Canada’s badlands are often overshadowed by the neighboring Rockies. Here in Calgary, adventure usually calls from the west. This shoulder season though, I was keeping an eye on the weather in the valley – Drumheller specifically. I’ve been craving a little fun in the sun after a cold winter. Drumheller boasts two large canyons called Horseshoe canyon and Horsethief Canyon. I’ve seen them a few times, but I’ve always wanted to lace up and run through them.
Horseshoe Canyon was the first canyon on our list. I was running with my partner Hailey and friend Zach. All three of us were shaking off some rust after the winter season. We descended down the main trail from the parking lot at the rim of the canyon. After the short descent we ran up and down the hills all the way to the backside of the canyon.
We ended up meeting up with a shallow riverbed that acts as a trail in the summer. However, being early spring, the “trail” was an shallow icy river. That made navigating the rest of the canyon a little tricky. We ran along it, and through it for a few kilometers before we eventually opted to bail and ascend out of the canyon. We climbed up to the road on the far side of the canyon and ran back to the parking lot via the gravel road.
We headed into Drumheller for a quick caffeine reload and then continued on to the second and larger canyon, Horsethief Canyon. When we arrived I was surprised a little by the scale. It’s quite a bit bigger than Horseshoe Canyon. I was excited to get down into the valley and explore!
Running through Horsethief Canyon was more enjoyable than the former. The “trails” had less brush and the terrain was packed down better. The views were also incredible. We spent a couple hours running all over and exploring potential photo opportunities for later in the evening. I remember thinking for how incredibly beautiful it was, I’ve almost never seen any stories or photos from here.
We were having so much fun and experiencing what we felt like was world-class trail running. I was excited to capture it with lower light before dusk. After running about 12 kilometers, we headed back up to the parking lot to grab a snack and camera equipment. I scoped out a few potential compositions I liked throughout the day – I usually take photos on my phone to remember different ideas I might have.
The sun began setting behind us and I was really excited about the gentle backlight it was creating. There were just enough clouds that it made the sky really interesting to look at. I got a pretty good adrenaline rush from the great light. I admit I went a little crazy and started running around and shooting everything! It’s extra exciting because it felt like a bit of a blank canvas. I haven’t really seen any photos from here, definitely none with runners in them!
I’m always inspired by the opportunity of creating something completely original. The shadows cast from the backlit sun onto the interesting rivets and hoodoos were really mesmerizing. One of my favourite shots from the evening had these small hoodoos in the foreground. It’s a very Jurassic looking landscape.
There was another composition I had a vision for earlier in the day. Descending into the far side of the canyon just a little bit exposed this huge hill that had a really steep approach. The hill appears a lot taller than the surrounding hills from the lower angle. Zach was happy to see if he could approach it from the far side and climb to the top of it. This was another shot I was really excited about!
We ended up recording a bunch of extra steps before the day concluded. We were all getting pretty tired and decided to head back home. On the way home we were lucky enough to see the northern lights dancing in the skies. We pulled over to enjoy the show before continuing back to Calgary.