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Growing up in Merritt, BC

Growing up in Merritt

Why I love growing up in Merritt


“…I never had any friends later on like the ones I did when I was twelve..”Richard Dreyfuss spoke these words in the final scene of my favorite movie “Stand by Me” . For me this quote reflects my growing up in Merritt with my friends. While we may have never searched for a dead body, we did have some memorable adventures. Whether it be getting my two friends and I lost on a mountain and picking ticks out of our hair on the way down, or floating down the Nicola River in dollar store rafts, my group of friends and I did it all.  


Being raised in Merritt, My playground was the outdoors. Everything was in walking distance, and even if it wasn’t, we would still walk 2.5 hours in the scorching 40-degree weather to find a new cliff to descend into the river.  Summers were spent playing on the river, or trying our best to leave early to get the ‘perfect’ spot under the shady tree at Monck Park beach. Dirt biking up to the lookout point up Promotory , and geocaching in Lower Nicola.  

Hunting season in the Nicola Valley

As the leaves changed colours, so did our interests. I had completed my hunting core that past April. All I wanted for my birthday was to do an overnight hunting trip with my dad. On one brisk September’s day my father and I set out for our overnighterWe set up our camp under an old fir tree, 15 minutes outside of Merritt.

After we finished setting up, with a few hours of daylight left, we started down the rough terrain below us.  Although we never shot anything, we did come across a small group of mule deer heading towards the timber. About 15 minutes after we had spotted a beautiful large black bear. We sat and watched the bear in admiration for quite some time. When we got back to camp, I sat underneath the fir tree with a breathtaking view of the Nicola Valley. I relaxed as my father prepared supper. The trip is one I will never forget. 

Wintertime in Merritt

When snow starts falling in the Nicola Valley and winter approaches, Doug’s once green lawn turns into an ice rink. If you don’t have skates to wear, he supplies them without charge.  Sledding and snowshoeing in the Nicola valley are a thing my family and I have always enjoyed and now it is our family tradition,

it’s not a successful sledding trip if you’re not leaving without a black eye (at least in my family anyway!) .

Kane valley in Merritt

The lights when I come into Merritt always put a smile on my face; the streetlights are always so beautifully decorated that you just can’t help feeling that Christmas spirit. Of course, my most favorite thing about living in Merritt at Christmas time is the parade. It’s usually me, my mother and brother’s tradition to go every year to the Christmas Parade. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. No matter how old I get, I will still get that feeling of pure joy when I see the ‘Frosty the Snowman’ Norgaard truck float, and even at the end when Santa appears.  


I really couldn’t wish for a better place to grow up in. I know that when I get older and leave for school, a part of me will always be here in Merritt. There are so many memories and adventures built here and I’m so proud and grateful to be able to explore The Nicola Valley and call it my hometown. The mountains and lakes have so much to offer that I hope that in the future more  kids grow up and have a similar childhood to mine growing up in a small town.  


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Living and Cowboying in the Nicola Valley

Living and Cowboying in the Nicola Valley

When you hear the word “cowboy” what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

Did you know that the term cowboy was first documented in the English language by 1725? It was a direct translation of the Spanish word vaquero — one who manages cattle from horseback, cowboy has the same meaning. Vaquero is rooted in the word vaca, or cow, and stems from the Latin vacca.

For some of us, it is not easy to develop trust when we are dealing with something or someone new. Dealing with a horse is not different. How can you communicate with a horse? How do horses communicate with us? To learn more about horsemanship, let me introduce our guest blogger Miles Kingdon, from Miles Kingdon Horsemanship.

I wanted to cowboy on a big ranch…

cowboyI came from Saskatchewan to the Nicola Valley, in March of 1981,  because I wanted to cowboy on a big ranch.  Most importantly, I wanted a full time cowboying job in cow country.  To live in a land where I could see the mountains and ride my horse across creeks and streams, and view wildlife year round.

I had been a cowboy on the big government pastures in Saskatchewan, but that job was seasonal; finishing for the year when the farmers took their cattle home in the late fall.  Besides, the winters were bitterly cold there, and not conducive to riding year round. 

So I headed to B.C.  When I drove into the Nicola Valley from Kamloops, on Highway 5A (the only highway at that time), I saw vast, beautiful rolling hills of bunchgrass.  I knew that this was the place I wanted to stay.

Streams, lakes, and beautiful wooded hills

My first cowboying job was at the Douglas Lake Cattle Company.  Every day, I rode out in the early morning to look at a new range; with creeks, streams, lakes, and beautiful wooded hills to look at.  Other days, I’d be riding across a sea of grass, and knew I was in the best cow country I could ever see.

It was a good life at Douglas Lake, but I was still hungry to see what was on the other side of the ridge, so I hired on at Nicola Ranch.  I had a family of my own by then, and being at Nicola Ranch exposed me more to the Merritt Community.  Our children were born in Merritt, went to school and were involved in sports in Merritt. 

A cowboy may not plan on involving himself in the community too much, because of his time spent at work, but he will, through the love of his children and interest in their daily activities.  It is inevitable for the parents.  They will rub shoulders with other parents and become involved in community functions, and as a result, feel like part of that community.

A new learning curve for this cowboy

cowboyAs the years rolled by, my interest in other ranges, and the desire to do better for my family, led me to the other big ranches across BC; the Bar K Ranch, Empire Valley Ranch, and the Gang Ranch.  These places were all a new learning curve for this cowboy.  Learning how to fit into a new environment, and acclimatize to each new system’s way of doing things; all were good for me.  I gained more knowledge about grasslands and different herd management practices. 

Also, very important to me, was making a new string of horses for me to go to work with.  Taking the horses from being young and inexperienced to a finished bridle horse, at each ranch. 

Cowboys and cowgirls from all walks of life passed through our pretty valley. 

A horse experienced at roping and doctoring cattle, cutting, and sorting cattle, and eventually becoming a willing partner that anyone, even my children,  could eventually ride.  And they did.  And until my children gained enough experience to be good help to the crew, the horses would take care of them throughout the day at work, and bring them home safely.

Not only did the horses watch how they carried my children through their formative and impressionable years, but so did the cowboys we rode with, always watched out for them.  Each of those hands became like uncles or aunts to our kids.  This is part of what makes our community so unique.  Cowboys and cowgirls from all walks of life passed through our pretty valley. 

At one time, the native community provided most of the recruits for the cowboy crews, and as the years rolled by, people from all over Canada, the US and beyond came to ride on these legendary outfits; some to move on to new ranges, some to stay and raise their families.  Ultimately, my family and I always came back to the Nicola Valley.  It wasn’t just the ranges and the scenery, the forgiving environment, and the horses, it was the community.  The people, and their empathy for others held us here. 

Back when I was younger, and cowboying at Douglas Lake, one of the older hands did the math and figured we were riding an average of 5,000 miles/year horseback.  Some of us questioned that, but the elders on the crew attested to that figure.  Some outfits were less distance covered on horseback, while some, like the Gang Ranch, were a bit more.

I understand the horse…

So, after over forty years of cowboying for a wage, I’ve come to make a lot of friends in the cattle industry, and I’ve gotten to a place where I understand the horse quite a bit better.  It makes a difference in me, at days end, to count my blessings and tally up how many things were a bit better today than yesterday, with my horses, dogs, saddle partners and life.

It seemed the natural thing to do, once I left cowboying for the outfits full time, to hang my shingle out doing workshops.  To teach the skills we learned going places on horses, and making a living as a cowboy.  So, today, my wife and saddle partner, Possum, and I are making a business of that.  We have two more horsemanship/stockmanship workshops coming up this summer in the valley, at Seven Half Diamond Ranch. 

There’s always a horse, and a person, who could use a hand.

cowboyNow, I can pass on these skills to whomever may be interested in working with horses and cattle.  There’s always a horse, and a person, who could use a hand.  And I really enjoy passing on knowledge to our youth, who, during their impressionable years, grow and gain knowledge the most. That is what they really desire.

Ultimately, after years of freedom and adventure, going places horseback, I had a few good stories to tell, and my wife pushed me to write them down.  As a result, we are looking at publishing our first book later this year.  It will be stories of life horseback, mostly situated in this valley of ours.

Many great adventures

The horse has brought me to many great adventures, and contact with a lot of good people.  The horse will do this for others as well. As long as there’s these grasslands and cattle that need to be maintained, there will be men and women riding down a trail and listening to their spurs chiming in time to their horse’s stride.  I have been blessed to grow in this community, and have come to love this valley, and the people in it.

Thanks, Miles Kingdon! We look forward to your book!

Click here for more info on Miles’ workshops. “Miles Kingdon Horsemanship offers a wide range of clinics, camps and workshops.”

Miles Facebook Page

For more reading on the cowboy experience in the Nicola Valley, read Etelka’s blog on the Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo.


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Experience Merritt BC Living

Experience Merritt BC Living

“The diversity keeps life and living exciting!”

Experience the “Dream” of small town living in the heart of the amazing Nicola Valley, Merritt BC

Want to experience living in a small town? Wondered if would be all that you have dreamt it would be? Well I am happy to share with you the reasons I love Merritt BC living. 

Merritt BC living, in the Nicola Valley, has given me the chance to experience  amazing diversity with the people, the colorful cultures, the landscape, and many experiences beyond any other community I have lived in!

We are nestled in the Nicola Valley, with a charming community, Merritt. And we are also IMHO blessed to be surrounded by first Nations Bands and can experience all of the wonders of their culture people and history. Much more on that to coming blogs. I will just say, if you haven’t been to a POWWOW or a first nations event, get out and go!

There are winding rivers,  sparkling lakes, beautiful creeks, natural river pools to swim and fish, amazing wildlife and forests spread over this entire valley with landscapes from wide open grasslands to dense pine and fir forests.

And it’s not just our location, our diversity in nature and landscapes, it’s our people! And there is about 8000 of us!

We have the best People!

People who love small towns like me!  People who have had family ties go back generations! Like the Pooley’s, the Voght’s, the Guichon’s, the Garcia’s. Many people I meet tell me that they were born and raised here. Or they moved away for work or to raise a family, and then they returned.

If you spend time living here to experience the beautiful community and the surrounding country it grows on you! And you grow on Merritt! People get to know you, you grow roots. You can’t help it! It just happens! It is hard to go anywhere where you don’t run into a friend or acquaintance.

We have are very own “mystery masked dancer” and a grapevine!

Merritt BC living

Experience Merritt masked dancer

The diversity here keeps life and living exciting!

Like our masked dancer! He has become famous in Merritt! Everyone is talking about him, and he makes (most of us ) smile. Who is he? Why does he sing and dance with a creepy mask on in public! Stay tuned for more to come as we “unmask” the mystery! 

We have a grapevine! A Facebook grapevine that sometimes takes on a life of it’s own. Do you want to know who is doing what, where, or when in town? Do you want to know instant gossip? This is the place to be! Check the grapevine! It really brings out the diversity I am talking about! There are 6626 members. Join in or simply watch! Believe it or don’t. Your call.

I love the grapevine because it is a place for people of Merritt to express themselves. Also because it is amazing to watch the town’s people come together in tragic times, like the fire last year of an apartment building where so many people lost everything they owned! Love that I live in community of such caring and generous people!

Experience Outdoor Adventure 

I can say for certain that Adventure and Play go hand in hand for me! It is never-ending!  Of course you may have heard Merritt’s mantra? “A Lake A Day As Long As You Stay” Well, that is a true story. My plan is to discover them all! I want to share it here!  I love exploring! See a back road, take it. See a fork in the road, take both! You will discover the most magnificent beauty in the world! IMHO!

Merritt BC living is a different experience every day.  My best times are when I take my old 4×4 jeep and find the “roads less traveled”.  Most often I feel rewarded with something that ignites the senses. A big healthy  mama bear with cubs, a gigantic moose, colorful wildflower fields, or even just a glimpse of landscapes as seen from a perspective I have not experienced before.

“An Adventure a day, as long as you stay” is a good mantra we use for Merritt too.

Experience Diversity in  Music and Arts

Music Festivals, Art, Musicians and Artists. I must declare that we have the best of the best!  In 2003 we have the honor of being named Country Music Capital of Canada. Make sure to visit the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame when you are here. Music and Art are often combined together in events like the Bass Coast Music and Arts Festival or the Rockin River Country Music Fest.

I have been to these and they are just an exciting part of Merritt BC living. No words can describe the experience of actually being in the sun drenched valley with the Coldwater River flowing through your toes as you await the stars to arrive! Yes the twinkling kind in the sky and the Star artists for the shows! It is without a doubt, a natural stage for a festival that would rank best in the world! New Festivals arriving this year too! 

Merritt BC Living

Experience Music Festivals like these people at Rockin River Music Fest

Merritt BC Living

Or these people at Bass Coast

The Arts are everywhere!

Of course in the heritage Court House Arts Gallery, the walls of the buildings all around town, in the local cafes and our amazing Art Walk each July to showcase Local Artists in businesses around town! “Take a walk on the art side” when in Merritt BC.

Our Art Walk is a summer feature in Merritt, just like the music festivals!

Now, those are a lot of reasons I love living in Merritt BC!

If you have dreamt of small town living, come and see what Merritt BC living is like!