Location: 1.5 Hours South of Edmonton (Behind the Sports Hall of Fame)
Duration of Activity: 2 hours for the game plus dinner afterward
Cost: $125 (Adult); $110 (Children/Seniors)
All summer, I’ve been journaling my adventures around the province with my husband, David. We’ve discovered some hidden gems that make Alberta perfect for day trippers and tourists alike, but one stop in Red Deer almost had us beat, thanks to shoddy maps and confusing construction detours. We needed to redeem ourselves, so we turned to the experts at Red Deer Tourism for some ideas on what to do (and directions on how to get there, of course).
Since this is the last day trip of our summer vacation, we decided to go out with a bang — evading capture as we challenged the Ranch Tracker Game at Heritage Ranch, which sits on 207 acres of municipal land.
The Ultimate Match
“You want to run around in the bush?” David asked me, when I proposed that a man and a horse chase us around Central Alberta. “You?”
Yup. This summer is all about new experiences. And there was no experience newer for this city girl than gearing up in camouflage and trying to outrun real-life Ranch Tracker, Joel.
The Real Deal
Joel is legit, placing in the top 12 when he tried out for the Mantracker TV show. The premise of his game is similar: The prey (David and I) start in the middle of the 200-acre ranch armed only with a Google map printout of the area. We have two hours (and a 15-minute head start) to find the four purple Hawaiian leis marked on the map before Joel and his horse Hummer find us.
Our lungs strained as we ran across the paddock to start the game, but the thought of the Ranch Tracker galloping down the path gave us the adrenaline push we needed. Safely in the bush, we began planning our route. While we weren’t visible from the nearby path, we still didn’t speak above a whisper (for the entire game).
Not knowing what Joel or Hummer looked like added to the game’s suspense (and our paranoia). Every sound, from the hikers on the path to the construction going on in the distance, stopped us in our tracks. But no sound was more terrifying than that of Hummer’s hooves. We were told it’s possible to outrun him, but didn’t want to find out, so we tried to stay hidden.
The Best “Leid” Plans
Taking the “bushwhacking” approach is tiring. But with Joel and Hummer on our tails we were too paranoid to venture into the open. Though we probably should have popped our heads out the odd time, since we managed to get ourselves lost (shocking, I know).
We spent the first hour disoriented in the bushes trying to locate just one lei. We began hoping to find at least one before the two-hour time limit ran out when, by dumb luck, we spotted and snagged our first lei. And after getting our bearings we found a footpath deep in the forest and followed it to make up time. Still lost, we caught a lucky break and managed to find the second lei with 30-minutes before the game was over. Was it possible we could actually beat the Ranch Tracker?!
The Final Play
Apparently we were quite stealthy. We never saw Joel (or Hummer) and joked that as the only two players that day (they’ve had 50 players play at one time), maybe he was throwing us a bone and letting us play instead of hunting us down right away. Boy were we wrong.
With only a few minutes before time was up, David spotted the final lei hanging from a tree. I grabbed my phone for a photo op as he went into the bush to get it.
We should have expected the ambush.
Seemingly out of nowhere (we honestly never heard them coming), Joel and Hummer galloped out of the bush. My heart stopped for a moment and David bolted towards the tree with Joel and Hummer hot on his heels. Just as Joel was about to nab him, David grabbed the lei. Joel asked, “What number is that” and in unison we yelled, “Four!”
It was the perfect photo finish, and we have all four leis as proof that we not only finished — we won!
Stupid Like a Fox
Joel told us getting lost was the best thing we could have done. It’s hard for him to anticipate our next move when even we don’t know what it will be (we found out we spent the game following him).
As David later said about our victory, “Joel wasn’t anticipating our level of stupid!” Stupidity or dumb luck, we’ll take our victory however we can. At the end of the day we still get to say that we beat the Ranch Tracker!
- Forests are soft and fluffy only in Disney cartoons. In real life they’re sharp, rough, and prickly. Protect yourself by wearing long pants, socks, closed toe shoes, and a long sleeve shirt.
- Bring a bottle of water. We went waterless for fear its sloshing would give us away. We regretted the decision when the forest became muggy and we were dry-mouthed from running.
- Hummer’s a sore loser. While getting my picture taken with him and Joel, I said, “Better luck next time.” To which he replied with a head bump to my leg and a snort of indignation!