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BCHC Mid Valley Unit

Youth Camp

17 young people attended our third annual Youth Horse Camp, June 26 - 28, 2015, at the Kerrick Corrals near Aspen Meadows Pack Station in the Stanislaus National Forest.
All photos courtesy of Karen Lopes.
You may jump to the newsletter article below the pictures.

Girls on horses

Happy campers heading out


Horseback riders on the trail

On the trail


On the trail

On the trail


Learning to clean up

Learning to clean up


Learning to use a cross-cut saw

Learning to use a cross-cut saw


Learning to lasso

Learning to lasso


Learning to to pack a mule

Learning to to pack a mule


Supper time!

Supper time!


After dinner

After dinner


Swimming in the lake

Swimming in the lake


The whole gang

The whole gang




Youth Camp

by Karen Lopes

The Mid Valley Unit held their third annual Backcountry Youth Horse Camp this past June, and it was another great success. Seventeen participants, ranging from 10-16 years in age, attended the three day camp hosted by Mid Valley Unit. On the first day, after introductions, orientation, and a short study on grooming and saddling by Doug Dollarhide, the youth mounted up on gentle stock provided by Aspen Meadows Pack Station, owned and operated by Josh Bloom. Due to our large numbers this year, we broke our kids into three groups for safety, each led by the wranglers from the pack station. Committee members followed each group (on their own stock) to ensure all was well with our young riders; although many had ample riding experience, a few had very little saddle time prior to this event. Our ride was just about two hours long, riding up to a wonderful ridge overlooking Bell Meadows, located in the Stanislaus National Forest, with a view of Haystack Peak (in Yosemite National Park) in the distance.

Our ride also took us up along Dodge Ridge, where we rode directly under one of the ski lifts! The kids were pretty quiet, taking in all of the beautiful scenery, as well as getting to know their mounts' personalities and quirks. After the first ride, you could hear the kids talking about their horses as if they had been riding them for years! Back in camp, we introduced Leave No Trace to our young stewards. We discussed the beauty of the wilderness, and how LNT can help to protect and preserve the natural wildness that we so enjoy. Throughout the weekend, Dave Moser and myself took turns presenting each of the seven principles of LNT. After a wonderful dinner prepared by our cooks Vicki Whisler and Cathy Dollarhide, Dave Moser discussed the importance of Wilderness, and gave a little background of the Wilderness Act. The kids then enjoyed s'mores and campfire fun until bedtime. Oh, and our camp nurse, Sally Moore, was kept pretty busy on that first day with stomach aches, headaches, and other ailments. These all subsided after a little TLC from Nurse Sally and children's Tylenol. Tracy Webster was our official photographer and extra "female chaperone", as there were 13 girls and just 4 boys!

Saturday was a big day, and so breakfast was served at 7:00 a.m.. Some of the kids were up bright and early; a few others needed a little extra encouragement. After breakfast our committee members set up four stations: Dennis Serpa and John Marshal saddling the pack mule, Dave Moser and Valerie Perry balancing the loads, Doug and Garrett Dollarhide packing the load on a mule, and Karen Lopes tying the box hitch on the iron mule. Participants rotated through each station, practicing hands-on for the time allowed. The kids were really enthusiastic and seem to enjoy each of the stations! By 10:30 a.m. we were on our way to Aspen Pack Station to mount up and head out on our lake trip. Many of the youth had their bathing suits on under their riding jeans; they just couldn't wait to get to the lake! We had a nice ride to the lake, with more beautiful views along the way. We stopped just short of Camp Lake, located just inside the Emigrant Wilderness Boundary, in the Stanislaus National Forest. After a quick lunch they had fixed during breakfast, with Dennis and Doug packing them in on their pack mules, many of the kids were checking out the water. This Camp Lake is now famous among our Mid Valley Youth! Many of our participants have attended more than once, and they are certainly making many great memories from this backcountry lake. Isn't that what it is all about? Alas, but time is short, and we can never stay at the lake as long as they would like, and so we gather them up and head on back. Our Wilderness Manager, Joel Silverman, along with our Mid Valley sponsored Forest Service Intern, Tara, came that evening and talked to the group about various duties of the Wilderness Manager and Intern, along with some LNT practices that Tara had just learned at a training. We had a great dinner of Chili Boats, along with a variety of side dishes, and ice cream sundaes for dessert. Vicki and Cathy were just always feeding us the best stuff! Campfire again was a great time to reflect on our ride, discuss future activities, and just have some fun! I'll say the kids were a lot easier to coax into their tents after all of the fun and excitement of that day!

And of course, Sunday morning it took even more coaxing to get them up and out of the tents! After breakfast, the kids packed up their gear, took down their tents, and then we all headed over the hill to Aspen Meadows Pack Station. It has been our tradition to perform a Volunteer Service Project with the youth, and so each year we spend over an hour raking loose hay and manure, picking up trash, and sweeping out tack rooms in order to instill that sense of "volunteerism" in our young attendees. Some of the kids snapped some pictures of "their" horse/mount, and talked with the wranglers about their jobs. Finally, it was back to camp for the grand finale. Parents started showing up, and we held our "ceremony." Each participant was called up, shook hands with each of the ten adult committee members, and received their t-shirt and certificate. Kids and parents alike then enjoyed a lunch of hot dogs, chips and cookies, and sat around and visited with each other for awhile. It was a wonderful weekend, and we hope that we again inspired these youth to get more involved with the backcountry. A special "Thank-You" to Terri Arington and Josh Bloom, who both donate generously to help make this event affordable to our youth. And another "Thank-You" to the committee members, who graciously give of their time and talents to make this event happen. If you would like to get the details on how to put on a backcountry youth horse camp, PLEASE, contact me and I would be delighted to share our program with you! Karen Lopes (209)756-5534 or klopes@muhsd.org

You may go to the main Youth page, or Home.



Backcountry Horsemen of California - Mid Valley Unit
PO Box 1709
Modesto CA 95353-1709

Questions about the Mid Valley Unit? Ask Dennise Davis,
Questions about the web site? Ask Ted Pack,

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