Five minutes out of Rosemont sits a property that captures the modesty and magic of Headwaters; horses standing stoic in their pasture, dogs bounding in the yard under a wide, clear sky and chickens cooped up against the winter cold. This is part of everyday life for Little Creek Ranch owner Elaine Capes, whose dream is to one day give international travellers a taste of the countryside.
“You can’t see it as well right now, ” Elaine tells me in a blustery December wind blowing over the thinned hills, “but in the summertime here all this looks like something from The Hobbit.”
I imagine the 18 kids that come for the week-long day camp Elaine holds every summer here running around like the little people of the Shire. For five days Elaine teaches horsemanship to 4 – 16-year-olds while her husband cooks and manages the arts and nature programs and other staff handle the musical component of the camp.
Elaine’s been running this day camp for four years, with some kids coming back every year. She gets a lot out of passing on her love for horses to a younger generation, and they seem to have a ball. “Who has more fun than kids?” she says.
The summer camp does a great job of introducing kids to the ranching life, and it’s this experience that Elaine’s been giving to whole families. For one weekend they take part in whatever seasonal work needs to be done – planting the garden, picking apples, tending the bees. In the mornings they harvest eggs, feed the animals and have breakfast; clean the water troughs and learn how to handle horses; at night they sit around the campfire under a sky one could only witness in the hills.
“It gives families the opportunity to be together in the country setting on a ranch, enjoying what we enjoy every day,” Elaine says. “We feel blessed to have what we have here, and it’s really nice to be able to share that with others.”
It’s also a chance for Elaine to introduce people from far and wide to a community she’s fallen in love with. Elaine, a recent past councillor for the town of Mono, sits on about half a dozen boards in the area, the Headwaters Health Care Foundation, Family Transition Place, the Mono Mulmur Citizens Coalition, Headwaters Tourism, Headwaters Equine Leadership Group and the Mansfield Ski Club. “I like to be connected,” she says. “I like to feel part of the whole thing.” And does she ever: when she and her husband moved up here 10 years ago they invited their neighbours – some of whom hadn’t seen each other in over a decade – to a bbq that has turned into an annual ribfest where a crowd of 60 enjoy cook-offs and sports and live music.
Her dream for Little Creek Ranch is to build a few cabins that people from around the world would come to for a vacation getaway, to get a taste of the countryside and life on the ranch.
“They can come for this experience and we can introduce them to the area,” Elaine says. “There’s just so much we have on our doorstep that we can introduce them to – and then they can come back.”