We returned for a third day to “our island” this time with a new plan in place. We did a little research back at our temporary base and found where on the island the wildies were frequently spotted. As it turns out, the one corner of Wild Horse Island that we had not explored was indeed their hiding place. We found a new place to launch our canoe, and travelled by water about 3 miles to a new point on the island. This is where it gets exciting… We had barely been off the canoe for three minutes when we spotted the wild horses! We could see their black backs glimmering through the trees, as we, so excited we were shaking, pulled our gear out to capture their intense beauty. Then, to our surprise and delight, they walked towards us, deeply interested in the three girls standing before them. Much to our surprise as we trailed them throughout the island, they were quite curious of us, and “fear” was not in their vocabulary. What if everything you knew about wild horses was wrong? What if Hollywood had so blown “wild” out of proportion that the reality of what wild horses are, has been lost in the past? What if “wild” simply meant “free”? As we track down more herds of wild horses, time only, will tell the true story of the Wildies of Alberta.
After having no success of finding any wild horses on our first day, we were more determined than ever to find them on our second day. We were careful to take extra water and have a better plan as we revisited the site of our latest encounter with danger. The canoe trip in was again peaceful and calming as time on the water often is. We returned immediately to a meadow that we had found the day before, knowing that the horses often frequented it, and from there split apart to cover more of the island quicker, with the plan of meeting back for lunch at a designated spot. A few hours later we all returned with still no sign of our wildies. After eating our tuna which we had conveniently forgotten the can opener for, we left to return to the canoe and head to the other side of the island by water in order to hike farther inland. Several more hours of hiking up and down mountains, although these were more thickly wooded, and we walked in shade, thankful for that small blessing. We returned to our canoe, amazed at the beauty we had seen, and thankful for the protection of our Father, but discouraged at our lack of success. The lesson we learned however was not one of discouragement, but rather perseverance and amazement at the ability of these horses to so successfully hide. God truly has given them a skill to survive that allows them to remain hidden despite consistent effort to find them. A new respect for the wildies has been born and, as we begin to understand the magnitude of the task we have undertaken, it begins to surface.
We knew when we first undertook this project that it was going to be an adventure, but we didn't fully realize just how much of an adventure it would be. Our first effort towards searching for wild horses began on a little known island in Montana. The biggest lake this side of the Mississippi, Flathead Lake is home to Wild Horse Island. This is where our journey truly begins. Sitting at just over 2100 acres, the island is expansive, mountainous, and very dry. Home to a very small heard of horses, deer, wild sheep, and bald eagles, the island provides ample space and opportunity for each of the animals to hide deep within its heart.
Day 1 on the island...
It was excruciatingly hot, the temperature hitting a high of around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the sun was bearing down on us, uninhibited by clouds. Our morning began with a 2 mile canoe trip through Flathead Lake from the closest town with a harbor, Dayton. We maneuvered out of the way of sail boats, wave runners, and yachts, finally arriving at our destination. Like any "good" hikers we started out on the designated trail, however, half way into the 3 mile path that didn't cover even a quarter of the island, we ventured off trail to seek out the wildies deep in the heart of the island. We walked for hours up and down the mountainous terrain keeping an alert lookout for any sign of wild horses. After several hours of scaling mountains with no luck of seeing horses, and running low on water in the vicious heat, we turned to go back the way we had come, or so we thought. That was when the real adventure began. We realized that in our efforts to pay close attention to signs of wild horses, we had failed to pay attention to the direction that we had come in. So there we were, lost in the middle of 2100 acres, on a scorching day, with no water, and very little energy to continue on with. We rested and reconvened, running through our options, and decided to hike to the top of the closest mountain to get a bird's eye view and make our way from there. Hours later, from the top of the ridge, we found the trail which was visible despite the thick pines that filled the mountains. Making our way back was difficult as we hiked up and down through the rolling mountains, but hope and relief work amazingly like adrenaline. Successfully, very little worse for the wear, and much burnt by the sun we made it back to our canoe. The cool water of Flathead was refreshing as we drank from it gratefully. The canoe trip back was peaceful and the breeze on the water was a blessing from our ever watchful Creator as He guided us back home. Discouraged from our lack of success but taking our lessons to heart, we determined to return the following day with an improved plan.
Thanks for starting a journey with us! We’re so excited to have you along! This is where we’ll be posting real time updates, photos, and videos as we trail and interact with the wild horses of North America. Feel free to ask questions, post comments, share ideas, and interact on all levels! We love your support and interaction and all feedback is appreciated and valued! Enjoy the ride!