One way to explore the backcountry away from the roads is to hire a trail horse and head for the hills. A small group of us decided to spend the afternoon in the hills above Fairmont.
We gathered at the stable and selected horses to match our size, ability, and experience. A guide led the way across to the trailhead and up the side of a mountain. Within moments we were in what appeared to be wilderness except for the faint trail worn in the dirt.
Winding our ways through forested areas, we saw many signs of deer, elk, and numerous bear droppings. Crossing several creeks, we broke out into an open area overlooking Columbia Lake, where water from the Columbia Glacier begins its journey to the sea in the Columbia River.
Stopping for a drink of water, we silently listened to the sounds of the mountain. Although difficult to spot, we knew that the birds we could hear might be crow, bald eagle, belted kingfisher, blue jay, loon, Canadian goose, blue heron, Lewis’ woodpecker, Mountain blue bird, osprey, red-tailed hawk, Stellar’s Jay, meadowlark, wood duck, or warbling verio.
As we continued up the trail, we had many vistas of the Columbia River far below. Finally, it was time to work our way back down to the stable. The horses knew the way home.