Alberta Road Trip – Ghost Lake to Ya Ha Tinda
My friend Diane and I had planned a back roads drive to see if we could spot any wild horses. Unfortunately the former Alberta government, and their infinite lack of wisdom, had authorized a cull in the area a few months prior, so we weren’t sure how abundant they’d be. Starting at her home (with its stunning Ghost Lake vistas), we headed up Highway 40 north, through the Waiparous region (known for off-roading activities) and on to Ya Ha Tinda – an area I’ve always wanted to visit, primarily because of it’s cool name! (It means ‘high prairie’ in Cree.) Today it’s a wildlife sanctuary, and home to Parks Canada’s horse ranch, where they raise and train horses for back country service in Western Canada.
Mule deer dotted our drive. White Tailed Deer were spotted, but flashed their tails as they hustled into the distance the moment a camera lens was pointed towards them. We weren’t on a schedule so we turned off random side roads at whim. Diane is originally from Quebec and misses trees. Tall pine forests alleviated some of that. Periodic stops to inhale the fresh pine scents and appreciate the solitude resulted in my first ever shot (and sighting) of a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker. American Robins abounded. The Aspens weren’t quite in leaf – at least a couple of weeks behind their cousins further east. Large piles of ‘evidence’ along the road indicated the presence of horses, but they must have been lurking in the woods waiting for vehicles to pass – or roaming the extensive uninhabited wilderness available to them. Deserted campgrounds provided pit stops along the way – filled by the sound of chattering squirrels, and birds.
We decided to call our quest to an end and head over to Sundre for lunch when flick of a white tail caught my eye. Sure enough, a short amble across a grassy field revealed a stallion and 2 mares – while a ground level tail flick disclosed a foal. The two of us were quite delighted and stayed a healthy distance back – both of us sporting extremely worthy zoom lenses, more than capable of handling the task. Although presenting a defensive formation, they didn’t disappear back into the shrubbery.
All in all an amazing day – 335km of round trip driving from door to door. A very tasty bite to eat in Piro’s restaurant in Sundre, and some excellent conversation. Pays to move out into the ‘mobile office’ occasionally!