IT’S BLOOMING RHODY time! June is the month when our native Pacific Rhododendron’s pink flowers are on full display —the perfect time for Back Country Horsemen’s Peninsula Chapter to host its annual Rhody Ride at Miller Peninsula State Park.
After member Linda Morin phoned me last Friday to ask if I wanted to join the group the following morning for breakfast before the group went on the ride. Her call created a hankering within me to take Lacey and join the group ride. It’s been ages since I’ve ridden. Lacey and I both are out of shape and have arthritic joints, but I knew the trails there were relatively flat with soft dirt trails that meandered through the forest.
For a while, the group met at the trailhead and parking lot they helped build, including installing a vault toilet, mounting ramp and multiple white-striped parking slots for horse trailers.
Sadly, a greatly increased number of, according to Linda and other members, “hikers and bikers who are just rude,” are ignoring chapter members who arrive early’s requests to save the designated truck and trailer spots for the group and parking in them anyway.
Thankfully, a private property owner allows the group gate access to meet on his land a mile in, off Cat Lake Road. Driving is slow going for those of us pulling a horse trailer along a narrow, bumpy dirt road.
At the end, I felt rewarded by how isolated and private it was.
After the meet and greet, breakfast and announcements, I was so eager to get riding I didn’t stop to grab one of the available maps.
I figured the trails were going to be well-marked, with pink for the shorter 1 half hour ride I wanted, and checkered blue ribbons for those who wanted the longer trail ride, and with 15 other riders, I figured someone else would have a map.
Note to self: That was a dumb decision. Always take my own map. The lack of a map lead to me and Lacey being out on the trails much longer than planned.
Ron and Debbie Robbins and I were among the first to hit the trails. Ron reminded me we met years ago when his daughter was on the Sequim Equestrian Team the same time as my niece, during its infant years with Coach Terri Winters. Ron reminisced what a wonderful and kind coach Terri was; we were saddened by her recent sudden passing.
We parted ways when they chose to ride the longer route. Apparently, I took the path less traveled because after I parted ways with the Robbins I didn’t see a soul, that is until more than an hour later when the trail I was on ended at the intersection of another trail that gave me a choice of going right or left. I didn’t see any ribbons and had no idea which way to go.
With no one else in sight I figured it’d be a good spot to stop and answering my increasing call to nature. Dismounting, I tied Lacey up and as I turned to walk behind a tree to tinkle three gals rode up (non-BCH) and stopped. I mentioned my pee break and one gal laughed and said, “isn’t that the way it always goes! You think you’re all alone and a group shows up!” She added they would stand guard to make sure no one bothered me.
To which I thought, “well, your presence is bothering me, because I’d like privacy.”
I kept that thought to myself as I made my way further into the trees to answer my now urgent need to squat and go.
And wouldn’t you know it? A guy stopped on his bicycle and also watched me go behind a tree! At this point, I didn’t care who saw me. I just didn’t want to wet my pants!
Funny thing is, as I squatted to pee, Lacey stretched forward, raised her tail, spread her back legs and relieved her own full bladder. Afterwards, she shuddered and grunted a huge sigh of relief.
She was so animated and loud all eyes turned to her, and off of me. Yes! I got a moment of privacy!
Another plus was the gal was able to direct me to the trail back to where the group’s horse trailers were parked. The downside was the trailers were at least a 45-minute ride away and Lacey and I were tired.
Over 45 minutes later, I had no idea where I was and figured I was lost.
I turned a weary Lacey around (did I mention she’s a senior citizen at 31?) and started backtracking. A few moments later. I saw Juelie Dalzell and Nancy Scott riding towards me. Yay! I was saved!
I’ve since learned a link to the map is available on the chapter’s Web site pbchw.org.
During breakfast, Tom Mix came up to me and shared he was asked by Clallam County Park Service if BCH could help mulch plants this spring by a bench at Dungeness Meadows. He said yes, adding the group had no idea the scope of the work they were asked to do.
“We got to the site and found out there were 23,000 plants there to mulch! Whoa!” He said the County’s plan was to have a crew from Forks drive over and use wheelbarrows and five-gallon buckets to move the mulch from the pile it was dumped at to up and down the aisles of the plants.
To which Tom responded, “What year do you plan on finishing?”
Tom said, luckily, several members in the backcountry horsemen own front end loader tractors and pickup trucks, enabling the work to be completed in two and a half days.He joked the group now has a new year-end reward — the bucket award — for the person who filled his bucket the most times.
That was a lot of work, time and equipment those BCH members performed — free of charge to Clallam County Parks — only to be thanked by one Park’s manager by advocating banning horses from the park (see my June 10 PDN column under the heading “Naysayer”). It’s my goal to help educated people on how many hours of volunteer labor BCH members perform supporting, maintaining and building hiking, biking and riding trails and bridges throughout the North Olympic Peninsula.
Perhaps, if they gain more knowledge, then more folks will speak up in support of keeping trails open to horses.
Layton Hill Events
Several upcoming events for Layton Hill Horse Camp. Privately owned, it has direct access to miles of trails, obstacles, an outdoor arena and camping spaces with corrals. It is located at 2514 Chicken Coop Road, Sequim.
For more information and costs on all events go to https://www.facebook.com/laytonhillhorsecamp. Book camping reservations at www.hipcamp.com and select Layton Hill.
• On Sunday, attend a Youth Trails Clinic hosted by the Peninsula Chapter of Back Country Horsemen at Layton Hill Horse Camp. Families can have a “Horse Camp’ experience close to home for the whole family, and will be included in a Saturday night campfire with S’mores.
Geared to equestrians ages 10-18, the clinic will include five sections: trail riding safety, trail obstacles, Leave No Trace Principles, sharing trails with other user groups, and using basic tools for trail maintenance. Some classes will be mounted, so kids will need to bring a horse and have some riding experience.
The cost for each family is $50, which includes classes and Saturday camping at Layton Hill. Up to | 4 kids are included in the $50 fee. A parent or guardian must be in attendance at all times for participants under 12.
Scholarships are available. Email Kim Merrick to register at email@example.com or call 253-261-6188.
• On Saturday, July 29, at 2 p.m., help OPEN fill its hay barn by attending its 3rd Annual OPEN the Trails fundraiser and campout at Layton Hill Horse Camp.
There will be games, raffle prizes, demonstrations by equine professionals, dinner, campfire social and live music. Come for the afternoon and evening, or camp out and explore the trails.
“We hope to be able to fill our barn this summer with a year’s worth of hay like we did last year,” said Valerie Jackson, co-founder.
Tickets are $50 for adults (kids are free with paid adult) and available at www.olypenequinennet.org. Click donations and select Event Tickets. Book camping at www.hipcamp.com and select Layton Hill.
• Aug. 25-27 is Ride the Hill and Hillbilly Hoedown. Friday includes dinner and a movie in the meadow.
Saturday’s events include trail rides and Hillbilly Games in the arena, Hillbilly moonshine, a dinner that includes Possum Pie & Squirrel Gritts and entertainment by The Jimmy Hoffman Band.
Registration and payment are due by Aug. 10.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Saturday of each month.
If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at email@example.com at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.