KAREN GRIFFITHS' HORSEPLAY COLUMN: Horse group volunteers time on trails
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Dave Seibel
Experienced volunteer trail workers Tom Mix, Jim Fosse and Del Sage, from left, use a rigging, block and pulley system to place an 80-foot log bridge across Little River for an Olympic National Park trail.


A dictionary describes it as withdrawal from active working.

Apparently, Tom Mix didn't get the memo because he's working harder than ever since retiring from Boeing in 1998.

“I've always been an avid hiker,” he said. “Then I retired, moved over here, and I got active with horses, and I figured the best way to learn the trail system was by joining Back Country Horsemen.

“In doing that, I just sort of graduated into being their trail projects coordinator,” he continued.

“Now, I manage and coordinate projects between all the different land managers, [Department of Natural Resources], State Parks system, [Olympic National Park] and forest system.”

He said it “takes quite a bit of planning to pull these projects together.”

He also applies for grant money to help fund the equipment needed and is the safety supervisor on trail projects, which involves “making sure we have all the necessary safety equipment and that everyone is wearing all their personal protection equipment and using that safety equipment correctly.”

Del Sage is another retiree who volunteers his time and energy to Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest projects.

Tom describes Del, a retired horse logger who's worked in the woods all his life, as the “rigging guru for the Back Country Horsemen.”

Both are certified sawyers.

“Del, because of his hands-on experience, knows techniques on rigging that the average person doesn't know about,” Tom said.

“His techniques make the complicated moves look simple, but they're not. It actually takes a lot of ingenuity and know-how.”

The Little River Project is the largest Tom has taken part in.

ONP trails supervisor Larry Lack had asked if Tom and Del would construct a foot log because his crews were busy working other areas of the park.

The bulk of the project took place April 26-28.

Organization and oversight

“Del and I, through Back Country Horsemen, did organization and oversight,” Tom said.

“But it was a huge project with four work groups, so it was a collaboration of several volunteer groups who worked with us: Bell Hill Gang, Greywolf Trail Crew and the Olympic Discovery Trail Thursday Crew.”

Del, Tom and Chris Williams from the Park Service brought in eight mules with pack loads of tools and equipment. Del chose a log that had fallen years ago near the river crossing.

“We cut 80 feet off that log that was 3 feet in diameter at the big end and 30 inches at the small,” Tom said.

“We then cut 7 feet from each end to use as side sills. The remainder of the log, we cut off another 12 feet to use as posts for the railing,” he said.

“The railing came out of the trunk of that tree, closer to the root.”

Then, Del showed them how to set up rigging to pull and set the logs in place so they'd never touch the water.

“We had to lift it up about 8 feet vertically so it hung in the air so we could move it horizontally,” Tom said.

“We had to pull it past the sill in order to align it and then bring it back to place it on the sill.”

Approach steps also were cut from the log so hikers could walk onto it.

“We have to go back and put the handrail across the top of it before it's completed,” Tom said.

The trail starts at the top of Little River and Black Diamond roads, then goes 8 miles to the top of Hurricane Ridge. The footbridge is one of five on the trail, which starts on DNR land and goes into the park.

Tom said the trail gets a lot of use by local hikers and trail runners.

His biggest safety concerns are from trail runners listening to music.

“We place lookouts down the trail to warn them to stop, but when those runners have their iPods on, they don't hear anything around them,” Tom said.

“All they're doing is looking down and running, and we have a heck time getting those people to stop, to not run through our sawing areas.”

Horse manure

I asked Tom how he responds when he hears hikers complain about occasional horse manure on the trails.

“Well, I ask if they enjoy going over that foot log, or would you rather wade through the stream?” he said.

“I don't think folks realize how many trails are kept open and maintained by Back Country Horsemen volunteers.”

Tom and his wife, Catherine, own The Cutting Garden in Sequim.


Today at 7 p.m., the Sequim High School equestrian team, which includes riders from Port Townsend and Chimacum, is hosting a state meet fundraiser at Freedom Farm, 493 Spring Road, Agnew area.

Students will perform some of the events they compete in at Washington High School Equestrian Team meets, including drill, pairs, gaming, performance and other events.

Suggested donation of $10 for adults, $5 for children 10 and younger. Tickets are available at door.

Refreshments will be provided, with drawings held from area businesses.

For more information, phone team members Mona Sharpe at 360-643-1575 or Terri Winters at 360-460-5400.


Karen Griffiths' column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears every other Wednesday.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at kbg@olympus.net at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

Last modified: May 07. 2013 6:01PM
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