Thanksgiving on Horseback

Every year rain or shine a group of horsemen from all over B.C. gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving. Most are members of Backcountry Horsemen of B.C. and some are members of The Endurance riders of B.C. but they do welcome any outside horsemen so we did get some eventers, dressage riders and even the odd hunter jumper rider.    

We meet in a large Meadow up in an area called Rainbow Trails. This is just outside of Merritt B.C. off the Coldwater Road turn off. The trails are called Rainbow for a very good reason. In July the Endurance Riders of B.C. have a Ride called “Over the Rainbow”. This is a competition that ranges from 30 mile endurance rides to 100 mile rides. All the trails are well marked with colored ribbon some are one hour rides some could be 6 hour rides. The trails are well done and have been built and maintained by the Backcountry Horsemen BC and Endurance riders of B.C. mostly by a rider called Danny Grant. He has worked very hard to keep up the trails. Danny is lifetime member of the Endurance riders of B.C. and a competitive Endurance rider as well.        

On the morning of October 4th 2007 Ron Stolp and I (Kelly Allen- both members of BCHBC) packed up our truck and trailer despite the long range weather forecast calling for wind, rain and snow for the Merritt area. We left Langley about 9am Thursday morning in raining weather. As we got closer to the Toll booth the snow and wind started. We had prepared for the worst packing all our warm clothing and heavy rain coats. Of course we packed extra rain gear for the horses too. The snow was coming down good until we got to the Coldwater turn off. We headed down Coldwater road to Patchet Road once on Patchet Road the snow was gone. Not even any signs of it. We headed to 2000 street where the turn off for the meadow is.  We headed up the steep gravel road to the right into the meadow to find we where not the only goofy ones to head out into the crazy weather to make the Thanksgiving weekend at Rainbow. Ardel Krough and Ethel Raymond had already set up camp in the corner of the meadow. So we found a good spot to camp and make an electric corral for our horses. Just after making the corral three more campers, two of them pulling horse trailers showed up. It was Joan Spring and some of her horses friends from the coast coming up for the weekend. Some of them had never been to rainbow. The weather looked bad all around us but the meadow was dry. The first day was cold and some of the riders did come across some snow at higher levels. We had a cold but good ride the first day.

 Friday was looking a little more promising with the weather. Before we saddled up Ron and I decided to get a campfire spot set-up for evening to keep us all warm. There was no shortage of wood as the trees in the meadow have been well hit by the Pine Beetle. A group of us got together and started piling wood next to the rock fire pit Ron and I had made earlier. Once we had the camp-fire ready for the evening blaze we headed out to do some trail clearing. On our ride yesterday we discovered a couple downed trees on the trail so we got in the truck and drove up to the area and walked down the trail were the tree had falling and blocked the trail. Once back at camp we saddled up our horses and headed out for Lilly Lake. We had a good ride up the white trail and then took the short loop on the pink back to the camp. When we arrived back to camp there were even more horsemen campers in the meadow. Phil and Gerri Jacks had arrived in their new rig and Bill Cox and Joy Adams had arrived. We said hi and headed past camp down the road to the blue silver trail as we enter the trail we said John Gardner’s huge rig coming up and where glad to see John was back in the saddle. Following John where two more rigs. Jackie from Point Roberts, Washington, and Craig, Kelly and Kristine from Rosedale, B.C. had followed John up. I was beginning to relies these backcountry Thanksgiving horsemen where die-hards just like us. Once we got back to camp the weather got even better. More arrivals were still coming in once we got back to camp. Richard and Doris arrived from Fraser Valley Chapter with there Mules. The Sun was now coming out we now had well over a dozen horsemen at camp. So I guess it is time to light the Camp-fire. This is a great place to gather and meet new people.  Once the sun went down it did get a wee bite cool. Well we just though another log on the fire. It was a beautiful evening.


Saturday Morning the weather was beautiful the sunny was shinning another day in Paradise. After Breakfast we saddle up our horses and went for a ride with a member of our Backcountry horsemen Chapter in Aldergrove Jackie whom is from Pt Roberts Washington. We did the orange trail up into the Large Meadow then a trail up to Lilly Lake. It was a fabulous ride. Here is a picture below of Ron and Jackie in the large meadow with a herd of cattle.  

We stopped at Lilly Lake for Lunch and then took the white trail back to camp. Saturday was the day we all look so forward too.  We have community Pot luck Thanksgiving Dinner that would make most 5 star hotel buffets look wimpy.  Bill Cox brings a whole prime rib the full rack. Puts it on a custom made rotisserie and runs it from a generator. The roast has been marinating for at least 4 days in BBQ sauce. John Gardner does a BBQ salmon; I make my famous double creamed Pumpkin cheese cake for dessert. These are just a few of the courses serviced up at dinner. There are spinach salads with fresh strawberries, Caesar, and Greece salads, cold slaw and many more veggies, and desserts. There is so much food we eat for two nights sometimes three. There were 24 for dinner on Saturday night.


Every day is a different ride. Today (Sunday) we are going to do the red/blue trail. We headed out with an Event rider Lorraine Stubbins from Princeton on her 17.1hh Welsh Cob/ TB gelding Griffin. This was the only day we really hit the rain. Close to the end of our ride it was really raining but we where all well bundled up. We had a great ride anyway. We had come across a tree that had been hit by lightning a couple days before. Ron being a Vancouver Firefighter (pictured on the pinto to the right) was a little concerned it may spread so we drove up later and took a shovel with two 40 gallon drums of water and put the fire out. It had spread well into the roots and was burning below ground. We headed back to camp just as the rain had stopped. Lorraine had decided to head home as she was cold and tried after a long ride and she didn’t have a warm trailer like most of us did. We all gather over by the Jack’s camp site Sunday night. They had two portable fire pits going to keep warm. We then had another potluck with all the leftovers from the potluck the night before. The wind had blown all the clouds away and the sky was full of stars. Well another beautiful night, just another day in Paradise.   


Monday morning the sun is shining and it is warmer then any other day. Most of us are packing up to head home. I took a picture of our camp-site as the sun was shinning it is such a great meadow to camp in. It is always hard to leave this place. Just after breakfast we found there were a few people staying another day. With the sun out and the weather warmer we decided to stay too. We watched everyone pack up and waved goodbye to them before saddling up our Horses and going for one last ride.


 Today we where going to follow Richard and Doris from the Fraser Valley BCHBC Chapter on a ride along with Ethel and Ardel from Shuswap Chapter. We started out on the White trail through some beautiful scenery. I was at the back of the pack so I could take pictures. Both Richard and Doris have Mules and it is harder to keep up to them as they walk out well and are very good on the up high climbs. My mare is the pokiest she moves about as slow as a turtle some days. That was ok for me for taking pictures. Below is a shot I tried to get everyone in even my horse’s ears. We took the white trail all the way to the road to Lilly Lake then followed the white trail to just above camp. Then we got on the pink trail looking for the look-out over the valley. We didn’t find it but found a short cut back to camp through the raving and up through the creek coming out right in camp.

Once back in camp there was another couple that had decided to stay Cliff and Cindy. They were from Green Dale in the Fraser Valley. This was their first time up to Rainbow Trails for Thanksgiving and I gather isn’t going to be there last time. With 8 of us left in camp we decided to gather what everyone had left for food. Most of us had a little of this and a little of that. Cliff said to slice anything up and bring it to him. Cliff we found was one heck of a good camping chef. He came prepare with a custom made Campfire grill that makes some of the most incredible stir-fries. I still had a sirloin steak left over and some fresh red and green peppers along with one red onion. I sliced it all up and handed it to the chef. Everyone in camp was doing the same. Next thing you know Cliff is cooking up on heck of a stir-fry. I think we all gained a few pounds this weekend even with all the riding we where doing. What a great way to spend you Thanksgiving weekend. I am already thinking about next year. Every year we met new friends and tell new horse stories around the camp fire.

This is a Forest site and you have to haul in your own water and take out all your garbage. Like the Backcountry Horsemen say “Leave No Trace”.  Hope to see more horsemen next year.

 Written by Kelly Brook Allen  ”Backcountry Horsemen”.

For maps on how to get to Rainbow Click here.

For Trail map of the rainbow trails click here

Picture Gallery below click on each picture for larger image.


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Revised: 08/31/07.