Horseback riding vacations in northern ontario

There is truly, only one way to see breathtaking views of Northern Ontario’s Frontier Wilderness and that is on the back of a trusty horse. Don’t have a horse? Not to worry, Wyndy River Expeditions & Guest Ranch will not only provide you a trusty mount for your level of riding, they offer many different horseback pack trips from 3 days to a week depending on your needs.

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Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of taking a vacation that was made up of horseback riding and camping balled into one package. Most of these types of vacations weren’t available anywhere in Ontario, so it was a dream that seemed far out of reach, until recently. I had the fortune of being able to experience one of Wyndy River’s Horseback Pack trips, (3-day pack trip), not only right here in Ontario, but 20 minutes from where I live. This experience has left me some lasting memories I will never forget. It also made me realize you have NOT experienced trail riding until you’ve done it the Wyndy River way as an expedition through the most beautiful wilderness scenery your eyes will ever have the chance to lie upon.

(“The three-day pack trip allows you to stay at their camp already in place with several prospector tents and a fully stocked kitchen tent with an awesome cook who will prepare you cowboy/cowgirl meals for the duration of your stay. You ride out to the camp on day one from the lodge, and from there, spend your days riding, fishing, boating or whatever your heart desires, always back in time at the camp for a hearty meal and a great sleep under the stars to the sounds of loons and fresh northern air.”)

DAY ONE: Tuesday Aug 8th 2006

I put away my cell phone (they don’t work in God's country) and prepared to take in a breath of fresh air as I arrived at Cedar Ridge Lodge. Upon entry at Cedar Ridge Lodge, I was first greeted by thirteen of Wyndy River’s trusty mounts.

After a quick introduction and meeting the rest of the crew, Tim (The owner, who loves to make a song out of everything), introduces me to the horses and picks out the ones he figures an intermediate rider could use. There were three to choose from. A small, liver chestnut mare was the one that caught my attention, her name was Brandy. She reminded me a lot of my Quarter Horse mare at home, "Chelsea Buns". Same color, stocky build, but a lot shorter! (Great for mounting!)

I saddled up Brandy with my own saddle I had brought a long and soon realized just how much this mare reminded me of my horse. She was quick, forward and extremely willing! I knew for sure that Brandy would be the horse I’d trust for my 3-day event, so I unsaddled her and went in for some hearty lunch prepared by Cedar Ridge Lodge.

We planned to depart to our camp by 2:00pm, so I spent time getting to know some of the regular guests at Cedar Ridge Lodge and touring the beautiful property.

When 2:00pm came around, we loaded the horses up on the trailer, saddled and ready to go and drove to our destination that would allow us to ride out to camp. Once we unloaded the horses and bridled up, the ride took about 1.5 hours to arrive at camp. Tim pointed out many of the different places we’d be riding out the next day.

Upon arriving at the camp where we’d be spending the next three nights, we tied our horses to the trees and hung our saddles. We then proceeded to walk down a small hill not far from the horses to find our camp. At first glance, you see the kitchen tent and to your right, three prospector tents along with 3 other dome tents.

The fire pit sits right in the middle with a breathtaking view of the sunsets I experienced each night I was there and the thick fog I awoke too each morning on the lake.

It was already suppertime so the Wyndy River Guide/Cook (Kate) started on a hearty cowboy supper or spaghetti and salad. We spent the evening around the campfire talking about our upcoming rides and enjoying the sites and sounds of the wilderness around us. One of my favorite things during the early evening, was watching the sunset over the lake, it was just magnificent!

During my first night sleeping in the tent, I soon realized my sleeping bag just wasn’t warm enough for this expedition. Although the first night was our warmest night, it was still quite cool. I curled up the entire night with frozen feet waiting for morning to arrive. Between the excitement and cold feet, I don’t think I slept more then 2 hours at the most.

DAY TWO: Wednesday Aug 9, 2006

I was up and adam at 6:00am ready to go. As the rest of the crew was still sleeping, I brushed my teeth, washed up and stood in front of the lake listening to the loons and breathing in the fresh air. I swallowed as much of this peaceful moment as I could. Then I went up the hill to say good morning to the horses and feed them their breakfast.

By the time I came back down the hill, everyone was up and Kate was already cooking a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs. We completed our breakfast and planned our horseback trip for the day. We decided since we were a smaller group and willing, we’d explore areas that hadn’t been explored yet and make it full day packing a lunch so we wouldn’t need to be back till supper.

We saddled up our horses and off we went, through creeks, small lakes, and parts of the wilderness that had no apparent trails at times. (Try telling Tim the trail has ended). I was surprised at how surefooted and willing all the horses were. Where the horses gained my full trust was during a time we climbed up a huge mountain. This climb didn’t offer nice, already built in trails, but rocks, and lots of ground untouched by men. The horses climbed with such ease, even though my heart was beating extremely fast with each step we took.

When we reached the top of the hill, we dismounted and stopped for lunch that had once again, been prepared by Kate. We sat and ate as the beauty of Northern Ontario surrounded us with it’s 100’s of different shades of green.

I have to admit, I was nervous to take the same route back down the hill, never having ridden on such steeps hills before, but as always, Brandy followed through with such ease, she made it seem so easy.

We spent the remainder of the day following trails and making new ones. Around each and every new corner was even more breathtaking views that one only sees on postcards. Many of these views left me in complete awe. We rode nearly a total of seven hours that day.

As the day went on, the weather started to feel like rain and possibly a storm, so we decided to ride back to camp. It was still a few hours back, so we picked up the pace, trotting, and cantering all the way back, which I might add, was fun! Brandy has such a wonderful canter.

One of the crew, Lorraine, a novice rider was such a trooper. She rode her horse, Co-Co as if she were an avid horseback rider all her life. She was truly amazing, a natural horsewomen I’d say ;)

If we had arrived back at camp, just two minutes later, we would have been soaked. Just as we tied the horses and went down to camp, the storm kicked in and it lasted all night. Huge rain with thunder and lightening filled the skies! We had planned a moonlight-ride that night since the moon had been full the night before, but the moon didn’t show itself that evening.

We hid in the kitchen tent around the table playing cards for the evening until we all mosied off to bed. At that point, I was given a warmer sleeping back, so I crawled in under my sleeping bags to the sound of heavy rain and thunder, hoping to stay warm. I was so tired from the lack of sleep the night before that I was off to sleep in minutes and slept the entire night through.

DAY THREE, Aug 10th, 2006

Again, I woke early, just shortly after 6:00am. I desperately tried to get a fire started to get warm as I woke very cold. I would get the fire going but couldn’t get it to stay since all our wood and our camp was pretty wet from the storm.

I walked down to the lake and sat and enjoyed the beautiful view. The lake was smothered with a thick fog against the banks, and the water was extremely still. I then proceeded to brush my teeth and wash up and sit on a lonely log right by the lake and read for a while as I tried to warm up.

After a bit I went to feed the horses and soon everyone else was up. This day started a lot later since the sun did not appear till later afternoon. We spent the morning sitting around the campfire getting warm. Kate and I took the horses and brought them out to graze a bit while Lorraine and Tim went off in the canoe and did some fishing. Lorraine did prove to be the better fisherperson!

So after lunch, we decided we were going to ride out to another mountain we saw on the first day coming in and maybe check out some other trails. The sun had finally come back out and weather was a bit warmer and no sign of rain, so we saddled up and off we went.

Once we reached our destination, prior to climbing the 1250 foot mountain (ya we don’t have huge mountains in Ontario, but this sure seemed steep upon the back of a horse), Tim gave us all a quick lesson on how to sit on the horse when you are practically going straight up on some parts of the mountain.

Upon reaching the top of this mountain, I was taken back in awe at the picture some view. The photos I provide don’t even begin to give you an idea of how beautiful God’s country really is. You need to be there first-hand to experience it. I’d have to say, this was my favorite view on the entire trip.

Again, I was worried about descending the hill. We went down on the other side, but with Tim’s horse exhibition skills and knowledge, as well as trusty mounts, he got us all down safely.

We rode around a few other trails soaking up more wilderness views. During our ride, we saw a lot of bear, moose and wolf tracks. My most exciting site was a bald eagle! That is the first time I saw one in the wild. I had heard we had them up north, but didn’t really believe it. She was beautiful! I tried to get a photo upon my horse, but it was so unexpected and taking photos on a horse is quite an art.

On the way back to camp, we did some cantering and galloping as some of the trails had perfect ground for it. Boy was that fun!

Upon arrival back at camp, we sat around the fire and talked about our day. After supper, we gathered more wood for the fire. Tim jumped bareback on his mare, Rosie and rode her down to the camp and into the lake. The day had planned for us to swim with our horses, but the weather was just too cold. Tim walked Rosie through the lake then let Rosie stay to visit us awhile. Rosie was quite spoiled as she enjoyed a visit into the tent and was greeted with a handful of carrots and then outside, Rosie found a new addiction to peanuts. After Rosie was put away, we played some more cards. That evening we were blessed with yet another beautiful sunset

The temperature was falling fast this evening and we all decided to hit the hay early. Kate joined me in my tent, as her tent was pretty wet from the storm the night before. Everyone was soon asleep except myself. I was so cold and once again, unable to sleep from all the excitement

I finally feel asleep later in the evening to the beautiful sounds of the loons, and not Kate’s Snoring! Haha.

DAY 4 August 11, 2006

Day four is our last day at the camp, and time to pack up and head back to the lodge. We start a fire and try to warm up, as we are all quite cold from the chilling night. Have some breakfast, clean up the camp and pack all our gear. We then double check nothing is forgotten. As I turn around to look, I soak up one last look of the view feeling a sense of fulfillment as I walk up the hill to saddle up and head back to Cedar Ridge Lodge.

Our ride back is kind of sad that the trip is over, but on other hand, I am excited to get back home and tell everyone about my experience. Brandy must know we are riding back to where we parked the trailer as she has a very brisk, quick step leaving us way ahead of the group most the ride. There was no cantering at this point, as we were loaded down with gear, so she settled for just a quick walk.

Once we reach the trailer, we put the horses on and drive back to the lodge. Everyone is mostly quiet, savoring the memories as we drive further away from an experience most people can only dream of.

Upon arriving at the lodge, Deek, the Lodge Lab, greets us all excited like long lost friends. The horses that did not come on the ride are all excited as we pull the horses off the trailer, calling for their equine friends who have just been gone the last 3 days. As we put each horse back in the corral they take a dive down into a big roll to scratch away all their hard work and seemed quite relieved to be back in amongst their friends. I thank Brandy, my mount, for taking such good care of me during our ride.

We then all proceed to say our goodbyes and exchange contact information. I pack up my car and drive off into the direction of home. About 15 mins into the drive, I pull my cell phone out and realize I am back to reality. Behind me, was a dream, but a dream I actually lived.

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