Backroads, Wild Horses & Ram Falls

 In Fine Art Photography, Nature Photography, Nikon Photographer, Photography, Travel

How this started…

Blog ‘they’ say. Do you actually read blogs anymore? (I, personally, only have a couple of favourite travel blogs bookmarked). Most photographers I follow are over on Instagram. That said, maybe now is the time, with my focus moving over to the Fine Art side of my photography while events are shutdown.

I met Megan over at EmpowerCare at the Cochrane PopUp Marketplace. (P.S. her bathbombs are amazing.) She had the table next to me and, as I eventually discovered, is legally blind. As we chatted, she said she loved hearing the stories that went along with my images as I’d relate them to market attendees.  Sooooo, after much procrastination, many excuses, a lot of ‘nobody really wants to hear that shit’, and a few more people telling me they loved the stories that went with the photographs… here goes.

The drive…

Backroad drives are my mental stress relief. Nothing beats throwing a camera in the car, putting on an awesome playlist, and getting out to appreciate nature. Wildlife is an added bonus, especially the wild horses. Last week the stress of everything just piled up. Emotions were all over the place. (They have been since the ‘one year anniversary’ of my last event in March 2020). I made plans to hit the road as soon as I was up and at ’em.  I did a radio interview on the plight of the event industry, so was at ’em even earlier than usual as. That only added to the tension. I was on the road with an XL Timmy’s Tea in hand by 7.30. I’d decided to head NW to Ram Falls via Caroline – a route I hadn’t taken before. I’d heard wild horses could often be seen.

The first 90 minutes were uneventful (apart from another Timmy’s and pit stop in Sundre). I spotted a bald eagle in flight. By the time I pulled off, he’d settled into his ‘survey the world point’, perched atop a gravel pit, determined not to move! A side trek up to ‘Phyllis Lake’ (unknown lakes always have a pull) gave me bird calls, chattering chipmunks and hints of spring with fuzzy catkins, tree sap and green leaves peeking through golden grasses.

The wildlife…

Carrying on up the road I met my first crew of grazing wildies. I’d been hoping for foals this trip out, but pregnant mares seemed to be more the norm. And last year’s foals – who are still completely adorable.  Love the stripy tail on the bay colt – who clearly inherited Papa’s lone white sock!

The Journey…

The dirt road signage warned it wasn’t maintained through the winter. My Hyundai Palisade, nicknamed ‘The Beast’ is up for anything, so I didn’t have any concerns. Despite the previous weekend’s rain/snow mix, the roads were dry, and in good shape, being worked on by the occasional grader.  Winding through logging zones (I wondered what they do with all the piles of ‘rejects’), corners revealed breathtaking hints of still snow-capped mountains, and the odd scurry of wildlife into the bush. I was fortunate to spot a Ruffed Grouse heading up a steep bank. Captured him before he vanished in short order. Gold and red scrub glowed in the patchy light. Everything smelled incredibly fresh.

More Wildies…

I crested another hill, spotting a small herd including a beautiful palomino. Pulling off, and parking, I wandered down a small ATV track to discretely catch a better glimpse. Not a horse in sight.

Returning to the car, I was greeted by the four of them ambling up the road towards me. Of course! I barely breathed as I raised the camera and started snapping. The lead stallion wasn’t concerned. He did keep a watchful eye as he stopped to mark droppings in the middle of the road, then carried on with the rest of the family. The young colt (perhaps 18-24 months) – a clear cross between the bay stallion, and the palomino mare – was a little more skittish and took an awkward route through the scrub, not taking his eye off me. Turns out he was watching for two more of the clan who had been hiding in the bushes where I spotted the first 4. They caught up – a little more timidly, then spooked well after they passed and bolted up the trail with a flick of the mane and thunder of hooves.

Ram Falls…

Google maps says the trip to Ram Falls is 3 hours from my front door. Five and a quarter by the time I stopped for lunch and a wander seemed about right. I’ve never been a straight A to B person!

The falls are situated in a deep valley lined with black coal-based scree. It’s fascinating terrain. A steep stairwell leads to a viewing point. Unfortunately my fear of heights, a stiff chinook wind, and lone occupancy led to me freaking out half way down. I quickly returned to the safety of the flat trails above. I did make it further down than my first visit, so there’s progress!  Snow capped mountains, framed iced waterfalls.  More ice formations peeked through the sides of the cliffs.  Trees growing there definitely gave new meaning to ‘between a rock and a hard place’. Warm light dappled the greenery and logs in the undergrowth.

The return and even more wildies…

I started to wind my way back.  Not as many stops – although I did try a side road up to Pepper Lake – restricted visibility, frozen water, but a nice picnic area when it opens for the season, for future reference.   I headed further south on Hwy.40 to come out in the Bearberry area instead of retracing my footsteps.  Spotted a solitary young stallion who sprinted off at the call of his hidden companions, along with 3 more herds and felt incredibly fortunate.  I’d passed maybe 6 cars and 3 graders on the whole backroad route.  My shoulders were out of my ears, and I was breathing normally for the first time in a few days.

The final band were grazing right at roadside, many licking the surface – probably winter salt. I inched past them, but they were so unperturbed I grabbed the long lens to get some closeups from the window. Whatever it was, it was lip-licking good!

I laughed at the deer I’d been watching who had been facing into the woods. When a vehicle came flying by from the opposite direction they turned and bolted straight across the road in front of it.

No young foals, but definitely several on the way, so there will be another trek forthcoming! Wrapped up with a hissy goose and pussy willows dancing in the light. (Don’t worry – didn’t leave my vehicle and had a good 50 feet of water, a bank, a slope and a fence between us.)

485km, 10 hours, and some incredible experiences throughout. How can that not be a good thing?!  I promise, not all my blogs will be this long. There are shorter stories behind the images too.  But perhaps I’ll make Friday’s ‘feature Friday’ or ‘Fine Art Friday’ and give a bit of insight into the journey.

For More Info…

All my images are available for purchase. Some of the ones you see here will make it over onto the Fine Art page of my website, but if they don’t and you see one you like, please reach out. What is art to one, may not be recognized as such by another. Or may not have made it up there at time of posting!

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