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Posted: April 24, 2021

Local book bursting with abiding love of this place

By Anne Jardine

In A Trail That Needs Riding, local author Colin Cartwright recounts his favourite backcountry packing adventures on many of the legendary mountain horse trails of our region.

Colin, who grew up in Canal Flats and lived there his whole life, has been interested in horses, exploration, and old prospector cabins since he was a little boy.

The author’s style is full of humour and keen observation. His sensory descriptions convey the ecstasy of picking and eating wild huckleberries, and the agony of sticking to the tree sap on the seat of an outdoor biffy.

In one scene Colin is trying to widen a pinch in the trail: “Chester, who was probably trying to get into a more comfortable position on the narrow trail, stepped on my foot while I was standing beside him getting my axe out of the scabbard. A thousand pounds of horse standing on a person’s toes is something that has to be experienced to be properly appreciated, and is just one the many reasons that people who have had a long association with horses, develop an extensive and colourful vocabulary.”

The main characters in most of Colin’s stories are his wife Kathy and their friends Dave and Jill, who accompany him through the intricacies of packing and balancing and re-packing supplies and gear on horses, squeezing strings of widely packed horses along narrow trails, setting up and taking down camp in perfect and in horrible weather, rescuing horses and dogs from dangerous creek crossings, bog hazards or slippery rock slopes, bear encounters.

His stories feature gorgeous gourmet camp meals, bush-hacking, back-tracking, wildlife watching, fishing, hunting, and always the lure of sweeping Kootenay landscape.

The most endearing and well-developed of Colin’s characters is the loyal and patient packhorse Snowball. Her gentle personality is a great asset to the horse team. Her sturdy and sensible nature is balanced by occasional nighttime anxieties. Snowball’s relationship with Colin teaches him about the essential nature of trust.

In his narratives, Colin takes the opportunity to honour many of the historic and current members of the guiding and outfitting community. His respect for their wisdom is woven throughout the book. He also includes some of his poems and lots of photos that add depth and detail to the stories. This book is bursting with an abiding love of this rugged and beautiful place.


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