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July 29th, 2009
Sometimes one wonders if it's worth the trouble to actually get packed up and head out to the hills. This trip was no exception. Left work early of Thursday so we could leave by 4 PM. Ramona and Franzi had everything organized and loaded, ready to go. Headed down the highway and called Ramona to see if she remembered to pack the saddle bags, she forgot to check so her and Roland headed back to the house to pick them up while I carried on down the highway with the horses. 2 minutes later I received a phone call from the neighbor that he saw a box of stuff along the road that he wondered if we lost from the camper. Sure enough the camper door had flown open and the stuff was lost.
But that was just the beginning of our fun. Roland gets back on the highway and is about 20 minutes behind me when I get another call. The transmission is toast in his Avalanche. Needless to say he is not impressed. Heads back to the house and ready to quit. Call my friend John that is heading down with us, and luckily he hasn't left yet so he offers to pull our camper trailer down, says he's leaving right away. Franzi and I are now waiting on the side of the highway after turning around twice! Hour later get a call from Roland that John hasn't shown up yet! Call John and just as he was leaving his house his door knob fell apart and he had to replace it. Starting to get late now, was hoping to be down there by 9 but know it will be midnight before we arrive.

Finally pull into the campsite and luckily Reo has obtained the exact same camping spot that we have had the last 3 trips in. A few tries with flashlights and we get the trailers backed in and settle the horses.
It rained for the last couple of days but we wake up to a gorgeous morning of sunshine.
Since the trails are very muddy and the river is high I decide that we should head out to the Outpost. Our good timing catches the covered wagon heading out to the border!
The horses are fresh and it's a perfect day for a ride along the river.
The tall mountain in the background is Wardens Rock. It's in this valley that we will find the camp and Banff National Park border.
This is Gold Rush's first mountain trip and Franzi is amazed at how super quiet she is and how she never refuses anything or spooks at anything.
Stop along the trail for the horses to refresh. It's about 30 degrees today so we just take our time.
If we don't make it the Outpost it doesn't matter, it's still a great ride along the Red Deer River.
Reo rides Mac again, they get along great.
Ramona gets her buddy Chico and of course Franzi on Gold Rush.
And of course Raquel on our little angel, Peggy. Was so, so impressed with both of them again. Who was the superstar of this trip?? No question, it was Peggy.
Getting further up the valley. It's a 10 mile ride to the Outpost. Pretty long ride for anyone for the first day out. But we only have 3 days here and wish to make the most of every day.
Isn't Gold Rush looking fantastic?/!!


Stop for a break on the ridge. The horse flies are getting pretty bad, good thing the girls sprayed them with fly spray this morning.
Raquel thanks Peggy for a job well done. So super for her to have Peggy for these first trips.

Ramona looking tall in the saddle!
Important that the horses don't get dehydrated, so we let them drink at every opportunity.
The last 3 miles of the ride there are no water stops.
This is a really gorgeous gravel bar in the bend of the Red Deer river. The water is bit murky from the rain the last week.
But today it is all sunshine and hopefully the trails will dry out enough that we can climb the hat tomorrow!!
My trusty mount, Pall. Oaks is happy as long as Pall is in sight.

Love this shot of Reo and Mac.

And a great one of Ramona and Chico.


And a hilarious one of Pall. He says NO! Lets head back!! I don't want to go to the Outpost!!


Wonderful view of the river valley from this ridge.
Send Ramona down the ridge to take a picture of us taking a picture of her!!
We decide to make the push and get to the Outpost. Not much point in riding all this way and not making it to our destination!
The contrast of the rock, river, trees and mountains is unparalleled anywhere.
Final gate before we head to the park.
We have to follow the road for a bit on the final trek as it is too steep along the riverbank.

WOW! Calendar material this shot.
make it to the final stop on the ridge over the river. I love the view from here. It's about a 100 foot drop straight off the edge.

Pall says it's a long way to the bottom!
And we finally arrive at the Outpost. It's amazing how many horses totally spook at all the wonderful signs they post at the entrance.
Hitch our horses to the rail, in a shady spot, loosen the girths and give them a well deserved break.
Baxter has to stay with the horses as they don't like strange dogs coming into their area.
Take a break, have some lunch, then it's back on the trail to home. Just as we are leaving the Outpost I hear Reo yelling at Mac. Mac was going down and Reo wasn't sure why. Check his girth, all is good, so we carry on. Couple of miles down the trail I hear Reo shout again and this time I get to see what is happening. Mac does go down and decides maybe he's just not going to finish this ride. Sorry Mac, nice try, but up you get and carry on down the trail. This is Mac's first time for a ride of this caliber and this length, so can't blame him for saying "enough", but it is all part of the training.
We head home faster than we went there. Couple of reasons. First is if we take our time going then the horses aren't worn out for the ride home. Second is we know how long it takes to arrive at our destination at a walk so if we allow that much time for our return trip it gives us time in case something goes wrong to still make it back to camp before dark.
We do a fair amount of trot to get back in good time. Raquel gets a stitch in her side and I try to explain why that happens from how one posts the trot. She works on her position and improves tremendously!
Get back to camp, the fellows cook up a wonderful supper and then we have marshmallow roasting clinic!! How to toast the perfect marshmallow is a course offered only at the Ya Ha Tinda!!
Then the best part, playing guitar around the fire. Thankyou Roland for this wonderful, wonderful gift.
Morning arrives and the girls take the horses for their water and feed everyone. It's a gorgeous, sunshiny day, so we are going to try and climb the hat!! Hooray!!
The horses are quite as impressed as we are!!
We have to head around the base of the mountain to climb up the Eastern slope as it is a gentler ride.

After we ride the logging trail we arrive at the trail head.
We always take a quick break here before we head into the bush and start the climb. Good time for saddle checks and regroup.
It's a very hard climb for the horses and we stop at least every 10 minutes just to let them catch their breath. Mac is working hard.
Pall is soaked on every part of his body. We take a good long break this time until all the horses are breathing normal and start to look for something to eat. We know when they are real tired when they have no interest in food!!
Gold Rush is smart enough to know she is going to need some extra calories for this trip!
Back to the trails and we make a good climb to the first plateau.
Ramona is impressed. This is her first trip that she gets to climb a mountain. The view from here is breath taking.
Back on the trail again and make our way to the second plateau.
One more rest before we head to the top of the mountain.
Reo takes out his field glasses and looks for sheep on the sheep meadow. It's our hope to ride up there tomorrow. That is a very difficult climb.
The picture on the right does not show how extremely steep this trail is. It is so steep I won't take this group up, you only see about half of the actual climb.
Then it's back on the trail and we arrive at the base of the hat!!
Picture on right shows the goal in sight!
It's a pretty steep ridge to cross to get to the last plateau. Excellent for first timers though as there are at least trees a hundred feet down so you don't feel like you will fall off the face of the earth too bad!!

Pall leads the way faithfully. He's been up enough times that he knows to conserve his energy and sets a very slow and steady pace for the first timers.

Can't believe that Peggy actually made it up the mountain, not only that but she was in better shape than most of the rest of the horses!!

Love this shot of Mac and Reo.

Not a bad one of Pall and I either!
It is just so darn cool to climb and ride up here. The view is something to see for sure.
Ramona and Franzi want to ride to the top. Reo says he'll join them. It is extremely steep and open and I don't want Peggy to head up this one. Roland says he'll stay with Raquel but I know there is no way that Oakley will stay at the bottom if I head to the top so Pall and I stay back to take pictures.
Even Reo decides it's a bit to steep for him and Mac. Can be a bit discerning first time up. The horses have trouble walking sideways and you must do switchback to make it up easier.
Gold Rush hesitates for only a second and as soon as Franzi says "lets go" away they go.
Picture on the right is a zoom in of the left. Really gives you some perspective of just how high and steep the last climb really is.
And on the top of the world!! The rock pile was only one high when Franzi as here 3 years ago. Been a few rocks added since then, and now there are two more!!
That's a wow picture for sure, good shot Ramona.

It was soo windy on top that Franzi had to take a pile of pictures of Ramona to catch her with her hat on and her hand down!!
The girls come down the other side only to find that we are now above them!
Head out the ridge to the North to take some pictures.
Cool pic of Peggy and Raquel riding along the top of the mountain. It is really, really windy.
Just too windy to ride the back ridge, plus looks like there might be a storm coming in the valley.

Classic shot of Franzi and Gold Rush.

and Ramona and Chico.

and a super shot of Mac and Reo.

I think this is my favorite picture of the entire trip. Father and daughter riding a ridge in the Rocky Mountains.
Couple more pictures and then it is time to head back down the mountain.
On the way up I said we have to make sure we find this trail head on the way back down, for if we miss it we have a very steep decline. Ramona marked the trail head with a piece of twine so we would be sure to catch it. But on the way back out Mac stumbled and Reo hurt his hand so we were a bit distracted and missed our trail head. Everyone had done so fantastic that I figured they were up to one of the steepest declines a horse can do without sliding, and thankfully I was right. We ended up coming down the trail I wouldn't go up to get in. There wasn't much talking as we inched our way out. It sure did get the green horses to set themselves for going down hills!!
Make it safe and sound back into the valley and head it home. The storm is starting to build in the West.
Still gorgeous at the moment.
Decide we should pick up the pace a bit as I figure it will be about 45 minutes until the storm is upon us.

Thankyou Ramona for capturing this wonderful, wonderful picture of Pall and I. You really captured a moment in time with this one.
I think every picture of Gold Rush is great one! She is so photogenic.

Cool picture eh! Little bit of dust, head to tail, heading down the trail.

Think Franzi trusts Gold Rush?? Riding in the mountains with no reins?? Way to go Franzi.

Mac is in his element. Give him his head and let him lead and he is very happy.
Way to go gang. Time to step up the pace and everyone comes through. No complaining, no questions, just get 'er done.
Ramona catches her hat just before it tries to fly off her head!
Doesn't that just make you wish you were there??!!
And the smiles tell you that they were glad they were.
This is our first real drink for the horses after their amazing climb and they take a good long drink. We never leave until every horse has it's fill.
I always find it amazing that the horses can climb as high and hard as they do, ride around the mountain, pick their way back down and be so very, very tired, but as soon as they are on their way home they are surging with energy!! Raquel says it's the magic mountain water!
Chico is always ready for anything Ramona asks of him. They make a wonderful team.

I like this shot. You look so comfortable on horse dear, good for you.

But this is the real classic picture of the entire trip. What a wonderful shot of a girl, her pony and her dog in the mountains.
Life does not get any better than this.
Everyone braces into the wind, can tell we are in for a real storm.
So pick up the pace a bit again to beat it home. Even Baxter is a bit goofy from the weather!!
I just love this shot of Gold Rush and Franzi, another cowboy country calendar shot.

Told Ramona Chico is a smart horse. Reserves his energy and is smart enough to lay down and take a break. Oakley must have heard me, for 20minutes later she was doing the same thing! Not every horse will do this tied to a trailer.
Our master chef cooks us up another great meal over the campfire. No contest for who is the best campfire cook!
10 minutes after we arrived back at camp it was raining! And when we returned home we found out there was some major storms around our area. One hit the Big Valley Jamboree and blew down the huge speakers!!
Sunday we head out with the hopes of crossing the river to get on the other side and see some of the highlights there.
Gold Rush is rested and ready to hit the trails.

We meet up with another group that is going to cross the river and I watch them cross and decide that it is way too high for Raquel and Peggy to cross for their first time. The water is extremely strong and is up to the horses bellies. So that would put it half way up Peggy and I'm afraid she could be swept down the river. So I tell Ramona and Franzi that they can follow the other group if they wish to get to the other side. Plus it had been raining so I thought the trails would be pretty muddy with the northern exposure on the other side.

Chico isn't too sure he wants to leave the group, but as soon as he sees Gold Rush head across he has no problem.
The girls make it to the other side and are heading up to the Hidden Falls.
It is certainly worth the effort, the falls are gorgeous, hidden inside a cave.
And of course the water is so clear and cold. Beautiful pictures.
The old trappers cabin is on the way back on the other side. The girls reported that the trails were very muddy and the horses slid down many of the trails. Glad we made the decision to not cross. Is not a fun experience for anyone. Ramona said her heart was in her throat more than once.
Gold Rush is so trusting, Franzi enjoys riding her.
Crossing back to camp Ramona thought she was going to loose Chico once, he was pushed sideways into the current and the force of the water became very apparent to her. One of those things you learn by experience, and hope you live to remember it.
While the girls are on the other side we head back to camp. Raquel asked for a drink of water, so I gave her a bottle and Peggy decided it was the opportune time to trot up to Oakley! Too cute to see her bouncing along, one hand trying to save the water and the other trying to slow Peggy down. Good riding Raquel.
I take John up onto the high ridge for his first ride in the mountains. He's very impressed and can't wait to bring some horses down with us next time. Baxter started out on our ride but decided it was much easier to stay in camp. Looks like one dead dog!! He put on double the miles we did the first two days, so not surprised he opted out.
Coming back to camp I discover it was John's birthday today!! Ramona was inventive and made a cake out of marshmallows with chocolate sprinkles!! They had fun trying to light "candles". Tried twigs, but they wouldn't stay lit, Roland dug out some matches and mission accomplished. John was quite surprised and grateful.
Last evening and looks like another storm heading in.
One final evening of roasting marshmallows, some have the technique almost mastered!!
Morning arrives and the valley is full of fog and clouds. We decide to get out of Dodge before the big storm hits. No fun at all driving that road in the mud. Pulling six horses you want everything in your favor. So we head for home and are fortunate to have perfect roads all the way. Reo shows us a back way home and it is only 205km to Sundre on his route.