AN INTRODUCTION TO THE PEOPLE OF THE BLACK CAT RANCHThis newsletter, in addition to providing information on all of our programs, is designed to reveal a more in-depth glimpse into the interests and skills of the various Black Cat people - the owners, staff and other service providers whose goal is give our guests the best possible vacation.
HOW WE GOT HEREIn 1969, at the age of 12, Hilary Shannon attended the children's summer riding camp at the Black Cat Ranch. Like so many guests, past and present, she fell in love with the location and wanted to stay here forever. When she learned that the place was for sale, she told her parents, Peggy and Buzz Shannon. They contacted Peggy's sister and her husband, Mary and Jerry Bond. The Bonds were looking for a tourism property and after looking the site over, the Shannons and Bonds formed a partnership and purchased the ranch - and the adventure began.
The Bond's daughter and son-in-law, Amber and Perry Hayward, joined the business in 1976 during the construction of the new main lodge. They raised their two boys, Jonathan and Ryan, at the Ranch. Jonathan lives in Lethbridge with his wife Jaime and twin sons Hudson and Aidan. Ryan is in Calgary where he is webmaster at Alberta College of Art and Design. Hilary's children, Connor and Franchesca, live at the Ranch now. Connor just completed his Grade 8 Piano and is giving piano lessons. Frannie won PeeWee NAGA Gymkana Championship last summer. We have all enjoyed meeting many wonderful guests over the years.
Jerry Bond passed away in 1997 and Buzz Shannon died in 2003. Now based in North Vancouver, Mary and Peggy are retired from their years of Ranch work and spend a lot of time traveling. This fall they are taking a 66 day cruise from Greenland to the Antarctic!
MURDER MYSTERY WEEKENDS AND WRITING WORKSHOPSOver the years, our involvement with the Ranch has allowed us to express our various interests and abilities. Challenged by our accountant in 1985 for ideas to expand our off-season business, Amber Hayward suggested the new fad - murder mystery events. As a published author, she felt confident to write these. Twenty-two years and 17 plots later, she can say that she greatly enjoys the collaborative twists which the guests bring to the mysteries. A mystery event can be arranged for groups of 24 - 32.
Publication of "The Darkness of the God," the second novel in Amber Hayward's trilogy Children of the Panther is firm for this fall - email notification of the tour itinerary will be sent out soon.
For the past couple of years we have been combining our ever-popular Spa Weekends with our Writing Workshops to offer Writer's Spas. This gives our literary guests a chance to get some pampering to work out the cramps after long hours at the computer.
Amber and fellow writer, Candas Jane Dorsey, offered a writing spa in January. Candas is a well-known author, editor and long time friend who visits the Ranch for her own writing escapes. Playwrite and singer Timothy Anderson also instructs at our workshops. For details about the next writing workshop, watch our website.
OUTDOOR ADVENTURESAlthough not born to be a cowboy, Perry Hayward spent the first 28 years of his time at the Black Cat Guest Ranch as head wrangler. He knows all the riding and hiking trails, many of which were in use long before the Ranch was established in 1935 by Major Fred Brewster. Many of our newer trails were developed by Mary Bond in her quest to produce riding and hiking routes to new destinations or along forgotten historic paths.
Guided trail riding is offered from May 15 - October 15. For the past 3 years, Jaimie Donald has been our head wrangler. Jaimie came to us from Vancouver Island but we seem to have converted her to an Albertan. Jaimie will be marrying her fiancÚ, Kelly Whitney, this May.
Off-season, wagon rides or hay rides can be arranged, provided by our neighbour Wald Olson. Wald and his wife Lavonne were long time owners and operators of Amethyst Lake Lodge in the spectacular Tonquin Valley in Jasper National Park. Wald has a beautiful team of Percheron horses and our guests always have a great time on his wagon rides.
Global warming has brought us many years of scant snow, with ice-free hiking possible in most months. For cross-country skiing, the nearby Athabasca Nordic Centre generally has good conditions.
Amber and Perry offer guided hiking to various destinations, including the top of scenic Solomon Mountain, spectacular Ogre Canyon and the challenging Binocular Ridge.
Rock-climbing at Ogre Canyon or Cougar Rock is available through Jerry Fochler's Inroad Mountain Sports. Jerry is an amazingly talented outdoorsman and instructor. Amber and Perry recently took a course in Wilderness First Aid taught by Jerry. We never knew studying first aid could be so enjoyable. Our staff picnic last summer featured rock-climbing led by Jerry - so much fun!
Enjoying Rock Climbing at Ogre Canyon
ELDERHOSTELWe are very fortunate to work with top calibre guides and teachers for our Elderhostel sessions. These 10-day programs are run in cooperation with the Banff YWCA. For the 5 days that the hostellers spend here, they enjoy a Maligne Canyon trip with geologist Ben Gadd, a course in horse lore with saddle-maker and former Black Cat Guest Ranch wrangler, Kathy McKay, plus an evening of line dancing with Billy Ray Lauterbach.
Ben Gadd is a licensed interpretive guide, geologist and internationally published author. His "Handbook of the Canadian Rockies" is regarded as the bible for anyone interested in the natural wonders of the mountains. Ben can often be heard on CBC Radio.
Kathy McKay worked as wrangler at the Black Cat for many years. She and her partner now own an acreage near Wildwood, where Kathy raises horses and creates beautiful western horse gear. She also does much of the farrier work on our horses.
Billy Ray Lauterbach and his wife Doris came to Alberta from the US on a short term contract to teach school in the tiny hamlet of Marlboro, and never left. They went on to teach in Edson, where Bill was best known for his music instruction. In addition to teaching line dancing, Bill is a classical singer and long time member of Edmonton's Richard Eaton Singers.
Dates for Elderhostel in 2007 are May 8 - 18, Sept. 4 - 14 and Sept. 18 - 28.
ART, PHOTOGRAPHY, WRITING AND SCRAPBOOK WORKSHOPSPeggy Shannon's artistic connections inspired us to offer Watercolour Workshops at the Ranch. The first one, taught by Tom Tinkler, was held in 1985.
These days, 3 workshops are held each year, instructed by Robert Sinclair. Robert is a well known Edmonton artist and former art instructor at the University of Alberta. The next workshops will be June 1 - 3 and October 5 - 7.
We feel inspired on those weekends, surrounded by so much talent and enthusiasm.
Photography is Hilary Shannon's creative passion. In addition to doing unique wedding and portrait photography, Hilary teaches workshops at the Ranch and home-schools her youngest child, Franchesca.
Scrapbooking workshops, instructed by Candas Hiebert, are scheduled for March 9 - 11 and November 2 - 4. These workshops are very popular and the last two have been full to capacity. In addition, many guests who visit us at times other than scrapbooking weekends request a craft table so that they can work on their albums.
Staff member Connie Bresnahan and Hilary Shannon illustrate the size of a beaver-chewed stump.
SPA WEEKENDSLiving in such a beautiful setting as the Solomon Valley makes us want to share this healthy lifestyle with our guests. Our frequent spa weekends give us the opportunity to combine outdoor activity, delicious meals and pampering services such as massage, yoga, pedicures and reflexology. We are privileged to work with many skilled, professional practitioners, some who live in Hinton and others who come in from further afield.
Spa weekends are generally held once a month, with 2 coming up in May. We're looking forward to the Adventure Spa June 8 - 10, which features optional rock climbing with Jerry Fochler. Check out our website for other spa weekend dates.
Bart and Perry Hayward on an alternate 'trail' up Solomon Mountain
SUMMER SPECIALSummer Riding Package - June 1 - Sept 30
$450 for 2 people - includes 2 nights accommodation, 6 meals and two 1.5 hour trail rides.
Reserve by June 10.
"DELICIOUS FOOD"The above is a quote from our guest book and there are many, many similar entries. With a background of good home cooking and several cookbooks such as "Fanny Farmer" in hand, Mary Bond and Peggy Shannon fearlessly stepped into the world of quantity cooking in 1970. In our giftshop, we are sold out of Mary's cookbood "Favourite Ranch Recipes" but we are hoping to do a revision/reprint this year. Our recipes have appeared in many cookbooks. Most recently, our Saskatoon Pie was featured in "Killer Pies" by Stephanie Anderson.
Many cooks have worked for us over the years and all have brought their own special touch. Usually this is a good thing, although we will never forget Andrews's spice cake, with curry and oregano! A long time Brule resident, Rose Alexander is our present head cook, renowned for fabulous soups and Alfredo.
Ben and Cia Gadd on Binocular Ridge Trail
To obtain more information on the dates and rates of Black Cat Guest Ranch activities, check out our website at www.blackcatguestranch.ca
Those living near Edmonton are invited to visit us at the Home and Garden Show March 22 - 25 to pick up a 10% discount coupon.