THERE WAS NERVOUS scuffling of horse feet as Larry Baysinger gently wiped fly spray on his mustang’s neck.
“That mustang is sure-footed on the trail, but he is not at all thrilled with fly spray,” commented Sherry, Baysinger’s wife.
The citronella scent of fly spray permeated the air of the parking area beside the Olympic Discovery Trail at the top of Fairholm Hill, two miles west of Lake Crescent.
The riders had applied spray to their mounts in an effort to combat the relentless onslaught of late-summer flying and biting insects.
The group of nine riders, all members of the Mount Olympus chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Washington, gathered this past Saturday to do trail work, the focus of all Back Country chapters.
The group chose this location to meet because it allowed them the quickest access to the east end of the ridge on the Mount Mueller loop trail, an area called Mosley’s Gap.
This section is difficult to maintain because of the distance from vehicles, water and supplies.
On Saturday, it took longer than an hour of riding just to get to where the work would begin. They were using equipment that had been packed in by mules and horses earlier.
“We don’t think this part of the trail has been maintained since it was built in 1995,” Sherry Baysinger said, adding that they had been splitting into two smaller groups.
“One group is working higher [along the trail], making sure there are places for the rest of us to tie up our horses as we go up trail.”
She explained that though the horses would be tied for a few hours at a time, they were regularly watered and checked.
The group’s application of leave no trace principles is very fine-tuned. Larry Baysinger feels it would be difficult for the average person to tell where 10 horses were tied up throughout the day.
To open the trail to the original 8-foot corridor through the mountain forest means a lot of brush and several trees must be cut down and removed.
Chain saws operated by trained sawyers of the group worked ahead of people with powerful weed trimmers.
They were followed by people with rakes and loppers. Others tended to the tread of the trail.
“We are only removing trees that are younger than the trail itself,” said Penny Doane. For a trail built in 1995, the fir and hemlock of this corridor can be more than a foot in diameter.
Before the riders set out, there was a brief safety meeting led by Larry Baysinger.
He focused on situations specific to where the group would be working, such as distance from hospitals and the dryness of the forest combined with using combustible fuels.
Everyone in the group is trained in first aid and most had first aid kits in their saddlebags. The group’s calm conversations in low tones expressed mature confidence.
The Mount Olympus chapter is newly formed and all of the trail warriors working on this project contribute their own and their horses’ sweat on their own dollar.
Nobody is getting reimbursed or paid.
Jeff Doane said to get to Fairholm at the west end of Lake Crescent on Friday night, he had to drive around through Joyce from Port Angeles on state Highway 112 because U.S. Highway 101 was closed, adding a twisty 33 miles to the trip.
At 10:30 a.m., the group rode off to begin the long ride climbing around 2,000 feet.
The horses and riders were outfitted in functional clothing and tack. It was 5:30 p.m. before they could return to their horse trailers and trucks.
The Mount Olympus chapter is hosting a camp out and ride open to the public at Mount Mueller/Littleton Horse Camp this weekend.
For more information, call Larry and Sherry Baysinger at 360-327-3611 or Meghan Adamire at 360-460-0882.
Zorina Barker lives in the Sol Duc Valley with her husband, a logger, and two children she home-schools.
Submit items and ideas for the column to her at zorinabarker firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone her at 360-327-3702. West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.
Her next column will be Oct. 3.