For a Smart Person, You’re Really Dumb: Golden and Fairmont Hot Springs, July 17-19, 2016

Either with Mr Wayde Andrews or without, either with the horse or without, either with a dog in the car or without, I’ve driven through Golden, BC on epic east-west or west-east road trips something approaching a dozen times. Wayde and I once overnighted at the municipal campground (a nice, cheap little spot on the Kicking Horse River), but never spent any time exploring the area, which appeared, from the road, to be stunningly beautiful. When I left Running Reins Ranch, I had the thought of staying at Bear Corner Bed & Bales for a couple of nights, and spending at least a day riding trails in the area. Sadly, because of the last-minute nature of my planning, Bear Corner was (predictably) booked, but the owner gave me a hot tip about the local rodeo grounds offering overnight accommodation, and so that’s where we headed.

The rodeo grounds, operated by the Golden Light Horse Club, turned out to be a very convenient overnighting spot, and I suspect the grounds are well-used. We rolled in around six-thirty, and I set Pai up in a corner lush with grass, temporarily cordoned off by some e-tape. After dark, around ten-thirty, I figured we had the place to ourselves, and rather than jail her in a corral, I threw her into the aisleway where she could pick away at the sparser grass all night. At something past midnight, when I was still up, I heard her nicker, and popped outside to investigate who she might be greeting. Another rig had pulled in, en route to Quesnel from Calgary, and so I hustled her into her corral.



Sunset from the Golden rodeo grounds.



Despite not being able to lodge me, Bear Corner was willing to let me tag along on one of their guided rides the next day.

It’s easy to forget that what so many of us take for granted – being able to ride our horse in the wilderness, surrounded on all sides by beauty so spectacular you don’t know which way to look – is what other people only dream of doing. The little group I joined on Monday morning consisted of Julie, our guide; Ing and (crap, I forget her name), who were regulars to the area; myself; and Verrina, a young lady from Germany who was touring around BC and Alberta with her friend. Verrina has a horse of her own, and hacks out regularly, so it’s not like she was a novice to the joys of riding trails on horseback, but her dream was to ride in the mountains here in Canada. She’d contemplated doing a trail ride in Banff, but rejected the whole concept of twenty people riding nose-to-tail, and was prepared to give up her dream. When she found Bear Corner, which offers tours in small groups, she knew it was right. As we rode along in our group of five, I don’t think the grin left her face the entire time we were out.

We rode along river flats on the Blaeberry River, and then, on the way home, stopped off at a waterfall reminiscent of Ya Ha Tinda’s Hidden Falls.


Blaeberry River.



In tears over her dreadful ride.




River crossing.



Given more time, I’d have investigated local trail options more thoroughly, and have stayed longer. I am sure there must be a ton of  trails to explore – next time!

When I was tucked away in my camper the night I arrived in Golden, back in cell service and able to catch up on online business, I saw a comment from Anna Marie, at Hideaway Horse Camp in Oliver –  place I’d stayed last summer – suggesting we might ride together if I happened to pass her way. I’d intended to next go to Salmon Arm, and then home, but the invitation swayed me, and I checked out driving times on my GPS. And here’s where I just got plumb stupid. Driving time from Golden to Oliver was about  5 ½ hours, more than I felt like driving after a morning of riding finishing up after 1 pm.  Last time I’d ridden in Oliver, I’d gone via Fairmont Hot Springs, where I overnighted, and so I checked driving time to Fairmont. One and a half hours – perfect. That meant my next day’s drive would be a mere 4 hrs, right?  Piece of cake.

I checked with the stables at the Fairmont resort, and they were once again willing to house my hoss. I was pretty excited about the idea of a long, hot shower, and I figured I’d skip cooking that night, and eat out at the resort restaurant. It was going to be great. I wouldn’t even need to unhitch.

Except once I got Pai settled, and drove the 400m up the road to check in, it turned out they’d changed their policies and would not allow horse trailers in the campground.


They would not allow horse trailers or cargo trailers in the campground. I’m still trying to fathom why. Not tony enough? Because if that’s the case, I’ve seen a lot of truck top campers, RV’s. and trailers that are way more wrong-side-of-the-tracks than my little aluminum horse trailer.  Apparently, the above-mentioned crack whore rigs are A-Okay at Fairmont Hot Springs. But my trailer, nope.

Oooo, I was cranky.  Last year, I could walk to my horse. This year, they sent me down the road to their sister site, Spruce Grove, which is about 3 km away. I was cranky enough to not want to give them any of my money and just find some other place to stay, but it was getting late and I was tired and I didn’t want to hunt around, and so I caved. Turned out we got a lovely, roomy little site along the river, and so I recovered a little bit of my cheer.



The site that kept me from writing an immediate letter to the editor.


And then, at bedtime, I checked my GPS, just to verify my route. It told me my driving time to Oliver would be 6 hrs and 45 minutes.

I nearly kakked.

The GPS is pretty reliable, with a few predictable exceptions (gravel roads, mainly). What had happened to my 4 hour drive? I was baffled. The GPS must be wrong this time.

Somewhere in the night, it came to me. The original 5 ½ hour route was not via Fairmont. It was via Salmon Arm. I hadn’t checked the map. By going through Fairmont, I’d ADDED extra driving time.

I was so mad that I removed “morning shower” from my agenda, and just made myself a coffee and broke camp by 6:30 a.m.  By the time we rolled into Hideaway, including stops for gas and snacks, we’d been on the road for 8 hours.

It brings to mind one of the loving phrases Mr Wayde Andrews once tenderly said to me: “For a smart person, you’re really dumb.”

Words to treasure.


Camp and Trail Notes for Horsey Folk:

The Golden Rodeo Grounds offers overnight accommodation by donation. I called ahead (Shelley at 250-344-6798) to check that it would be OK (I worry about things like, “What if there’s a gymkhana or clinic or something and it’s full??”) but I get the impression people just turn up and drop a few buck s in the red box. They have about a dozen quite roomy pipe corrals and an adjacent outdoor arena. There’s a grassy area within the fence, so I don’t see why you couldn’t set up an e-fence corral, or tether or hobble if you so desired.

Bear Corner offers accommodation for you and your horse, and access to some pretty gorgeous trails.

Fairmont has unofficially put me up twice, through their trail riding operation, A Bar Z. They remembered me from last year and my super-casual arrangement with them was perfect. Pai had a spacious paddock with a bit of grass and a view. They charged $15 last time; price wasn’t discussed this time so I slipped a $20 under the door when I left in the morning because that’s what I had on me. There are a few campgrounds in the Fairmont area to choose from. The ones associated with the resort are about $35/night for non-powered. The girls at the barn last year also offered me the option to park at the corrals for free. I prolly shoulda done that this year, but I was keen to have a hot shower. (Which, thanks to aforementioned stupidity, I never wound up taking.)


Pai at Fairmont Hot Springs.






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