Adventures in the Ya Ha Tinda - 1999 -  See below the Pictures for the story by Norma Lovell - Story

Elaine and Myriam ford the River

Myriam Jury from Bourge en Bresse, France, with fellow rider Norma Lovell.

Elaine moments before the big crash.

Ride in, fly out.  Thank you to STARS Air Ambulance.

Ya Ha Tinda STARS - 1999


Miss Adventure in the Ya Ha Tinda
and the Alberta Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS)

Guess who "Miss Adventure" is?

On June 21st I traveled south-west with Elaine Delbeke and Myriam Jury, an exchange student from France, to the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch for a mountain trail ride.
This is a government run ranch bordering the east side of Banff National Park where they raise and train the horses used by the
Park Wardens. It is in a beautiful valley that was used by the native Indians for centuries.

We were late leaving camp the next morning, all busy tying everything on our saddles and ourselves that we thought we might possibly need for a ride in the
mountains. We were all riding seven-year-old mares that were not yet well trained. I dropped my halter shank and the buckle hit my horse on the forearm and she
crow hopped around a bit. Elaine was quite excited about that but luckily Ladybug does not know how to buck. At 10:30 A.M. I led the way south across the Red
Deer River (fast moving green glacier water about shoulder deep). First river crossing for all three horses. They were very brave. We moved out well through ribbon Flats. There is a boggy creek to cross to go up onto Dogrib Mtn. The Friends of The Eastern Slopes Association have built a nice solid bridge just wide enough for saddle horses. Myriam tried first to take Kelly across but she wasn't sure of the high step and my Ladybug nudged her aside and across we went. We crossed many times to get all the horses comfortable with the bridge and then climbed the zigzag trail up through the conifer forest. There are a couple places where the trail comes abruptly out on a ledge with a steep drop down to a small creek. I am a bit uncomfortable with steep drop-offs but the view out towards the flatlands is awesome(if you are brave enough to look back over your left shoulder!)

While we were riding Elaine kept saying how quiet and gentle Shatanna was and how she was sure she would soon be ready for anyone to ride. When we came out
in the open, the wind was cold and we were aiming to climb up top. Elaine started to put her coat on. I said "Lets stop." Elaine said "Keep going. We're fine." I
repeated that we could easily stop. We weren't in any hurry. Again Elaine said "No. No. She's fine." About three seconds later, Shatanna bolted past me with
Elaine's left arm in her flapping coat. She grabbed the left rein with her right hand but her cinch was loose and she pulled herself off balance to the left. I thought she
might be okay when she got past a couple large rocks the size of a small car but she landed under a large spruce tree with big roots sticking out of the ground. I left
Myriam with her and caught her horse. When I returned, she was still only moving her upper body and was basically in the same position. I tried telling her to lay still.
If she was hurt badly, she might do more harm by trying to move. She kept saying she had only bruised her muscles. She was in a lot of pain so we rummaged
through our first-aid supplies and she took some pain killers and some rescue shock remedy. It took an hour for her to stand, then she could only walk in circles as
one leg refused to move, even with our help.

I finally grabbed her by the shoulders, looked her in the eye and said "If you do not let me go NOW for help, you might be up here on the mountain all night." I told
her it would take four to six hours to get help in, if we were lucky. Finally, she agreed. I helped Myriam make her comfortable. I left my jacket and slicker, water
and first-aid kit. I also left my white vest with Myriam with instructions to put it in the open with rocks to hold it down in case it was getting dark when we came

Elaine did one better. She had two silver emergency blankets and she had Myriam put one for marker and one over the coats she was covered in. Also, Elaine's
helmet had three cracks in the outer plastic shell - all I can say is "Thank God we were wearing them!"

I left them at 2:00 P.M. While riding down the mountain I was very aware of the responsibility I was carrying. I had to arrive safely and quickly at camp, or
otherwise it was up to Myriam (from another country) to get help the next morning. My horse, Ladybug, was a real trooper. She never hesitated or spooked and
was totally cooperative to whatever speed I felt we could handle over the terrain. I had decided it would be quicker to ask for help from someone who was not
hooked to a trailer so I called into each camp as I went by then hurried to the next one till I found Leonard McKay from Olds. I had Ladybug unsaddled and in
Elaine's trailer (Elaine's idea!) by 2:50 P.M. Leonard drove me to the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch by about 3:00 P.M. where we were lucky - Marie and John Nylund were
in the yard building a beautiful pine log training corral.

Marie quickly called Sundre Hospital from their mobile phone. Then it was up to me to relay all the information as clearly and quickly as possible through all the
different channels until I finally got someone to call STARS. Marie had the G.P.S. coordinates (Global Positioning Satellite coordinates) ready for me so the
helicopter would know exactly where to pick me up. I told them I could show them exactly where Elaine was and that I needed to help Myriam bring the horses
back down to camp. The operator called me back and patched me through to the pilot and the paramedic so I could give them as much information as possible.
ETA was 25 minutes. It took 40. While I waited, Marie served us tea and cookies. I also phoned and left a message for Paddi Sprecher to get hold of Elaine's
husband, Wayne.

When I boarded the chopper, they asked if I'd ever ridden in one before. I replied, "No, but I had been up in small 2 - seater planes." I also had myself mentally
prepared - I had to go get Elaine. Only Paddi Sprecher knows of my slight nervousness with heights (until now!) Then the pilot added "Oh, and by the way, it is very
windy up there. That is why we are late. The chopper will vibrate but we have to hurry because we are now low on fuel." The pilot asked me to guide them over The
Cone. As soon as we came over top, they spotted Elaine and landed close by. The paramedic thought she was only bruised.

One of the pilots asked me if he brought his son into the Ya Ha Tinda if I would give them a ride. Under the circumstances I felt quite honored. I told him I did not
live there ( DARN! ) but would let him know when I had a couple quiet horses and was camping near Calgary. The pilot also took a couple photos with Elaine, the
paramedic and two nurses working on her and of the chopper. Sure hope they turn out. They informed me they were taking her to the Foothills Hospital in Calgary. I
had brought Elaine's purse for her and told them I would look after everything else so I had fun tying her helmet, chaps and my slicker on Shatanna who was a bit
spooky now of flapping things. I wore my vest, two coats and two fanny packs. Myriam and I ate and drank everything we could, fed the horses their treats and
squished our water bottles so we could get it all packed. When we hit Ribbon Flats, we tried to trot but Shatanna was acting up so I figured I'd better play it safe.
One accident was more than enough, thank you. Leonard McKay was waiting for us when we returned. After we looked after our horses I asked Leonard if we
could hire him to take us out to Mountain Aire Lodge to the pay phone as I really wanted to find out Elaine's condition. When Leonard heard Myriam and I mention
the STARS benefit ride the Endurance riders and Competitive Trail riders were hosting July 3 he told me to donate the money I'd offered him to the STARS benefit.

When I called Wayne he said "Elaine's fine." I asked "Really?" "Well, other than her pelvis broken in three places and her tail bone broken, she seems fine."

I was so sorry my suspicions were right. But Elaine had made me promise to stay in the mountains with Myriam. The next day we were very subdued as we rode
around Eagle Lake and James Lake. We dropped down to Frontier Town for a fresh piece of rhubarb pie. Yummy! Then back up and took the trail along the south
side of the ridge (another of those beautiful places that I love but don't really like!) and on to scenic Bighorn Falls. On Thursday we again attempted to go up on top
of the north end of Dogrib, but this time we tied in with three other riders. They asked me to show them where we'd had the accident and when we got there it was
windy and cool again so I said "If anyone wants to put their coat on, PLEASE, lets stop." A voice from the back said "Don't worry about me!" However, I stressed
to Myriam that if either of us saw a safer way, please speak up because the mountains aren't very forgiving of human error. We finally made it to the top and ---what
a view!! And over the mountain came a helicopter - I hoped they weren't coming for one of us. Then I explained the trail options and all voted to go down the front
with me leading our horses till we got to the Sheep Cliffs Trail. I had wanted to take them to the end of the ridge for the view, but it started to rain and blow, so we
came on down. A great day. Sorry you missed it, Elaine.

Friday, Myriam and I rode up on top of The Hat. Thanks to Warden Frank Coggins and the Junior Forest Rangers, just as you come out on the open ridge (which is
very slippery when wet!!) if you watch to your right, you will find ribbons and a cleared trail through the trees which will take you to the top a safer way. There is a
full 360-degree view. We added to the human-shaped rock cairn up on top, ate some lunch, saw rain coming from Banff area and headed down the west side. We
went north towards the Clearwater River. Saw lots of cougar tracks and tracks of one wolf headed north. A large boom in the sky changed our direction - time to
go home! Ladybug tried telling me that we were passing the trail and I was lost. (I think she was telling Kelly, Myriam's horse, dumb blonde jokes because every so
often she'd just turn around and head back for the trail over The Hat.) She seemed quite surprised when we arrived back at camp.

Saturday, it was still raining and we were brushing our horses and I had just asked Myriam if she wanted to ride in the rain or stay in camp. She replied "Let's do
something interesting." Just then Tim Barton from the outfitter's camp right next to Banff boundary drove by with his stagecoach pulled by four bay horses. I told
Myriam to grab her camera - I found something interesting. We went over for a visit and while we were there, in drives Tim's covered wagon. Everybody piles out,
loads their gear in vehicles and leaves Tim to take two outfits back to his camp. So I volunteered to drive the wagon if Myriam could lead my horse. When we got to
The Outpost, Myriam said I really did find something interesting. I never thought I'd be driving a team through the mountains. I was born a flat lander! Tim's cook,
Anne, had a royal feast ready for us, then we had to sit back and enjoy the fireside view of the mountains till our meal settled. Too late and wet to go back the south
side through the trees.

Sunday we headed up behind Frontier Town to Eagle Creek (checked out Morgan's waterfall - where a friend took her 5-year old daughter, Morgan, for a picnic
the day before.) We met a man with a palomino horse and a Border Collie dog. I think he thought maybe that blonde wasn't too bright when I told him we were on
our way to Wolf Creek. There's a neat little trail that goes along under the rocky ridge and above the road and goes right over to the Red Deer River crossing and
ties into the Wolf Creek trail. The river crossing is better this way as you're not angling into the current. We had lunch at Wolf Creek Cascades, then on to the edge
of nowhere path following Wolf Creek to Ribbon Flats and home again. But we hadn't made it to Hidden Falls yet, so away we went back across the river. Myriam
was glad we had not missed it, and it gave me the opportunity to try out another of Frank Coggins and the Junior Forest Rangers new trails. On your way back,
watch for ribbons to your right - it's a nice scenic way down.
Monday was sad we had to pack up and come home to Leduc. It was the first time in three days that we had no rain. That was nice.

I would like to say a special THANK YOU to Leonard McKay, Marie and John Nylund and the STARS staff who all helped in our emergency. Hope our tale told
will prevent someone else from having the same happen to them or to a friend
Happy and Safe Trails to all.
Norma Lovell.

Back to Index