground and (2) sometimes those feeders contain stuff that is yummy for dogs. That’s it. He’s had zero interest otherwise, and has had a keen respect for their personal space when it comes to their limbs.

This morning, Pai showed a lack of enthusiasm for loading on the trailer (maybe the descent into Ashcroft had something to do with that – see below), and so stopped. Out of nowhere came Spy, barked at her, and chomped her on the hind leg. And… Boom. Boot to the head.

She was very conservative with her disciplining, because that steel-shod hoof didn’t cave in his maxilla or dislocate his jaw or smash up his orbit or kill him. It did, however, result in him backing off (silently) and spitting out a tooth. He is a very lucky dog. A lucky dog who now has some dental work in his future, when I get back home.

Right. Back to horseback riding:

We left Lundbom Lake in the early afternoon, after a short final morning ride. The GPS took me to 108 Mile via Ashcroft, which, when you compare to the alternate route through Kamloops, IS marginally faster, but really, just marginally. Sweet mother of god. The descent from the mountains down to the Thompson River at Ashcroft is effing insane. The worst of it is a grade of 11%, for 6 km. Before that, it’s a mere 10% grade. And after that, just 8%. Oh, and PS – the road is entirely winding. The signs tell trucks to take the descent at 20 km/hr. I suspect that the view I had of the valley below as I crawled down that hellish road was not unlike the view from a nose-diving plane. I wish I had pictures.

Anyway, it was all worthwhile to end up at The Hills Guest Ranch at 108 Mile Ranch, which has over 30 horse corrals on their property built and maintained by Backcountry Horsemen of BC. We had the entire equestrian campground to ourselves, and after some reconnaissance on foot, I picked a site that someone had pimped out with a log bench and a handy plywood table between a couple of trees. (Site 21: that’s your Huckleberry.)

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We hit the trail the next day for a ride through the X-country ski trails that double as equestrian trails in summer. The trails meander through forest that smells of wild roses, strawberries, and warm pine needles. There’s an area of trail called Express Meadows that goes on and on and on over grass – you can let your horse canter on for miles if you so desire.

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At one stretch of trail, there were clouds of orange butterflies so dense that they looked like falling leaves.

We stopped for lunch by Succour Lake, and then headed home.

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I’d had some pretty good meals thus far (salmon fillet with panfried asparagus and potatoes/sweet potatoes; pasta with lemon sage cream sauce and pecorino, with a tomato basil salad; nachos with homemade chili, sour cream, and avocado), but the idea of having someone else cook for me was too tempting to resist, so after a shower and swim and soak in the whirlpool at the lodge, I had dinner at the resort restaurant (where they pour GIGANTIC glasses of wine. Every single patron at dinner did a double-take when their glass was plonked down in front of them.)

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A tour bus of French-from-France people (a friend once asked me, “Where else would French people be from? And I was like, “Quebec. New Brunswick. We call them French.”) were staying at the resort, so I got to use my now-sketchy language skills to chat with the folks next to me and with the fellow from Ottawa kitty-corner to me.

Camp and trail notes for horsey folk:

The horse corrals and campsites at the Hills Ranch are rustic (binder twine is the new duct tape) but safe.

There’s a very clean outhouse, a garbage depot, and water for horses.

For your $20 (if you’re a Back Country Horsemen member – I think $25 if you’re not), you have your site, access to the trails, and use of the resort facilities – pool, showers, whirlpool, gym. There’s a restaurant on site, and a spa.

The trails are reasonably well-marked and the maps are reasonably accurate. I only sampled 3 – 3 ½ hours worth of trails; the trails I rode – ski trails – were basically roads/lanes, with good footing. The meadows are lovely to ride through.

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