July and August are calling. Please choose two of the three locations for our summer rides.

Wild Pink Yonder will be riding in the mountains around Hinton on the weekend of June 23, 24 and 25 and in the northern end of the Canadian Badlands (riding out of Donalda) on the weekend of September 8, 9 and 10.

We are now looking for rides in July and August as well. In July, it would be the weekend of July 14, 21 or 28. In August, it would be the weekend of August 11, 18 or 25. Both weekends we choose can be Friday, Saturday and half of Sunday riding, or Saturday, Sunday and half of Monday. Your choice.

And here are the three trail options:

  1. Grande Cache — north of Hinton and south of Grande Prairie. Here’s how to get there. I’ve not been there myself, but everything I see about the place says the scenery is beyond breathtaking and the trails somewhere between amazing and drop dead. You want mountain riding? This is it. Check this link for details. If Ribstone is one of our choices, then this would have to be in July.
  2. Ribstone Creek Heritage Rangeland Natural Area — southeast of Wainwright. There are huge sand dunes there, a unique feature here in Alberta. Lara Matechuk will put us up at her place and act as our guide.

    You’ll likely see cattle, and, with luck, deer, moose, elk, hawks, eagles, owls and badgers. We can arrange both long rides (6-8 hours) and short rides (2-3 hours). There’s the added benefit that in the evening, she has an obstacle course set up that we can challenge. Lara asks that this be our August ride, and that it be the weekend of August 17-19, which would mean arriving at her place on Thursday night, August 16th, then riding Friday, Saturday and half of Sunday.

  3. Hummingbird Recreation Area — southwest of Rocky Mountain House. I’ve never been there, but from all accounts it is fantastic. This is one of the areas that ATRA goes to help with trail maintenance every year. They love it there. The only negative I’ve heard is that the road in is narrow and twisting, so it seems that big rigs won’t make it. How big is big? 30 foot trailers is what I’m hearing. If Ribstone is one of our choices, then this would have to be in July.

Okay, so those are your choices, so far as I can see. If you’d like another offered, please send me an email or a PM, but we have to get on this PDQ or I’ll not get the advertising I’d like for it.

Either leave a message with your preferences on this blog, or send me an email or a text message. I need to have answers by April 27th, please.

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Where, oh *where*, will we ride?

Okay, Pinksters … this is your opportunity to chime in on rides for the 2018 season.

You have made it clear that long weekends are a no-no because they are designated family time … but you want to go for three days anyway, so we will be taking regular weekends and extending them by a day. If you’re a 9-to-5’er, you’ll have to plan on being sick that day <grin>, or asking for the day off.

We already have two weekends set up.

June 23, 24, 25 at Entrance Ranch (Hinton), where we can ride a number of different trails. There’s Willmore, Cadomin and the breathtaking trails above the Athabasca River. Our accommodations are wonderful. You’ll have breakfast in camp, take a bagged lunch out with you, and then come back to a hot dinner ready and waiting in the evening.

We also have September 8, 9, 10 at the Ag society in Donalda, where we will ride the badlands with the incomparable guide, Becky Clement. The pens at Donalda Ag are fabulous and we have free rein to the inside facilities, including their full kitchen.

So that takes care of June and September. What about July and August? I have been asked time and time again about making a weekend of the Blackfoot Recreation Area, about an hour east of Edmonton. The trails are groomed and you can ride for miles without ever doing the same path. (You can also go with a wagon or buggy, if that’s your thing.) I could possibly get us a permit to camp *in* Blackfoot. If not, I live very close to there and we could camp in one of my fields. Does that sound like a good idea for July?

Do you have some other suggestions? I am loathe to suggest Ya Ha Tinda because you can’t reserve there. Drayton Valley is another good one, but there, too, you can’t reserve. At both of these, if there are too many campers when you arrive, you have to leave! ACK! The ideal would be an ag society or a ranch on the edge of some great riding area. Have you any suggestions? Is there some place (that’ll let us stay for free) somewhere along the North Saskatchewan River? The Red Deer River? The mountains?

Riding weather’s coming up soon (I hope)! We need a plan.

Game on!

Happy New Year!

I don’t have the whole summer mapped out yet, but today I spoke with Rocky from Entrance Ranch in Hinton. We had such a good time there last summer. I don’t think there was one rider who didn’t want to return. So, we will!

We’re going for a three day weekend! It’s not a regular long weekend, so you’ll not be letting family down. We will arrive on Friday, June 22nd (late afternoon or evening), in order to ride June 23, 24 and 25. Where will we ride? Your choice. We can do Willmore again. We can do Cadomin. We can ride along the Athabasca River right out of Entrance Ranch. The choice will be yours. You gotta know that no matter where we ride, the scenery will be fantastic. (And the company won’t be too shabby either!)

I haven’t started on the prizes yet, but there will be at least a $1,000 shopping spree at Peavey Mart. If he comes through, there might be a shopping spree at a well known tack shop. Who knows what the prizing might be! But if you want to win, you better get fundraising!

Meanwhile, our Hinton host is looking to buy a horse so he can ride with us! If you know of a 15-15.2 well broke trail gelding for sale, let me know and I’ll pass it on to Rocky. This horse should have good bone. Rocky says that the breed is not an issue, nor is colour … though he specified that it can’t be pink. <grin>

 

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

Shoulda joined us, Pinksters! Donalda is my idea of what small town Alberta should be! This little town really “gets it”. They typify one of the slogans that Wild Pink Yonder has used over the years, “Small towns can make a big difference.” They understand promotion (they’re spending millions to bring Stettler’s “Prairie Steam Tours” rail line here) and they understand philanthropy (we’re looking into how to expand Donalda’s participation in Wild Pink Yonder next year). And it’s a cute little town. Maybe the cutest ever. (Am I prejudiced? <grin>) Main Street is divided with a row of trees on the median that runs down the middle. At the end of Main Street they have the most beautiful giant replica of an old fashioned oil lamp … and every night it radiates a soft yellow light that warms your heart and makes you feel very much at home. They are a going concern. Between their ag society and their promotions society, there’s no moss growing in Donalda!

Coulda seen the signs welcoming us back to town and stayed at their magnificent Equine Centre. There’s an indoor arena, an outdoor arena, beautiful, clean pipe pens for the horses, a full kitchen and flush toilets. The whole nine yards! And this facility is pristine. Nothing’s broken (well, except the door handle on one of the women’s bathrooms – Cookie nearly had to spend the night in there!) – and everything is painted bright and shiny. Could not ask for a better facility … and it’s right on the edge of the northern tip of the Canadian Badlands!

Woulda ridden with the very friendly and accommodating ag society volunteers who took us out to see some incredible sights. You ride down into the Badlands valley. On either side, you see hills that have been eroded away over millennia. There are no hoodoos here. (Well, apparently there is one, but it is well hidden.) What you see is layer upon layer of different colours of rock. At times, we’d ride up hills into forests so thick you’d swear you were in the Rockies. At other times, it would be flat and reminiscent of a desert. Definitely different terrain and great riding. I think everybody enjoyed it as much as I did.

So there we were: 14 riders and 4 ground staff (Carole DeSchover [“Cookie”], step son Keven Thomas, our old friend, Hugh Martell, from Vancouver and me). We’re growing in small increments. Cypress Hills had 11 riders. Hinton had 12 … and finally 14 in Donalda. We enjoyed a hot breakfast from Cookie, then hit the trails … came home to a hot meal in the evening followed by a bonfire on two of the three evenings. (On Saturday night, we went to the local bar.) And the weather could not have co-operated more.

Hopefully Donalda is going to turn into an annual event. And hopefully next year you’ll all want to come with us and I’ll have to turn some of you away! (Ha! That’s a problem I’d love to have!)

In the meantime, you really missed a good’r this long weekend in Donalda!

More of our marvellous weekend — The Hugh Ashwell Memorial Ride and Dinner

It’s not every day that a 75 year old man decides he’s going to be a Longrider for Wild Pink Yonder. And it’s not every day that he does it for two years in a row. But that’s what Hugh Ashwell of Edson did, and, being a gung-ho kind of guy, he didn’t just raise the minimum each year. When you add his two years’ worth of fundraising together, he was (and still is) the highest fundraising Pinkster in the land.

It was Hugh’s intention to ride a third year, but sadly, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (aka “ALS” … amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) struck. It was a particularly fast acting type and our Hugh went from vibrant (in the photo below) to unable to talk … to drive his truck … to ride his horse, Keno. And it all happened overnight. It was heartbreaking.

Hugh Canvas

Hugh passed last November and I promised myself that we’d have a Hugh Ashwell Memorial “something” before the 2017 tour ended.

What better place than at Entrance Ranch, at the gateway to Hugh’s beloved mountains? And so it was.

His widow and a number of other family members came out that day. They had lunch with us and then Hugh’s son, Darcy, saddled his horse. And then he saddled Hugh’s horse, Keno. And finally, he put Hugh’s boots backwards in Keno’s stirrups and his hat that you see in the photo above, on the saddle horn. (Hugh lived in that hat.) And with that, our riders were off for their afternoon ride. Darcy ponied Hugh’s horse for the entire ride.

When the afternoon ride ended, we all had dinner together and talked about Hugh. Someone spoke about his willingness to feed and water horses on the trail. Someone else spoke to the fact that he loved dancing, but couldn’t keep the beat. The twinkle in his eye. His horsemanship. His devotion to our cause. His love of the mountains. It was a lovely evening. When we’d all spoken our pieces, I uncovered a canvas of the photo above and presented it to Hugh’s widow, Barb.

It was a peaceful evening, the kind Hugh enjoyed most. Ride on, cowboy. You were a great friend. You are missed.

 

What a marvellous long weekend (Part 2)

We are nothing if not a democratic bunch. The question on Saturday night was: being as the riding was so wonderful here on Entrance Ranch on Saturday, do we want to bother trailering up and heading off to Willmore for Sunday’s ride? Turns out Willmore is a “bucket item” for some of our riders, so the decision was in favour of Willmore. But, at the same time, a number of riders didn’t want to travel. They’d rather have a nice, leisurely day at Entrance … so that’s what we did; a little of this and a little of that.

In the morning the majority of our riders trailered up and we, the ground crew, had their bagged lunches ready to go early. Off they went with the understanding that they were to be back for dinner at 7:00 p.m.

The rest of the riders had a more leisurely morning and then went with our host, Rocky, for a nice, 3.5 hour ramble around the place. Julia and I (who took our horses for the weekend) were too durned tired to head out when the other riders did, so we hung around camp to do clean up with Kevin and just sit over a hot coffee. Our plan was to go for a 2 hour ramble in the afternoon, which we did. (Truth be told, all three of us were pooped. This going to bed at 1:30 a.m. and getting up at 6:30 a.m. is hard on a body! All three of us went for a late morning snooze!)

What a lovely day! The sun shone, it was warm, but there was a nice, cooling breeze. When Julia and I eventually saddled up, a fellow named Mark, who lives on Entrance Ranch, decided to come with us. Great! A guide! We rode through boreal forest so thick that you couldn’t miss the smell of fresh pine. And then we came to the trail along the ridge over the Athabasca River. Breathtaking. (The second picture wasn’t taken on our ride, but I’ve included it so you get a better idea of the view. You still don’t get the perspective of how steep the embankment is in many places on our side of the river though.)

Entrance 8 athabasca riverbeautiful-trails-and-pink-horses.jpg

Honestly … it’s heaven.

Back in camp we thought we were pretty hot stuff in the cooking department! We made a roast beef dinner with baked potatoes, corn on the cob, green beans, salad and dessert … and the Willmore contingent didn’t show up! Those of us who were there had a feast. Then we held everything over until the Willmore bunch finally showed up at something like 9:30!

But all’s well that ends well. Kevin had decided to wait on cooking their corn and green beans (smart Kevin), and we put the roast in a crock pot.

They put on a lot of miles in Willmore, so dinner was much appreciated, but they were so tired that most of them ate and went straight to bed. It was a wonderful day in God’s country.

What a marvellous long weekend! (Part 1)

Wild Pink Yonder spent the long weekend at Entrance Ranch, just 12 minutes NW of Hinton. It is a hidden treasure, and it’s owner is a real gem. We had eleven riders, almost all of whom were pinked to the nines. (It was heart warming.)

When we finally got away from home (you knew it would be late <grin>), we hit the worst traffic back-up in the history of the Yellowhead … from west Edmonton as far as the eye could see (turned out to be until well after Stony Plain). I could have crawled on my hands and knees faster, so we headed north and travelled on alternate routes, which helped, but made our journey longer. We didn’t arrive at Entrance Ranch until almost 10:00 p.m.

With the exception of Julia and Amanda McPhail (who were with us), all the riders were there already — campsites set up and horses tucked in for the night. All we had to do (“All” … ha hahahaha!) was set up the McPhail’s outfitter’s tent and cots, get their wood burning stove going and put our horses away for the night. That took until 1:00 a.m. Then we all crashed.

Good little cooks that we were, we were up at 6:30 a.m. to get the coffee going and start the grills. Soon enough our riders moseyed into camp for breakfast around a roaring campfire that took the dew off their socks and the chill out of their bones.

The plan was that after breakfast, the riders would go with our host, Rocky, for a two-hour ride around Entrance Ranch. They’d return to camp for lunch and then take off again for a four or five hour afternoon ride. But first, they had to go “pink up” for the pinkification judging.

Man, did we have pink! We even had a horse trailer that had bras tied all over the outside of it … up the ladder … across the tailgate … along the sides. Apparently a lot of people out on the highways honked and gave them the thumbs up. (Next time we’ll have to get them to write “Wild Pink Yonder” on the sides too!) I wish I could find the picture of the horse trailer. It was a classic! But here are the horses and riders. I think the only ones not in pink are our host, Rocky (far right) and his hired hand (second from the right).

all-riders-at-entrance-ranch.jpg

I’m not exactly sure why I don’t have a picture of Tyler. This guy went all out. His hair was dyed bright pink! We asked how he managed it. Turns out he had to bleach his hair out first and then apply the pink dye … so this is not some “It’ll wash out” thing! It’s here for the long run! Way to go, Tyler!

There was so much pink that I had to change the rules! There was to be one winner in the pinkification department. I wound up awarding six!

And then, away they went. From all accounts, the riding (both morning and afternoon) was excellent. Beautiful trails. Tons of forest. Great views of the Rocky Mountains and the Athabasca River down below. This is foothills riding at its finest.

When the day’s riding was done, they put their horses away and came back to camp where we had chili, corn on the cob, Caesar salad and cheese cake waiting for them. We all sat around the fire for a while after dinner, but everybody was pretty tired so they crawled away relatively early.

All that remained was to clean up after dinner, get ready for the morning and slide into bed ourselves. Mission accomplished by 1:00 a.m.