Behind the lens with Dax Justin in Gold Country, B.C.


Discovering the golden light, green jade and good people in this beautiful part of B.C.

As I was getting saddled up on my horse before an afternoon ride, I was thankful the folks at Sundance Guest Ranch had partnered me up with this mellow  old boy namedTroy.

I knew we would get along very well, as he clopped along the dusty trail in his slow, methodical pace. It made him the perfect perch, allowing me to capture this working ranch and the beautiful surrounding landscapes on my camera.

In fact, Troy set the tone for what was turning out to be a serene and laid back weekend in this part of B.C. known as Gold Country, between Ashcroft and Cache Creek, and just about four hours north from the busy-ness of Vancouver.  

I instantly felt welcomed by everyone who works on the ranch, something I would feel all weekend here. I could easily see why people from all over the world make this a getaway to immerse themselves in ranch life. It was also easy to see see why the ranch caters to girlfriend and guy weekend getaways. I thought  it would definitely make a cool family holiday, too. What kid wouldn't want to be out here, away from the city, on a horse and breathing in the fresh air of the country. 

As I rode Troy, I had time to think about the other cool things the day had brought.

I had driven into Cache Creek in the early morning light, making it obvious why this region is called Gold Country. Especially in autumn, when the hills are turning that burnished shade of yellow. The city was a distant memory. 

As I would discover over the next couple of days, this is a place of beautiful and varied landscapes - desert-like, with rolling hills of ranchlands and grasslands.

Be Curious. Discover #Route97’s Gold Country, BC

It struck me that fall is a prime time for visiting this gateway to the Cariboo, known for its natural beauty and outdoor adventures. 

Here are some other places I had the chance to check out in late September. 

Ashcroft Bakery

Stepping into the Ashcroft Bakery, in the town of the same name, I knew it would be hard to leave here empty handed. I immediately saw the stacked loaves of  warm bread. which made my mouth water. The bakery is known for its big heart and big, gooey cinammon buns.Grab a java for your road trip and don’t forget a sweet treat for yourself. 

Jade Bear
Photo: Dax Justin

Just a 10-minute drive up Highway 97, I was in Cache Creek. The Cariboo Jade Shoppe in Cache Creek is world-renowned for its beautiful jade and semi-precious stone creations. The first thing I noticed walking into the store was an impressive and massive one-foot thick slab of jade at the front door.

Bill Elliot, who restores, collects and buys jade creations from jewelers and artists, as well as rock specimens, has been running the shop since the 1980s. He is a well-known local for his knowledge of semi-precious stones, but also because he’s a volunteer firefighter and owns several other businesses in town.

People from all over the world come to his shop when they're visiting Cache Creek, not only for the beautiful and unique creations, but also Canadiana gifts and specialty items like moccasins. Watching Bill work, you can see the intricacy of the stone work. One sculpture catches my eye – a bear trying to catch a fish. It’s so impressive to think that someone worked for hours, carving, grinding and polishing this gem of an artistic creation.

Bill Elliot
Photo: Dax Justin

Not many people know that jade is commonly found in this northwest region of B.C., and that the province is one of the world’s major exporters of the stone, found in shades of deep and medium green.

Watch #Route 97 Gold Country on YouTube.

I had learned about one of Gold Country's natural resources and I was about to discover another one - locally grown produce. On my visit to Horsting’s Farm Market, they immediately put me to work learning how to make a pie, something I’d never attempted before. This locally owned market, just outside of Cache Creek, has 85 acres, growing everything from peppers to pumpkins. It’s also known for its farm to table goodies and fresh baked apple pies, so good, that movie star Cuba Gooding Jr., who was shooting a movie in the area, ordered the pies to be delivered on a regular basis after getting a taste of one. 

Farm Sign
Photo: Dax Justin

And that’s what I was going to learn to make on this day.

My pie-making lesson turned out to be a lot of fun. I cored, chopped and threw the apples into a big cauldron. Then I got my hands dirty kneading dough.Then we popped the pies into the oven and waited for them to turn a golden brown.

The smell was amazing and made me want to dig right in like a kid in a candy shop. I decided to put the pie on the backseat and bring it back home. It would be perfect dessert for Sunday dinner.

Apple Pie out of Oven
Photo: Dax Justin

Back at the ranch,riding Troy, I realized what a relaxed frame of mind I was in. It had everything to do with the people I'd met, the peaceful landscapes and vistas and just getting to chill out in small-town B.C. 

Sundance ranch
Photo: Dax Justin

My two-hour ride had taken us along the beautiful river valley of the gently rolling landscape and I could have kept riding into the sunset. But I was hungry and ready for dinner. At the ranch, everyone dines in a communal, family style, a wonderful way to learn about the ranch and more about the other guests, over a meal of barbecued beef, fresh vegetables and cupcakes for dessert.

Riding at Sundance Ranch
Photo: Dax Justin

It had been a full day, and I was ready to head back and take an after-dinner nap in my comfortable cabin for a few hours before a late-night walk. Out here, so far from the bright lights of the city, I was guessing it would be a wonderful place to see the stars and constellations.

Watch Sundance Guest Ranch #Route97 on YouTube.

But I had no expectations of seeing the Northern Lights. Well, I was in for a surprise. The night sky came alive and the Aurora – green bands of shimmering light — began to dance.

I wanted to share this with everyone so I ran into the lodge and told everyone to get outside and enjoy the exquisite Aurora that was just beginning to happen. 

Northern Lights
Photo: Dax Justin

 We all stood outside for more than an hour to enjoy the dazzling light show.

I couldn’t have planned or asked for a better and more spectacular ending to a weekend of discovery in this gorgeous part of northwest B.C.

I’ll definitely be back.

Northern Lights
Photo: Dax Justin

If You Go

Check out these #Route97 maps for your next road trip at

For more on exploring BC, simply search #ExploreBC

About Dax Justin

Dax Justin is a Canadian Explorer Adventure/Landscape photographer, visual content creator, and destination storyteller based in Alberta, Canada. 

His photographic work focuses on outdoor adventure, landscapes, mountain lifestyle, people and sports. The photography captured on expeditions bring the adventure to a worldwide online audience in real time, expanding brand reach through social media and travel networks including Seekers Media.

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