IT’S NOT OFTEN these days one gets a chance to visit and ride with the owners of one of the region’s oldest homesteads.
Bear Creek Homestead owners Sherry and Larry Basyinger make their living running a commercial packing and guided horse tours business — with their mountain trail savvy horses and mules — from their Forks home, so I thought I’d offer a brief glimpse into their lives.
Basically, the Baysingers are just good, unassuming folks who are always willing to extend a helping hand.
Sherry, like me, sees the important role horses can play in the lives of youths and is an active supporter and former leader of Forks 4-H groups.
Currently, she’s attempting to dodge raindrops and light snow flurries to help the First Nations 4-H group on the West End learn some round-pen basics.
Sharing thoughts on working in a round pen, she says, “Round penning tells you as much about people as it does about horses, sometimes more.
“I have a lot of empathy for the kids because I can remember what it was like to not have a clue about what the world was about.”
Sherry is tireless in her efforts to share her horses with those who are not able to have or ride horses on their own.
She actively looks for opportunities to get people involved with the four-legged joys of her life.
At present, she is reaching out to a young girl in Forks who wants to learn about horses.
“You take people under your wing, and you teach them to be safe,” Sherry says.
She knows what it’s like to grow up horse crazy and without a horse.
“I grew up in SeaTac by Seattle, and in the whole area, there were only two horses I could get close to. I would have paid people for the chance to clean up their horse’s manure,” she says with a laugh.
When she finally got her own horse, she was still living in the Seattle area and remembers riding in the tunnels under the landing strip at Seattle-Tacoma Airport.
“We rode all over Highway 99 because there was no [Interstate 5],” she says. “I rode down the bed of I-5 before it was paved, when it was all dirt.”
One time, they “ran so fast, then my horse fell,” she says with a grimace, grateful the road wasn’t paved yet.
Other fond memories include riding on trails that are now major thoroughfares and through city traffic by Des Moines to take the horses swimming in Puget Sound.
“I started taking people on rides because we were running a bed-and-breakfast, and people would look out, see the horses grazing and want to ride,” she says of starting her trail-riding business.
“Most of the people who call are over 40, and a good number are in their 70s who had horses when they were younger,” she says. “Now, when they go on vacation, they look for places to go riding.”
Admittedly, her profession rarely pays what it costs to run it. This work is more an expression of her generosity and love.
Sherry also has some friends who have found that riding alone is not a good idea for them personally, and she will meet them at the trailhead with extra horses so they can ride together.
“I like to ride Littleton and the lower part of the Mount Muller Trail. It is safe, not overcrowded and fairly close to home,” she says.
In her mid-60s herself, she, too, prefers not to be alone on the trail, having recovered from some truly body-breaking horse accidents.
More than that, she says, “it’s about love.”
Her pastures are evidence of an open mind-set: Her mounts include some long ears, short legs, spots, broomtails, roached manes; her horse-riding friends include some young ones and some gray-haired, some hunters and some not.
Rain Forest Horse Rides and Sol Duc Valley Packers are the names of the businesses Sherry owns and runs with her husband, Larry.
They met in a horsey incident by Ocean Shores one rainy day.
Sherry and her high school chum Jana Miniken had trailered out to the Pacific to ride on its shores.
They were on their way back from riding to Ocean City when they came upon a few guys trying to get their car out of the wet sand.
There were boards scattered about that the boys had been trying to use, and the wheels looked hopelessly stuck in the boggy sand.
“Hey,” shouts a soaking-wet teenage Larry. “Can we tie a rope from our car to your horse to pull our car out?”
As Sherry was riding bareback, it was up to Jana’s horse to get the job done.
It was after the pulling that Larry and Sherry realized their shared love of horses.
This shared bond has grown into a solid marriage raising two boys who now have children of their own, a few of which are bitten by the horse bug.
The Baysingers are members of Back Country Horsemen and Washington Outfitters & Guides Association.
They do everything from two-hour rides to deluxe pack trips where Sherry and Larry will cook meals in Dutch ovens for their clients.
As commercial packers, they also set up camps and haul in supplies for those working or hiking in the Olympics.
For more information, visit www.rainforesthorseridesforks.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.