There are many ways to explore the mountains in the summer whether it be hiking, mountain biking, or simply taking a scenic drive. But one of my favorite ways is by horseback.
As an life-long lover of all things horsey, I recently went on a full-day horseback ride in the Brisco mountains (a part of the Rocky Mountains) of British Columbia. My friend Tami and I are experienced horseback riders so we signed up for an advanced ride up to the Diana Lake Teahouse and Lodge. We found an absolutely wonderful company called Luxor Corrals, who offer trail rides to people of all levels.
Arriving at 8 am, we met Cheryl and Doug, the owners of the company (along with their cute German Shepard, Max). Cheryl sized up Tami and I and paired us with our mounts for the day. I was given a beautiful little bay mare named Luna, who is usually the lead trail horse. She was calm and confident and seemed ready for a day out on the trails. Tami was paired up with an absolutely gorgeous palomino half-linger named Fabio. Seriously, his name fit him perfectly as he looked like he belonged on the cover of a romance novel! Fabio was still young and while he had been out on the trails many times, today would be him first time in the high mountains of Diana Lake.
Dough and Cheryl decided to ride 2 of their mules, Jamie Lee and Junior (they are full brother and sister). Luxor Corrals has a good mix of horses and mules and while I’ve never ridden a mule, it was interesting to learn about them. They were as well trained as the horses with just as much personality. Mules are great animals to take into the backcountry as they aren’t as likely to spook at a threat as horses are. Horses are very flighty animals, almost always choosing to runaway from danger. Mules on the other hand, as more likely to stand their ground and attack when threatened.
After giving the horses and mules a quick brush we loaded them into a trailer and drove 20 min up the road from the farm to the trail head. Tacking them up at the trailer, the horses stood patiently as we filled our saddle bags with water, snacks, cameras and extra sweaters. (Meanwhile, Max did a great job of protecting us from all the rouge sticks in the area). Soon we were off, walking up the road to the beginning of a steep and narrow trail.
Our ride began in beautiful BC forest with a cold mountain stream running down the mountain to our right. We passed through a few open avalanche shoots and admired the gorgeous alpine wildflowers that were at the peak of their bloom.
Eventually we left the thick forest behind entering a high alpine meadow offering us the first glimpse of jagged mountain peaks. Making our way further up the valley, we rode through a massive avalanche area. The avalanche had taken out a large section of forest only a few months before. There was still snow hidden underneath the tangle of trees, branches and avalanche debris. Doug had already been up to this area with a chainsaw to try and clear a path for the horses. Otherwise the area would have been impassable and would have meant the end to our trail ride.
Finally past the difficult section, we found a nice dirt trail leading us through a low lying, alpine forest, covered in wildflowers. Just as my stomach began to rumble, Cheryl announced we were almost at Diana Lake and its tea-house where we would have lunch.
Giving the horses and mules a break, we took off their bridles and secured them to a stand of trees with their halters and lead ropes. These guys were pros and stood patiently, enjoying their break in the shade while we ate our lunch.
Our small group of 4 took up a seat at a picnic table located in a small clearing in front of Diana Lake Lodge and Tea-house. The proprietors, Dustin and his wife Drea, came out to greet us while Max began tearing around the yard with their dog Maestro.
A few days before the ride Cheryl had contacted Tami and I to ask about lunches. She said we could either bring our own bagged lunch or buy it from the lodge for $25. For simplicity sake we decided to purchase our lunch and we were so glad we did! Dustin and Drea hike all the supplies in themselves, thus the slightly more expensive price. But it was definitely worth it! Offering us drinks, anything from lemonade to hot tea to beer, we settled in while Dustin got to work on the meal of the day: Havarti, cheddar and prosciutto grilled cheese sandwich with side salad and dill pickles. When you’re this far into the backcounty, having a fresh, hot lunch is simply divine!
After lunch we put the bridles back on our horses and mules and made our way around Diana Lake. As with many high alpine lakes in the Rockies, it was a stunning shade of blue and the water so clear (and cold)! Doug tried to take some pictures of Tami and I with the lake in the background but Luna was feeling a bit antsy and not interested in standing still to pose!
We continued riding up to a ridge for some mountain views. Unfortunately our views were partially obstructed from smoke filled air. Western Canada was having a very dry summer and had been battling numerous forest fires for over a month. Smokey haze was the norm and if you could see any mountains at all you could count yourself lucky. While we could see the immediate mountains surrounding us, any Rocky Mountain visas we hoped to see where out of the question.
It was mid-afternoon when we started the long trek back the way we came, stopping often to let the horses graze on the sweet mountain grass. Luna was as laid back and confident as ever and had been a wonderful horse for the ride. Tami’s horse Fabio had taken the day in stride, always looking adorable with his cute, inquisitive features when a new obstacle was presented. The mules made the whole day look easy as they confidently lead us through their land.
Horseback riding is such a wonderful way to explore the mountains! Next summer Tami and I plan on trying Luxor’s overnight horse camping trip so we can spend a bit more time in the mountains with our equine companions.
Have you ever gone horseback riding while on vacation?