The final 160 kilometers of my last long ride was nothing short of an epic adventure!
It started with a visit from a male grizzly bear that decided to follow the horses, and he was big, beautiful and petrifying! After encountering bears nearly every day since we departed from Fairbanks – sometimes three in a day – the horses and I kept our cool.
Thankfully, the bear let us finish the ride but minutes after our meeting, the horses and I crossed Corkscrew Mountain through a hairy pass that hugs a jagged mountain face. On the other side was a thousand-foot drop to a shallow river beneath. With no guardrail to separate the gravel road from the abyss, it made for a harrowing ride!
Mac and Smokey handled it all with bravery and class. I’m so proud of these two wild horses.
At Barrier Mountain Outfitters we left the horses resting and drove to Sundre, Alberta for a much needed shower – it had been seven days since our last – then on to interviews with CBC, Global Television and Globo in Brazil and finally to pick up a special friend.
“Looking good cowboy,” said my childhood friend Sheilagh Haney outside of Tim Hortons.
“I can’t believe you actually came,” I said after we embraced.
With Sheilagh around, Clara and I were able to ride together for the final week of this epic journey, something we had been dreaming about for a long time!
“This makes me so happy,” said Clara one afternoon as we neared the end of the day. She proudly sat atop her baby — Smokey.
Sheilagh also rode with me for a few hours everyday and Dana Peers, president of the Calgary Stampede, also returned with his wife Laura for a day in the saddle.
After spending so much time alone, in the middle of nowhere, it was a welcomed change. But I had to keep reminding myself we were nearing the end of a decade-long project. I needed to enjoy these final kilometers to the fullest, for this would be my last long ride.