Riders seek treasures in Alberta countryside

Scenic hunt | Geocaching in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains gives horseback riders a chance to explore the wilderness

Those so inclined can now grab their horse and GPS devices and head to the mountains for an equine geocaching race.

The Amazing Backcountry Race encourages horseback riders to ride into the mountains and enjoy Alberta’s back country, said race organizer Brenda Murdock.

Between June 25 and Sept 5, riders will be directed to 16 geocache locations between the Willmore Wilderness Park and Kananaskis country in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.

The race is designed to get people into the mountains for a day ride or overnight, said Murdock, a horse trainer and back country guide.

“I want to promote Alberta and I want to promote people getting out and doing things with their horse and discovering there are things to do with their horses,” said Murdock, who lives on a ranch west of Calgary.

Murdock said she came up with the idea after watching television’s Amazing Race and observing a horse-back type scavenger hunt at the Wild Deuce Retreats and Outfitting Mountain Horse competition in Kingman, Alta., last fall.

The race isn’t designed to challenge rider’s skills, but as an excuse to go for a ride.

Geocaching is like hide and seek. Someone hides a cache and posts the GPS co-ordinates for others to find.

Murdock said the clues won’t be hidden in hard to access parts of the mountains, but rather along trails and historic sites like the Indian Graves west of Longview.

“I want to try to educate people about the back country and what is going on with the land,” she said.

Racers need to register on the Amazing Backcountry Race website and find sponsors to help raise money for Alberta’s air ambulance service.

“Everyone can use this service. Everywhere you go, you either know someone who has used the service or someone who has a connection to it,” she said.

Scott Phillips, who is also organizing the race, said he has been in the mountains three times when STARS were called to airlift the people to hospital.

“I don’t want to scare you by talking about accidents, but it sure is comforting to know that STARS has your back in the backcountry,” wrote Phillips in a blog.

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