The Flying U

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Nov 27, 2013 | By Whitney James

If you’re lucky, there’s a childhood tradition dear to your heart. Whether it’s building stuff in the garage with Dad or a mud-caked game of Thanksgiving football, the memories live on even if you’ve out-grown them. But for the really lucky ones, the tradition is still going strong.

For me, it’s the Flying U Ranch. Located in British Columbia, the Flying U is the oldest guest ranch in Canada and one of the only in North America that offers unsupervised riding.

That’s right, you can forget the guide and head-to-tail trail riding. At the Flying U, 40,000 acres of wilderness are at your disposal, and you’re free to explore to your horse’s content. As a dedicated guest of 12 years and counting, I’ve naturally explored plenty.

Originally purchased by the Northwest Fur Trading Company in the early 1820’s, the Flying U packs some history. In particular, the cabins keep their 1920’s charm. They’re made from the birch trees that grow around them, and on each front porch are two rocking chairs.

Each front door is labeled with a unique cattle-brand, such as “SH” or “2Lazy2P” and is adorned with a horse-shoe handle. Inside, you’ll find a variety of beds with wooden frames, a single light bulb with string attached, and an iron stove.

The windows have cracks around their exteriors, since the log walls have settled unevenly. And the wooden floor squeaks loudly enough to wake the entire ranch. In my opinion, the squeakier, the better.

In all my years at the ranch, I’ve gathered some special memories. But one stands out from the rest. After horseback riding through a thunderstorm, the sleeping bag-long-john combination just wasn’t cutting it. I gathered some wet kindling and pre-cut logs, which are always stocked on the porch, and a pack of matches.

Squatting in front of the iron stove, an antique from 1849, I got to work. After twenty minutes of sheer determination with wet kindling, I had a blazing fire at my fingertips. Before I knew it, I was stripping layers and my man-from-snowy-river style raincoat was practically dry. I was running a sort of sweat lodge.

I wanted to throw open the cabin door and heat up the world. But more than anything, I never wanted to leave. And right now, there’s really no place else I’d rather be.

If you’re one of those people who lost their childhood traditions, make a new one. The Flying U offers all the history you could possible need, and just the right amount of old fashioned fun.

Book now for next summer at Flying U.

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Images ©Whitney James via Flickr.