Head Guide Kerry Kruger and Jiggs pose with the mule, Sweet Pea. Sweet Pea carried our lunch, fixins for coffee and tea, fishing rods, hatchet and anything else too bulky or heavy for saddlebags.
MacKenzie Family Journeys Along Memory Trail
Photos by Judy MacKenzie-West
For some time I had the urge to take my grandkids into the high country of Banff National Park to ride the same trails as their famous grandfather, artist, outfitter and rancher, the late Mac MacKenzie. The timing seemed right for the summer of ’08 and, after making arrangements with our former partner, Ron Warner, of Warner Outfitting Ltd. — formerly Warner and MacKenzie Guiding and Outfitting Ltd. — we were ready for our MacKenzie Family pack trip into Banff National Park.
My daughter Annie Kelly, her husband Ron, children Tayla, 13, Kael, 9, and Isabel, 6, my sister Joy and her two daughters, Lara and Emily, as well as Ron’s mother Sandra Kelly, from Gander, Nfld., headed out for a six-day, five-night trip to the Cascade Valley northwest of the Banff town site. Called the Circle Ride, we would be staying in three permanent seasonal camps: Stoney Creek, Flints Park and Mystic Valley. Most of the trails had been used for generations by explorers, outfitters and multi-generations of the MacKenzies, the latter spending summers in tent camps catering to tourists from all over the world.
Grandson Kael Kelly rides his buddy, Dingo. A highlight of our week on the trail was celebrating his 10th birthday at Flints Park Camp, complete with a turkey feast and birthday cake.
I can happily say this trip turned out to be all that I had hoped, even more. Annie returned to Stoney Creek Camp, where she spent her first summer camping as a 16-month-old. She and her older brother Casey spent several summers there and at Flints Park Camp. It was a pleasure to watch her children experience a piece of their family heritage.
Head guide Kerry Kruger’s interpretive skills and extensive knowledge of the area made the trip special. We viewed the most stunning landscapes in the world, rode through an incredible Larch forest, and toasted trail sandwiches for lunch. Kael caught his first fish. Sisters Tayla and Isabel, along with Auntie Joy, swam in the glacier-fed streams and lakes. Nieces Lara and Emily treated us to toe-tappin’ fiddle and guitar music.
We experienced a touching tribute to Mac and ended the day with a swim in the most incredible swimming hole in Banff Park. Everyone developed bonds with their surefooted and willing equine saddle pals; even Newfie Nana looked like a real hand. Terrific meals, endless photo opportunities, great staff and good company made this MacKenzie Family Pack Trip the memory trip of a lifetime. c
Granddaughter Isabel found some wildlife to admire before returning it safely back to the creek
Judy MacKenzie-West earned her spurs ranching as well as outfitting in Alberta’s backcountry for many years. She is married to Floyd West and they are semi-retired north of Cochrane, Alta.
Malcolm James “Mac” MacKenzie was a respected and modest artist, cowboy and rancher and widely recognized as one of Banff’s best guides. Mac cast his sculptures in his bronze foundry on their ranch north of Cochrane, where he also ran a cow/calf operation until his untimely death in the spring of 2002. He is perhaps best known for his 12-foot Man of Vision bronze statue on the Cochrane Ranche at Cochrane, Alta.