The 18th annual Tl’etinqox Horse and Bike Ride will arrive in Williams Lake Wednesday afternoon sometime after 5 p.m.
The group, made up of riders from four communities of the Tsilhqot’in Nation have been travelling from Tl’etinqox (Anaham) since Saturday, June 22 and are made up of a mix of about 26 horseback riders and as many as 40 bike riders, from young children to adults.
The riders camped at the River Ranch Saturday night, followed by Jack Palmanteir’s place Sunday and Monday night, where they enjoyed a rest day and a gymkhana for the children.
“He is always waiting for us,” said Ted Sam, who has been leading the horse ride since it began, of Palmanteir.
“He loves what we do and he sure gets lonely when we leave.”
Tuesday night the group camped at Meldrum Creek and Wednesday they made their way down and up the Sheep Creek hill and bridge, over the Fraser River, towards town.
Sam, who is from Tl’etinqox, once again led the group this week, riding with his horse along with the horse of the late Roland Alphonse, Sam’s friend who led the group with him in the early years before he passed away in 2007.
Sam said the ride has got stronger and bigger every year since.
“I always bring Roland’s horse along so that he is with us,” Sam said of Alphonse.
A horse trainer and range rider who also works with youth, Sam said the ride is all for the youth and keeping them connected with horses, the land and their communities out west.
“It’s so important for me because I have little ones coming up and for my late buddy Roland, I always do it for him every year.”
Sam said one of the biggest challenges of the ride is the long, steep Sheep Creek hill where the shoulders are narrow and there is lots of traffic, including loaded logging trucks. Everyone rode the stretch single file, stopping at the rest stop overlooking the Fraser River before pushing on to Williams Lake all the while being accompanied by several volunteers transporting food, water, camping supplies and controlling traffic with the help of the Alexis Creek RCMP.
All told, the group will have travelled five days and about 100 kilometres to get to Williams Lake, where everyone then looks forward to being a part of the Daybreak Rotary Stampede Parade Saturday.
Chief Joe Alphonse, who rode for a day and a half this year, said the ride is a wonderful opportunity for all the communities to visit and reconnect and is of particular significance for their youth.
“Some kids don’t have horses so we put them on bikes. It’s just a chance for our youth to camp out, for some of these youth that’s the only time they camp out all year, so it’s a big event,” said Alphonse.
“And it’s supporting the Williams Lake Stampede. I think it’s up to all of us to promote our Stampede and we’re doing that in a little way here, so have a good Stampede.”
Alphonse reminded motorists that the Xeni Gwet’in Youth Wagon Group will be travelling on Highway 20 Thursday to the Williams Lake Stampede, and to drive slowly past the group.