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Moose Mountain Adventures Trail Ride - July 5th to July 7th 2008

When we decided that we wanted to go to Calgary, it didn't take long before we were talking about trail rides through the mountains. So, I began my search. Gail, Bruce, and myself are all experienced enough riders that we didn't want to be bored on the trail ride. So we needed to find a place where we were with other riders who hadn't learned to ride through a 10 minute introduction just the hour before. This proved to be very difficult to find. It turned out that a lot of the trail riding places taught people how to sit on a horse right before the excursion. I knew right away that I'd have a lot of searching to do.

I finally found a trail riding place that I loved. It was called Moose Mountain Adventures, located about 13 km south of Bragg Creek, and roughly 60 kilometers southwest of Calgary. Moose Mountain emphasized that their overnight trips were for experienced riders (they also had day trips for either less experienced riders or for people who only wanted to do a couple of hours/one day of riding), and that their rides are REAL (no scripted "adventures" with mock gun fights, etc.). What they offer was exactly what we were looking for - a genuine, real-life adventure, breathtaking scenery, with the desire to leave as little of a footprint as possible in the wilderness.

Moose Mountain Adventures didn't happen to have a three day planned at the time when we'd be in the area, but they can accommodate custom trips for four people. The problem was - we were only 3 people. But, I decided that I didn't want to trail ride with anyone else but Moose Mountain, so I contacted them to see what we could work out. They had several options for us, and we finally decided that we would join up with another group for the last three days of their eight day trip. I worked out beautifully! There were many emails going back and forth, and they got everything organized for us, including a night stay at the bed and breakfast next door to the ranch.

We had decided that we would meet Undine at the ranch the night before to work out what would happen the next day (she was the one who was going to take us out to meet with the rest of the group). Before arriving at the ranch, we saw some wildlife that we don't often get to experience in southern Ontario - a wild horse, a moose, and some deer (including a spotted fawn and mother). At the ranch, we met Undine, Krista, and Cornelia who got us all caught up with what we would be doing for the next three days. All of us a bit tired from the previous excitement of the day decided to head over to the B&B (Whisky Creek B&B) next door to get some rest.

The next morning we got all of our things prepared for the trip and got showered up (what would be our last chance to get clean for the next three days!), and headed upstairs for breakfast. Breakfast consisted of homemade waffles, with homemade whipped cream, real maple syrup, strawberries, bacon, fruit, coffee, and juice. Amazing. Once we finished breakfast, we headed over to the ranch to get the horses ready. There, us English folk had to learn how to do up the cinch on a western saddle! Once everyone was ready, Undine drove Cornelia, Gail, Bruce, myself, and the trailer full of horses out to Little Elbow, where we'd then ride the rest of the way to the pre-determined spot to meet up with the rest of the group.

The first part of the ride was very low key - mostly walking since Cornelia was leading a pack horse - but it gave us a chance to get accustomed to our horses, and for them get accustomed to us. Gail was riding Little Star, Bruce was riding Mocha, and I was riding Wessy. After a few short hours of riding, we met up with the rest of the group (just in time for lunch!). Our group was: Neil Maclaine; owner of Moose Mountain Adventures and our guide (riding Apollo), Lori; from Florida and on her 3rd trip with Moose Mountain (riding Fury), Jan and Gabrielle; from Holland (riding Navajo and Kootenay), Nicole; from Germany (riding Ozzy). After lunch and hearing stories from the previous 5 days that the rest of the group had been on, we mounted up and started our trek to Talus Lake.

We rode most of the way to Talus Lake, but eventually tied up the horses and hiked the rest of the way. The hike was tough, but definitely worth it for the spectacular view. Once we finally reached Talus Lake, Neil (the owner of Moose Mountain and our guide) and his wife Undine went for a swim (while the rest of us watched and laughed). It was like a polar bear swim (just so you know, there was ice in the lake - even though it was July!). Once they recovered from the shock of jumping into an ice cold lake (by the way, congratulations to Undine for finally joining the Talus Lake club), we back down towards where we'd tied the horses. At the "Fake Lake" that we'd passed on the way to Talus Lake, Bruce and a Lori, went for a swim in the equally cold water (again, the rest of us watched and laughed).

Back on our horses, we started on our way to the camp (the camp was already set up from the night before). The location of the camp was beautiful, and there were frequently deer nearby that we got the privilege of seeing on several occasions. We let the horses graze in the meadow, and Neil started cooking supper (Undine had headed back to the ranch by this time). There was coffee and hot chocolate available, as well as a stream next to the camp where we could get water. Supper was great, and we had a lot of fun getting to know the other group members while sitting by the fire. We tied the horses up (with enough line that they could reach the ground or lie down, but not get tangled up) and set up our beds under the tarp.

The next morning, breakfast was blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup and Saskatoon Berry Jam. Gabrielle's eye was hurting a lot (we think that it was a scratched cornea), so she and Cornelia stayed back at the camp for the day in hopes that it would get better. Once the horses and people were done their breakfast, we started tacking up, and before long we were on our way to the high pass.

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Today's riding was tough, and on some very difficult terrain. The views were incredible, and looking back on where we rode was pretty amazing too. Part way through the ride at one of our rest stops we looked across the valley and saw a small heard of elk! Our wildlife fix for the day! We took lots of pictures and then proceeded on our way. When we got to the bottom of the high pass we had to lead the horses the remainder of the way. At this point we weren't sure if we would be able to go the whole loop back to the camp, or if at the top of the high pass we would have to turn back.

The climb was steep and tough, but we took it slowly and stayed together. At one point during the climb, Gail slipped and almost fell, so dad lead Mocha and Wessy while I walked next to Gail. We finally got to the top of the high pass (at 8300') and the views were spectacular. Once we all finished taking photos, and had caught our breath, we started down the other side the pass, still leading the horses (Neil said that we would be able to go all the way around).

Once the terrain was a little bit easier for the horses, we mounted up again. It wasn't long before we had to dismount again though. There was snow that we would have to lead the horses through. Neil took Apollo through first by crossing the snow himself first, while leading Apollo through with a long rope. Hesitantly, Apollo went through without too much difficulty, and next in line was Navajo. Once Navajo was across, Gail and Lori walked through the snow to help on the other side. Fury was next (who wanted to lie down in the snow), followed by Ozzy. Wessy was supposed to be next in line, but she wasn't as keen to go through the snow, so Bruce got Mocha through first (who's feet were so large that he didn't even sink into the snow - it's like he had snowshoes on) and Wessy (with much encouragement) followed.

We mounted up again - but what was that up ahead? More snow (Wessy was so excited)! This snow wasn't too deep, so we were able to ride through it (Wessy and I took a little bit of extra time going towards it, then backing up, then getting a little closer, then backing up again - but after not too long we were finally victorious!)

After a bit more riding, we soon stopped for lunch before heading off onto Dead Horse Trail. Neil told us that the trail was called this because of the dangerous trail above the trail that we were on - the other trail was very dangerous, and horses could fall down the cliff to the trail that we would be on. The riding on Dead Horse Trail was not too difficult, but could have potentially been dangerous had their been a horse or other animal who had fallen to their death near the trail recently, because there could have been a bear nearby. Luckily, we didn't run into any troubles, and eventually made our way back to camp where we let the horses graze, and gave them some hay cubes, then had our own supper by the fire.

The next day would also be our last. Neil, Cornelia, and Bruce all lead pack horses, and Gabrielle rode with a bandanna over her eye to keep it from getting infected. We met someone at Little Elbow who had brought the horse trailer as well as some lunch for us. Only about half of us could go in the first load, so they got some of the horses loaded up (including two of the pack horses), and Gabrielle, Jan, Nicole, and Cornelia went back to the ranch with them. Nail, Gail, Bruce, Lori, and I continued to ride, and would meet someone and the horse trailer at another place. Since the terrain was not difficult on this part of the ride, we got to do some more cantering (which was a lot of fun!). We got to the meeting place and it wasn't long at all before the trailer pulled up, and we got everyone loaded up.

Back at the ranch, we un-tacked the horses, and they got some grain before they got to go out in the paddock. We were all invited to stay for dinner at the ranch. Undine's mother was visiting from Germany and had prepared an amazing dinner for us. We had to leave earlier then we would have liked, but we needed to start on our way to the motel where we were staying that night. We said our goodbyes, and swapped email addresses with everyone, and headed out.

We all had an incredible time on our trip through the mountains. There were great people, great horses, great views, great food, and all in all, it was just a great experience! We're already talking about when we'll do it again! Moose Mountain Adventures was so good to us, and we recommend them to anyone looking for a real mountain adventure. This was the highlight of the trip, and anyone who loves horses should consider going and riding through the mountains with Moose Mountain Adventures.

For more information about overnight trail rides in Alberta or mountain trail rides near Calgary, AB, contact Moose Mountain Adventures by calling [001]403-949-3329 or 1-866-513-RIDE today.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2024