Four days after arriving in Dawson Creek and finishing the Alaska Highway, Clara, Karen Hardy, and I rode into Grande Prairie, Alberta, my final destination for 2019 – and the final province I would cross on my Long Ride across the Americas.
Sitting atop Mac, watching Clara ride Smokey and letting the light but freezing rain wash my soul, I couldn’t help but reflect on these past few months.
I felt so proud of my horses. Mac and Smokey came a long way from when we started this adventure and having Clara ride into a major city on Smokey was a clear example of how much they have matured.
“I can’t believe I’m riding the wild horse I watched you work with in Osoyoos before the ride… he was so unpredictable, I thought I would never get on his back,” said Clara with a wide smile.
She and Smokey had a connection that I loved watching grow.
Clara is the real heroine of this journey! For the past 124 days she was there carrying hay, water, and feed every single day for the horses. Slowing down traffic around blind curves to keep us safe. Keeping me company through those long-wild stretches of nothing and always bathing me with love. The truth is, without my Clara, I may not have survived the North.
This was by far the hardest stretch of land I have covered in all of the Americas. There were so many hurdles to cross that at times if felt like I was a character in an action-adventure video game.
Except I only had one life.
The obstacles were beyond a gamer’s imagination: fanged bears, endless bison, territorial moose, hungry wolves, giant mountains, metal-grate-deck bridges, summer snow storms, clouds of black flies, horse flies and mosquitoes and… two Canadian teen serial killers.
When I passed one level, there was another just as arduous waiting for us to navigate through.
But somehow, someway, we did it!
From Grande Prairie, Karen trailered the boys south to Osoyoos, British Columbia and Clara and I made the drive in the motorhome. It was amazing seeing Aaron Stelkia again. Smokey’s owner and a renowned horse trainer, he has been instrumental to the success of this last long ride.
“The horses look great,” he said while we enjoyed a delicious dinner at his home.
The next morning I pulled Mac and Smokey’s shoes and we released them in a huge pasture by Aaron’s house. I thanked them for the past 4 months! These horses are so powerful we covered 630 kilometers a month. That’s nearly double of what I used to ride with the other horses for my first two journeys.
These wild horses are majestic beings like no other! Their resiliency, strength, and natural survival instincts make them by far the best horse for a long ride.
After watching the boys run around their new home in excitement, Clara and I drove to see Sara Turner.
“You made it,” she yelled while we hugged.
I will never be able to properly thank Sara for everything she has done for my horses and I over the years. From taking care of Bruiser during my first long ride through Honduras… to finding Mac and Smokey for this final ride… to trailering them up to Alaska…
I have said this before, my path is lined with angels and Sara is one of them!
From the Okanagan Valley we crossed the Rocky Mountains on route to Clairsholm, Alberta, where another pair of angels live.
“We are so proud of you two,” Marie Aitken said when we arrived in her ranch.
Marie and her husband Rocky were the ones who lent us our support vehicle – a 1990 Econoline Motorhome.
“Marie, you and Rocky figuratively and literally saved my life,” I said to her before we all laughed out loud.
It’s true! The motorhome allowed us to carry feed, water, supplements, shoes, and other important equipment for the horses health! It offered a bed for me to sleep in every night. But several times, I hid behind the motorhome while crossing paths with grizzlies or bison. It kept the horses and I safe every single day.
Now we will rest during the winter and continue our ride May 3, 2020. We have 717 kilometers left to reach the Calgary Stampede and finish this dream of crossing the Americas on horseback.
I know something special is waiting for me at the greatest outdoor show on earth. I just don’t know what.