There are a few quintessentially Canadian things to do…things every Canadian and every visitor should try not to miss. Some examples would include pulling a lobster pot aboard a Cape Islander on Nova Scotia’s tide-bedevilled Bay of Fundy, strolling the 17th century byways of Old Quebec and chasing polar bears (or vice versa) on Hudson Bay. There is one not-to-be-missed experience, however, that should be on everyone’s “maple leaf” bucket list.
I am referred to a luxurious summer horseback adventure with the venerable 91-year-old Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies (TRCR). T.R.C.R. boasts unique access to places that few other outfitters can manage thanks to its longstanding working relationship with the National Park system.
For those not familiar, the Canadian Rockies are the exquisite range of mountains that bisects our country’s west. Unspoiled fragrant evergreen forests swath the slopes of towering mountains capped in white. Rushing torrents cut through hidden valleys with trails leading up to flower speckled alpine meadows. Wildlife is everywhere from graceful raptors soaring overhead, to elk, white tailed deer, bears or comical gophers poking their heads from the ground to get a look at interlopers.
Evening sunset tints sheer rock faces all shades of purple and blue, glinting off the mountain peaks and casting long shadows. An artist’s palate of splashes across the sky and the snow caps turn from white to gold.
This would be about the time for riders to dismount and head back to base camp for the night.
Everything is looked after. A flickering fire beckons and tantalizing smells emanate from the cook tent. After chowing down on cowboy fare (hot 3 course gourmet meals) it’s time to sit round the campfire and swap stories of the day’s events, strum a guitar and sing a few ballads or even recite a little cowboy poetry. Bedtime sees you bunking down in a well-appointed genuine teepee!
The T.R.C.R. is a non-profit organization which dates back to 1923. Its inaugural excursion boasted such luminaries H.B. Clow, President of Rand McNally Mapmakers, Reginald Townsend, editor of Country Life in America magazine and Dr. J. Murray Gibbon, General Publicity agent of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Someone among the group suggested the name, the “Order of the Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies”. It stuck and the Order was duly organized with its honorary president, none other than Dr. Charles D. Walcott, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
I should warn those tempted to join the Order that you will be prone to recidivism. Over 60% of those who participate come back to ride again. The trail rides are not rigorous and the horses are gentle. T.R.C.R. caters to all ages and riding skill levels. Everyone from healthy grannies and those new to riding to experts can all experience the wonder and delight of the Canadian Rockies on horseback with T.R.C.R.
Don’t just take a vacation this summer…join the Order and its illustrious predecessors and have a real adventure.
The author, Dr. Burden is a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society
and a former Regional Director of the Explorers Club.
IF YOU GO…
Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies
All Photos Courtesy of Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies – All Rights Reserved