McKinley Princess lodge offers beautiful views of Mount McKinley when the weather is cooperating.
It was a rainy day upon our arrival and we knew that there would be very little hope of landing on a glacier by plane in this weather. We had booked the tour weeks ago hoping to be able to fly around the mountain and land on the mighty Mount McKinley.
The Great Alaskan Trail Ride
It was windy the day earlier in the trip when we tried to land during another flight over Mount McKinley and today didn’t look promising either.
Maybe a glacier landing just wasn't in the cards for little old ThePlanetD
Instead of heading out to the airfield to take a chance on the weather clearing, we changed our excursion to a great Alaskan Trail ride.
We were so happy that we did.
Our guide “Montana” picked us up at the lodge telling jokes as we signed in and scolded us whenever he had the chance. A true cowboy through and through he had a brash sense of humour and rugged wit.
We arrived at the ranch and lined up in a row.
A cowboy came out from the barn and sized us up. He studied our stance and faces and assigned horses. Once we were told the name of our horse, we would be known for the rest of the afternoon by its name.
My horse was “Cash” and Dave’s was “Captain”.
The Rules of Riding
There are five rules on the trail that must be followed or we'd be walking back to camp.
- Never Take your hands of the reins – Ever
- Don’t deviate from the path
- Sit forward when your horse pee's to relieve its bladder
- Sit forward when going uphill
- Sit back when climbing downhill (thanks for the note in comments Trisha. I didn't realize that I had the rules backwards)
Our horses fell into line behind Montana. Dave and I were in the first group. Our horses wanted to be at the front and that is where they stayed. There isn’t a lot of control when riding trail horses. They go to their place in line and stay there whether you like it or not.
Luckily the staff asked us all who was riding with who and our entire group was riding in single file. Rick and Denise from Midlife Road Trip followed Dave while Jessica and Carrie from @CruiseJess and @CruiseBuzz followed them.
We had a blast!
Montana, Mellissa and Congo, our three guides yelled back and forth razzing each other with jokes and jibes. I was right behind Montana and a kid that refused to talk, so I had the privilege of being the only one listening to Montana's crazy stores. He definitely kept me entertained if not a little baffled as to what he was saying.
Note: If you want to stay a step ahead of the pack when traveling to Alaska, you need to know the answer to this common question. “What is the difference between a reindeer and a caribou?” Answer: “A Reindeer can fly.”
Staying on Our Toes
My horse and Dave’s horse must have had a little spat before the ride because whenever we turned a corner or went downhill, my horse “Cash” would rear a little and turn around to try to bite Dave’s horse “Captain.” It made for an exciting ride though. We love horses that have some attitude. It keeps you on your toes and adds a little zip to the ride.
The scenery was gorgeous and half way through the ride we stopped for a photo opportunity looking out towards Mount McKinley. The clouds hadn't quite cleared from the morning rain, but it was still stunning.
We really enjoyed the trail ride and thought about how our original plan was to be in Mongolia right now riding a horse across the country. Our plans changed due to some different travel arrangements and we realized that it was probably a good thing.
We should maybe take some riding lessons before we decide to ride horses across an entire country when we don’t know what we are doing.
My horse was spunky and I didn’t do a great job showing him who was boss. I think that there is potential for me though. Whenever “Cash” turned on the trail or hightailed it to bite “Captain,” I kept my cool and got him back on track. Dave held steady as well as my horse charged. Cash would always come to an abrupt stop, turn quickly and snap at Captain. Dave didn’t even flinch.
As we rode high on ridges, through forests over valleys, the song “Happy Trails” went through my mind. I couldn’t believe that we were in Alaska, riding horses in the shadow Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America.
It may be 2010, but as we laughed and joked for a couple of hours, I imagined that this is what it must have been like for the early cowboys that crossed the great frontier in search of gold and a new life. It may have been a difficult journey for them, but at times I am sure that they casually rode their horses in the summer warmth and laughed and talked just as we were doing today.
If you are looking for a fun family adventure in Alaska, consider a trail ride at Mount McKinley. The scenery is quite spectacular and the joy of being on a horse is second to none.