It had been years since I was last seated on the back of a horse, but today I was going to spend five hours bouncing through the beautiful backwoods and prairies in the north west corner of Riding Mountain National Park. It was late in August and we woke up early to head out to 9 Finger Ranch where we would start our day of riding. We set off down our regular commute, beautiful as always, then we turned down highway 45, into unexplored land. Just ten minutes after we set off down the road, the landscape changed dramatically. All around us there was water. Ponds and creeks took over the farmland occasionally creating a small lake. With all of this water there was hundreds of birds.
The cause of all this water was a flood in 2014 that happened because of a blocked culvert. As we were driving I noticed a Cormorant standing on a fence post protruding from the water. There was a perfect reflection, and I just couldn't miss the opportunity to capture it. I yelled, “Stop!!” Then we backed up down the highway and snapped lots of pictures. It was completely worth it!
As we drove on there were several more encounters like that one, resulting in lots of pictures of birds!
We reached Rossburn and were almost at the ranch! We only got lost a few times on the back roads before we got there! The owners who had immigrated from Germany in their youth and lived all across Canada before finally settling down and starting the ranch were very friendly. I learned the story behind the name 9 Finger Ranch was because both of his grandparents were missing a thumb! When we arrived at the trailhead I hopped on my horse, Punk. We rode through beautiful plains and woodland. There were wildflowers as far as the eye could see. It really was amazing.
The first river we crossed I admit that I was slightly nervous. It ended up being quite easy and I had mastered it by the end of the day!
After climbing up a challenging hill we were rewarded with a breathtaking view. Our guide said whenever he needs to think he rides out here and sits down for a spell. One time he witnessed a bald eagle fly out from a pine beneath him. What an experience to be above an eagle as it flies!
After two and a half hours we stopped and had a picnic. It was only then I realized how sore I actually was! When we finished eating our lunch we headed back. The return trip was equally amazing!
While riding back I thought to myself, today I have created memories that I will cherish forever, and I have.