We were up early for an appointment with a horse. Three horses in fact who, even now, were having their breakfasts unaware that we were coming to sit on them. We’d booked a morning ride some months ago and arrived at the Jasper Riding Centre before nine for a three hour ride into the hills.
Our guide, Sarah was a jolly Australian who kept up a running commentary as we plodded into woods that were still dripping from last night’s rain.
She found the footprint of a small bear in the mud, and the scratch marks where a bear had climbed a tree. She pointed out an elk grazing in the forest and identified the shriek of a loon. It was nice to have our surroundings interpreted and I think we all learned quite a bit from her.
The Sturks had booked a shorter, later ride with the hope that we would be able to meet up on the circuit and do the end bit together. But the stable folks had said that wouldn’t really work as the horses all adopt their own pace and it’s a big mountain etc etc. Still we did actually bump into them en route, with Harrison looking thrilled as he bounced along Thelwell style, and Fynn looking very solemn.
|Hello Sturks! Goodbye Sturks…|
We assumed we would stay together but we rode with them for about two minutes before Sarah decided to lead us up a different part of the mountain. And not without some drama. Her horse suddenly reared not once, but three times and she struggled to get it back under control. It left our mounts a bit spooked and Sarah was clearly unnerved, saying that had never happened to her before. Once things had settled down we carried on up the trail and to be honest it was good to finally get out of the woods and onto a rocky ridge with a fine view over to Jasper.
All too soon though we were heading back down the narrow, stony path with the horses sometimes struggling to find their footing. Then on through the woods. And on. I’ll say this for the Jasper Riding Stables, they make sure you get your time, and then some… With what looked like fifteen minutes left of our ride, Sarah said we would probably be another hour or so. At this point my knees were beginning to compose formal letters of complaint and my back was saying I’m not as young as I used to be. As if I needed reminding… So up hill down dale, all through the woods and eventually we got back to the stables where there was a serious question as to whether my knees would let me get off. They sort of did in the end but there was a fair amount of standing on my part before I risked actual walking.
We staggered out and decided that for various horse and lunch-related reasons we needn’t go into here, we probably wouldn’t be doing a whole lot of walking today. So we decided to follow Helen and Tim’s example of yesterday and go to Maligne Lake (pron Mal-een. And Layke). It’s a fair old drive along a pretty road which only gets to the lake but has another rather magnificent one on the way – Medicine Lake, which is shallow and sandy for much of its length. It actually looks like you could wade across it but it’s huge and dramatic and we liked it. Actually we liked it more than Maligne Lake to be honest. It is the most photographed place in Alberta apparently but the thing that makes it picture perfect is an island at one end of it which you can either do a very long walk to or you can book a place, months in advance, on one of the little boats which shoot up there every few minutes.