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Erica Ehm


The Hills Health and Guest Ranch in British Colombia
...a wanna-be cowgal de-stresses


rica Ehm is an award-winning country songwriter who finds a lot of her inspiration in the wild west.

As glamorous as the world of television may appear to be, the reality is... daily doses of very high stress. So when the first season of my show, "Real Life", wrapped up, I needed a summer vacation badly.

Looking through the SpaFinder catalog, The Hills Health and Guest Ranch caught my eye. Located in central British Colombia, 250 miles north of Vancouver, the Hills is a unique combination of dude ranch and wellness spa. As a wanna-be cowgal who needed to relax and be pampered, this combination was perfect for me!

Picturesque trails snake out over a 40 mile radius
The Hills Health Ranch is located outside the town of 100 Mile House. It was conceived and built in 1982 by "hands on hosts" Juanita and Pat Corbett. It sits on 550 acres in the middle of cattle country, and has the feel of the wild west. In fact, one of its most spectacular features are the picturesque trails that snake out over a 40 mile radius. These well marked trails are used for horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking in the summer. In the winter the area becomes a mecca for cross country skiers.

There are several guest packages available at the Hills. Not wanting to concentrate solely on horseback riding, I opted for the Inches Off Executive combination. Upon arrival, I was greeted with a smile and a computer printout of my week's activities. The next seven days would include three spa meals daily, a fitness test, exercise classes, guided hikes, an assortment of "delicious" massages and wraps, and of course, horseback riding.

Spa accommodation--a charming combo of rustic and modern
As I expected, the accommodation at the ranch appeared rustic on the outside, but it was perfectly modern on the inside. My room was furnished with a queen size bed, color televison, a good sized bathroom and it even had a balcony. It was a mixed blessing that there was no phone. I simply relaxed, reading in my comfy rocking chair.

Each day at the ranch began with an early-bird guided hike designed to get your body going. Then the walkers regrouped at the dining room. Guests had their choice--either you could dine around larger group tables or you could sit at a single table and read, as I did.

I ate well, exercised well and didn't gain an ounce
The food at the Hills was delicious, eclectic and very filling. At breakfast, those of us on the low fat spa menu were given a combination of vitamin supplements, as well as a copy of the day's menu. Believe it or not, breakfast choices ranged from tomato basil quiche with German Potato Pancakes to fruit and cheese crepes. Lunch and dinner were just as appealing. My favorite meal of the week was the venison in a black peppercorn maple glaze with rosti potatoes and veggies. Even those on the "Inches Off" program, don't suffer at this spa ranch.

Just as important as the food was the dining room service-- friendly, enthusiastic, and on the ball. The staff made me feel right at home, often stopping for a quick chat.

Before throwing myself into my workout program, I had a fitness test appointment with Dr. Lynda. She spent an hour testing and analyzing my results, and then made some valuable workout suggestions. One of my goals was to de-stress and exercise, so after breakfast I generally did the workout classes--low impact aerobics or step. I really enjoyed the stretch and cool down after that good sweat. The rest of my mornings were filled with running on the treadmill, or horseback riding or being pampered with a spa service.

Facials, seaweed herbal wraps and bio-flavinoids
My introduction to the Wellness Centre was a facial with co-owner Juanita, an ex- child country star from Kentucky. Juanita's training is as an homeopathic esthetician. She shares her vast herbal medicinal knowledge with guests and treats them to lovely "hands-on" pampering.

By examining my skin, Juanita recognized a digestion problem and recommended some natural remedies. After the hour of facial pampering, she gave me photocopies of articles on the subjects we had discussed. Juanita's goal is that the Wellness Centre provides the environment and professional knowledge to help change and improve each guest's lifestyle.

She was already beginning to affect mine. By the end of my stay, after a manicure, pedicure, massage and seaweed herbal wrap, I had learned to rub cod liver oil and vitamin E directly into my cuticles, take bio-flavinoids to avoid varicose veins, and always drink eight glasses of water a day. Each helpful suggestion was accompanied by a photocopied article to be taken home.

One cowgirl was five months pregnant
Of course, the stable was a frequent destination for me but Mother Nature just wouldn't co-operate that week. Although the summers are usually hot and dry at the Ranch, it rained a lot during my stay. It even poured during my cowboy breakfast ride, but , happily, after chowing down on eggs, beans and bacon in the teepee, the sun broke through and we all dried off. The trails were too wet to do any serious galloping, but on the trail rides we took, the scenery was stunning and I enjoyed myself anyway.

What I found interesting down at the stable was that there wasn't a cowboy in sight. All the rides were wrangled and led by a bunch of horse loving cowgirls, even one who was five months pregnant.

This is the life!
As my busy days turned into lazy evenings complete with bluegrass hayrides, the end of my week-long stay loomed. Instead of chomping on the bit to return to my fast paced life, I was feeling relaxed, fit and part of a new family. On my last day, Lisa, at the front desk, invited me back to her place for a 10 km run along with her three dogs. I tried to keep up with her as we jogged along the cowpaths through rolling hills, past little lakes, waving to the horses, cows and deer as we ran by. Huffing and puffing, sweat rolling down my back, all I could think was ....this is the life!



If you plan on riding, be sure to bring jeans, a waterproof jacket, chaps if you have them, and a pair of boots, preferably with heels.


Contact The Hills Health and Guest Ranch
C - 26, 108 Mile Ranch, British Colombia
Canada, V0K 2Z0

Telepone: 250-791-5225
Fax: 250-791-6384


Horses make a landscape look more beautiful.
Alice Walker, author, 1979

The horse, like Cary Grant, lends romance to any venture.
Roberta Smoodin, The New York Times Magazine, 1993

While the "cowboy" is our favorite American hero--the quintissential man--most of us see the "cowgirl" as a child who will grow up one day and be something else. The cowboy's female counterpart --who can ride and rope and wrangle, who understands land and stock and confronts the elements on a daily basis--is somehow missing from our folklore.
Teresa Jordan, Cowgirls, 1984





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