Adventures in the Yukon


Today, I’d like to share my thoughts on a piece of coverage Unicorn Trails recently received in the Telegraph – and an adventure holiday that I was very pleased to be a part of.

The Trip of a Lifetime

There is no doubt that, if we are lucky, we all get to go on a trip of a lifetime but I feel particularly lucky to have been an escort on this adventure in such an unspoilt wilderness.

It was over thirty years ago that I was last there but little has changed other than a bit more tarmac, traffic lights and parking meters in Whitehorse; the frontier spirit, the trading posts, the pick up trucks and the long haul lorries were very much as I remembered them, and of course the panoramas were unchanged.

Louise & Dolly’s New Adventure

Louise shares her anxiety about the risks, particularly the possibility that, she as a very new rider and Dolly as a child, might spoil the trip for the other riders, and she reveals her concern for Dolly when the days were long and the weather was wet and windy; they coped with it all stoically and Dolly became a popular member of the team in her own right.

I was delighted that they both had such a great time and that Louise has written so enthusiastically about their adventure because I am sure that others could do the same if they could see that the horses are not a barrier, even to a non rider.

Not having children and being a far from child-orientated person myself, I found that leading Dolly on the rope was quite exacting at times but that was entirely due to my not being at all used to having responsibility for a child, rather than Dolly or her behaviour, which was exemplary.  Louise was most appreciative of my supervision and she said I managed perfectly well, so I’ll chalk that up to another bit of (rather late in) life experience.

Of course, this is a riding adventure and yet it turns out that Louise found, as many others new to riding have done, that the challenge is not with the riding, nor with the horses.  No, the riding is always the easy and relaxing part, all the effort comes with the ‘housekeeping’ of keeping track of all your bits of kit, with ablutions, living under canvas, cooking in the open – in short, the same challenges that you would face with any backcountry adventure, such as a walking trek or white-water rafting trip.  An adventurous spirit is all you need.

I was delighted that they both had such a great time and that Louise has written so enthusiastically about their horse riding adventure because I am sure that others could do the same if they could see that the horses are not a barrier, even to a non rider.

I have been most fortunate to have been on a number of trips of a lifetime on horseback so I suppose that I have become used to most of the routine and it mostly passes without much thought.  Interesting though it no doubt is to many, I would not have thought to have mentioned the earth privy or the unobtrusive hunt for a quiet spot each day.  Nor did I notice the poor weather; it did rain, yes, but I remember the open blue skies, the vast glacial landscape, the long vistas, on the one hand, and, on the other, the first sip of a hot drink in the morning that was prepared on the wood fire, scooping up clear ice-cold water from the mountain stream, the instant slumber that that overcomes me as soon as I crawl into my sleeping bag.

A Typical Day on a Horse Riding Adventure

I am frequently asked “What’s it like on a typical day on a horse riding adventure?”  There is no day that would cover all the trip but a day may start with the waking dreams of a luxury en suite whilst still snuggled into a warm sleeping bag but on sloping, undulating ground and preparing to reverse the gymnastics of the previous night to emerge from a tent into the ‘fresh’ morning of cold stones and soggy vegetation to retrieve damp, stiff boots …. oh but such magnificent scenery in the soft golden light, horses contentedly munching away, the aroma of a wood fire, the distant call of a wild animal and real fresh morning air.

After a wash and dress, there’s breakfast to be had but I like to pitch in with the jobs if I can and so I might fetch water from a stream, or collect up the debris from the fire-side party of the night before.  Bags are then packed and carefully stowed on the pack animals along with the tents and all the other provisions. There rarely appears to be any rush as horses are tacked up and riders mount but eventually we are off.

Mountain trail horses are sure-footed and there is no need to micro-manage as they pick their way across the most rugged ground, sometimes across steep scree slopes or along narrow ledges, but there’s no need to fear as you climb higher and higher.  Time flies by as the vistas unfold and soon there is a stop for a rest and lazy picnic lunch in some shade by a cool mountain stream or waterfall.  Early afternoon will see the riders on their way again as the sun comes round behind them, colours slowly turn to gold and the site to set up the next camp comes into view.

The day’s ride over, horses are untacked and released to drink and graze in the oasis of a water-meadow before being tied up for the night.  The campsite is soon buzzing with such tasks as building a campfire for cooking, putting up tents and preparing food.  With many hands, in no time at all it’s time to eat and drink – and to talk long into the night around the fire about the adventures of the day before going off to a deep sleep and to dream some more.

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