Picture a herd of bawling cattle, together with cowboys on horses keeping the herd together, and starting on the way to pasture.
Highway 22 harks back to the days when the road carried herds of cattle as they were trailed to the summer pasture of Waldron Ranch in Alberta.
Picture a herd of bawling cattle, together with cowboys on horses keeping the herd together, and starting on the way to pasture. Slowly the herd of about 300 cows is pointed south on the 70-mile journey.
Along the way, the cowboys feast their eyes on the glorious panorama on every side. Rolling hills stretch for miles on the left, and on the right the foothills give way to the majesty of the Rocky Mountains. The ever-changing scenery makes the long day less of a toil and more of an adventure to be enjoyed.
By late afternoon the weary herd would scent water and the pace would pick up speed. Soon the jewel of Chain Lakes comes into sight. Well named, the small lakes resemble a string of beads joined by little streams. Tired horses relieved of saddles roll in the dust, before drinking the sparkling water and joining the cattle to crop rich grass.
The weary riders prepare their bedrolls and get ready for sleep.
Morning comes early for the crew. Breakfast is hastily eaten, horses saddled and cattle gathered. The point rider starts the herd on another leg of the long journey.
The foothills of Alberta are still home to many large ranches, but today the long, dusty road has given way to a beautifully paved highway. No longer is it likely that you might meet a herd being moved from one ranch to another. However, you may pass a branding corral where the old activities are still carried on. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to see some of the Old West still in operation. Aside from the interest of today’s ranch life, the journey from end to end of The Cowboy Trail is a treat not to be missed.
Often people travelling in Alberta simply use the common north/south route of Highway No. 2, stretching from Fort Macleod to Peace River and the beginning of the Alaska Highway.
What they may not realize is that almost parallel to the more travelled route is The Cowboy Trail, encompassing some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
Stretching from the south where it leaves Crowsnest Highway, to the junction of Highway No. 2 at Mayerthorpe, it is a traveller’s dream.
Vivian Barman writes from Olds, Alberta