Cypress Hills – day one in God’s country.

Wild Pink Yonder has ridden Cypress Hills before, but not with a guide. And certainly not with a guide as knowledgeable and engaging as the ones we had. What a difference that made! (Don’t get me wrong. Cypress Hills is a beautiful place, no matter where you go, but with guides who know the countryside, it’s beyond beautiful!)

We stayed in Irvine, AB, at the rodeo grounds. It was perfect. Horses had individual pens and we people had electricity and running water.

Our first day of riding was Saturday, on the Saskatchewan side of the hills, on land that belongs to a woman named Rosemary Doonan. Rosemary is a delightful 74 years young woman who raises purebred Angus bulls for a living. By herself.

She took us on a two hour ride amongst her herd on her three quarter sections that overlook the Cypress Hills ridge and look down on Maple Creek. Truly beautiful. I wish I’d had my camera with me. (Sorry.)

The day was hot — 35C — but because our elevation was high and there was a breeze, it kept things nice. From that vantage point, we could see forever! Long rolling hills that ended in a ridge that ran most of the way across the horizon. And to the west, a beautiful little town called Maple Creek. After the two hours, we stopped for lunch, and then sent the more adventurous riders off to investigate a “road allowance” that was never turned into a road. That kept them busy for the next 3 hours.

Back at camp, Cookie (aka Carole deSchover) and her trusty assistant, Kevin, were hard at work organizing a roast beef dinner with all the trimmings.

The rest of us sat in the shade, or in front of the giant fan, and sipped a beer or two. Aaaaah, the life of a saddle bum! <grin>

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It was a wet and dreary day …

but at 8:00 a.m. we were ready and rarin’ to go put on “Tough Mothers”, our Mother’s Day Poker Rally at Waskahegan Staging Area at Blackfoot. (Ground crew for the day was stepson Kevin Thomas, friends Julia and Amanda McPhail, as well as our favourite “cookie”, Carole deSchover and WPY longrider, Joyce Bonner.) And then before we even got out of the gate, we buried the cargo trailer out in the field <sigh>, so had to unload everything (in the rain) and put it in cars and trucks. That, of course, made us late.

But we weren’t too late, and the riders who showed up were courteous. There were no cat calls about our driving skills! It’s amazing the difference an attitude makes. Those riders were optimists through and through … and they were rewarded for it when the weather shaped up around noon. No sun and blue skies, mind you … but decent riding weather, nonetheless.

Amanda McPhail had gone out Friday and flagged the route. Then, on Sunday, she went out and was the check-in for poker cards at Dynamite Lodge. (Thank you, Amanda, you’re a peach.) Meanwhile, everybody else was busy putting up signage and setting out breakfast … and Cookie was learning how to make the perfect pancake on our griddle. (It took a while. <grin>)

Nobody did much in the pink department, so I didn’t give away the Pink Prize (a really cool, solar powered, pinkish-orange metal and glass lizard). Maybe next time, riders. And then, at the end, the nicest thing happened. We let ground crew buy poker hands as well … and both Julia and Amanda McPhail won. Between the two of them they had the top two poker hands, but because we didn’t have much of a turn out, they declined to take the expensive prizes (a $200-$350 solar fencer and an extensive grooming kit). I was touched (and you will be thrilled when they are still available at our next poker rally — in June).

It was also very nice to have Jeanne DesRochers drop by (without a horse) to do the pancake breakfast  So, while the day was a bit dreary, the company we kept was anything but.

Breakfast was compliments of Lori Shave and her staff at Sobeys on Wye in Sherwood Park. Pancakes with whipped cream and strawberries, sausage patties and an assortment of muffins. Then there was coffee, tea and orange and apple juice. Nobody went hungry.

It certainly was not our most successful event, but it was a good learning experience and those of us who were there enjoyed ourselves.

And so here are some of the photos from the day.

I cannot get over how beautiful these two horses are … and then I just learned the topping on the cake: both these Appaloosas do the Indian Shuffle! Oh, man, Jane is jealous. I’m especially jealous of that little guy Kim is on. They don’t get much more beautiful than that.

It says, “Brunch today is compliments of our good friend, Lori Shave, and her staff at Sobeys on Wye in Sherwood Park”.

Between them, Amanda and Julia were the top two winners … but due to our low turnout, they returned the top prizes to WPY and only took the flashlight as their prize. It’s not often you run into that kind of generosity.

Our most valued sponsors and the breakfast display.

 

So, this

Okay … so for central Alberta … where do you want to ride?

It seems that the most popular place for riding in southern Alberta is Cypress Hills. I think I’ll be able to organize that. I’ll get back to you as soon as I know.

Next up: central Alberta. Once again, I can’t guarantee that I can do what you request, but I can sure give it a shot!

As before, I’m giving you four options, but you can choose “Other” and make suggestions under “Comments”.

Here we go:

Quick Trip Down Memory Lane

I love Donalda! It was one of the highlights of our tour. The layout of the town. The badlands. The great horse camping facility. The *fab* food done by the caterer — and the way it was done, right out there on Main Street.

And Bruce Gartside. Can’t ever forget Bruce. He was the driving force behind our visit there.

This is the view when you slip out of town on your horse.

donalda-al-2016-wpy

Did I mention that we loved the people of Donalda?donalda-hand-prints

This is their phenomenal lantern. You should see it lit up at night. It’s incredibly beautiful.donalda-lantern

Oh, yes! There were a few of us in Donalda that day!donalda-lots-of-horses

Seeing the riders coming down Main Street was a real treat! I wish every day could have had this many riders! We’d be over the million dollar mark in our fundraising if we had.donalda-riding-main-street

One last, parting shot of the badlands. Riders loved this ride.donalds-badlands-1

Let’s make southern Alberta our first ride of the year — but where?

I don’t know which of these options I might be able to arrange, but if I can do it, which one of these (or another) would you like to ride in the spring?

I’m choosing southern Alberta as our first ride so that we can do it before the heat is so intense. Last August we rode Sandstone Ranch and Knight Ranch and everybody loved it, but it sure was hot! Too hot to ride for more than 2-3 hours. So I’m thinking that in May or June, it might be just about perfect.

So here are some options I’ve come up with. If you have others, please choose the “Other” option and put your suggestion in “Comments”.

Where do we go from here?

As you all know, the Wild Pink Yonder Longrides are a matter of history now. They are just too hard for one person to pull together … and I’m tired. Dog tired.

But when we had Wingding at the end of this year, our riders all agreed that it would be a shame to let Wild Pink Yonder just die. We have over 3,500 people (riders and others) who follow us on Facebook. They are all concerned with finding a cure for breast cancer, and that war ain’t over … so we’ve decided that Wild Pink Yonder’s not going to quit! It’s going to be legendary … again!

But how?

The consensus at Wingding was that riders would rather have trail rides than clinics or competitions. We talked about having three rides a year: one in the far south, one in central Alberta and one up north. Maybe you agree with this idea. Maybe you don’t. Either way, we’re hoping you’ll contribute to the poll below (and do it soon) because I have got to get hoppin’ if this is going to come together for the summer of 2017!

Woot! Woot! Wingding is just over a week away. Sign up now!

We’re meeting at the Neighbourhood Pub in the Chipman Hotel …  6:00pmSaturday, January 21st.  (Tickets by E-transfer: $10/person to Jane@WildPinkYonder.com.)

Your first drink is covered, then build a burger at the burger bar, eat the Best in the West fries and dip into a salad or two. All this for just $10.

Every Pinkster in the land is invited to come share “war stories” from the Pink Trail and to help present our donation for breast cancer research to the co-chairs of CRINA.

You don’t have to have ridden this year. You’re welcome if you rode any year … or if you never rode but had always intended to … or if you didn’t ride but you pledged to one of our intrepid riders.

Once we’ve presented our cheque to CRINA, we’ll talk horse. We’ll snag some deals on silent auction items. And if we’re feeling particularly feisty, we’ll sing karaoke!

And we’ll talk about where Wild Pink Yonder goes from here.

As you know, there will be no more Longrides. The 23-day 500-km format was famous for being the only one of its kind in the entire world … and its Longriders are recognized for being truly tough. But now the organizer is tired. So tired.

But the thing is: we have so many riders united to help defeat breast cancer, it would be a shame to just close the doors and call it a day, so I want to talk to you about where we should go next. Nothing formal. Just bring your thoughts and throw them out at some appropriate moment.

Wingding is a chance to bask in the glow of the power of our team (the money we’ve raised and the awareness we’ve spread) … but mostly, we’re Wingdingin’ it to have fun, so come on out!