CAN YOU SEE, with your mind’s eye, people gathered together under the peaceful skies in the secluded Epona Horse camp located in the serene vicinity of Joyce?
Picture yourself with friends sitting under a glistening starry night whilst swapping stories around a campfire after a long and satisfying day of riding your own horses through the woods and trails that connect with the Olympic Discovery Trail Adventure Route, a non-motorized, multi-use trail.
Owned by Margaret Salstrom, the trail from her place connects to the 20-plus-mile Adventure Route, eventually connecting to Olympic National Park’s Spruce Railroad Trail around Lake Crescent.
At her campsite, there are no worries about reveling parties from a nearby campsite — nor your truck and trailer being broken into and your things stolen — because she only allows one group at a time to reserve her personal campsite, which she’s titled Epona, after a mythical Celtic and Roman goddess said to be a protector of horses, ponies, donkeys and mules.
Good friend and neighbor Jennifer Reandeau helps Margaret with her 25 acres in many ways, including taking reservations.
“She’s the technical one,” said Margaret, chuckling. “I don’t know anything about computers.”
It’s a rustic campsite, so bring your own tent, trailer, RV or camper to sleep in, and normally she’ll take up to 22 guests on her 25 acres as long as they are respectful. Fewer now, as COVID-19 safety standards are in practice. Well-mannered, non-aggressive dogs are allowed. No drunkenness or wild parties. Out of respect for neighbors, quiet time starts by 10 p.m. Campers are expected to clean up after themselves.
There’s water (but no showers or wifi), electricity in the camp kitchen and a clean outhouse to do your duty in. There are no horses to rent, so bring your own. This time of year, ripe blackberries are in abundance and free for registered guests to pick.
I had the privilege of riding those trails many moons ago when I joined a local chapter of Back Country Horsemen’s members for a day ride during the group’s annual three-day campout. It was a beautiful and warm sunny day when my good friend Zorina Barker and I joined the group’s ride on trails through the trees, and then chose to ride farther on to Lake Crescent, where my horse Indy and I got to frolic in shallow waters in a small cove off to the side. Upon our return, we enjoyed a potluck meal set out under the covered camp kitchen located next to a beautiful pond teeming with wildlife. It was a blissful day packed full of good memories to say the least.
The kitchen sits in a meadow next to a large pond and is quite quaint. The supports, roof trusses and back walls of the semi-enclosed building are made from old logs Margaret thinks are from the original homestead. It’s got a refrigerator, a 1949 army range cook stove, vintage wood stove and large seating area that now sit on a concrete slab thanks to Jennifer and her husband.
Park & Ride
Located off state Highway 112, about 17 miles west of Port Angeles in Joyce, Margaret says on any day, and without advance notice, equestrians are invited to just show up and use her front field as a safe place to park their horse trailer. Riders need to call first if they’re planning to stay longer than one day, with seven days maximum allowed as long as Margaret agrees.
Upon entering her driveway, turn right onto the pasture before the first house. Further in is her home, and beyond that is the horse camp, which sometimes serves as a camp for mountain bicyclists.
“We need more horsemen using these trails,” Margaret said. “That’s why I encourage riders to park their rigs here for free.”
If someone wanted to improve a spot, like putting up a hitching post, she said she’ll put a plaque on it and will always find a place for that person to stay and park.
BCH members Linda Morin and Juelie Dazall camped on the front acreage for a few days this month, using it as a base to explore several other trails.
“If someone wants to just ride one way, I’ll drive their rig wherever they want to pick them up,” Jennifer said.
Wow, right? What a great opportunity for riders who don’t want to ride far but don’t want to ride the same trail back.
Personally, I think riders will enjoy parking their rigs in a safe place under Margaret’s watchful eye rather than a few miles south at the Dan Kelly Road parking lot and trailhead. While both areas have large areas for multiple trucks and trailers to park and turn around, sad to say, vehicles occasionally have gotten broken into, and items stolen, from commonly used trailheads everywhere.
That’s why when Back Country Horsemen groups go on a planned ride, a member or two will volunteer to stay behind to keep vehicles safe from predators, be it human or animals.
As always, when using a trail, be aware of your surroundings because bears and mountain lions do live in the woods, along with deer (and, in some areas, elk). They all try to avoid human contact, so sightings are rare.
And this time of year, one needs to watch out for wasps who’ve built their nests in the dirt on a path. The first rider is usually the one to surprise and disturb a nest, but those pesky wasps usually don’t start stinging until the third rider and beyond walk by. I know, it’s happened to me and many other riders I know, which is why is try to carry a can of wasp spray with me.
Good to know: Wasp spray is a poison that could be harmful to both bears and humans. Approved bear spray contains capsaicin, a chemical derived from cayenne peppers that temporarily disables bears — or people — without causing permanent harm.
Wasp spray is also less incapacitating than pepper spray. That said, wasp spray can shoot up to 20 feet away and is a lot more accurate; with pepper spray, the animal, or human, has to get close to you. And always aim for the eyes.
Both temporarily disable attackers by inducing tears, pain, blindness and choking.
Both Margaret and Jennifer are from Joyce pioneer families. Margaret’s family owned 165 acres surrounding the property she has now. She bought her home, formerly owned by the legendary long-distance horseman Long Rider Sergeant Robert Seney and his wife Dorothy in the 1970s (check out his bio on thelongridersguild.com).
One year Margaret’s dad was the Grand Pioneer of the town’s annual Joyce Daze Wild Blackberry Festival, and she was last year.
Both gals share a love of horses and have beautiful horse-drawn carriages. Sadly, their carriages are no longer used and are for sale.
Years ago, I had the privilege of getting to know them when I interviewed them when they offered their carriage services for weddings and other special occasions.
Camping reservations can be made via Hipcamp.com or by calling Jennifer Reandeau at 360-808-5452. Located at 278 Dunmire Road, off Highway 112 in Joyce.
The Sequim High School equestrian team is starting up. Even though there will be no in-school classes this year due to COVID-19, there will still be high school teams. For more information, call coach Katie Newton at 360-775-0350.
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.