If you’re lucky, really lucky, you get to learn the story, the history of a place. As the owners of Ruth Lake Lodge Resort, we are really lucky! The original homesteader of Ruth Lake Lodge still lives today, in Nanaimo, and at 101 years of age, she continues to write stories of her life in the Cariboo. I’d like to share with you some of her stories and some of mine. Sometimes eerily similar, and always entertaining.
Ruth Lake Lodge Resort - Then
In late August 1944, a young couple named Ron and Florence Riley from Victoria, BC, newlywed and looking for adventure, travelled to the Cariboo region searching for land. Their story is beautifully captured in Florence’s book “The Last Cariboo Homestead” (self published and available in our gift shop and some local independent bookstores). Florence describes the moment they sat on the shoreline across Ruth Lake from where they would eventually make a home using words plucked right out of my own brain.
Admiring the clear blue-green water, the large fir trees on the shoreline, the abundant berries ripe for the picking. To this day, despite the cleared areas, many of those large fir trees dart the shoreline, and you can bet there’s berry picking to be enjoyed from mid summer to early fall. They fell in love with the beauty, the potential and the lifestyle, much like we did. The difference is…they did all the hardest work! Months and years of tirelessly working the land, building their home, one log at a time, without the use of power tools. Homesteading and clearing forested areas to create fields for crops, building fences to pen animals, living off the land in the truest sense of the word. When you can only eat what you either grow or kill, you develop some stellar skills as a farmer and hunter. Let’s just say, my farming skills are improving but my hunting skills are severely lacking. Ruth Lake is abundant with fish, then occurring more naturally, now part of the BC Fisheries stocking program. With a little patience, you can barbecue a rainbow trout or a kokanee for dinner. Patience – that may be why I rely on friendly neighbours and generous guests to share their catch with us!
Ruth Lake Lodge Resort - Now
Over the past 5 years, we’ve been working on upgrading the buildings, cleaning up the forest of dead wood and debris, improving our trail system, with the luxury of power tools and an amazing team of volunteer friends and family who are loyally available to lend a helping hand for this back breaking work. I can hardly imagine the strength, physical and mental, that Ron and Florence would have needed to harness to accomplish what they did, using hand tools, help from neighbours and sheer brawn and determination.
I love how in the early chapters of Florence’s book, she talks about how their friends and family reacted to the news of homesteading in the Cariboo. Comments like, “are you crazy?” “are you sure?”, “what are you thinking?”. Funny enough, back in 2016 when we shared our plans to buy a Resort in the Cariboo, our friends and family chimed in with the same type of reaction. Crazy?…maybe. Sure?…absolutely not! What are we thinking?…What’s the worst thing that can happen? Oh and it turns out, so far, the worst things that have happen are wildfires and a pandemic!
Therefore, you don’t waste too much time ‘thinking’ about what you’re doing. It takes a leap of faith to accomplish great things. It takes a certain amount of courage to give it a shot. But more important than anything, it takes a willingness and a confidence that failing is possible, it’s simply not the goal. The goal is to go all in, work hard, partner with the right people, graciously accept help when it presents itself. And, believe that all of it will shape who you are and push the boundaries of what you can do, physically and mentally. Resort ownership is a business, it’s a lifestyle, it’s challenging and it’s extremely rewarding. Sometimes you fly by the seat of your pants and crash land face first in the spring mud. Other times you find tremendous inner peace in the beauty that surrounds you. Either way, we’re in for the ride, however long it may last!