This is life!
On top of the World!!!
Send me Mail!
Awesome scenery, awesome company and the best horses make an unbeatable combination!
Left to right above, Gary on SS Annieísí Oakley (Curly mare), Anna on Smokey (appendix ľ horse), Daphne on Star (Missouri Foxtrotter mare), Pierre on SS Sunnybrookís Diego (Curly gelding), Bernard on SS Sunnybrookís Wyatt (Curly gelding) and Marie-Claude on SS Sunnybrookís Diego (Curly gelding).
18 months ago, (yes ONLY 18 months!) we had the pleasure of meeting Marie-Claude and Bernard when they flew out from Quebec to see our horses. Shortly thereafter we had the honor of delivering two of our super Curlies, SS Tulsa Jackpot and SS Nevada Commanche to them. That story here.
A few months later the owner of the stable where they board their horses came out and spent a couple of days in the Rocky Mountains. That story here. , He was so taken with the wonder of our trip that he never stopped talking about for months. That and the pictures he took home with him convinced Marie-Claude and her family that they had to come out west to experience the thrill of the mountains.
A month before their trip we had record rainfall in Alberta. The entire Red Deer river was flooded and the week before they were to arrive the forecast was still for rain. Lots of email back and forth and Bernard's question to me was "As our guide what do you advise?" Told him that was not a fair question as I loved nothing more than to be in the mountains, rain or shine, snow or heat. I was worried as Marie-Claude had only camped once many years ago and did not have good experience. To say she was not a person who liked to rough it would have been an understatement.
Well, below is our story of our trip. As you will see it was unbelievably fantastic. Marie-Claude proved to be a real trooper and LOVED camping with us, and best of all somebody up above graced with perfect weather. Enjoy!
Load up the horses and head down the highway about 7 PM Thursday evening. Everyone is excited and canít wait to get to the mountains.
Pouring rain on the way down and we are worried that our camp will be very wet. Finally arrive after one in the morning. Camp is dry! We can see were the entire campground had been flooded 2 weeks ago.
Priorities, horses are unloaded and fed. Tents are pitched and we all climb into bed and crash.
Everyone is patiently waiting to get out in the mountains. We pack a lunch and saddle up the horses.
And finally we are riding in the mountains. An easy trail is planned for the first day.
Thatís the sheep meadow on the left and Barrier Mountain in the background. Weíre making our way to the Banff National Park boundary!
The horses are exposed to their first river crossing WOW! Not one problem and everyone crossed without any hesitation. Iím amazed as our last trip out older, experienced horses gave us trouble, but these are Curlies!!
Look at Pierre on Diego! Fearless. The scenery is breathtaking.
We stop for our first break. All the horses are doing great and the riders even better. Our first steep incline and Marie-Claude takes it with a smile!
Itís pretty steep, but everyone stays focused and the horses are balanced.
Pierre does super on Wyatt. Soft hands, easy manner and Wyatt trucks along.
Then comes Bernard on Diego! Canít believe how much their riding has improved in just one year!!
The our natural cowgirl, Daphne on Star! They were an excellent match for the ride. Daphne really enjoyed galloping through the fields on her.
Anna, our superstar from Denmark on Smokey. He was really fresh this day and was more than willing to leave the other horses and go for a run when Anna asked him to. And last but not least, Gary on our bet mare, Oakley.
Our first view of the mountains from a height vantage point. Weíre overlooking the Red Deer River to the Barrier Mountain. Look at Pierre on Wyatt, no reins!
Picture time! Love this shot of Marie-Claude and Bernard. Is very true to their kind, caring nature.
Cool picture looking across Oakley to the river. Then we come upon a herd of elk.
There are well over 100 elk (wapiti) in this valley. They are not scared of us and gradually make their way into the mountains.
Again I am thrilled with our horses. They all went up to the herd of elk and not one spooked or got excited.
Day three we head up the valley along the Big Horn River. Thereís a 100í cliff over the side here!
Anna posing on Smokey.
Every takes a look at the falls at the head of the canyon. The roar of the water is extremely loud as the river is higher than normal. With the wind blowing across the plains we are happy to head for the bush.
another new river crossing without incidence! Look at Dilon go! He loves it.
Our ride is cut short from a hail storm! The hot fire is used to dry our socks. We consider our selves very fortunate as this is the only rain we wee our entire trip!
Daphne, Mari-Claude, Bear and I take a stroll up the canyon while the boys head out for some ice.
the canyon is gorgeous, with unusual rock formations and layers of shale. The river bottom looks like an architect designed it!
Some rock climbing is enjoyed.
We find a cave and do some exploring.
And finally see the falls!! The roar of the water is engrossing.
Iíve never seen the water this high and this much volume coming through the chute! Itís gorgeous, breath taking and invigorating.
Are they having fun??
Such times are very memorable. Love your shirts to!!
You can see a bit of the damage from the flood in the one shot. Trees are uprooted and lodge in the river bank, there is lots of debris along the valley.
Looks like they are sitting in the middle of the river!
Bear heads up and realizes that he cannot get down!
Big stretch from Bear and bear hug from Marie-Claude!
Back at bridge we meet up with the boys coming back from Mountain Aire Lodge. Pierre had a shower!! Not fair.
Views from the road heading into camp.
Our camp! Brought the covered wagon in for our chuckwagon. Worked super.
The ties stalls provided for the horses, Wyatt, Dilon and Diego here.
We set up the tarp just in case it rained some more, therefore it did not! Pierre and Gary setting the table for super.
A toast to a perfect day. Even though it rained everyone still enjoyed the entire experience. The race for home, the hail in the mountains, but maybe not the drying out of the socks!!
That evening we take a stroll along the Red Deer. Itís fantastic this time of night. Peaceful and calming.
What more can I say??
I separated this picture for a reason. As we were strolling along the riverbank, we came to a clearing where we could see this mountain in the distance. When I told everyone that tomorrow we would climb to the top of the highest mountain you can see, they did not believe me. I kept hearing, really???
More shots of the camp area.
Cute story here. Marie-Claude saw this little hut and wanted to know what it was. The owner advised it was shower! She was in love!! The next day the kind gentleman did offer anyone that wished to have a shower the opportunity to do so.
Gary rides out to join us bareback on Star.
Yes, that is all our boots around the campfire! Annaís got a little too hot and she melted them! Her new Beefy babies, up in smoke. Does it look like anyone is concerned. Not on your life. We are all relaxed, enjoying the company, signing songs and living the life we should live.
We head up the trail to start our climb to the top of the World!
Itís a perfect day. Not too hot for the horses, too cool for the bugs!
Love the second shot of Pierre on Diego. Not a care in the world, for either of them!!
Look at the view of the valley. Marie-Claude and Dilon are totally relaxed also. She told me somewhere along the trip that she could not believe that neither her nor Bernard had thought about their work! Thatís the only way up here!!
Here comes Pierre on Diego across the Big Horn River. Look at the casual demeanor of these two!!
And Gary on Oakley. Love this mare. Her babe is heading to Germany on July 18th! If sheís half the horse her mom is Tanja will be thrilled.
I really like the first shot of Oakley. Maybe itís her colour that makes her a good subject for photoís, or maybe itís my soft spot for her. The second shot of Pierre shows how far we have climbed already and we are only ľ of the way up! We stop shortly to give the horses a break.
And the riders. It was a long climb to this point and we are just over halfway now. We take a half hour break here as some of the horses are a bit sweaty.
We are now exiting the tree line. No more trees grow above this altitude.
When we reach the bottom of the last plateau before our climb to the very top, I ask if everyone is willing to make the last very, very steep climb to the top. They all look at me like Iím crazy. You mean up there??!! Some say no, but most say where I go they go. So we go. It is so steep we cannot go straight up or the horses will fall over backwards. We must switch back and forth across the mountain top to reach the Chinamanís hat, as this ridge is called.
At the top it is very windy, but what a view. I almost cry everytime I go here. You can see the entire valley, Red Deer River and all the way to the Banff National Park.
The top is maybe 25í across. A steep rock bank surrounds the entire plateau. Only one trail leads up. Thanks to our calm Curlies we have a super trip up and down.
Marie-Claude braces into the wind. Can you see Dilonís mane flying straight out sideways?? It can be intimidating on top. Itís a long way down and you must trust your horse and your horse must trust you.
Looks like a shot from an old Western movie when the good guys come riding up over the ridge to save the fair maiden!! Itís really hard to tell from the photos just how steep the mountain is.
Thatís Diego on the left followed by Oakley. Pierre did not have many miles in the saddle before this trip and I was thrilled with his natural horsemanship.
We stop for a break after our awesome adventure, build a fire and roast some hot dogs! Super lunch on a super day!
Bear is ready for a break also as he cuddles up to Anna. Then we are ready to head back down the mountain. Took us almost 3 hours to climb, but only an hour to get back down.
More gorgeous views along the trail.
A little spring to cross and we see mule deer along the way.
A well deserved drink of fresh mountain water.
The horses know we are heading for camp and are walking a bit faster than climbing the mountain.
Oakley takes on more water than most!
Like this shot of her also. She is so beautiful!
Back at camp the horses get a well deserved rub down. Marie-Claude turns Dilon loose so he can have a treat of fresh grass.
As does Bernard and Daphne.
Moose also gets a treat, then itís our turn!!
We are fortunate that there is no more rain on our trip, so we head out in hopes of crossing the Red Deer River today! Heading to Hidden Falls.
Look how tall and correct Bernard rides. A real cowboy!!
Stop at few river crossing for a drink as we donít want the horses stopping to drink in the big river. Second shot is another view of the Chinamanís hat we climbed yesterday.
Look how calm these horses are in the rushing water! We searched for about a half hour to find a good place to cross. The normal place we cross was up to my horses chest in water as soon as I stepped off the bank!!
Gary heads out searching, but no luck here, the water looks very deep at the bank and the bank is very steep.
Finally we find a crossing at least to the middle and them we are home free, We get across!! Must remember where we cross for our return trip.
Then we start our climb again. Can you see the smile of joy on Marie-Claude's face?? She was apprehensive about going down this cliff, but did awesome.
Focus, thatís what itís all about, and that is what everyone had.
At the top, Pierre carefully gazes over the ravine.
Itís a very sharp drop to the bottom, you cannot see the falls from the top.
This is a little Fall along the river. Anna and Marie-Claude try to see the falls. No luck, sorry! You must make the walk down the side cliff to experience this adventure.
Some opt not to take the walk. It is very tough to climb back up and everyone is starting to get a little tired.
Daphne and Anna join me on the climb down the mountain.
Not much of a path and the footing is very unsteady. Rocks are sliding as you place your foot and there is nothing to grab onto!
Bear of course joins us and we reach the bottom.
Itís worth the effort. The falls are really hidden inside a cave and all you can hear is the water down here. Lots of fossils and hidden treasures.
A view looking out.
and a view looking up! Look at the colour of this pure water. Turquoise most times.
The water comes right out of the rock in a lot of places. There is a crystal like surface along the walls.
Yes, that is where we came in! Look at the advertising here!! Everyone wearing their Sunnybrook Stables sweatshirts! Thanks guys!!
Anna taking in the view while she catches 20 winks.
Pierre enjoying his day, and Bernard enjoying his horses. If you could not find Bernard, just find his horses, he spent every spare moment making certain that Wyatt was comfortable.
Then itís time to head back down. Marie-Claude leads the way on Dilon.
Even this little spot doesnít look like much in the photo, but there was a very long and very steep drop down to the river beside the trail.
Marie-Claude asks Dilon to "please" stay on the "up" side!
Beautiful trails down the mountain. Bear leads the way now. He knows where we are going!
This is the super steep trail that some were worried about. Told them just look at your horse if you donít like the height, let him have his head, but sit way back to set him on his haunches.
And here comes Marie-Claude, what control! She does awesome.
And is proud, as she should be!!
Then comes Bernard on Wyatt. Super steady and easy.
And we have another smiling face ! (Again!!)
then it is Pierreís turn on Diego. Cannot believe heís hardly ridden before.
Down he comes, nice and steady.
And heís at the bottom. And yes, another smiling face!!! Love it!!
Star is right behind him carrying Daphne and the Gary on Oakley.
Oh no! Another one of those smiling faces!! Hurray!!
Back on the main trail and we come to a short, but tricky decline.
I try to keep my horse standing still to take the pictures. He wants to go home (not a Curly!!)
Pierre does super on Diego, then Daphne on Star.
Daphne passes and my horse wants to join his girlfriend, Star!
So he jumps up onto a mound in the creek, jumps down into the creek, then crashes into a tree on the other side. Not impressed, but as they say, I wasnít riding a Curly!! Bernard gives Wyatt another deserved treat.
Then we head back down to the river, find our trail without trouble, and head back to camp.
Marie-Claude checks out the swirling water.
Wyatt says no problem, feels good on my hooves!!
Look at this place! Nowhere can you find better scenery.
We cross the Red Deer at itís widest point this trip as it is the only way to cross safely.
And all the horse have no trouble what so-ever, nor do the riders!!
Diego looks like he is about to swim! The last trip through the gate to the Ya Ha Tinda pasture.
Bernard gives Wyatt a rub and Wyatt gives Bernard a hug! Marie-Claude tries to fix a stirrup she broke.
Daphne looking the part! Me with Moose.
The last river crossing for this trip. The horses are thankful to almost be home.
Gary takes Oakley back across the river then gallops her back across.
Back at camp Anna tries to sneak away and catch a few winks. But Bernard decides she should not do this! Grabs the tin pot and metal spoon and makes some noise!!
then tries to look innocent by putting the pot on Pierreís head!!
Bear feels sorry for her and Annaís comes out of hiding.
then its time for some refreshments and some relaxation.
For everyone, including Bear who curls up amongst the coals of the old fire.
Itís very windy so some improvising is required. Pierre makes a wind break with a towel and a fork and proceeds to cook and excellent super. If we knew to find Bernard with his horse, we knew to find Pierre at the Chuckwagon.
Our last ride for this trip. We head out to Eagle Lake, Gary stays back to pack up camp so we can leave after lunch time.
More gorgeous trails and streams. The ground is very wet from all the rain.
We came to a very soft river crossing, I crossed on the far side and went up the incline to the bank. Marie-Claude went the other way however, and Dilon could not get his footing to get up on the 3í ridge. He had to lunge to make it as his feet disappeared in the river bottom. Marie-Claude slid off and landed in the mud. Hence here is Bernard ringing out her pants!
Trying to air dry for the ride home!!
The water was so high around the lake we could not ride around it. We did see the Loon though! Getting ready to head home.
Diego then the horse I rode, Moose.
What a pretty picture of Dilon. Patiently waiting to go back.
Gorgeous trails on this ride. Huge meadow to ride through.
Everyone heads back, even the horses seem to know it is the last ride and are enjoying the trip.
Gorgeous view with the mountains in the background.
No vehicles allowed back up here. The trails are super.
We meet a group of hikers out for the afternoon.
And cross our last stream.
Thereís some pretty good climbs even on this short ride.
Of course we have to stop and pose by the Ya Ha Tinda ranch gate.
On the last meadow before camp I let Moose have his head and we gallop across the meadow. Only got this one picture of Marie-Claude as it was pretty hard to turn around and take pictures! But what a super shot, eh! Thatís Pierre on Diego galloping right behind her.
Then we chill out and walk the horses back the last half hour so they are not hot for their big trip back home.
That evening we are served a fondue, good wine and everyone is sad to see it end. Wow, did the week really already pass?? Impossible, it seems like yesterday everyone arrived. What a trip though. One of the best.