Wild Sheep Alberta Youth Camp_2015



Wild Sheep Alberta Youth Camp_2015
Wild Sheep Alberta Youth
June 5-7, 2015
Every June, through the sale of raffle tickets and donations by
made by many conservation organizations and private sector
sponsors, Wild Sheep Foundation_Alberta Chapter is able to offer
a weekend Youth camp to its member’s youth family members,
ages 11-16.
This is a wonderful-hands on camp, run by volunteers only, in one
of Western Canada’s most spectacular settings: The Ya Ha Tinda
Ranch, located on the East side of Banff National Park.
Our 12 year old offspring Sergio was eligible to attend and I was
to volunteer.
I very much doubt if any camp can be as wonderful as this one for
the reduced fee it is offered at, and, for the amount of outdoor
education and fun activities the youths receive.
Lets give you all a taste, albeit, virtual!
Driving to Central Alberta thru some beautiful foothills landscape with green
grain fields, blue skies, open/uncrowded roads and cumulus clouds above.
We all gathered in Sundre and got on the bus to drive to Ya
Ha Tinda.
About Ya Ha Tinda …
Ya Ha Tinda (“mountain prairie” in the Stoney language) is
one of the last unspoiled areas of natural grass and shrub land
in Alberta-- a true montane environment. The grassland
environment makes it ideal for raising horses and to date, Ya
Ha Tinda is the only Federally operated ranch in Canada for
raising horses. Every year, roughly 170 horses are hand raised,
broken and trained to be used by Wardens in Banff, Jasper,
Yoho and Kootenay National Parks. The area is also famous
for its numerous herds of Rocky Mountain Elk which frequent
the area for their Winter feed. After hiking through montane
prairie and up through Aspen and Spruce forests, the Scalp
Creek Ridge leads to a magnificent alpine viewpoint on the
Eastern edge of Banff National Park.
The voluteers and contracted companies had arrived before
us and the tents were set up, all in order.
Brenda Erickson is the camp manager and trust
me, when she talks, everyone listens. She laid
down the “ground Rules” for the camp.
Kids were grouped by age and gender in 3 separate tents. I
stayed in the big tent as the supervising adult.
After a quick snack, we were to take a 1 hour hike to Eagle
Lake to try our luck at fishing.
The trail meanders up and down thru this valley…
And takes you up to Eagle Lake, how gorgeous.
The kids all fished for about 90 mins with little success. Fun
was had by all.
There is no cell coverage in these mountains and Sat phone
or SPOT are the only two options to send OK messages.
Maze Peak in the background.
We walked all the way back to camp which added an extra
45 mins of exercise thru this gorgeous valley.
Lasagna, salad, garlic toast and desert hit the spot for supper.
Upon my request, Rob Erickson who with his wife Brenda own and operate
Scalp Creek outfitters, demonstrated the old but trusty Diamond hitch knot
on a pack horse.
Thanks Rob, you da man!
This is a very strong and positive knot that keeps the pack horse in
check. It requires a lot of practice. See the Diamond ???
Its 9:00 pm but the evening is far from over…
Kids got to try archery at box and 3_D targets.
And the therapeutic power of camp fire draws everyone
for a wonderful closure to the opening afternoon.
Sat a.m.
We wake up to the hobble of nearby horses as breakfast is served at 7:00 a.m.
We hop in the back of the trailer and drive past the Government
Pastures. What a spectacular country!
Our destination is Hat mountain to look for wild sheep.
We spot a few right away in the distance.
We take frequent stops as the weather is warm and we
have a big group (40 kids) with varying fitness levels.
We bush whack thru the burnt timber (prescribed fire of 2011)
and the nearby mountains/drainages start to appear.
This is the EXACT reason why the burnt is prescribed; To provide new
undercover growth for the forest’s health, stop the pine beetle progress and
increase ungulate forage opportunities.
Before we summit, knowing that once we get close to sheep we may get busy
for hours, we stop and eat our lunch. Frank Turner who is an accomplished
outfitter himself picks up a couple of Mule deer in the adjacent drainages.
We are in Grizzly bear country and safety is taken seriously.
We also find Ewes thru the spotter across Scalp ridge.
We finally emerge from the sub Alpine and get on the saddle.
This offers a heavenly opportunity for a group picture. The
WSA banner is forgotten at camp 
We are now above the sheep, the wind is in our face and
we flank across cautiously.
Atypical Bighorn bed, pawed for comfort…
The myriad of Alpine flora is beyond belief. No wonder
why the wild sheep are an excellent table fare.
We spot the sheep, oh 500 yards away while they are bedded,
chewing their cud. They are ALL rams!
To teach the youth how to judge the Rams, I pull the spotter out
and ask them to look thru it one by one.
A sight most Wild Sheep aficionados dream about every day!
Since they are not spooked, we close our distance.
A few wild sheep aficionados, in the making.
The rams all spook and start running due North under the
rim… Will they stop?
They do, great!
The kids are all in jubilation and we all get to have a good
look at them at close range. There is 39 of them, wow!
I am sure that only a hand full of kids in all of North America
can have an opportunity like this to experience.
Hello says the Banana Ram. Legal but very young.
This fellow has busted his Right horn but looks healthy otherwise.
They are all young to mid age rams and this fellow is
clearly the dominant ram.
See the two locking their horns?
Someone is A ok, eh?
The Rams settle down and go about their usual business.
After spending a good 1 ½ hours observing and photographing the Rams,
we continue on our ridge walk thru God’s most beautiful floor covering.
This small cliff band also offers a good pose for a group picture.
Plus vistas of a few Ewes and lambs.
In order not to disturb the Ewes and Lambs, we circle the
ridge and come down this slippery and steep hill side.
Back on the trail and camp bound. We hike a total of 11.2
km RT and gain an elevation of 2,000 ft.
After supper, the kids split up; Some play football and
some return to the archery lanes.
No camp is complete without Marshmallows on fire, eh?
God was very kind to us all with good weather and ample
opportunities of viewing Wild Sheep in their natural habitat.
Sun a.m.
The smell of Cowboy coffee wakes us up.
The kids line up for a hearty/warm breakfast and little they know how
many more activities are packed to their remaining 5 hours.
They listen to a very informative demonstration by Gordon
Crouch on how to set and run a trap line.
Bill follows suit with more info…
Next on the agenda is to teach the kids how to build a fire from scratch.
Mike does an excellent job and sets up a competition amongst the kids.
10 groups of 4 kids have to gather and start a fire in 3
minutes. It was wonderful and to the point.
The next session is reserved to teach the kids how to use a Bear Spray properly. Rob
mimics the approaching bear with a bucket on a rope and the kids have 10 seconds to
deploy the spray (inert) and spray the bucket. A match is held for the fastest dispatcher.
Don’t spray
me, wuf,
wuf 
The camp ends with lunch followed by prices administered
by a draw.
It is 1:30 pm and the bus is to depart back to Sundre. The wonderful weekend
camp has come to a fruitful end with no incidents or injuries and a lot of new
objectives for all.
The ride back is reserved for reminiscing the joyful
memories and looking forward to next year.
A heartfelt thanks goes to:
Wild Sheep Foundation Alberta for organizing the event.
All sponsors including Gundahoo River outfitters, Wholesale Sports,
Wolverine G&T and others.
Brenda and Rob Erickson who kept their cool and ran a first class camp.
Christy Hallock who was always there to help with a smile.
Our chef Jessica for keeping us well fed.
All volunteers who came out to help.
The Good Lord for blessing us all with health.
Weather Gods for Co-operating.
The Wild Sheep for sticking around.
And the Province of Alberta for its wonderful biodiversity and spectacular
mountain scenery!
Have a superb Summer everyone and
see you back here next year!
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