Guest Post by Amy Barrett
Living in Golden for fifteen years has given me plenty of time to explore the many adventurous possibilities here and in the surrounding parks. My latest adventure -- horseback riding, the oldest form of transportation (aside from walking).
A bit of background:
In 1858, a group of European explorers led by Captain John Palliser (like the ‘Palliser Lodge’ at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort), used horses to find the best route for joining up the CPR railway through the Rocky Mountains. The Kicking Horse Pass -- and the adjacent Kicking Horse River -- were given their names by James Hector, a naturalist, geologist, and surgeon who was also a member of this expedition. At his camp near Wapta Falls, a pack horse bolted and Hector gave chase. As Hector rounded up the horse it kicked him, breaking his ribs and knocking him unconscious. His guides, thinking him dead, began to dig his grave. But Hector came to, recovered, and followed the river east to its summit pass. The river and the pass were named "Kicking Horse" after Hector's ornery steed.
Yup, this story made me want to get in a saddle and see this area the way the first European explorers did!
About Beaverfoot Outfitting:
There are a few options around Golden for guided horse tours. Flying W Trail Rides operates at the base of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort during the summer, run by owners Trina and Warren Wolfenden. Warren, along with his brother Troy, also run Beaverfoot Outfitting, a company that caters to hunters on horseback.
Since Troy’s wife works with my husband Stan, she decided to organize a Sunday in late October for our whole family to go. It was to be a birthday present for Stan – horseback riding was something he’d always wanted to do with the family.
Beaverfoot Outfitting’s namesake comes from the Beaverfoot Valley, where the Wolfenden family owned and ran the Beaverfoot Lodge for years -- located just 5 km down the road from Wapta Falls where Hector was kicked. The family has had the outfitting tenure in this valley for generations. The knowledge of every creek, mountain and trail, as well what animals have resided there is a natural history kept by the Wolfendens.
The Wolfenden’s horses are used to these trails, each step carefully placed in the space between the roots and largely synchronized with the horse in front. Troy guides many of his clients in the Beaverfoot Valley area, his horse the lead.
Our Day on Horseback:
On that brisk Sunday morning in October (it was perfect weather, sunny and dry) we first met Troy and the horses in Golden. We loaded up our gear into Troy’s truck and headed out. We drove east on Highway 1 through the Kicking Horse Canyon, then up the Beaverfoot Valley towards Moose Creek (about an hour’s drive). We were there!
The boys raced around, exploring and full of excitement while Troy unloaded the saddled horses. We introduced ourselves to our companions for the day. Mine was Rascal, a 21-year-old Arabian horse with a lovely demeanor. My boys were hilariously paired up with horses that shared some of their same quirky personality traits. My 12-year-old (Sawyer) got Smokey, who always wanted to stop and eat grass but wouldn't let any one pass him, so had to trot quickly to stay right behind the leader. That is so my boy!
One of the best moments of the day was the smile on Morgan’s face (he’s my 7-year-old) when Troy helped him into his saddle. Morgan rode Rio, a gentle horse who understood the playfulness of the boy who sat in his saddle. Rio seemed to trot not only to keep up, but also to make Morgan giggle. Morgan had been dreaming of horseback riding since he and his dad had started reading The Rangers Apprentice series. He sat proudly in the saddle with his gum boots firm in the stirrups.
We followed Moose Creek up the valley, past old beaver ponds and under massive avalanche paths. We journeyed through forests of stretching conifers and huge devils club where Stan’s horse, Copper (the only horse who hadn't been there before) got bogged down. When Stan dismounted, the horse seemed to decide it had had enough and started back down the trail heading home. As Stan ran after Copper I thought of James Hector and the outcome of his horse chase (but also couldn't help giggling at the hilarity of the situation). Thankfully it didn't take much for Stan to get hold of Copper and start negotiating the mud hole again, this time with success.
Crossing Moose Creek was a definite highlight, an action that seemed so adventurous for us newbies. The horses got to take a drink and our feet stayed dry – what a concept for a family that hikes a lot!
After crossing the creek, the forest becomes very dense with a richer earthier smell from the undergrowth. Do you ever notice how your sense of smell heightens when you’re hungry? Yup, time for lunch!
We tied the horses and followed a less trodden trail to a sunny opening. Our lunch spot was at the base of Helmet Mountain with a great view of the mountain goats moving along the cliffs above us. They seemed totally unaware of our presence, just clambering along, going about their day.
Being halfway up the trail and with the day getting on, we decided to turn back -- we wanted to be sure to have time to explore in one of the creeks flowing down between Manganese Mountain and Buttress Peak. The creek is called Arsenic Creek, from old rumors that some folks had accidentally spilled poison in the creek. Troy reassured us that it was just a name, which most likely came about to detour rock hunters from salvaging the sodalite.
Sodalite is a beautiful blue semiprecious stone found in the Rockies – or more precisely, only here. The creek was mostly dried up so it was easy to hike. We found so many of these gorgeous blue stones, which are known and coveted for their ‘well-being’ properties. We could have spent so much more time rock hunting and exploring this amazing terrain, but alas, all good things must come to an end.
The horses knew they were on their way home. With the quickened pace came an endless string of giggles from Morgan. By the end of the day both my sets of cheeks were sore – one from smiling, the other from riding.
My boys said the day was magical. I couldn't agree more. We would all do it again in a heartbeat!
Travelling by horse through the back country allows you to gaze at your surroundings without tripping over a root or continuously stopping. It can pose a challenge for photographers though, as horses don’t always want to stop and stay steady for you to take your pictures. But I still managed to capture the day…and hopefully the feeling as well.
See more of photos from our amazing family horseback riding adventure at www.abarrettphotography.com
--- Amy Barrett
- For more information about trail rides in and around Golden BC check out Flying W Trail Rides
- For more information about Beaverfoot Outfitting and their hunting and horseback offerings, go to http://www.beaverfootoutfitting.com/
Other places to check out for horseback riding in Golden BC:
- Bear Corner Bed & Bale, located in the Blaeberry Valley offers one to three hours guided rides, overnight packing trips and horse boarding.
- For those who own horses, Mount 7 Lodges offers paddocks with hay, water and mineral blocks in view of the lodge. They also have an arena and trails that can be accessed right from the property.