Back Country Horsemen members Tom Mix

Back Country Horsemen members Tom Mix

KAREN GRIFFITHS’ PENINSULA HORSEPLAY: Volunteers keep trails in tip-top shape for all

TIMES ARE DRY, and I’m not talking about alcohol.

With the entire Olympic Peninsula on a high fire alert and a burn ban in effect, including the fire pits at Littleton Horse Camp, and my home surrounded by trees, I got so worried by the fire threat, I hooked up my truck and horse trailer, threw in some hay bags and filled the water tank.

Now, I’m ready to escape with the animals at a moment’s notice. Perhaps I’m overly concerned, but I’ve heard too many horror stories of those trapped by a fast-moving fire.

Naturally, I haven’t prepared anything for myself, just my animals, but I probably should.

Miller Peninsula trail

Is it Miller time yet?

It almost is at the new trailhead and parking lot at Miller Peninsula State Park.

The park itself is in 2,800 acres of forest, encompassing roughly 20 miles of trails and 3 miles of beach to explore.

I stopped by during one of the Back Country Horsemen’s Monday volunteer work parties a couple weeks ago.

The lot itself is very impressive. It’s got plenty of parking for cars and trucks with trailers, a ramp to aid those with special needs to get on a horse and a modern outhouse.

Once open, we equestrians will no longer be parking our trailers in front of the good folks living on Cat Lake Road.

Back Country Horsemen members Jeff Chapman and Tom Mix are two of eight volunteers on the Miller Peninsula State Park Property Trail Advisory Group.

The entire scope of labor is being performed by volunteers from the Back Country Horsemen’s Peninsula and Buckhorn Range chapters, trail-building and hiking groups such as Klahhane Club and Washington Trail and Peninsula Trail associations, along with members of the local community.

Volunteers help out

Diamond Point residents and trail-building enthusiasts Bill and LaVonne Mueller were there with their own tools at the beginning of the new 0.75-mile, 4-foot-wide ADA trail to clear out shrubs and small trees.

Bill mentioned the Klahhane Club had donated $2,000 this year to the Peninsula chapter to help with the cost of maintenance supplies, such as tools and gravel.

While various government branches oversee the trail systems, the majority of the work to build and maintain trails is done by a core group of hard-working volunteers, a fact I find mind-boggling because our trails are so well-maintained.

Carrie Sunstrom was hard at work clearing thick brush because “I live nearby and frequently ride the trail system.”

Then, I almost got lost in the forest trying to meet up with Cate Bendock. I found her knee-deep in brush and storm-damaged trees holding a surveying rod for Tom Mix.

Making the grade

Tom was using a transit level to make sure the grade of the trail stayed less than 5 percent (for ADA compliance), and Juelie Dalzell was holding the roll of flagging tape to mark the trails.

Tom told me part of their work will include “updated signage on the trails, so folks won’t be so apt at getting lost and to help to avoid trespassing on private property.”

I always thought that was part of the fun.

He told me RV Associates out of Port Orchard contracted with the state to build the parking lot, but it still needed someone to donate gravel.

When Cate mentioned it to the company’s superintendant, Frank Donaski, who is also a horse rescuer: “He asked how much gravel we needed, and I said, ‘Maybe 60 tons of ¾-minus but really any size donation would be appreciated,’ thinking 60 was too large of an amount to ask for.

“But he said, ‘Oh, I’ll buy you that.’ And we were thinking, ‘Wow! How generous!”’

The three emphasized the important role volunteers have in building and maintaining trails.

“Klahhane Trail Club members are great scouts for us,” says Tom. “If they see a downed tree or other trouble spot, they take a photo of it, mark the GPS location and email it to us.

“Because we have the GPS setting, we know the exact spot on the trail we need to go to. And because we have a picture, we know what tools we need to bring — just an amazing help.”

I came across State Parks Ranger and Area Manager Kinnan Murray and asked how soon the parking lot would open.

“We can probably get it signed off after that connector trail to the original trail system is completed,” Kinnan says.

Anyone who enjoys the trails at Miller Peninsula State Park, or who would like to help get the connector trail completed, is asked to meet the group at the parking lot every Monday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We have tools, or they can bring their own. Let’s get this place open,” says Cate.

Kitsap Junior Rodeo

Peninsula Junior Rodeo members are doing a bang-up job with outstanding results. Several placed at the Kitsap Junior Rodeo in Silverdale.

■   Madison Ballou — First and a buckle in steer daubing; fourth in poles; fifth in breakaway.

■   Emily VanAusdle — First and a buckle in barrels.

■   Amelia Hermann — First and a buckle in barrels; second in flags; second in trail; second in steer daubing; fourth in breakaway; fifth in goats; a saddle for all-around junior girl.

■   Rhett Wilson — First and a buckle in breakaway; first and a buckle in steer daubing.

Oakville Junior Rodeo

Amelia’s mom, Kay Hermann, said it was “95 degrees at the Oakville rodeo over the Fourth of July weekend, but local cowgirls still did great.”

■   Madison Ballou — First in flags; fifth in pole bending.

■ VanAusdle — First in barrels; first in goat-tying; first in breakaway.

■ Hermann — First in barrels; second in daubing; second in breakaway; fourth in team roping; all-around cowgirl.


■   Monday-Friday — Summer Camp IV at Freedom Farm, 493 Spring Road, Agnew.

Phone Mary Gallagher at 360-457-4897 or visit

■   Wednesday and July 22 and 29, 9:15 a.m. — Buckhorn Range members will give trail rides to the differently abled at Camp Beausite NW, 510 Beausite Lake Road, off West Valley Road in Chim­acum.

Experienced horsemen and -women are needed to walk along with the campers who are riding.

If anyone is interested, please contact Bob Hoyle

■   Saturday, 5 p.m. — Back Country Horsemen’s general meeting and potLuck at the Doseys’, 3974 Palo Alto Road, Sequim.

■   July 25-26 — Back Country Horsemen are helping Eagle Scout Kevin Leever install a hitch rail and picnic tables at the Upper Dungeness Trailhead. If anyone else would like to help, they can just show up.

■ Aug. 1-2 — Jefferson County 4-H Pre-Fair Horse Show, Jefferson County Fairgrounds, 4907 Landes St., Port Townsend.

Contact Angie Doan at 360-385-6683 or oneshot

■ Aug. 18, 20, 25, 27 and Sept. 1 — Horse Partners is offering therapeutic riding classes to adults by PATH-certified riding instructor Mary Craft Nepute at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.

To enroll or volunteer to walk alongside, contact Mary at or phone 713-0449-7418.

■ Aug. 29-30 — Back Country Horsemen’s Buckhorn Range chapter is hosting a prize ride and campout at Layton Hill Horse Camp, 2514 Chicken Coop Road, Sequim.

Contact Nicole Short at 360-301-5139 or


Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears every other Sunday.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

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