Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Back Country Horsemen of California Gets It Done, and Then Some

February 29, 2016
By Sarah Wynne Jackson

Spring, summer, fall, and winter, Back Country Horsemen of America works throughout the year to keep trails open for horse use. One of the original states to form BCHA, Back Country Horsemen of California donate their time and personal resources to creating and improving horseback riding opportunities across the state.

Now You Can Lead a Horse to Water...

Several years ago, the Lake-Mendo Chapter of Back Country Horsemen of California built a horse camp on a level site at the intersection of three forest roads in the Boggs Mountain Demonstration State Forest (BMDSF). Since then, they’ve added more facilities, including a highline, vault toilet, and fire pit.

Because a working horse can drink 10 or more gallons of water each day, adding a stock water trough was a priority. The challenge was finding an economical, low impact design. After much research and discussion with Friends of Boggs Mountain, the chapter decided on a 2,500 gallon water tank placed above a water trough. Gravity fills the trough from the tank, with a float valve to regulate the level. They covered the trough to minimize water loss through evaporation and to keep the water clean of forest debris.

A grant from the Cobb Geothermal Mitigation Fund Committee covered the cost of materials, and the Lake-Mendo Chapter installed the water system in two weekends. Friends of Boggs Mountain committed to pay for the next two tank refills, and the chapter is hoping for donations from equestrians who use the camp to help fund future water deliveries.

BMDSF is managed by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and was established for the purpose of showing the productive and economic possibilities of good forestry practices toward maintaining forest land through harvesting. With the exception of areas undergoing active timber operations, all of the 3,493-acre forest is open for public recreation, including camping, biking, horseback riding, hiking, hunting and target shooting. The property includes 25 miles of unimproved roads and over 21 miles of non-motorized use trails.

Short Term Projects Lead to Long Term Accomplishments

The Mother Lode Unit of Back Country Horsemen of California recently placed the official entrance sign to the Caples Creek Equestrian Trailhead, which they built and opened for use in June 2014. Seven volunteers worked a full day, hurrying to finish before the forecasted thunderstorm arrived.

The team used their professional equipment, including a tractor with auger. They drilled 3-foot-deep holes for the posts, set them in concrete, and mounted the sign on the posts. They also installed four steel hitching posts at the day-use parking area, spaced wide enough to be used for a highline for hitching multiple horses, and two hitching posts at the hikers’ trailhead.

Located at 6000 feet elevation about 9 miles south of Kyburz, the Caples Creek Equestrian Trailhead provides access to the Caples Creek Trail. From there, riders can connect to multiple trails within the Eldorado National Forest, including those leading to Schneider's Cow Camp, Sayles Canyon, and the Kirkwood area.

Setting the official sign was only the latest of many improvements made here by Back Country Horsemen of California, who donated a total of 1,284 volunteer hours in partnership with the US Forest Service and the Elegant Ears Mule Association. The trailhead project began in 2011. Since then, they’ve repaired a bridge, made several day-use parking areas large enough for big rigs, and built a 1/4-mile long connector trail so equestrians don’t have to ride the asphalt road to access the trail.

About Back Country Horsemen of America

BCHA is a non-profit corporation made up of state organizations, affiliates, and at-large members. Their efforts have brought about positive changes regarding the use of horses and stock in wilderness and public lands.

If you want to know more about Back Country Horsemen of America or become a member, visit their website: www.bcha.org; call 888-893-5161; or write PO Box 1367, Graham, WA 98338-1367. The future of horse use on public lands is in our hands!

Peg Greiwe

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