View from Mistaya Lodge

View from Mistaya Lodge

What is the best part of travel: anticipation, participation or the memory? I am about to leave for Mistaya Lodge, high in the Canadian Rockies, for two weeks of snowshoeing. This won’t be my first visit–more like my tenth.

I know that getting to the lodge will involve a spectacular helicopter ride up u-shaped valleys where glaciers spill from lofty summits, their crevasses gaping like ragged mouths, and sheer rock walls splotched with snow gleam black and white in the morning sun.

I look forward to good companions, good snow, more good food than is good for me. There will be early mornings and cold nights when sleep comes easily after an active day. There will be peace and spiritual renewal from experiencing a winter wilderness of incredible beauty.

I’ve been looking forward to this trip for a year, since the day I left after my last stay. The reality can always differ, of course; the weather may be terrible, the snow heavy or crusty, and last year, I injured my knee just before going, and spent two weeks confined to the lodge. Anticipation is never sullied by actual events or disappointing photos that affect the memory. It isn’t the most exciting or rewarding aspect of travel, but it is perhaps the most enjoyable.

Mexican Interlude

Courtyard, Rancho las Cascadas

Courtyard, Rancho las Cascadas

I don’t spend all of my time in the Arctic; Mexico is high on my list of favourite countries. But don’t expect to find me lazing on a beach, quaffing margaritas.Take me to a remote area in the mountains north of Mexico City, put me on a horse, and let a week of bliss unfold.

Rancho las Cascadas has it all: horses for every kind of rider, luxurious accommodations, pleasant scenery and wonderful staff, most of whom are monolingual Spanish speakers, but we manage to communicate well. And it’s also close enough to the World Heritage city of San Miguel de Allende to allow a day visit.

Here are some highlights from the week.


Cactus and waterfalls

Cascada, of course, is Spanish for waterfall, and there are several that one can visit on horseback, as well as this one just below the main  lodge.

I love the way small spaces are turned into beautiful places that invite you to pause, relax, and reflect on the pleasures of life.


Lunch in the shade

The main ranch house is large, but the spaces carved out in it are small and intimate, like the covered porch below. At one end, this cozy seating area, at the other, tables where we ate breakfast.

Cozy corner at the ranch house

Cozy corner at the ranch house


Another courtyard, this time in San Miguel de Allende.

Another courtyard, this time in San Miguel de Allende.

The welcoming sign in San Miguel says that the city is Mexico’s gift to the world. With steep, narrow cobblestone streets and colonial architecture at every turn, this is a place to savour slowly.


Colonial architecture in San Miguel de Allende

But I came for the riding. No nose-to tail horse parades here. The horses love to run, and in hot months, one can also take them swimming.

The countryside is open, sparsely populated except for small villages where one can stop for a beer. A full-day ride will take you into the mountains, but I prefer to ride two or three hours in the morning, return to the ranch for lunch, and then ride again in the afternoon.



The wranglers are local men who know the country and take excellent care of the horses.


Excellent wranglers


And beautiful horses.

Well, mostly…



What a misnomer! Versace is a scrawny, scruffy horse that loves to run like the wind but is also happy to walk all day with eyes at half mast. He was the perfect mount for a woman whose idea of haute couture is a tee shirt and jeans, and who has reached an age where galloping is decidedly unwise.