A Travellerspoint blog

Day 06 - Day 18: April 23 - May 5, 2012 [PART ONE]

The Outpost at Warden Rock

all seasons in one day

We thought maybe we should explain to everyone what we are actually doing this summer, for those of you who don't know!

So WWOOF [World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, http://www.wwoof.ca/] is an international program, encouraging people to travel who have a desire to learn more about the lifestyle and culture of the area they choose to visit. We have chosen to stay at 6 different locations across Western Canada, all of which have active ranches / farms / wineries / bakeries / other small businesses. In exchange for working around 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, we are able to live with the family, and eat with them. Also, on our evenings and weekends off, the hosts usually spend time to teach the WWOOFers about the area, and take them on adventures that average traveler is unaware of. Having said that, our first stop of the summer was a two week stay at the Outpost at Warden Rock- a guest ranch nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, just above Banff National Park. To check out what we did there....keep reading!

We started our summer by totally leaving civilization and entering the mountains. The Outpost is " a remote backcountry lodge nestled in the majestic Canadian Rockies, bordering Banff National Park...with over 30 years of experience in mountain horseback riding, guiding and outfitting, we provide both a memorable and safe authentic western horseback vacation packages, perfect for riders and non-riders alike..." UNREAL!

Our stay at the Outpost was during their early season, meaning that there were no guests or their full herd of horses at the ranch. However, this meant that we could bunk in the cozy cabins, and have the full attention of our hosts! One of the 'features' of lodging in the mountains is a lack of connection to the outside world, no electricity or cell phone service....let alone internet!

We had arranged with Julie [a co-owner of the Outpost, to meet in Sundre] in the afternoon, so we could follow her to where we could park the car during our stay [at this point we had no idea what we were in for]. This is where we met 'Coco' a 19 year old German WWOOFer who we got to spend the following two weeks with! Julie took one look at our car 'Gerry' and chuckled, reassuring us that we 'should be able' to make it in. Julie led the way through the winding mountainous road. As we followed her dusty trail, we experienced an amazing safari [Canadian style] including wild horses, elk, and the Rocky Mountains themselves!!! Just over an hour later we arrived at the end of the dirt/ gravel/ rock/ mud/ washed out/ borderline deadly road to the Big Horn campground where we parked Gerry. When we arrived there was a team of draft horses waiting, harnessed to a stage coach [our only mode of transportation]. Without a doubt, the initial ride into the Outpost was the highlight of our stay. After 1.5 hrs (10 miles) and a climb to 5500 ft ASL we finally arrived!!

A typical day at the Outpost during our first week looks a little like this:

Sun Rise [7:00am....ish....we think, we didn't have a clock] - Wake up call [Coco knocking on our door, "GOOD MORNING, WAKE UP!"
7:45am [Emma & Emma] - stoke the lodge fire, and start the kettles for Cowboy Coffee [aka mud in a cup, delicious nonetheless]
7:45am [Coco] - feed the horses
8:30am - breakfast is served, usually a feast consisting of bacon, eggs, toast, potatoes, chocolate [within the first two hours of our arrival, we discovered a massive **we're talking massive** jar of chocolate chips], peanut butter, and Cowboy Coffee(s)
9:00am - Safety Meeting [aka lessons from Tim- the head cowboy, regarding horsemanship, the difference between a real Cowboy and a Wannabe, and local wild life such as Timber wolves as tall as our rib cages, cougars, grizzly bears, mosquitos that we can shoot with a shot gun, bats and other rodents such as pack rats, mice etc]
10:00am - 'catch' the horses and bring them into the stable, where we give them grain and some serious TLC [brushing, brushing, horse whispering, and more brushing....they're dappling now that they have had the double Emma treatment]
11:00am - shovel shit [exactly what it sounds like]
11:30am - Safety Meeting [Cowboy Coffee, snacking on homemade trail mix.......recipe = 1/4 cup raisins, 1/4 nuts, 2 cups chocolate chips... serves one]
12:30pm - Lunch is served....usually soup, sandwiches, Cowboy Coffee, various dinner leftovers, toast, chocolate, peanut butter, chocolate, etc.
1:30pm - some of the following: chopping / collecting firewood, stoking the fires around the ranch, pumping water for the shower and water troughs, driving the horses, discussions about dinner, general cleaning, feeding the horses, practicing our knot tying skills with our eyes closed [shouldn't have dropped out of Girl Guides]
3:30pm - Safety Meeting [reading, Cowboy Coffee]
5:30pm - dinner is served, the ranch diet strictly prohibits meals that do not include red meat, therefore each dinner was very hearty...we're pretty creative so we successfully prepared meals meeting all of the requirements.....Tim approved!
6:15pm - HIKE! We never travelled the same route twice, despite the many trails throughout the area, we often found ourselves bush-wackin' it....always confident that if we got lost, we could simply scope out Warden Rock, and headed back in that direction...one of the many perks of living in the mountains! Each hike offered a spectacular view, there is something so amazing about being in the scene as opposed to looking at it in a magazine, from inside a car, on TV, etc.
8:30pm - shower [optional], post hike meal [chocolate, tea, picking at the dinner leftovers] and reading in the lodge until the pages were literally impossible to see [lack of lights]
Sun Down [10:00pm...ish...] - lights ...err...candles out, nestle into our cozy cabins [only cozy when the fire is stoked] and hit the sack!

the view from inside the stage coach during our trek into the Outpost

"we have three channels here: the Discovery channel, OLN, and Animal Planet, all in HD!"

Coco and us on our first hike!

The Crew

Hard at work

Hoodoos Hike

Safety meeting

One of our chocolate masterpieces

Posted by mcmillanallen 19:35 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Day 05 - April 22, 2012

Bike Ride Around Calgary

sunny 20 °C

Emma Mac and Craig at Nose Hill, note the city in the background and the Rockies in the distance!

the Emmas at Nose Hill

the Emmas in front of the Stampede Grounds, and the Saddledome

Another great sleep without the pressures of waking up early to drive, awesome! After a bowl of cereal, Craig got us geared up for a day on the town via bicycle... after having spent 39 hours over 3 days in a car, we were pretty excited for this!

Craig started our tour off at Nose Hill- the best view of the Rockies in Calgary. Nose Hill is the largest municipal park in Canada, stretching 11.27 square kilometers, HUGE! We stopped numerous times while we were in Nose Hill Park to take in the different views of the city as well as the Rockies in the distance. We then trekked back down the hill to explore more of the city. The beautiful weather brought the Calgarians out of hibernation. There were people everywhere, it's so nice to see such an active community! After stopping for a much needed coffee, Craig led the way to many attractions including:

- the Peace Bridge [a new $25 million project allowing thousands of daily pedestrians to cross Bow River into the core of the city]
- the Shell skyscraper [his workplace...a booming industry right now!]
- Calgary Stampede Grounds
- the Saddledome [unfortunately no NHL player sightings, they must be out golfing]
- Inglewood [to get some ice cream to soothe the developing sunburns]

6 hours later, 5 lbs lighter, and with 3 sore asses, we made our way back to Craig's place to make dinner plans. We decided on Thai food at a delicious restaurant around the corner from the house. Over dinner we shared plans about the summer with Craig's landlords Terry, Jen and their adorable daughter Eli, what a wonderful way to end our stay in Calgary!

Thanks to Craig, Terry, Jen, and Eli for providing us with a lovely place to stay, you definitely have us sold on the beautiful city of Calgary!

Side Note: Tomorrow morning we depart Calgary and make our way north of Banff to our first WWOOF location- the Outpost at Warden Rock. We have been informed that this is extreme backcountry and there will be no electricity, cell phone service, or internet connection. We hope you stay tuned, we'll update you when we emerge from the mountains in two weeks! Check out the Outpost's website to get a feel for what we're in for:


Posted by mcmillanallen 21:49 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Day 04 - April 21, 2012

Regina to Calgary

sunny 15 °C

The view of the Trans Canada Highway in Saskatchewan, crazy!

Our make-shift parking lot dinner, HAHA [no we did not pop-a-squat, that was there before!]

After a hearty breakfast at the Rise N Shine B&B we hit the road for the last big leg of our drive! Saskatchewan was similar to Manitoba in the sense that the road seemed to go on for forever in front of us, and it was rare to see any signs of civilization, including other traffic. We thought this was hilarious so we decided that it was photo worthy and literally stopped dead in the middle of the highway to take a shot. Where else can you put your car in park in the middle of the highway, in a 110km/hr zone and feel totally safe? Fascinating [I guess...?]

Beginning at the border between Saskatchewan and Alberta, the roads became even more flat, but this time with no trees in sight to create depth, resulting in serious misconceptions about how far away things were. We also noticed that there were randomly placed Beef farms, and lots of crazy looking irrigation systems, check this out:


About three hours east of Calgary, we started to seriously hallucinate, mistaking clouds for mountains..... a sign of hardcore mountain hunger! We only began to see the Rockies when we hit Strathmore, about 50km east of Calgary. We can't even begin to explain how beautiful and satisfying this sight was. We have never been so proud to be Canadian! As we approached the city, little words were exchanged because we were both in such awe as reality sunk in- we're about to live the Canadian dream in the Rockies!

Once in Calgary, we took it upon ourselves to eat a make-shift dinner in the parking lot of a near by store, and then set off on foot around the city. Calgary is a gorgeous metropolis, surrounded by Bow River, the downtown core including small cafes, big stores, skyscrapers, and many many friendly people. After a quick gander we made our way to Craig's place, a school friend of Emma Mac's. Craig welcomed us into his house for the two nights that we were in Calgary, the night was spent catching up and creating plans for the following day.

Posted by mcmillanallen 21:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

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