When Norm and Nan Dove planned go on their first-ever ranch vacation with a small group of family members, little did they know this decision would change the course of their lives forever... Owner of Ultra Ranch, Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, Norm tells the story of how they went from a corporate life in the city, to building and running a luxury ranch in Canada.
"Before stepping into the world of Ultra Ranches, in 1990 I was going through the throes of selling a company that I had founded in 1972." recalls Norm.
"It was a time when I was evaluating what I was spending my time on and realising my life was no longer satisfying.
"Some would call this a 'mid-life crisis', but from experience, I now know that it is best described as a 'window of opportunity' – a time when one is more spiritual in the way one sees life."
Buying a working cattle ranch
Taking time out with the family was important, so Norm and Nan headed off to experience their first-ever ranch vacation at a guest ranch in British Colombia, Canada.
"A wrangler told me that we should go and take a look at a place 10km down the road", says Norm.
"She said it was beautiful and it was for sale because the rancher had trouble making ends meet.
"It was a small cow/calf operation comprising 85 cows, 10 heifers and five bulls that produced up to 95 calves.
"As soon as Nan and I stepped onto the property, we fell in love with it, it was beautiful and a feeling of peace instantly came over us.
Fall in love with Echo Valley Ranch & Spa
"We had not been looking for anything to buy, but this magical space had been placed in our path – it was a gift that reflected the love Nan and I had for each other.
"We asked the owner Bill what he was prepared to sell the ranch for and he gave a figure that I accepted. In my eyes, the place was priceless.
"I even agreed to buying everything that went with the property, including all the equipment plus 95 pregnant cows!
"Thankfully Bill agreed to stay at the ranch over the coming winter, and take care of the place and cows that would be giving birth.
"Glen, a Cree Aboriginal cowboy for whom I learned to have the utmost respect, assisted Bill, and my sister and brother-in-law agreed to live at the ranch while I was in Vancouver operating and selling my company.
From city life to ranch life
"The initial plan was to build the Dove Lodge on the Echo Valley Ranch property, and use it for our family and friends; it was to be a new lifestyle for Nan and me; I was done with operating a business in the city.
"In 1992, I finally sold my company and received a handsome price for it. The Echo Valley Ranch Dove Lodge was all but complete and we moved into what was to become our new home.
Relax and take in the incredible scenery at Echo Valley Ranch
"Life for city folk who had no clue about operating a cattle ranch is a whole story of its own; for this story, suffice it to say that without Glen, we would have been doomed!
"We loved being involved. We thoroughly enjoyed riding horses, moving cows around the range, seeing the birth of calves, haying and more."
From working cattle ranch to Ultra Ranch and spa
"In due course, my love for building things clicked in, and we started adding buildings and facilities to the property.
"We even took in people who, from time to time, came onto the property assuming that we were a guest ranch.
"We invited them to stay overnight; we wanted to share what we had and let them experience the special feeling that all those who set foot on the property seem to sense.
"We built another lodge, cabins and a world-class spa – we even built a Thai-style Baan Thai to celebrate east meeting west; Nan being of Thai origin.
Together with Nan, Norm created a sanctuary that combines ranch life in Canada with the celebrated Thai 'Land of Smiles' traditions of warmth, hospitality and wellbeing.
Ultra Ranch, Echo Valley Ranch & Spa Baan Thai
"In 1995, we officially opened what had now become Echo Valley Ranch & Spa to the public, and to this day we see those who choose to visit as guests coming into our home.
"We're surrounded by a super team that we see as family, most of whom have been with us for 15-25 years.
"We've all found something more meaningful: connecting with nature around us, sensing the spirit within and making our guests feel happy.
"In many cases, they see a life that could never be experienced in a city or corporate environment."
Experience the magic of Echo Valley Ranch & Spa for yourself
Feeling intrigued by what Norm and Nan have built in the wild wilderness of British Colombia, Canada?
Wish you could make a big change to your life like they did?
Why not head over there and take a look for yourself and come away from Echo Valley Ranch & Spa inspired, energized, rested and relaxed.
Click here to explore and book
Words by Norm Dove, Owner Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, B.C. Canada
Co-written, edited and created by Kate Hammaren; luxury and adventure travel writer, editor and world traveler.
Were you inspired by Norm and Nan's incredible life-changing story? Read another rancher's astonishing life story and tales from around the world on horseback: the amazing life of Bayard Fox, owner of Bitterroot Ranch, Wyoming.