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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Red Deer River Journey - Part Three


Finally after five days, I had passed through the gap between Warden Rock and Wapiti Mountain(on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountain Front Ranges) into the wind-swept and grassy YaHaTinda or “Little Prairie in the Mountains”. The wind was still howling the next morning and I found myself tired and my body sore. My feet were blistered from hiking in wet boots and socks for days at a time. There were still about fifteen or so kilometres to the campground near Bighorn Falls and I wasn’t looking forward to trudging up the rough road ahead.

The Red Deer River flows into YaHaTinda through the gap between Warden Rock and Wapiti Mountain
I turned around to ponder the gap in the mountains(from which I had emerged) and I saw a cart coming towards me. It was being pulled by two heavy draft horses. The man holding the reins was the first person I had seen in days. His name was Tim Barton from the Outpost at Warden Rock and he stopped and asked me if I would like a ride. I certainly was glad of his offer and he took me to my destination at the Bighorn Campground in the relative comfort of what he called his “Bennett Wagon”. I thanked him and he suggested a way that I could perhaps get a ride to Mountain Aire Lodge.

After the total solitude of the last several days, I had arrived at what seemed like a very crowded and bustling location. There were trucks, trailers, horses and people everywhere. Some were campers. Others were there to ride or hike the trails of YaHaTinda or visit the nearby waterfalls. Some were outfitters and guides preparing to take their clients deep into the back country along the Cascade River Road or up into the country that I had just journeyed through. This was a busy staging area for backcountry travelers and outfitters. To me this seemed like the real Alberta. I had begun my hike in Canada several days ago and now I had arrived in Alberta.

Bighorn Falls
At Tim Barton's suggestion, I was looking for one of the outfitters. His name was Ron Warner and his outfitting company was one of the largest in the Canadian Rockies. He has been guiding in the Banff Park area for over forty years. When I told Ron that I had just hiked in from Lake Louise and that I needed a ride to Mountain Aire Lodge, he stroked his handlebar mustache and snorted out something like “that’s a long way to come in a day”. I awkwardly tried to correct my statement, but he just grunted and told me to sit and wait until his customers were saddled up and ready to go. I thanked him and I sat and watched while his men prepared the horses and loaded up the pack mules for a small party that was on its way into the Cascade and Elk River Areas of Banff National Park.
After this group was on its way, one of Warner’s young hired hands drove me through rolling foothills country and past the scene of a recent forest fire. We talked about his job, the ailing tourist industry and my journey. He wished me luck on the rest of my trip as he dropped me off at Mountain Aire Lodge, which sits right next to the Red Deer River on the Forestry Trunk Road.

1 comment:

  1. Now you really need a good photo of an exhausted bedraggled back packer. It certainly sounds that way by your description. Five days is a long hike.