I love to travel but since work doesn’t alway jive with my wants I have to schedule little breaks to keep me sane (or some semblance of). I decided to use the Canada Day long weekend (that’s July 1 for you non-Canadians) to take a little road trip to the hamlet of Bragg Creek, located 337 km (209 mi.) South of Edmonton, Alberta. Bragg Creek is only 44 km (27 mi.) east of Calgary which is a mere half hour drive for the bulk of Bragg Creek residents that work in Calgary.
If you love mountains (the Rockies, no less), fresh air, warm summer breezes, horses and wildlife you will love Bragg Creek. It is the gateway to Kananaskis Country which is a 4,200 sq km forestry reserve. Wildlife comes in all sizes here: grizzlies, moose, elk, deer, cougars, fox right down to the little critters such as squirrels and chipmunks.
My ‘pillow park’ for the weekend was an acreage on the edge of Bragg Creek, the rustic log home of my friends, Katherine and Ted. As I drove up their lush driveway I was greeted enthusiastically by Indy, their 7 mos old Border Collie.
Meadow and Strider complete this happy home. I thought it was cool that Katherine and Ted could ride their horses into Bragg Creek if they so chose. The property is surrounded by an abundance of trails and Elbow Creek flows alongside the road.
One evening, we decided to check out the saloon. heehaw! Well… it was called the Powderhorn Saloon and its decor was very saloon-ish.
They have live entertainment and the night we were there, a two-man band with an East Coast sound really got our toes tapping. The menu served up classic pub food with special items such as elk and bison. I was leaning towards the bison but chose the steak and it was a great choice. Juicy and tender. The sambuca shots were pretty good too.
Considering the thumbnail size of Bragg Creek I was astonished at how many good restaurants were available. For Sunday brunch we decided on a restaurant called Infusion which served contemporary cusine. Definitely take the patio if you go there, the mountain air revs the appetite. I chose an omelette stuffed with salmon and mascarpone cheese and my friend had a seafood crepe, filled with red snapper, shrimp, salmon, lobster and scallops, which she described as fresh and flavourful.
Home fries came with each dish and seriously, I could have eaten a plate of those on their own! We also dined at the Bavarian Inn. The food was in a word, delicious and their wine list was extensive. Is it any wonder that I gained 5 lbs over the weekend!
One of the highlights of this trip was horseback riding. I love horses and used to ride a lot…when I was 12.
Now… I was trepidatious, no scared shitless! about crawling on the back of a horse. It had been years since I had ridden and I could now only picture myself on the ground with a broken limb, but my friend, Katherine, is a superb rider and I felt confident in her horsemanship. So off we went to a local area that is known for its trails that wend through meadows, trees and well-just awesome scenery.
Katherine and Ted unloaded the horses while I tried hard not to have to breath in a paper bag. I had on my favourite cowboy boots and a borrowed cowboy hat and a western shirt so I could at least look the part of horsewoman.
Then came the time to mount up. I forgot how much effort is required to swing ones leg way the hell up and over the back of a horse. Once I was planted firmly in the saddle we started off on our little adventure. Meadow and I followed Katherine and Strider. First we headed off down through the ditch and across the road into the trees. Things were going well. I was starting to relax. I heard rushing water but didn’t think too much of it until I saw a small river ahead of us. I was looking around for a bridge when I noticed Katherine guiding Strider through the rushing water.
“Ummm. Ok, I’m not too sure about this,” I told her with a bit of a worried chuckle. But Meadow was unconcerned as she picked her way across the rocks in the water. Safely on the other side we continued along the path through the trees into a clearing. Wildflowers were blooming and it was a beautiful day, sunny and warm.
Katherine commented that it would be best if we stuck to the well travelled paths. She explained that since I was a novice rider, we didn’t want any wildlife jumping out and startling the animals.
“Uhh ok, wildlife like rabbits?”
“No, like bears but don’t worry I am keeping my eyes peeled for any signs.”
“Sure, okay…” I was perfecting that nervous chuckle by this point. She reassured me that we would be fine.
We strode up and down hills edged by birch trees and trailing vines. I was getting the hang of things. A true horsewoman. I imagined I was an early settler mapping out new terrain through dense wilderness…although this trail was starting to get muddy. Small rivulets were running across our path forming small puddles which were becoming larger puddles.
I watched ahead as Strider splashed through them. Meadow had other ideas which she wasn’t sharing with me.
She jumped them! Heehaw yikes!!
I’m sure she looked amazingly graceful. I did not. My hat flew off and my boots came out of the stirrups, as I bounced a foot off the saddle. The fact that I landed back in the saddle is nothing short of a miracle. Katherine quickly came to my aid and retrieved my hat.
“Oops, I forgot to mention that Meadow likes to jump puddles,” Katherine said, giving me one of her biggest smiles. Then, noting my terror stricken face, she reassured me that we would walk around them for the remainder of the trip.
Apparently, Meadow would get nervous if she couldn’t see the bottom of the puddle but she was ok with tromping through mud. After that, I watched Katherine and Strider closely and made sure that Meadow followed behind, retracing their steps. We had to take little detours through trees. I was fine with that as long as we didn’t have to jump anything. Of course, our luck ran out as we approached a foot-wide gully that stretched across the road. Katherine skilfully guided Strider across and then turned to wait for me. Meadow couldn’t contain her glee at the anticipation of jumping that gully. That’s it- rather than fall off, I hopped down and let her jump it. And she did with such grace and style that I almost regretted getting off. After some effort I was back in the saddle and thrilled that we were climbing a hill which meant, YAY no more puddles. At last we rounded a corner and were back at the river we had previously crossed. No more worries. We made it back to camp where Ted had a tasty BBQ dinner waiting for us. We unsaddled the horses and relaxed for the rest of the evening.
What a great day. What a great weekend. A big Thank You to Ted and Katherine for their wonderful hospitality and for her patience on the trail. Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway) I won’t be joining an Equestrian team anytime soon.