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handling their gear. They finished setting
their camps long before I did but I got
several compassionate looks and words of
encouragement and I stubbornly persisted
with the task.
Later I realized it’s easy to take for granted
all the lights the city offers at night. In the
mountains, dark is really dark and this is
completely evident when trekking alone
by flashlight to the outhouse. Note to self:
avoid these perilous treks by limiting intake
of fun drinks after dinner.
DaY 2 – I abandoned my fantasy of
effortlessly galloping my mount through
the dense forest. Had I really thought I
could do that? Instead I focused on learning
the skills necessary not to fall off shea and
to just possibly ride without bouncing like a
rodeo clown.
The second day’s ride was scary
but gorgeous. Barry took us through a
meandering mountain trail. At times the
brush was so thick I was grateful for the
over-starched hat that protected my eyes
as I ducked my head. At other times we
were on high mountain slopes overlooking
surreal views. This area was so deep in the
Rocky Mountain backcountry that one can
only get there by horseback. The isolation
is evident as we continued for an entire day,
never seeing other people.
Reaching a lower level on the mountain
we suddenly saw an entire herd of elk calmly
making their way through a clearing. They
were magnificent and only mildly interested
in us. We were further rewarded by seeing

the herd’s babies rush enthusiastically after
their mothers.
DaY 3 – I made friends with shea the
mule. I was dubious at first but I quickly
"This guy, Curly, is a true cowboy. One of the last real men.
learned that mules are not only very steady
He's untamed. Next to him, we're trained ponies. It'll do us
on their feet, making the steepest slopes
feel smooth, but they can also be more
good to be in his world for a while." affectionate than your average horse. shea
Billy Crystal as Mitch in City Slickers movie enjoyed a snuggly ear scratch at rest breaks,
helping us bond.
daydream. Then I met shea. she was the floors, were scattered throughout the camp, Barry was a “mule whisperer,” renowned
mule assigned to be my ride for the week. spacious enough to fit two people plus a lot in his industry, and he took time during our
A mule? In a split second I reverted back of gear. I was solo on this trip so I got my trip to show me a few skills. I learned how
to being Billy Crystal again. I found out the own tent along with the responsibility of to properly rein-in, stop, slow down and
majority of tourists on these excursions unpacking and organizing the gear. even go backwards. This may seem a small
ride horses but occasionally someone gets After a full day’s ride I was less than accomplishment to a more experienced
the privilege of riding a mule. since I’d never graceful lugging my bedroll, sleeping bag rider, but for me it was a stark jolt of reality.
met a mule before I decided to reserve my and rucksack over to my tent. ughh… where Riding, whether it’s a mule or a horse, takes
opinion for later. were the strong, young cowboys to do the skill and concentration. It’s a challenge both
The first day's ride culminated at heavy lifting? physically and mentally as the rider must
stoney Creek Camp where we had a Along with being experienced horseback firmly but kindly exert him/herself as the
choice of pre-constructed canvas tents in riders everyone else in my group was an master of the animal. This is no easy feat
which to bunk. The tents, with wooden pallet experienced camper and fully capable of since the animal has the advantage of CALGARY  SUMMER 2008 25
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