We spent 3 days teaching ten youths how to pack with horses.
We had a ball.
All photos courtesy of Karen Lopes.
You may jump to the newsletter article below the pictures.
01) Riding to Camp Lake
02) Returning to the pack station after the first day's ride.
03) An LNT (Leave No Trace) lesson
04) Buddy Boards Race!
05) Buddy Boards Race!
06) Another LNT Lesson
07) Haystack Peak in Yosemite in the distance; Bell Meadows below.
08) Young man demonstrating the box hitch
09) Box hitch practice
10) Box hitch practice
11) Heading out to adventures
12) Happy campers
14) Campfire fun - balancing cookies on our noses
The Mid Valley Unit held its 4th Annual Youth Horse Camp June 24-26, 2016. Ten participants ranging in age from "nearly" 9 up to 14 years old attended this year's camp, with 4 of them being "first-timers." We again used the Kerrick Horse Camp as our location, as it is close to the Aspen Meadows Pack Station, who outfits our participants with safe and reliable stock. This is located in the Stanislaus National Forest, just north of Yosemite National Park, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.
There were two significant changes to this year's camp: First, 9-17 used to be the age range, but this year the committee decided to go with a narrower gap of 9-14 years. (Dennis Serpa will be inviting our teenage members on a work project later this summer.) The second change was voted on by the Mid Valley Unit board last year, which states "MV Youth Members will not be charged fees for MV or BCHC events that include stock, packing, and/or education." So this year's (and years to come) three day horse camp was absolutely free to Mid Valley Youth Members!
Riding stock from Aspen Meadows Pack Station are provided at a reduced rate, thanks to the continued support of Seth and Doug. Our youth campers spend between 8-10 hours in the saddle over a two day span and the stock charge is just $100 per participant. The wranglers that lead us out on the trail are especially observant of our kids, and go the extra mile to make sure each of our participants is safe and has an enjoyable ride. The first day we take a two hour ride and see wonderful views of Bell Meadows. On the second day, we rode to Camp Lake, which sits just inside the Emigrant Wilderness, viewing peaks from Yosemite. This year, BCHC Mid Valley received a $1000 grant from the BCHA Education Fund, covering the stock charge precisely! The BCHA Education fund provides grants for chapters and units to complete activities and events that align with BCHA's objectives, such as "To promote education programs that benefit the horse and other stock users." A BCHC Mid Valley Unit Youth Horse Camp that involves trail riding, safety, packing, wilderness history, and Leave No Trace all in one weekend; well that is right up their alley!
In addition to being supported this year by a grant from BCHA, Mid Valley Unit member Terri Arrington makes generous yearly donations to support our Mid Valley Youth Horse Camp, along with other MV Youth activities. Other expenses, such as T-shirts, food, and educational materials for the camp are covered by Terri's contributions. Terri has been one of our most passionate supporters of all things youth-related; especially when it combines packstock and wilderness experiences as well.
We made a few changes to our program this year to ensure that our participants had more hands-on practice with packing. In small groups of 3 and 4, participants spent about 25 minutes at three different stations. First, they learned how to balance boxes with various supplies and equipment one might take on a pack trip. Next, they spent time just practicing tying the box hitch on our iron mule, "Sparky." We even had a nice, wide step for those younger (shorter) kids. Finally, they got to practice loading a live mule, throwing the manty, and tying on the load at the final station. By the time they were finished, even our beginners seemed to have a good grasp on the box hitch! Our older youth felt like they were well on their way to their first pack trip, or maybe even competing at next year's annual rendezvous!
Throughout the three day camp, several committee members presented the 7 principles of Leave No Trace. The kids learned about "wilderness ethics," along with various reasons why everyone should practice the LNT principles. Whether it is to protect the wilderness character and its natural resources, to have a safer outing, to be prepared for wild weather, or to just increase your odds of having a completely amazing trip, there are many reasons why we should all be practicing LNT!
Camp cook Vicki Whisler, along with her co-chef Cathy Dollarhide, made sure we were always very well fed. From having coffee and hot chocolate ready at 6 a.m., to S'Mores and ice cream at 9 p.m., that kitchen was always busy! No one, I mean NOBODY, could have ever even thought they were hungry during our three day camp! If we weren't enjoying one of the 3 well rounded meals of the day, there were trail mix, fresh fruit, and drinks available at all times.
On the last day, our Stanislaus National Forest Wilderness Manager, Joel Silverman, stopped by with Anya, the Forest Service Intern sponsored by Mid Valley Unit. She spoke about her duties as an intern, and then Joel talked to our kids about Wilderness, and how he works to protect it for future generations. Afterwards, as always, the participents head on up to Aspen Meadows Pack Station, and spend a good hour or more raking hay, manure, and picking up trash. Teaching the next generation about trails, wilderness, LNT, stewardship, as well as volunteerism ... that is what BCHC and BCHA is all about! The camp ended with a short little "ceremony," so that each participant was called up and recognized, received a tee-shirt, certificate, and a handshake and/or hug from all of the committee members while parents cheered them on. Afterwards, everyone was treated to a wonderful lunch and then they all headed home.
Thank-you to all of the Youth Horse Camp participants that made this such a great year! Nathan, Justin, Erika, Anna, Riley, Angie, Haley, Kaci, Makayla, and Anya. A HUGE thank-you goes out to our committee members: Dennis Serpa, Dave Moser, Valerie Perry, Doug and Cathy Dollarhide, Sally Moore (camp nurse), Vicki Whisler (camp cook), John Marshall, and Karen Lopes.
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