THINGS TO DO:
Stroking the smooth leather strips of the reins between my fingers, I happily realize that after barely an hour in the saddle, I’ve grown confidently comfortable. Sitting atop Belle, a laid-back grey mare, my gaze sweeps the wilderness landscape in attempt to drink in as much of the dramatic scenery as I possibly can. Gorgeous alpine vistas by day, sumptuous meals and cozy heated cabins by night: a backcountry horseback riding vacation in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, I’ve decided, is simply intoxicating.
If you’ve always wanted to have an Alberta adventure on horseback, don’t let being a novice hold you back.
Living Rocky Mountain History
With Belle keeping stride amidst our train of 20 horses, I listen to Tom, our guide with Horseback Adventures Ltd, describe how he learned the ropes of running backcountry horseback tours from his father, who purchased the business from Rockies’ pioneer outfitter Fred Brewster in 1955. Since taking over the backcountry pack trips from his dad in 1979, Tom has shared the treasures of Solomon Creek Wildland Park in the Rockies’ front ranges with greenhorns and seasoned riders alike.
Creature Comforts Along the Mountain Trail
For our group, the four-day Real West Horseback Cabin Vacation, complete with hot showers, heat and electricity, struck the perfect balance of adventure and comfort. Riding through forests of spruce and pine to the top of Paradise Ridge to admire a panorama of 2,134 m (7,000 ft) peaks on the border of Jasper National Park was complemented by the irresistible camaraderie of real cowboys swapping stories around a crackling campfire, and tucking into comfy beds each night in the cabins along the route.
A Feast for the Senses
Rocking gently with the movement of Belle’s warm body, I am smitten by the profusion of wildflowers swaying in the summer breeze. Cherry-red Indian paintbrush, sunshine-yellow arnica, lilac-hued clover and delicate pink and white ladyslippers carpet the sunlit meadows.
Before long our train, led by Tom and accompanied by two wranglers, a cook and 10 guests stops for a hearty picnic lunch overlooking the smoky blue-green Solomon River. Six pack-horses have been skillfully loaded by the wranglers to carry the ingredients for scrumptious hot breakfasts and meals of lasagna, chili and home-cooked roasts.
Our routine has been established – ride, eat, sleep, eat, ride, repeat.
The next morning, waking to the aroma of fresh coffee and sizzling bacon, I couldn’t wait to get back in the saddle.