Sherry Baysinger, right, and Heidi Brill — members of the Mount Olympus Chapter of Back Country Horsemen — peel bark off the stringers for an elevated puncheon as part of an ongoing project putting a new bypass trail on the Bogachiel River trail. (Larry Baysinger)

Sherry Baysinger, right, and Heidi Brill — members of the Mount Olympus Chapter of Back Country Horsemen — peel bark off the stringers for an elevated puncheon as part of an ongoing project putting a new bypass trail on the Bogachiel River trail. (Larry Baysinger)

HORSEPLAY: Trail work crews rely on volunteers

ISN’T IT NICE to see the sun shining again after our recent deluge of snow?

Here in the lower elevations of Sequim the sun’s been warm enough during the day to melt most of it, which, for us horse owners, means we’ve been able to pick up the plethora of horse poop and wheelbarrow it onto the compost pile.

It’s certainly a lot of work and has helped me to appreciate how very few major snowstorms we get in this region.

Combined with our usual battering winds and rainstorms we’ve got lots of downed trees, branches and debris that have made most of our outlying horse and hiking trails impassable.

It takes a lot of work to clear and rebuild those trails.

Did you know the vast majority of work is done by volunteers?

I recently caught up with Sherry Baysinger. She and her husband, Larry, live just west of Lake Crescent. They own Rain Forest Horse Rides and started the Mount Olympus Chapter of Back Country Horsemen.

The two of them have spent many years clearing downed trees off trails on the West End.

“If volunteers didn’t go out to clear trails after every windstorm the trails would be impassable by spring,” Baysinger said when asked why they and friend Mike McCracken took the time to remove some windfalls off part of the Olympic Discovery Trail last December.

“Local agencies just don’t have the funding.”

One of their largest projects to date is working on a new bypass trail on the Bogachiel River Trail.

The Baysingers and other members — including Dave Seibel, Ray Sutherland and Heidi Brill — have all already spent hours working on the bridge to get it completed.

They used their horses and mules to haul in the grip-hoists, cable, chain saws and gear to help them get underway.

For the Washington Trail Association (WTA) work parties they’ve set up their large canvass wall tent with a stove and cooked meals on their Dutch oven to give the 30-plus volunteers a warm place to come in out of the rain. (Yes, they work even when it rains.)

“We thought that might help WTA get more young trail warriors out there helping finish this trail,” Baysinger said.

“Most active members in BCH are all [older than] 60, and those [younger] are busy with kids and jobs and want to ride rather than log a trail, so partnering with others who have a love for the trails is really beneficial.”

Finding younger folks to help build and maintain the trails concerns both the Baysingers, who will be 72 come May.

“It’s a rare thing to get to build a trail that our great-great-great-grandkids will likely be able to hike or ride long after we leave this scene,” Baysinger said.

Hopefully others will step up to volunteer who have a similar mindset.

Of course, after our recent snowstorm she lamented, “Everyplace we have to ride needs log out [work] now.”

After waiting nearly three years for approval, they’ve now made “huge progress,” on the three-quarter mile U.S. Forest Service Bogachiel reroute of riverside section of trail and hope to complete it in the next few weeks.

The project began when Larry Baysinger requested funding an Recreational Trails Program grant in 2016. This grant included work on the Bogachiel River reroute and the Littleton-Mount Muller Trail system.

Rebecca Wanagel, WTA crew leader, let the Baysingers know early on that she was very interested in putting a crew together to work on the reroute so they made plans to partner with them.

“We’ve had a great working relationship with WTA,” Sherry Baysinger said.

Last spring they packed tools, gear, fuel and water on horses and mules for Wanagel’s WTA crew.

They camped on the Littleton-Mount Muller ridge and worked on the trail corridor for four days, doing brushing and tread work.

Then in September, accompanied by a handful of Mount Olympus Chapter members, the crew packed in four mules with WTA tools and gear to work on the North Fork Quinault.

“So, we’ve come to really appreciate the work of these dedicated people and they’ve come to appreciate having stock carry their gear,” Sherry Baysinger.

In preparation for working on the Bogachiel River Trail reroute the Baysingers rode in with a pack horse loaded with weed whackers, loppers and chain saw to get a start on the trail. Sherry Baysinger spent some time following the flagging making sure the trail would be pack-stock accessible.

She said there were lots of large and small windfalls hidden underneath a forest of chest-high ferns, vine maple groves, huge old-growth spruce and a few big-leaf maple trees.

A few weeks later Wanagel, Larry Baysinger and Jeff Doane met at the reroute trail and walked the flag line together. It was discovered that the middle portion of the trail was not flagged. A little more time was needed to find the best way around a swamp and a creek crossing.

When that was accomplished plans were made with Wanagel to put together a large crew for the Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving.

The Baysingers packed in tools that Friday and Saturday, including a chain saw, weed whackers, fuel and miscellaneous tools.

“It was a cold and rainy day on Friday when we packed into the trail. We stashed our tools and worked falling dead trees, so we had a safe place to tie up our horses,” Sherry Baysinger said. “Larry ran the weed whackers and I removed the branches and small windfalls and worked on putting up more flagging so that the crews would know for sure where to go.”

Some of the windfalls required 10-15 cuts to open up the corridor.

“On our end,” Sherry Baysinger said, “we had two men running weed whackers, several women raking ferns, digging out the fern ‘stumps’ and some working with hoes to get down to mineral soil. It was just amazing to see the progress being made. Laying out a brand new trail is hard work.

“While there is still plenty of tread and finish work to be done we hope to be riding the new reroute this spring. Everyone seems to prefer the new route over the old river trail which, due to exposure and mistletoe disease, has become more like a highway of windfalls.”

For more information or to volunteer, contact the Baysingers at 360-327-3611.


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 call her at 360-460-6299.

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