ACK! I WAS WRONG — again.
My sincerest apologies to the new Mt. Olympus chapter of Back Country Horsemen for giving out the wrong address for its March 20 meeting.
In my previous column, I gave the address for a Lower Elwha meeting hall.
The group actually meets the third Monday of each month at the Upper Elwha Community Center, 90 Old State Road (off Herrick Road) west of Port Angeles.
Upon arriving, I could see why the group chose to meet there.
The quaint little wooden building has a nice feel to it.
A former schoolhouse, its interior seeps with local history of times past.
The perfect setting
I thought it’s a perfect setting for this back-to-basics group that places a strong emphasis on learning how to pack and ride horses and mules on backcountry trails.
I went to support the new chapter and also to congratulate chapter President Larry Baysinger on the Lifetime Achievement Award he received through the Back Country Horsemen of Washington at its annual meeting and weekend Rendezvous in March.
Baysinger said he got the “surprise of my life” when his name was announced.
He said he was “humbled, honored and in awe” of receiving the award in recognition of a lifetime spent mentoring others on how to safely enjoy riding, packing and camping in the mountains, as well as how to preserve them for future generations to enjoy.
His name and award title are now emblazoned on a beautiful, large, bronze-colored statue that depicts a man and his horse picking their way down a steep, narrow and winding trail while leading his packhorse.
It was longtime friend Dave Seibel — who co-owns Spirit Horse Ranch in Port Angeles with his wife, Becky — who submitted Baysinger’s name, along with a well-researched and presented notebook featuring some of his achievements, to the BCHW committee for the award.
“When I first moved here, Larry basically took me under his wing and showed me how to do everything with horses, mules and trail work,” Dave Seibel said.
“He’s like that with anyone who wants to work and is willing to learn.”
Educating the public, including hikers, bikers and campers, on how the Back Country Horsemen groups as a whole use their time, energy and stock to clear and preserve the trails for the safety and enjoyment of everyone’s outdoor experience is a key goal of each chapter.
Those ideals go hand-in-hand with Baysinger’s, too, which is why he takes to heart the importance of sharing what he’s learned with others.
“Nobody ever did anything until they did it the first time” is one of Baysinger’s favorite phrases.
He recalled a time when old-time Peninsula chapter member Earl Radish and a buddy took him up into the mountains for his first pack trip and started teaching him.
It’s true, a person can read and study about riding and taking packhorse trips in the mountains, but a person really won’t know the work involved until he or she actually does it.
“We’re all gonna make some mistakes along the way, but it’s so much nicer when we have someone mentoring us.”
I like the feel of the new chapter.
It’s a little bit different from the Peninsula Chapter in that there is more focus on packing and camping with horses and mules in high country and, of course, maintaining trails on the West End.
For those who don’t know, the creation of Littleton Horse Camp was a joint chapter venture between the Jefferson County-based Buckhorn Range chapter and Clallam County’s Peninsula Chapter.
Located at the base of Mount Muller, the group also took on maintaining Muller’s extensive trail system.
However, in the past few years, the Peninsula Chapter took on the huge task of spearheading the new — and much-needed — Miller Peninsula trailhead.
Now that the large parking and picnic areas are completed, the group is focused on enlarging the camp.
With the group’s energy focused on Miller Peninsula, the Baysingers took it upon themselves to maintain the Littleton Horse Camp.
“They do so out of the goodness of their heart, their love of the land and packing,” said fellow equestrian Zorina Barker.
They do a lot of cleaning up of what others, including other horse riders, have left behind. The most disheartening to fix is the destruction caused by vandals.
Thus, the Mt. Olympus chapter and its supporters will be filling a much-needed void in caring for and maintaining trails on the West End.
I think most folks either hiking or mountain biking the Olympic Peninsula’s public trail system, be it in Olympic National Park, forest or on Department of Natural Resources land, take for granted all of the well-marked and mostly debris-free trails available for use.
Yet come springtime, how can that be after a few blustery winter storms have felled trees and left broken branches galore strewn across pathways?
Here’s a fast fact: In 2015, Back Country Horsemen members across the United States spent 304,344 hours working to maintain trails on public lands.
That equates to a value of $11.2 million in trail work if government land-managing agencies had to pay for it.
Forty years ago, the government paid out that kind of money for trail maintenance.
I know, because I once spent a summer as part of a trail and camping ground maintenance crew for the Uinta National Forest Service in Utah.
There is a Mount Muller Trail Workshop work party planned to begin at 9 a.m. April 7-8 at Littleton Horse Camp
The plan is to work mornings, break for lunch and ride horses in the afternoon.
For more information, contact Sherry Baysinger at 360-327-3611.
Later this summer, the group hopes to open up another trail going up the Bogachiel River.
The former trail washed away during storms.
I eagerly await the opening of a new trail there.
One of my favorite rides ever was in August 2009 when I rode the trail with the BCH.
I call it the Wasp Trot ride because of the frequent encounters that day with wasps; one encounter inadvertently caused my horse, Indy, to fall on me and almost break my back.
Nonetheless, the injuries and pain did nothing to take my joy away from riding such an adventurous trail.
I left the meeting feeling encouraged and motivated to get my horses in shape to ride the big trails again this summer.
After all was said and done, Baysinger summed up the meeting by saying what we were all thinking: “Basically, we’re all here to ride our horses, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Amen to that.
Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.
If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at [email protected] at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.