From left to right are Mack Hett (on Frosty) with siblings Reece (on Dawn) and Hanna (on Suki) and dad Clay (on Fred) at the Eagle Lake Ranch.

From left to right are Mack Hett (on Frosty) with siblings Reece (on Dawn) and Hanna (on Suki) and dad Clay (on Fred) at the Eagle Lake Ranch.

They Call the Cariboo Home: From the Okanagan to the wilds of the Chilcotin

It was nine years ago in April that we packed up our extremely comfortable middle-class life.

Marilyn Livingston and Clay Hett

Special to the Tribune

 

It was nine years ago in April that we packed up our extremely comfortable middle-class life in one of the most sought after locations in B.C., the Okanagan.

We had fallen in love with the wild, remote and beautiful Chilcotin, specifically Eagle Lake Ranch.

Eagle Lake Ranch is at the very end of a long and rugged dirt trail and depending on the season, it is either seven kilometers of pot holes and dust, water and mud, or the arm-strong steering 4X4 battle of snow. There was no power or telephone and the closest neighbour was about 35 kilometers.

We were not the first to be caught with the Eagle Lake Ranch dream; it was originally homesteaded in the 1960s by the original owners, Lou and Doris Haines. They lived the first four years through winters of 50 below in a 12-foot holiday trailer.

Lou and Doris built the first log house; it is a work of art.  Every detail in this house is done by the hands of two people, with no electricity, no power tools, only hard work.

The house was designed similar to a teepee, six sides with a hand-built fireplace in the centre for central heating. This is now our beautiful guest house, an authentic Chilcotin home.

When we first arrived at the ranch it had been vacant for a few months. The door was open. The water line was frozen, the basement was flooded with six inches of water and many small rodents had taken refuge in the house. In fact, we too lived in our holiday trailer for a few months before moving into the house. We had no idea of the challenges and adventures that were about to unfold.

I can tell lots of stories of not enough hay, so we are selling the cows, but the stock trailer is stuck in ice halfway up its wheels, and the truck won’t start because it is too cold, the generator won’t start to plug the tractor in, or boost the batteries … . Cows are not worth anything at the auction.  Buy hay … not groceries.

The snow banks were so high the animals were just walking over the fences. When we went to feed, trapped in the ice fortress, everything out there was mooing, clucking, baaing and neighing under our feet. Of course the gates were all stuck, the wrong way. Funny how the horses and mules can jump out, but they have to go back in by the gates? They stood and watched as we chipped away the ice to get them open. Who’s running this show?

So what was it that kept us there working longer and harder than we ever had, freezing winter after winter, struggling through the extreme elements to keep our cow herd growing?

When you drive down the driveway and the trees are covered with snow, the sunshine hits each and every snowflake and it is like a crystal tunnel. You know you are not alone, as you can see the well-used trails in the snow of the moose, deer, cougar, rabbit and wolf.

The moon shines so bright the trees have shadows and the sky is a mass of stars.

The swans fly over in the spring and fall on their migration route.

We can spend the afternoon out on the crystal clear lake and not see another person. Each and every day brings the unexpected and there is always a small element of danger, be it wild animals or weather. Nothing is comfortable or normal. It is always a test and we have been challenged in every way.

Our three children have thrived, and frankly we could not have made it without their help.

They were home-schooled until Grade 10, but in far more than just academics. They have learned to live without power and then build a complete alternative energy system, cook on a wood cook stove, fix and drive machinery and pull a calf when necessary.  When our children leave the ranch, life will be a cakewalk.

Our nine years of work and dedication have paid off and we have carved out a beautiful piece of paradise.http://raven.b-it.ca/portals/uploads/tribune/.DIR288/A21SUB--branding--029.jpg

Photo submitted

Clay Hett rides Clown at the Eagle Lake Ranch during branding time.

He and Marilyn Livingston fell in love with the Chilcotin and the Eagle Lake Ranch, which was homesteaded in the 1960s by Lou and Doris Haines.

Just Posted

Bella Coola Valley. (Scott Carrier photo)
Nuxalk Nation closes recreation, sports fisheries at Bella Coola due to COVID-19 concerns

Nobody is supposed to be travelling, said marine use manager Peter Siwallace

Michelle Jacobs receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 28, 2021. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
126 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

There are 22 individuals hospitalized due to the virus, and 13 in intensive care

A Cariboo Regional District director and School District 27 trustee, Angie Delainey is also a fourth generation business owner in downtown Williams Lake. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Angie Delainey appointed Cariboo Regional District representative on regional board

Delainey and Steve Forseth represent the CRD at the North Central Local Government Association

Pauline Schmutz, 75, receives her COVID-19 vaccine from public health nurse Donna McKenzie on Tuesday, April 13 at the community clinic at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake campus. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Additional COVID-19 vaccine clinics scheduled for Horsefly, Big Lake

Anyone 18 and over who has not received a vaccine yet is encouraged to register

The Cariboo Regional District. (Angie Mindus photo)
Industrial park slated for Watch Lake Road

Building company Omnitek to start building new plant on 32-acre site

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

The top photo is of a real carbine rifle, while the bottom photo is the airsoft rifle seized from a Kelowna man on May 15. (Contributed)
RCMP issue warning: ‘Imitation firearms need to be dealt with responsibly’

A man brandishing his airsoft rifle in public had his weapon seized by Mounties on Saturday

Abbotsford Regional Hospital. (Black Press Media files)
Canada marks 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began

6 in every 10,000 Canadians died of COVID-19 since March 9, 2020

Relief is coming for B.C.’s struggling tourism sector. (NEWS file photo)
B.C. officials set to announce more support for tourism sector hit hard by pandemic

Non-essential travel is restricted between three regional zones in B.C. until at least May 24

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Nathalie Emmanuel, left, and Vin Diesel in a scene from “F9.” (Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures via AP)
The blockbuster movie is making a comeback this summer

Excitement in the industry is growing again for a return to a big-screen normal

Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present seven-year-old Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
7-year old Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery for rescuing child at beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Most Read