We woke up at 7am and after eating at the breakfast buffet, all met in the lobby and were out the door by 8:30am.

The first adventure of the day was a hike with Sunshine Meadows White Mountain Adventures. Tim the bus driver drove us to the lodge, where we transferred to a yellow school bus that drove us a couple of thousand feet up the mountain to what is a ski lodge when there’s snow, and a stop-off lodge of a hiking trail when there isn’t (the switchback road the bus drove on doubles as a ski slope in the winter). After being so tired from the bike ride yesterday, I chose to not do any of the hikes (they had a choice of an easy, medium or strenuous hike) and stayed in the lodge while the others went hiking. Judy, another person on our tour also had also decided to not go so the two of us bonded…I taught her some things that had to do with computers (I know, I know…the blind leading the blind) and for the second half we each did our own thing – she read while I blogged. After so many days of frequent go-go-go, it actually was kind of a relaxing, low-key way to spend a few hours.

Bye, guys! Better you than me...LOL!

My hangout for a couple of hours - The Lodge

Our hikers started arriving back at the lodge around 11:45am or so. Joe (who was in the middle group) had taken my camera so he could take pictures and he said the hike was very beautiful and a lot of fun. They went to Rock Isle Lake, which had a view of Monarch Mountain and Logan pass in the distance. They even went about 20 minutes past that on the hike, because his group had gotten there so quickly (usually doesn’t happen to Group 2’s. Group 3’s usually don’t even make it to the lake. Then again, Group 4 – Judy and I – don’t even make it out of the lodge, LOL!) His hiking guide was named Darren and he was from London. They hiked from an initial altitude of 7300 feet and went up to 7500 feet. During that time they passed the sub-alpine climate, so they were surrounded by trees at the bottom of the hike, but eventually went over the tree line, where trees did not grow. That area went, not only over the Continental Divide, but into British Columbia. Their group only saw squirrels but there have been sightings of grizzly bears, mountain goats and cougars in the area at times. They even saw “grizzly holes,” which is what the bears dig up when they’re looking for squirrels in their tunnels. Oh, and those squirrels? They have fleas that have bubonic plague. So don’t pet them ;-).

Darren & Joe

On the hike

Grizzly Hole

The area where they turned around to go back

Group #2 (Intermediate Hike) (they're going to try to get into Disney Files Magazine)

The lodge had sandwiches, drinks and cookies available for us upon the hikers’ return and we enjoyed those while the “strenuous group” finally arrived back at 12:15 or so. We all loaded back onto the school bus at 12:30 (the “strenuous group” brought their food with them) and SSLLOOWWLLYY made our way back down the switchbacks to the first lodge and “our” bus. The ride down took a good 20-25 minutes, which did not feel nearly as quick as the drive up.

The weather was a lot better than yesterday so T&G said we would do the gondola ride (which we had canceled/postponed yesterday) then, so when we were at the top of the mountain we would be able to see more than just clouds. So off we went to Sulphur Mountain, where, on the way, we heard calls of, “BIG HORN SHEEP ON THE LEFT!”

Them looking at us looking at them

The gondola ride’s elevation was at 5194 feet at the bottom (no wonder why I keep getting out of breath!) and 7486 feet at the top. Each gondola held 4 people so we rode up with Kathy and Bill (Kathy was afraid of heights but she was very, VERY brave ;-)) and when we got up to the top of Sulphur Mountain, the views were just breathtaking. We could see lots of mountains in the distance, as well as a birds’ eye view of Banff. Tiffany purchased several pieces of a local candy “thing” called Nanaimo (I think?) that she cut up and shared with all of us – it was a cookie crust, with a rich cream on top, covered with coconut and then chocolate. REALLY good (despite the coconut, LOL!).

Our gondola is next!

Off we go!

Such pretty views!

Banff, as seen from Sulphur Mountain

Wow, we are pretty far up, aren't we?

We were told to be back on line for the gondola ride down by 3:30 so we could be back on our way by 3:45pm. Then, with a quick stop at the hotel to freshen up, we were on our way to horseback riding and a cowboy cookout!

Now, I do not ride horses. I went on a handful of pony rides as a kid but they never really did anything for me – if I recall correctly, I didn’t like the smell ;-). I had never seen the classic film National Velvet until I caught it on TV earlier this year and, except for seeing a VERY young Angela Lansbury, was not particularly impressed. I never wanted a horse as a kid. “My Pretty Pony” did nothing for me. You get the idea. Anyway, Joe and I did go horseback riding on the first full day of our honeymoon and I consider that to be the first time I ever *really* went horseback riding. On that occasion my horse was the one who liked to be in the front of the group and the other horses knew it, so they’d mess with his head by trying to get in front of him. His response was to…I don’t know what he was doing, but let’s just say he was not walking at a slow, leisurely pace that would make someone who had never been on a horse in her adult life feel safe. Whatever speed he was going, it scared the crap out of me every time because I had no idea of what I was doing and was absolutely positive I was going to fall off. So my first horseback ride was, as far as I was concerned, my last horseback ride. Ever. For life. Therefore the idea of a horseback ride in Banff didn’t thrill me. Fortunately, the Warner Stables had a Conestoga wagon hooked up for chickens like me (and yes, I was the only person on the tour who didn’t go on a horse. Well, Tiffany didn’t either ;-)) so that was my mode of transportation to the cookout.

OK, is it just me or is the Asian chick in the blue jacket doing the pee pee dance?

You couldn't pay me a million dollars to do that again

One of these will suit me just fine, TYVM!

Have fun, Joe!

Elaina and I in the Conestoga wagon

Our Conestoga driver was named Elaina and she was a hoot. She was from New Zealand and had no problems trying keeping her horses in line, complete with half cursing them out when they didn’t do what she told them to do. “Trojan! Go faster, ya rat bag!” (the term was funny enough but you should’ve heard it with a Kiwi accent!) Apparently there was also a brand-new girl working there who didn’t seem to speak much English and didn’t seem to have much idea of what she was supposed to be doing. So Elaina went back and forth telling the girl what to do, as well as giving interactions to the riders in the back of the nose-to-tail row, because the newbie apparently was supposed to be in the back and wasn’t. And then she’d grumble about the newbie to us. OK, so it all wasn’t necessarily the most professional atmosphere in the world, but it’s not like we were at the ballet or in a museum and overall I really did find it to be quite funny ;-). I think Tiffany was embarrassed that Elaina was talking like that in front of me, but I tried to make it clear that it didn’t bother me at all and that, if truth be known, my own everyday language was liberally sprinkled with choice words of 4 and 5 and 7 letters but that I was just on good behavior because I was on a Disney-centric trip with a bunch of strangers. 😉

Anyway, the views were beautiful and I took WAY too many pictures, LOL! Since we were the only two on the wagon besides Elaina, Tiffany and I had a chance to talk about a variety of topics, too. I won’t talk about it here though – after all, what’s said on the Conestoga wagon stays on the Conestoga wagon! 😉

A view from horseback (Joe took this one)

Looks like a postcard...

Just beautiful...

And look how well Joe is riding, too!

We arrived at the cookout area before the folks on horseback did, although they weren’t far behind. Once they all got there, I heard lots of stories from everyone about how their horses like to stop, liked to eat, whose horse pooped 4 times, how when one pees, they all pee, etc. Fun stuff.

The cookout included a choice of steak or chicken, plus beans, baked potato, salad and rolls. It was good but, I have to admit, not quite as good as the food the rafting company had provided a few days earlier. Ah well, can’t win ’em all. There were 5 couples in our group who were celebrating anniversaries, ranging from 10 to 35 years so to celebrate, one of the ranch hands had baked a big cake for all of us to have as dessert. It wasn’t necessary but certainly was very nice of her and I think everyone was appreciative of her efforts.

Hope y'all are good and hungry!

Nomnomnom!

Everyone eating at the cowboy cookout

It was time for the horseback riders to go back on their steeds (except for Joe and I think Mike, whose horses somehow got switched on the way back). Tiffany and I had some more company on the ride back – another person from our group had decided that she wasn’t happy with horseback riding (she was convinced that her horse didn’t like her ;-)) so she asked to ride back on the Conestoga wagon (one of the guides “towed” her horse). I’m not sure if I imagined it or not, but I think Elaina was a wee bit more genteel on the trip back – I don’t know if it was because of our new arrival to the wagon (she was an older woman) or if someone had told her to watch her language. Anyway, the trip home wasn’t nearly as comical, LOL, but I got some more really breathtaking pictures!

Waiting in the corral, getting ready to head on out

Looking good, Joe!

Gorgeous, eh?

A storm had been threatening to come our way, so the clouds mixed with sunshine made for this awesome shot

Look at that water! It really is that color - happens from the runoff sediment from the mountains

Everyone did a great job, even the ones who had never ridden before!

Once again we got back to the ranch a few minutes before the horse riders did. When they arrived, I got news that one of our riders had fallen off her horse! Actually, she had been thrown when a guide’s horse got too close to hers and, while attempting to move over, her horse lost his footing and panicked for a moment, bucked, and she got thrown in the process. Fortunately, she was OK.

Almost back to the ranch

Hey, look! A rainbow!

We loaded back onto the bus, got back to the hotel around 8pm or so (give or take…I lost track of time around that time frame) and made plans with some of the other couples to meet back down in the lounge. Joe took a quick shower to get rid of the “eau du horse” and washed his sneaker bottoms to get ride of the mud and horse poop (ewwww!). Once he was cleaned up, we went downstairs and saw that 3 people were already there. We were quickly followed by 2 or 3 other couples and we all hung out, reminiscing and even gossiping a little, until 10pm or so, when we started to get tired. So we bid everyone a goodnight and off we went to bed.

Awwww...! 😉

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