Its been a while now since we have stopped riding. I thought it would be different getting back to reality. At first I was so excited, sleeping in a warm bed, eating different food. Being warm, dry and clean. Toilets are so nice! Lots of things needed to get done still, the hay shed blew down this summer in the wind storms and so did the horse shelter. Spending time with Jordan was really nice again as well as all our friends. But after a few weeks it was surprising how I felt… I was in horse withdrawal.
I started reflecting on all the things about the trip. The simplicity, the quiet, the kindness, the long tough days and the good horses. It seemed like it never happened at all, was the ride a dream? It sure felt like one. Then I would go ride with some of my friends and all the feelings would come back and I knew it was real. It was just a piece of heaven that has come and gone. Even though the Ride was really hard long days, the simplicity and the companionship has created a feeling of longing as I continue life in normal reality.
It’s difficult to describe how it has changed us but it took over 1700km on horseback “roughing it” to realize society has got it wrong. There is too much focus on material objects, chasing the buck and chasing the dream. The rat race is a monster that has disguised herself in time. Time is something we constrain ourselves with so much when really it doesn’t matter as much as we think it does.
A good friend said we are the only species that limit our lives by time and I find that statement very true. If you forget about wake-up/bed-time and schedules, that wonderful simplicity returns. Things still get done, but the anxiety associated with it disappears when you don’t put pressure on yourself with a time frame. It will get done when it gets done, just make sure you do your best.
Of course our world revolves around time and schedules so its nearly impossible to get away from it completely but now in my day I try find some time where time doesn’t matter and its nice. After work, if I don’t have anything we’ve committed too, the watch and cell phone often go into my purse and stay there untouched until the next morning. When I am tired, I sleep. When I am hungry, I eat. This freedom has allowed me to relax more, have a better life balance and there is no better time than the present. Without cell phones and watches you live in the present more whole heartedly. I wish I had done this more on the Ride. Instead I often focused on ‘getting there’ ‘doing this.’ Of course there were moments of unexplainable awe which tore your mind out of its focus, but sitting in a saddle for 8-10 hours a day you are forced to reflect and forced to live in the moment. It is a lesson that has become so important. I only wish everyone could learn what we have. It gives you so much freedom.
The Ride has changed me. I love more deeply, I listen more intently, I work more consciously, and I slow down and do what I believe matters. I don’t worry about the latest boot design, as long as the boot keeps my feet warm and dry I am good. I don’t worry about getting my to do list done. There are a million house renovation projects and yard projects to be completed, and they will eventually. But its not getting the projects done that I focus on, its who I am doing them with, and how they feel about it. Stepping back from ‘me’ and leaning towards ‘them’ makes my life amazing. And that is what The Ride has done for me.
WARNING. If you are not ok with natural body functions and a very uncensored discussion about elimination techniques please SKIP READING THIS BLOG AS IT CONTAINS A DETAILED LIST OF WAYS TO SHIT IN THE BUSH.
Being on the trail for several months has taught us many things but one of the more practical aspects of everyday life was a topic that many many people became very curious about. Getting back into reality, the number one question I received was “Well, if you sometimes didn’t see people for several days straight, how did you use a toilet?” The answer is… we didn’t!
All of us have developed different techniques… here are a few…
Some of us tried to only use toilets in the beginning, and while we were in areas with several towns and farms this was a reasonable choice to just “hold it” but it did cause some stomach upset and explosive occasions.
And eventually, there was a time when you couldn’t hold it anymore…
The “pop a squat” technique. Commonly used in females while peeing as well. It does take some balance and quad strength but in the bald prairies, this is one of three options. Beware, it may seem simple, but don’t forget your pants are around your knees and you don’t want poo or pee and accidently hit the back of them. Also if you lose your balance, try avoid stepping backwards to re-gain it.
If you were lucky (and we were) we had a “luggable loo” which is basically a 5 gallon bucket with a modified toilet seat and doggie poop bags that can make clean up very simple. This was amazing when we could carry a 5 gallon bucket… which was for the first month, after that it wasn’t an option.
The “Lazy logger.” A must when legs were too sore or you were too tired. Not the best approach but it got the job done. 100% you MUST dig a hole, so allow yourself 5 minutes of prep time.
Eventually we had trees to assist us. The “Crap and Back Stretch” technique. This has multiple functions when time is pressed. If your back is sore you can stretch it and it doesn’t take as much quad strength. If you become advanced at this technique, you can even stretch your legs out forwards to prevent any accidental contamination on clothes as well.
Another technique that involved trees was the “Crap and Chat” technique. It allowed for easy visualization of the area while being able to clearly communicate where and what you were doing to avoid accidental discovery. This was a nice technique because with the correct tree, you could relax and have a few moments to collect your thoughts.
When trees weren’t available but other objects were, the “Lean and Twist” was a handy technique. It allowed for less quad strength while maintaining good distance from clothing around your ankles. It would be wise to make sure no ants were making their home nearby though before proceeding. Nothing is worse than being half way through and having to rush things because the ants are angry at your deposit!
And finally the “its almost like a toilet” technique. This was a group favorite. Fallen trees, when at the correct height and angle are such a delight it almost makes one want to use it even if there is no urge. You can rest your toilet paper right beside you, bring a book along, or just relax and enjoy the nature around you.
Life can get complicated, but one thing is for sure, the luxury of a toilet is something we should all take a moment and appreciate!
We’ve covered a LOT of ground since the beginning. Like, over 1,600km/1000 miles now. But I guess I’ll catch you up with recent events!
Dad, Amelia and I started out from Castlegar on the Columbia Western Rail Trail, part of the Trans Canada Trail. We spent 4 days to get from Castlegar to Grand Forks. The first day, we had to deal with the new experience of tunnels and trestle bridges. Misty, Judy and Mak all did well. They’re not afraid of heights like I am, so they walked over those bridges like it was an every day happening. The tunnels were pretty amazing though!
We ended that day with a 1km long tunnel, where we had to use headlamps and couldn’t see the other end! Misty and Judy did fine with it. They just followed Amelia and I, though they followed more quickly if we kept the lights pointed at the ground right before their feet. Mak wanted to turn around and go back to the light, but he finally gave up when the girls got too far ahead and weren’t stopping.
Day 2 we had a few more bridges, and we went under the highway bridge that goes over the canyon. It was a pretty warm day, but less smoky than the day before. We could see hints of fantastic views. I felt like the trail kept getting narrower, so I tried to keep distracting myself so I wasn’t miserable to ride with. I’m not sure that it worked…
Misty kept on walking right by the outside edge of the trail. I would see how long I could stand not looking down, which usually wasn’t more than a couple minutes, then I would move her back over to “safety” on the inside of the trail. This repeated on and off for the first three days. I still really don’t like seeing over the edge, but I think I’m a little better at controlling my initial fear responses.
Day three was probably the hottest of this little leg. We made it to Christina Lake after crossing this harrowing little shored up part of the trail. There was a new walking bridge to use from one side to the other, but it was too narrow for Judy’s packs to fit. Dad tested out this built up part of the trail that followed the mountain to check that it was stable enough for the horses. I ended up going first with Misty, and just kept my eyes on the ground in front of my feet.
We all had to make sure both us and the horses stayed as close to the mountain as possible, because the trail was much narrower and the shored sections creaked ominously underfoot if you were too close to the edge. One part of it was littered with scree as well, so it wasn’t the best footing. In my head I was singing “Don’t push me, cause I’m close to the edge. I’m trying not to lose my head!” And then the rest of the medley from Happy Feet popped into my head and made me feel better.
We ended the day at Christina Lake, where we went down to town for icecream and met Maylyn and Emily with One Tree Adventures and their fellow Nature Detectives! It was a bonus to be able to teach the detectives about horses, on top of what they had already learned on their hike.
From Christina Lake to Grand Forks we had new experiences too! After we went over this ginormous train bridge refitted for the trail, we were finally done with all the heights. The Snow Birds were flying by for the last hurrah of the airshow put on in Grand Forks, and the horses handled it with no problems. Even when a helicopter landed about 500 meters away from them they didn’t spook! We ended up at Karan and Richard’s place and they took care of the horses while Dad went to a family wedding on the opposite coast, and I visited family in Calgary and Edmonton.
After we came back, we scouted some trails, dropped some bales, restocked and headed out on the next leg of the trip!
Special thanks to the following:
Jim/Faye Aiken, Rick Seymour, Sue Adrain, Karan Moore/Richard Stardom/Commune, Maylyn/Emily with One tree adventures and their fellow nature detectives!
The mountains….wow. Amazing, treacherous, grand and unforgiving. Nothing like feeling small and insignificant yet amazed by the beauty, rugged wild and freshness. We were vulnerable yet in control, at least we felt we were in control. That feeling was good enough for us. We were very lucky to ride with Dennis and Brian for the last amazing day in the Alberta Rockies! What great company!! Dennis is on the buckskin (tan coloured) and Brian is on the Red roan (Red with white).
At the end of the Alberta side of the Rocky Mountains we met an amazing family! We stayed at Summit Creek Cabins for 3 days while trying to arrange a farrier for the horses. Verlee welcomed us with open arms and we couldn’t have asked for a nicer host!! She even took Teresa and I scouting the trails on off-road toys so that we knew where to go. The BC side of the mountains is sure to be just as amazing!
We have been on the road for quite some time now and we made an important observation… this is not a vacation. The weather we have encountered has been windy (cold wind and warm wind), rainy, snowing, freezing, hailing, sunny, nice, hot, storming and any combination of the above.
On colder days, mornings and evenings during set up and take down of camp it is chilly but you ride during the nicest part of the day and walking and moving can always keep you warm. Walking, as mentioned in my previous blog has been instrumental to our well being, but what do you do when your butt is so sore (or you are chaffed raw) you don’t want to ride anymore and the bottom of your feet have blisters? Tough gig! And it only gets worse when you get blisters on your blisters.
Back to the cold nights. The thing is that you rarely sleep well, mostly because at 2:30am you try hold your pee and test the boundaries of your bladder. It is terribly cold to get out of your tent, sprinkle yourself with the frost from the fly and then find a place to pull down your pants and expose your poor cold bum to the elements while maintaining a position that prevents any accidental splash on your pj’s. Then you sprinkle yourself with frost again getting back into the tent and lay awake shivering until your body heat once again fills your sleeping bag. Only to wake up in an hour or so to re-freeze while packing up/changing into the next days gross dirty cold clothes. Also, sometimes you have to skip brushing your teeth because frozen toothpaste is hard to get out of the tube! In the mountains, the nights still get that cold.
On hot days it’s no better. The coolest time of day is when we do preparation or set up/take down camp, so again we travel at the hottest part of the day which is dangerous (Teresa got heat stroke once already and my sunburn has peeled not once but twice!)and slow (remember 4 horses are black). Some days we struggled to make 15km in a day. The fatigue is brutal! And you are forced to wear long sleeves to protect from the sun. Doesn’t seem to matter how much sunscreen you put on, if you don’t hide your skin, you still burn. To try compensate we have been waking up at 5am since the middle of Saskatchewan.
Rain is also the enemy. Thunderstorms can be waited out in a tent but then drying the tent for packing will either slow us down or get some of our gear wet. Commonly we find ourselves in areas with no protection from the elements and rare cell service. When we can we ask people for things like water and shelter but sometimes, especially in farming areas there aren’t any homes for days of travel. We are on our own to survive with only what we have with us.
Bugs…. horseflies, face flies, black flies, mosquitos, gnats, those bugs that get into the horses ears, those other biting ones, spiders, wasps, hornets, bees, ticks, probably so many I don’t know but they suck. You can only use bug spray until it is all gone… then what? We can only pack 8 cans. The bugs can get so thick sometimes you can’t breath. They hit your eyes, go up your nose, try fly into your ears…thank goodness for mosquito head nets! Although I do like some of the bugs, the lady bugs and butterflies are very pretty.
Our “days off” continue to be busy collecting supplies, tending to the horses and figuring out the next weeks travel as best as possible. The longest we have had to go without showers or laundry is 7 days and that feeling is pretty gross! When socks can be held completely horizontal, life is interesting… and don’t even ask about the smell!
The wind seems to be like a constant annoying little sibling to us. Rarely is it around when we want it (on hot days or days with pesky bugs) and on cool days it’s always howling straight sideways. One day in the Grasslands park, it was so windy that when my nose started dripping, the wind literally blew my snot straight sideways into the hood of my jacket before I could even wipe it on my sleeve!
When I started this trip I had a very romantic vision of what it was going to be like. Me and my horse, riding in the sunset, warm and beautiful. Making miles and feeling like we were in heaven. I didn’t consider things like being stuck down wind while a horse pees beside you. I didn’t consider becoming so frustrated with my riding or pony horse at times. I didn’t consider the communication difficulties with Dad or Teresa. Or the times when your bum is so sore you walk but your backpack keeps getting caught on your pack horses pack which pushes you into your riding horse and he inadvertently kicks you while he walks over and over and over for hours. The blisters, the heat rash, the fatigue and the arguments and irritation. We don’t just argue with each other, we argue with our horses too, they get tired as well. Or the chaffing….oh the chaffing!
All 3 of us have different personalities, Teresa is slow to rise, I am not a morning person, Dad sometimes simply can’t seem to communicate with us well. Our days are long, and the troubles and struggles we have are real. This is not a vacation. But there is always a flip side. The ugly is there, but it is quickly forgotten when you see the beauty. There is nothing more rewarding than a good days ride, a full belly and a warm sleeping bag. To ride these amazing horses, have them nuzzle you. To be witness to their amazing power, strength and honesty and they have this way of bringing out the tenacity, honesty and courage in us. The stories and the people we meet, you’ve read about many of them already. One of them put it the best “Good luck on your future travels, and may all your problems be small ones.” I now wish that forward as well, because we all have problems, and I hope they are only ever small ones.
At the start of each new day, you climb onto your steed and you get to see things and experience things that you’ve never dreamt of, you get this indescribable feeling, this “high” of life. This adventure is awesome! All the bad, all the hurt, all the grumpy sucky moments… worth it. Because that’s all they are, moments, and moments pass.
So, this isn’t a vacation, it’s an adventure. Like any true adventure there are perils and unexpected hardships, but what you receive in return is life changing and unimaginably rewarding. It’s difficult to explain, but there is joy in simplicity, an inner happiness that provides strength and patience. Life is complicated because we make it that way, not because it is that way. Once you learn to let go of the negative, the positive is overwhelming and wonderful. Its a feeling no vacation has ever given me.
After Cypress Hills, Alberta greeted us with open arms, wind, rain, scorching sun and MOUNTAINS!! We apologize we haven’t had much internet access or time to write many blogs and this is why…
After a few days rest we continued onward through cattle country on Wild Cat Road. At this point we didn’t know it, but we were making 35km a day. But again we found ourselves in areas where water wasn’t easily accessible. Yes there were dugouts and some slews but the roads were completely fenced off and to reach the water we had to climb over fences and haul 10 gallons at a time over 400 meters to the horses… try making 3-4 of those trips on a hot day! Weather for the most part was ok, very sunny which left us burnt and uncomfortable from all the chaffing, but the wind kept us cool enough that we didn’t over heat too often.
After that we hopped onto highway 61 all the way to Foremost. Highway travel isn’t our favourite. In the ditches the grass is thick and not as easy to get through and the mosquitos are HORRID! At this point it was decently dry though and we weren’t going through too much marshy/boggy ditches. After Foremost we got some good tips and hopped on a rail line that was pretty much inactive which got us off the highway and put us into some wonderfully quiet country where we enjoyed all sorts of wildlife included baby antelope, deer fawns, coyotes and their puppies and we even ran into a rattlesnake. On this part of the trek we definitely hit weather that was too hot. Some days we had excellent days travelling 40km, while others we struggled to make 30km. The horses suffered in the heat along with us and the wind would disappear and allow the horseflies to wreak havoc. We went through A TON of bug spray. Up to 2-3 cans a day.
Then we hit the rain storms, near Wrentham we had one heck of a rainstorm! Big lightning and thunder, tough winds and sheets of pouring rain. Once Teresa and my tent was blown over with all our things in it and our sleeping bags got pretty wet. But to our amazement, after we set everything in order and re-pegged the tent we found only the outside of the sleeping bags were wet so we hunkered down anyway and fell asleep to awaken to a beautiful fresh morning!
Not long after that we hit Stirling where we took a few days rest and stopped into Lethbridge to catch “Wonder Women” and take our minds off the horses for a while. Jumping back into civilization surprised us a little and we found the crowds in the theatre were a bit overwhelming. But we enjoyed the restaurant meals and the vegetables! Oh boy, do we love fresh veggies!
We continued our path through Raymond and that’s where our railroad tracks ended. The interesting thing that I have fallen slightly in love with, is that when this area was settled, the mormons made the communities equine friendly so most of the towns have yards large enough to house a few horses in the backyards! Very friendly communities that share our enthusiasm and excitement for horses. Once we passed through Raymond, our plan was to go south and follow some grid roads to the 5 highway but again weather foiled our plans and it rained all day and within 3 hours our “water proof” gear failed. Just failed. Soaked to the bone, through and through and all of our gear as well… we had to walk to stay warm, but it was like walking in a wet suit. My boots had more water in them than some of those puddles. So we shuffled our sorry wet bodies backwards into MaGrath and found ourselves at an equine facility. Luckily this small type of misery led us to meet some of the kindest people and for the first time, company on our ride! Brian took us in for a few days to dry all our tack/clothes/gear. And Maureen and Joel came with us for a bit when we continued on our travels and it was just so special sharing that portion of the ride!
Onward we went, around the native reserve to Cardston where we couldn’t help but resists stopping at “Dave’s Drive In” for some milkshakes. So good! Then to Leavitt… riding over that hill, wow! What a picture perfect town! This image doesn’t even do it justice! After that we kept going west and then north again to Hill Spring where we met a horse trainer, Wayne, who taught us how to train our horses to bow so that we could get on easier! We were so excited! Not that we have time or energy for extra training on this trip, but once I get home, I can’t wait! Especially Mike whom I’ve had to do special stretching simply to be able to reach his stir up. Then much to our delight Wayne and his son Trevor came and rode with us and showed us an amazing view of the mountains on a back trail. What a treat! Once we hit the Waterton Reservoir and Dam we said our “see you laters” to them and over the Dam we went.
We continued on the highway for a little ways longer until we reached the base of the mountains. That is where we are currently. Scoping out our trails, planning for grizzly encounters, visiting with the ranchers and laughing through the days. Mak has lost another shoe and his hoof has broken in a way that makes putting the shoe back on difficult. The farrier we had out was very honest and we hope to get some help with possibly boots for him. I guess we will see what happens and what the professionals say.
On a side note, I have to say, all our adventures wouldn’t mean as much if we didn’t get to meet all these amazing people. Every family has their own unique story, triumphs and tribulations, celebrations and hardships. But I have to say of all the people, I have grown to respect and cherish my sister and dad more than ever. Teresa is one of the toughest, smartest and talented young ladies I know. It’s not easy having me as a sister, and I know I sometimes make things terribly tough unintentionally but I love her like crazy and she is by far a better woman than I! My dad also has immeasurable patience, courage and stamina and continues to be my role model. I love them both a great deal even though I can be very grumpy, moody and complicated. I am truly blessed to share this adventure with the both of them.
I never thought I would fight (rock/paper/scissors) my sister to be the first to shower. Often at home it was the opposite, “Why do I have to shower?! I don’t want to! You go first!” Now it’s, “I call showering first!” “What?! No fair, you got all the hot water LAST time!!”
It’s not uncommon to go 5-6 days without a shower, depending on where we are. I think the most I’ve gone is 8 days. 8 whole days with no chance to freshen up besides some wet towelettes in the Grasslands National Park east block bathroom. 5 days was easy after that. Granted most of the time it’s when we’re going through the national and provincial parks that people and therefore facilities become sparse.
The parks are amazing, and Cypress Hills was such a change from anything else you’ll see in Saskatchewan. But it’s a park, so people don’t live there… there are campsites with bathrooms, but no running water (besides cold mountain fed streams) so it’s difficult or VERY uncomfortable to wash up.
If we stay at someone’s house, we often get invited in, but many times we stay behind some trees in a field, in abandoned yards, even in ditches. As long as there is water, we can camp there. Probably the most difficult part about not being clean is how to manage your hair. Stacey’s strategy is to put it in a ponytail and not touch it until she can shower again. Mine is to brush it twice a day, but it looks like it’s wet anyway from all the grease. Dad just ignores his hair completely.
Cleaning dishes is VERY different on the road. Basically, if there’s no visible food left in the container, it’s clean. We rinse each container with whatever spare water we have, and often drink it after so we don’t waste it. Unless it’s too gross, then we just don’t. Paper towel is used to dry the pots out after and bam! Dishes done! On our catch-up days, we wash everything with soap so we can start clean again.
Washing our hands is pretty limited too, unless we have easy access to clean(ish) water. If we do something really gross and need to wash our hands, then we will use some of our spare water. When we had the wagon, things were a bit easier that way because we could carry much more water with us.
Now that we’re just on horseback, we only carry enough drinking water to last us through the day. It works out to roughly 2L per person. But if there is a stream nearby, we wash hands whenever we want! Yay!
Basically, all three of us have a much deeper appreciation for things we used to take for granted. Showers, sinks, and toilets being among the things that make us most happy when we can use them. 😁
Special thanks to the following:
Alan Olsen, Blair/Brandi Stroh, Carlotta/Gerald Maser, Terri-Lynn/Chris Arnal, Roy/Mable Johnson, Ken Kuehn, Jim Jones, Rob/Michelle/Ryan Nilsson, Dennis Schatz, Joy/Phil Wilde, Doug/Sharon Craik, Maureen Snow, Bryan Still, Joel/Elle Lybbert, Leonard Carlson, April/Dave/Kayley Smith from Dave’s Drive-In (Cardston)
The Grasslands National Park was so beautiful! We traveled through the east block first, then through the community pastures/private land between the two sides where we met some phenomenal company. The ranchers we met pretty much can throw stones over their fences into Montana. We joked about walking over the boarder with a bag of bannock mix and see how fast Trump sends someone after us for cocaine trafficking. Those sneaky Canadians, can’t trust how polite they are!
The style of ranching is also very different out here. Very interesting to see because they have vast areas, and often can’t get the cows to facilities to help them. So they do what they can in the field. Also there isn’t a veterinarian close by so emergencies are dealt with mostly on their own.
At one of these ranches my jacket came in contact with something that smelled like it was dead but came out of something dying. It was ssssooooo bad! Literally lost my appetite by wearing my jacket that day… and I do a lot of gross things in my profession so that’s saying a lot! Someone was watching out for me though and the next ranch was very kind and let me wash whatever it was off and get all of our laundry done.
The west block of Grasslands was breathtaking! Moose, rabbits, mule deer, horny lizard, bison, garter snakes and bull snakes are some of the things we saw. Luckily we didn’t meet any rattle snakes. We had our first fence delay as we entered the area where the Bison live and Teresa had to hike a large hill (Saskatchewan mountain really) to get reception so we could call the park and ask for help. They were so amazing and quickly sent someone to unlock the gate for us! Funny story about how small this world is. The lady, Caitlin, that opened the gate for us, later fed us in Val Marie at her restaurant (the Bison burgers were to die for!) and low and behold she was a sprint kayaker.
For anyone who doesn’t know, our family was heavily involved in Sprint Kayaking as us kids grew up, and we competed and trained all over North America. Well, turns out she was a year ahead of me, and at Nationals we competed against each other in Manitoba. Caitlin is also writing a blog called Field to Fork Favourites and writing a book with her twin sister about their travels. Can’t wait to read it Caitlin.
After that we had our first experience in a bog. Which is kinda fun but kinda risky too.
A bog is a wet soggy low area which isn’t always easily identifiable. When horses walk into a bog, they sink and the mud suctions their feet down making it hard to get out. Like when you step in mud and it pulls your rubber boot off, except horses aren’t wearing boots so it tugs on their feet. It can be dangerous because horses can get stuck. The worst part is they can get stuck with you stuck on their back. If you jump off, now you are knee deep in muck beside a 1200lb animal trying to flail his hard hooves to get out and may even fall and crush you. And don’t forget we all have pony horses too so add that to the mix to create a bit of a sticky situation. My pack horse actually got stuck beside my riding horse pinning my leg between them. Luckily that side of the pack only had clothes and food so it didn’t hurt me, just bruises, but it could have been a lot worse because if it were the opposite side, we have sharp fence posts that could have caused a serious injury to me or my riding horse.
The fun part is feeling the immense power of these amazing horses as they get through it. We all let our pack horses go so they could fend for themselves and hung on as Mike, Mak and Misty powered through hock (knee) deep muck and got clear to the other side.
Amazingly none of our horses lost any horse shoes! Even Mak who had to have one of his shoes placed back on the day earlier kept it on! Way to go Tim! Good job!
After that we made our way through a prairie dog colony, by a snake den and up to some Buttes which gave us an amazing view of the Frenchman’s valley! Our final destination was Val Marie. We had planned for 7 days travel, packed for 14 but it only took us 6. Beautiful, beautiful country! Highly recommended!
Two things that really are vital to this trip is walking and water.
Water is obvious, without it we would all die and we cannot pack it with us for logistical reasons. So all we carry is 2 litres per person, nothing for the horses. An average horse needs to drink 10 gallons a day or more if it’s hot or they are working hard (which ours definitely are). And to haul 60 gallons is impossible because a single gallon weighs 10lbs. All our gear and 2 weeks of food only weighs 150lbs, to haul 600lbs of water a day is not possible. So we are forced to plan our route according to creeks, rivers and watering holes. We need to have access to water at least 3 times a day for the horses and for us to refill our water. We do have a purifying system with us so we can also drink out of slews and creeks. What has amazed me is the different tastes of water from different sources and areas.
Drinking it with our horses has given us an appreciation for how different it can taste. Some water is just plain gross and even if you are very thirsty you only drink what you have to. We know our horses need to drink a lot to stay healthy but the old saying “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” literally comes into play daily. Sometimes the water is beautiful and clear but getting access to it isn’t possible due to high banks. It’s important for us to realize if a horse doesn’t like the water, we have to try harder to find water it likes so they can replenish. So far we haven’t had issues and the horses aren’t very picky. But when water they enjoy becomes available, it’s amazing how much they can drink!
Walking for us humans is another important aspect of this trip. Sitting in a saddle for several hours day after day isn’t easy on the body. Also sleeping in a tent, getting pushed around by horses, falling or getting tripped or any other bodily abuse can be dealt with by ‘walking it out.’ If we do not take care of our bodies, we will not finish this adventure. So we each try walk roughly an hour or two each day as we travel. This also gives our horses a break as well. Morning walks during the first hour of travel have been exceptionally healthy in working out the stiffness from the previous night and day. The only trick is riding boots and walking shoes aren’t exactly the same so avoiding blisters is important. Otherwise you are stuck with sore feet and a sore bum… not so fun.
Lastly we have grown stronger, smarter and more tough, but our maturity has not changed…
Special thanks to the following: (this also includes the last 2 posts thank you’s)
Grasslands National Park and their wonderful staff, especially: Brenda Peterson, Corilee, Chris Reed, Matt, Dwayne Hansen, Ryan Hayes and Caitlin Mroz.
Hi, this is David and this is my first time contributing to the blog.
It is very important for us to recognize the sacrifice and contributions of people who are behind the scenes. For example, my wife Hania who has put up with my obsession with this trip, who is now taking care of all my responsibilities as well as her own while we are away. Hania has also taken on Teresa’s one year old Labrador and cat.
Another important person to recognize is Jordan Homer, Stacey’s boyfriend, who now manages their acreage and animals while commuting over 2 hours a day and working at his own important career. Both Jordan and Hania have put their lives on hold for quite some time due to planning of and now the actual journey. My sons Adam, Steven and Simon are also helping a lot by helping my wife, their mother, whenever it’s needed.
In the blog, we thank many people for their assistance. Whether it was offering us water, food, directions or a place to stay. We are grateful and realize everyday that this is way way bigger than an adventure with 3 people and 6 horses.
Hania I love you for many reasons and supporting my dream is one of them.