Written by Kyla Schenk, Program Facilitator

One rainy day in November, an intrepid crew of Vancouver IA participants and staff set out on an overnight journey to Cold Water Ranch near Merritt, BC. The drive was slow but almost as soon as we turned off the highway towards our destination, the clouds broke, the sun peeked through, and we were greeted with beautiful blue skies. A wonderful omen of the weekend to come!

Cold Water Ranch Lodge is a beautiful, fully accessible lodge operated by Abilitas Foundation on the traditional territories of the C’eletkwmx people of the Nlaka’pamux Nation. Warm, cozy vibes and easy access to nature make the lodge a longstanding favourite spot for our participants. Previous trips out to the lodge have tackled adventures like snowshoeing and hiking up to the trappers cabin, but this time around the focus was on relaxation while we built connections and community.

We spent the weekend enjoying the beautiful fall colours and settling into a simple, calm routine. We cooked delicious meals together, played card games, worked on some puzzles, and made s’mores over a campfire. We enjoyed every moment, but there were a few standouts. One of the biggest highlights was meeting Sam, a kindly old horse who calls Cold Water Ranch home. With the help of the Lodge’s wonderful caretakers Hannah and Eric, we were able to get up close with Sam for some sweet horse snuggles. We spent the rest of the day marveling over how soft his fur was! Just when it seemed that Sam would be the absolute highlight of the weekend, one of our participants, Sheila, who is an incredible artist, treated us to a water colour painting lesson. She showed us how to paint wreaths so that we would all have homemade holiday cards to take home.

Sheila shared with us afterwards how excited she was to teach a painting lesson. It was an impactful experience to be able to expand her art skills into teaching with a group of people who she felt totally at ease in front of. Being part of such a supportive group allowed her to challenge herself to try something new, and we are sure glad that she did because we all had a blast!

Some of our other participants shared the impact of being disconnected from their busy lives and surrounded by nature for a few days. Many folks expressed how calming it was at the lodge and how they were able to let go of some of their daily stresses while we were away. The tranquility and quiet of the remote wilderness surrounding the lodge provided our participants with the chance to connect on a deeper level – with each other, and with mother nature.

Our weekend at Cold Water Ranch was rejuvenating and left everyone feeling rested and refreshed. It was a perfect autumn escape from the rainy weather and busyness of the city for a few days. The true testament to the magic of Cold Water Ranch is that after a weekend of perfect blue skies above the lodge, rain started coming down again as soon as we made it back onto the highway to head home.