Stroking the smooth leather reins between my fingers, I happily realize that after barely an hour in the saddle I’ve grown confidently comfortable. My laid-back grey mare Belle pauses while I gaze out across the rugged landscape, taking in as much of the dramatic scenery as I possibly can. Gorgeous Canadian Rockies vistas by day, sumptuous meals and cozy heated cabins by night – my first backcountry horseback riding vacation is pretty spectacular so far.
Living Rocky Mountain History
With Belle keeping stride amidst our train of 20 horses, I listen to Tom, our guide with Horseback Adventures Ltd. He describes how he learned the ropes of running backcountry horseback tours from his father, who purchased the business from the Canadian 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 with greenhorns and seasoned riders alike.
Creature Comforts Along the Mountain Trail
If you’ve always wanted to have an Alberta adventure on horseback, don’t let being a novice hold you back. 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, on the border of Jasper National Park, is 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 steady pace, 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 Solomon River. Six packhorses have been skilfully loaded to carry the ingredients for hearty hot breakfasts and meals of lasagne, chilli 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.