It Could have been a scene from a Hemingway short story as a small group of riders picked their way carefully past the ranch buildings on to the trail down towards the Fraser River.
The mountains in the middle distance were dusted with the first snows of autumn and their peaks were reflected in the mirror water of the ponds where two anglers were trying to tempt the rainbow trout.
Taking in the clear, pure air of this remote valley in British Columbia – one-time hideout of fugitives pursued by the Mounties – was the latest of the very diverse aspects of the Canadian province we were able to discover all within a couple of days’ drive.
We went from the urban landscape of Vancouver to zooming around Howe Sound in an RBI boat to wonder at the sheer magnificence of the coast and islands just out of sight of the city skyline. Then, leaving the city tower blocks behind, we found nature’s skyscrapers as we walked among the treetops of mighty forests of larch and Douglas firs.
Back to sophistication, we lunched with both spectacular food and views, overlooking a wide valley of vineyards, before just missing a marauding bear who had been sampling the soon to be harvested grapes.
Finally, it was a winding climb and a drive above the snowline on a high pass through the mountains as autumn gave warning of the coming winter.
Civilised, friendly and chic, yet savage and wild, too – that’s British Columbia. One day you can eat fabulous nouvelle cuisine, the next gaze around at snowy peaks from the foot of a waterfall cascading hundreds of feet.
After tasting some seriously fine BC wine, a few hours later you might catch a glimpse of a lynx in the craggy forested domain of the bear and the mountain lion. And that wasn’t the half of it.
Although the portents of winter were there in crisper mornings and the first tinges of colour as leaves started to turn, the end of September proved to be an excellent time to visit with plenty of sun and a flurry or two of snow if you ventured high enough.
As our aircraft manoeuvred for landing, Vancouver was bathed in light, and all around it was a stunning seascape with a backdrop of mountains stretching away as far as you could see even from that height.
The city, with a population of two million, is perched between sea and mountains on Canada’s west coast. Across the sound is Vancouver Island and the provincial capital of Victoria. A few miles to the south is the USA border, the forests of Washington State and the city of Seattle. Hawaii, a six-hour flight heading south-west over the Pacific Ocean, is as close as Canada’s eastern shores.
Our introduction to the outdoors spirit of British Columbia started right away as we were plucked from the luxury of the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Vancouver and driven through the beautiful Stanley Park and across the landmark Lion’s Gate Bridge to West Vancouver and the harbour at Horseshoe Bay, which fishing boats and car ferries to the islands share with recreational craft.