WAGONS, HO! IT’S time to hitch up your wagons — or horse trailer — and head over to the Layton Hill Horse Camp for a mighty fine time of riding through mountain trails by day and at night gathering with friends around the campfire to swap stories and eat some good old-fashioned Dutch oven cooking over the fire pit while kids play in the background or on swings with saddle-girth seats.
That’s the vision Del Sage has for his new campground hidden away in the hills off Chicken Coop Road.
Last week, my friend Z Barker, her kids and I stopped by to check out the place. We arrived to find Del on his backhoe just a-smiling away as he dug a trench to bring running water from his home to the camp site.
Del is a dyed-in-the-wool, good ol’ boy logger who doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of the word “retirement.”
After a lifetime of working in the woods and more than 30 years operating DS Custom Horse Logging, he’s now busier than ever pursing a labor of love by building a family style destination horse camp on a 100-acre homestead located between Sequim and Gardiner with the help of his wife Judy (also newly retired), youngest daughter Anna and son-in-law Bill Neal.
“So many people from out of the area want to come up this way to ride the trails around here, but they’ve got no place to camp with their horses,” he said.
Visitors will have fun sitting around the central fire pit on chairs, benches and picnic tables made from local timber; playing in swings with saddle girths as seats; swapping stories and visiting around the campfire with their horses safe and secure nearby in a wood corral.
“Mount Mueller’s got the only horse camp around here, but you can’t reserve a spot because it’s National Forest. This is the only privately owned horse camp in the area, and we take reservations,” Del said.
The camp is designed with trail riders in mind, but it eventually will be open to hikers and campers of all sorts.
Folks can camp there — for a suggested donation of $25 a night — and enjoy riding the miles of forest trails surrounding the camp or load the horses in their trailer to explore countless other trails on the Peninsula, including Miller Peninsula.
And at the end of the day when they are really tired, they can take comfort knowing they’ve got a safe and secure place to come back to at night.
One might say it was helping to build the Mount Mueller horse camp that lit the fire in Del to build his own.
For those who don’t know, it was a core group of local dedicated Backcountry Horseman members who designed and built the camp and who continue to maintain it.
As a long-time member of Backcountry’s Peninsula Chapter, he and member Tom Mix (also retired) are volunteer trail workers.
Between Tom’s organizational skills and Del’s expertise in horse logging, rigging, and block and pulley systems, the two are frequently asked to build expansive bridges for Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest projects.
So to those few hikers out there who complain when they see “road apples,” or horse manure, on a trail, just remember if it weren’t for Back Country Horsemen and their horses, you’d be getting wet crossing those rivers in addition to climbing over many downed trees that fall with every winter storm.
For the past 30 years, he’s lived on the 99-acre homestead owned by Madelyn Layton Saric. It was her granddad who homesteaded the land in 1884.
“She’s excited about this horse camp, too,” he said.
Saric is selling her homestead to Del’s children, Rusty, Rose and Anna, with the condition the land will be “preserved.”
Twenty-eight years ago, he logged the land and built his own home — a beautiful rustic home with rich wood beams — from timber he milled himself onsite. He recently logged the area again to clear a spot to build the camp. He’s also cut, dried and milled all the wood used to build the camp and its accessories.
“When I cut a path for a trail with the excavator, I saw this big piece of cedar lying down on its side. I looked at it and said, ‘I gotta do something with that,’” Del explained. “So I dug it out with the excavator, made it into a sign and stuck it in a stump at the entrance.”
For their grand opening Saturday, Anna is host for an Equine Trail Sports event where competitors will challenge their skills going through an obstacle course and a 5-mile trail ride led by Del.
The campsite is big enough to comfortably hold 40 horses, their riders and trailers. While some might need to use a highline, there are eight permanent corrals with adjacent campsites and several portable corrals. There’s also a large round pen, central campfire and a few outhouses.
The event and day draws to a close with an old-fashioned hog roast.
Register online for the event at www.equinetrailsports.com.
For more information about the camp located at 2514 Chicken Coop Road, contact Anna at email@example.com or 425-737-7404.
Eyes that Smile has rescued five more foals from the infamous “Yakima Foals” that I wrote about in my June 18 column.
It’s horrid the way these still-nursing babies were yanked from their mother’s sides after they were captured and sent off to feed lot to be slaughtered. Thankfully, there are folks and organizations like Eyes That Smile that are stepping in to help these defenseless babies.
“It is so heartbreaking that all the mares to these babies have gone to slaughter leaving them alone,” said Diane Royall of Eyes That Smile. “So many of them are not being saved.”
As with a rescue operation, Eyes That Smile relies on donations. To assist in caring for these foals, many are choosing to sponsor a foal or to donate a small amount each month, such as $10, $20, or $30, to help pay for feed.
If you’d like to help, phone Diane at 360-582-9455 or visit the website http://www.eyesthatsmile.org and scroll down to the bottom of page to the donation button. All donations are tax deductible.
■ Saturday and Sunday — Star Spangled Horse Show at Clallam County Fairgrounds.
Entry forms available at Cowboy County and http://opz.weebly.com. For information, phone Sherrie Ellis at 360-460-8481 or Kyle Ellis at 360-461-0006 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
■ July 9-12 — Jefferson County 4-H Horse Project is hosting a camp at Jefferson County Fairgrounds.
For more information, phone Angie Doan at 360-385-6683.
■ July 24-27 — Western Dressage & Cow Working Clinic with Julie Lorton hosted by Freedom Farms.
Lorton is a Western Dressage Association of Colorado sanctioned clinician specializing in applying classical dressage movements to train the traditional western stock horse. There will be many levels of participation.
For more information or to register, contact Kathy Schmidt at 360-457-4897 or email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.