THINGS TO DO:
The Iron Horse Trail
Sunlight has just begun to spill over the Peace River Wilderness Trail when I pull my quad to the side and turn off the engine. The sounds of the Athabasca River are carried on a gentle breeze whispering through spruce and poplar. The wilderness looks the same as it did when gold-thirsty men followed this trail north to the Klondike. The morning light splashes the side of a trapper's cabin, long abandoned. Beneath sun-bleached antlers, rusty traps still hang from square-cut nails.
Conversations on the Trail
A couple on horseback have also stopped here to take in the sunrise over the valley. We greet one another with the camaraderie born out of shared experience. The conversation soon turns to stories of other backcountry adventures. Over a communal thermos of coffee, they tell me of a recent trip to Chinchaga Wildland Provincial Park, north of Manning. They travelled in by packhorse, along cutlines. I know that country. I drove an ATV in there. I camped beside hidden lakes, cast shiny lures into the Chinchaga River, saw grizzlies and woodland caribou - and not another human being. Backcountry bliss.
Trails to Last a Lifetime - or Two
I've explored a lifetime's worth of Alberta trails - on foot, on wheels and on horseback - from historical walks to treks high above emerald tree lines, from northern forests to the foothills of the southern Alberta Rockies. And there is still a lifetime's worth to discover, scattered throughout landscapes so different, so distinctly Alberta.
Footsteps to Follow
Here are some suggestions.
- Ram Falls Provincial Park south of Nordegg is marked by steep riverbanks and small lakes divided by waterfalls. In this beautiful wildlife preserve you're likely to see lots of bighorn sheep and raptor birds such as golden and bald eagles, merlins and kestrels.
- Explore the trails of Jasper National Park. Seasoned hikers will want to try the Fryatt Valley, Elysium Pass or the Saturday Night Lake Loop. The North Boundary Trail is long but it's an easy hike. Sign up at Jasper Park Lodge for a three-day horse-packing trip along the Skyline Trail.
- You could spend a lifetime just exploring the trails of the vast front ranges of the Canadian Rockies known as Kananaskis Country. Mountain bikers love Stony Trail near Canmore, with all its offshoots and amazing vistas.
- Hiking heritage trails that connect the old mining towns along the Crowsnest Highway is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the area's coal mining past.