THINGS TO DO:
Stroking the smooth leather strips of the reins between my fingers, I happily realized that after barely an hour in the saddle, I’d grown confidently comfortable. Sitting atop Belle, a laid-back grey mare, my gaze swept the wilderness landscape in attempt to drink in as much of the dramatic Canadian Rocky Mountains scenery as I possibly could. A horseback riding vacation, I decided, is simply intoxicating.
Living Rocky Mountain History
With Belle keeping stride amidst our train of 20 horses, I listened as Tom, our guide with Horseback Adventures Ltd described how he learned the ropes of running backcountry horseback tours from his father, Tom Sr., 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 range with greenhorns – just like me and my four friends – and seasoned riders alike.
“Our horses are gentle, they’re bred for the mountains so they’re accustomed to crossing rivers and the steep ups and downs,” Tom explained. “They kind of look after the people so you can sit back and enjoy the scenery.”
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 and admiring 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 real beds with cozy duvets in the cabins along the route.
A Feast for the Eyes – and Tummies
Rocking gently with the movement of Belle’s warm body, I was smitten by the profusion of wildflowers swaying delicately in the summer breeze—cherry-red Indian paintbrush, sunshine-yellow arnica and lilac-hued clover colourfully decorating sunlit meadows like liberally placed holiday ornaments.
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 are skillfully loaded by the wranglers to carry the ingredients for scrumptious bacon, egg and pancake breakfasts and dinners of lasagna, chilli and home-cooked roasts, complete with fresh fruit and salad fixings.
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.