Discovering my own Back-Yard on the Alberta Lost Trail Ride

Writer, photographer and horse lover, Shawn Hamilton, recounts her recent experiences on the Unicorn Trails ‘Alberta Lost Trail’ getaway. Join her for the ride…

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I was excited to see Anchor D Outfitters listed on the Unicorn Trails website roster this past year, but elated when the dates finally matched up with my calendar. I booked the Alberta Lost Trail Ride and packed my bags to head west.

Lost rail Ride Anchor D Outfiting
Group Ride – Lost Trail Ride – photo credit: Shawn Hamilton

This was the first time I had done a ride with Unicorn Trails in my own country of Canada. Horses have carried me to many spectacular landscapes across the globe, thanks to Unicorn Trails vast array of international destinations, but the Lost Trail Ride with Anchor D Outfitting in the rugged Kananaskis region of the Rockies brought my heart home.

A lot was going on when we arrived at the ranch, an hour southwest of Calgary. Day rides were going out, meals were being packed for a weekend ride, and our horses were being ticked off a list as they were loaded onto the trailer for our seven-day ride in the mountains.  Our group came from all parts of the United States, including Hawaii, many parts of Europe, and a handful of Canadians.  One of the countless things I enjoy about Unicorn Trails rides is the vast array of nationalities represented, their clients seem to come from all corners of the world.

Enjoying the Towering Scenery
Enjoying the Towering Scenery – photo credit: Shawn Hamilton

We travelled west along Highway 40 before pulling into the parking area. The horses were unloaded and we bridled up, following the wagon pulled by two Percherons, Waylon and Willie, carrying our food, sleeping bags, and all of our belongings for the week. The wagon made its way across the deep and fast-running water of the Highwood River, as we followed behind.

Dewey pointed out places to steer around, avoiding being swept away by the current. The dog apparently did not get the memo and floated quickly downstream, finally reaching shore and running back to catch up to us.

The terrain was fairly flat as we wound our way through the tall trees while getting to know our mounts. Other than the few attempts to snack along the way, my dun-skin gelding, Magoo, walked along, sure-footed, at a nice pace. Soon we arrived at the base camp, a perfect spot with tents scattered amongst the woods, a large covered cook tent, and a fire pit with chairs circled it.

Lost Trail Ride Anchor D Outfitting

Just behind the tents were large boulders towering over the Cataract Creek, where brave souls could cliff jump from into the deep, but chilly, water below. Happily, for those not so adventurous, the river can also be waded into from the shore to freshen up! After organizing the tents, the group gathered around the fire for a hearty meal of chilli, potatoes, and greens followed by dessert and entertainment provided by Dewey on his accordion.

The next morning, as the sun brightened up the rocky cliff face, I headed to the cook tent for a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, and hash browns. With the horses already saddled, we placed our pre-made lunches into the saddlebags and headed out for our first-day ride from camp.

Jump! -Photo: Shawn Hamilton

Stunning Scenery - Unicorn Trails
Stunning Scenery – Photo: Shawn Hamilton

A luscious green meadow allowed for a nice canter before we started to climb, and climb, then climb some more. Arriving at the top of the cliff the group peered down at our miniature camp. As the week progressed so did the adventure scale of the rides. Each day we put more and more faith into the sure-footedness of our horses, and each day Dewey took us a smidgen beyond our comfort level.

Lost Trail Ranch Unicorn Trails
Dewy on the accordion at the fire at camp
Photo Credit: Shawn Hamilton

As our confidence level grew we found ourselves in rock cuts, navigating narrow ridges of a mountain top, and bushwhacking through dense forests. It was exhilarating. All of our horses’ hard work was rewarded with breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains, rushing waterfalls, petroglyphs, and vast green meadows dotted with colourful wildflowers.  Base camp, being strategically located close to the horse trailers, allowed us to cover more of the Kananaskis region.

Each night more instruments seemed to magically appear. Chad, Dewey’s son, on his guitar, and a violin and fiddle played by one of the wranglers and cooks provided the music, while the group danced under the stars.

The week flew by and we mounted with heavy hearts on the last day’s ride, but the long gallops through the meadows washed away the blues and put smiles on our faces. We crossed the river for the last time and loaded the horses into the trailers to head back to the ranch. It was time to say our goodbyes and head back to different parts of the world.

Lost Trail Ride Anchor D Outfitting
Happy Riders! – Photo: Shawn Hamilton

The terrain that Dewey and his wonderful horses took us to made us all feel that we had truly accomplished something. Magoo got me over my fears of steeps and carried me to some of the most spectacular scenery I have witnessed in my own country. I am so very grateful for Dewy, his awesome horses, diligent staff and Magoo for putting up with my constant stopping to take photos. Now I had completed the Alberta Lost Trail ride, my next biggest decision will be which Anchor D Outfitting ride I will pick from the Unicorn Trails website to go on this year.  It is a tough decision between The Great Divide Ride or The Rim to Ranch. Which one would you choose?

 

Dewy Mathews
Dewy Mathews of Anchor D Outfitting

 

Happy Trails!

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