We taught 8 lucky young people the basics of LNT (Leave No Trace)
packing and camping on June 22 - 24, 2018.
All photos courtesy of Karen Lopes and Cathy Dollarhide
You may jump to the newsletter article below the pictures.
01) Looking at 'Camp Disaster"
02) Dave on 'Leave What You Find'
03) Bell Meadow Loop lunch stop
04) Balancing Packs
05) Look closely ... that is our very own Garrett Dollarhide, leading the group out; he is now working as a wrangler for Aspen Pack Station! He was a participant at this camp just a few years ago!
06) Riding along Dodge Ridge. (Dodge Ridge is a ski resort in the winter.)
07) 2 Hour Dodge Ridge Loop
08) Yosemite National Park peaks in the distance; trail above Bell Meadows.
09) All of the Youth Camp Participants had hands-on Packing Practice!
10) Our Wrangler, Tyler, and the Bell Meadow Loop group.
11) Doug preparing the Camp Participants for their packing practice.
12) Cathy Dollarhide's donkey, "Dixie", was the perfect size for some of our younger Camp Participants!
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This was our 6th Annual BCHC Mid Valley Unit's Youth Horse Camp, and it may have been the best one yet! We had our committee members Dave Moser, Doug and Cathy Dollarhide, Vicki Whisler, John Marshall, and myself in attendance this year. We had 6 girls and 2 boys attend the camp held at Kerrick Corrals (approximately 7000' elevation) , located in the Stanislaus National Forest, just North of Yosemite National Park and adjacent to the Emigrant Wilderness. Youth campers were dropped off by their parents on Friday morning, and we got our agenda started with making lunches, introductions and icebreakers at 9:15 a.m. Soon after a little talk about Camp Manners from Dave, we divided the 8 participants into two groups, and headed up to Aspen Pack Station (located just a short walk away). The 4 older youths, Haley, Anna, Anya and Andrew were led by the Aspen Meadow Wrangler, our very own Garrett Dollarhide, and committee members Dave and Cathy rode drag to the Camp Lake destination, just inside the Wilderness Boundary. There they stopped, tied up, and had their lunches which were packed in on Dave's mule Raven.
The other youths; Izzy, Rylee, Erica and Elijah, were led by Wrangler Tyler, and I rode drag for the Bell Meadow Loop. The trail passes through the beautiful quaking aspen, which grow throughout Bell Meadows. My horse Dolly packed in the lunches for our group, which we enjoyed next to Bell Creek, just a short distance below the Pine Valley Horse Camp. After lunch, the kids took off their boots and socks and cooled their feet in the creek. After a nice lunch and relaxing at the creek, we mounted back up and headed towards the pack station. The slopes of the Ridge Trail were alive with beautiful flowers! Indian Paintbrush, Mariposa Lilies, and various other flowers blanketed the slopes in places in an amazing display of color! We made it back to the pack station, gave Wrangler Tyler and Seth (co-owner of Aspen Pack Station) a big Thank You, and headed back to camp. The Camp Lake group came back about an hour later.
Campers then were given their tent assignments, and they worked together to set up their tents and put their belongings away. After a little rest, we split up into two groups and had "Horse Safety and Grooming" workshops by Cathy and myself; where the youths were able to have hands-on instruction on proper grooming, and were able to pick up and clean out hooves. Participants also had lessons in various knot tying; where Doug, John and Dave provided the campers with ropes and practiced tying the Bowline, the Quick Release, and some other common knots. Once we finished with the knot tying, it was just about time for dinner! We all washed up at the handy wash station provided by Valerie Perry, and filled our plates with hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, fresh zucchini, and beans. Once we finished dinner and paid our respects to the cooks (Vicki and Cathy), Dave and I introduced Leave No Trace Wilderness Ethics using a little skit, where the campers were active participants. Once we got the campfire started, all the makings for the Smores came out. The youths and adults alike enjoyed roasting their marshmallows and trying to outdo each other by making the "Perfect Smore"! After a full first day, we retired to our tents and called it a night.
Saturday morning rolled around and the first kids out of their tents got the fire started. We then had a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs, and pancakes! After breakfast, Dave introduced the first two principles of LNT; Plan Ahead and Prepare, along with Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces. We all stressed the importance of principle #1; if you take the time to thoroughly plan out a horse camping or packing trip; you will definitely increase your chances of having a fun, safe, and enjoyable experience. As the saying goes; "If you fail to plan; plan to fail!"
We then broke into two groups, and participants worked with Dave on balancing items into pack boxes, or they worked with Doug on putting on the pack boxes and tying a box hitch. We had 5 of the 8 campers that were returnees from the previous year, and many of them just needed a quick review and they were throwing that Box Hitch like they were old pros! The 3 new campers picked it up impressively quick as well! (It took me forever to remember how to put the half hitch on the lash cinch!) The two groups then swapped, so that each of them attended both workshops. Dave then took the entire group around and analyzed various methods of stock restraints, and critiqued some of our highlines for what was right, and what could be better.
Throughout the weekend, Dave stressed that we can't always do things exactly according to LNT; our goal is to always do the BEST that we can do in any given circumstance; and to always strive to do better! Once campers had lunch, we headed back up to Aspen Pack Station for the 2 hour Dodge Ridge Loop Ride. We again split the campers into their original groups, and this time Wrangler Tyler and I rode with the older youths, and Doug and Cathy got to ride with their very own Wrangler, Garrett! The ride was beautiful, and our group even got to see a fawn that was just off the trail. The two groups were staggered just a bit to reduce the dust factor; and we all returned back to the pack station within 10 minutes of each other. We then headed back to camp, and after a little break, we went to check out "Camp Disaster."
This was a camp that had all of the LNT principles backwards! The committee members asked the campers what was wrong with this camp, and our campers couldn't tell us everything that was wrong fast enough! This was a great example of what not to do, and the campers were very aware of how the principles of LNT were not being followed. Our committee has lots of faith in this group of campers in that they will be practicing the LNT principles whenever they go camping or packing into the wilderness. We then gathered up around the camp and shared some reflections from the trail rides. Some of the youth really enjoyed the scenery, some enjoyed the shorter ride, others really appreciated their mounts; but they all had a great time!
I presented "Respect Wildlife" for another LNT principle; and shared that there had been a Mountain Lion sighting near our camp that afternoon. Participants were reminded to keep doing what they had been instructed previously; stay within our camp boundaries, and always be with a buddy. Before dinner, we had a little time for some Box Hitch practice. A few of the kids got some extra help and practiced tying their load on Sparky (the Iron Mule). Dinner was another amazing effort by Vicki and Cathy; we had two types of salads, spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread, watermelon and Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler with Ice Cream! After relaxing around the campfire for awhile, we turned in for the night.
Sunday morning came around, and we had another amazing breakfast of sausage and egg muffins, along with other goodies. After breakfast, the campers packed up their personal belongings, took down their tents, and naturalized the tent area. We then headed up to Aspen Pack Station for our Volunteer Service Project. Our campers picked up microtrash, raked up manure and straw, and swept out the tack rooms and saddling area. We are hoping to instill that volunteer spirit within our young members; as we need to have some replacements on the work projects for some of us "older" folks! Once they were done helping out the pack station, they came back to camp where Dave finished discussing the remainder of the LNT principles. Parents started arriving soon after, and then we finished with our traditional ceremony. Each youth camp participant was called up individually, awarded a certificate, t- shirt, LNT cards, hoof pick (donated by John Marshall), and horseshoe hanger (donated by Dave Moser). After our brief ceremony, we all enjoyed a BBQ hamburger/hotdog lunch, and each other's company. Soon parents and campers were on their way home!
The committee members would like to express their sincere gratitude to the following people: Teri Arington for her donation. Teri's generous donation pays for the entire expense of the Youth Horse Camp, allowing us to offer this 3 day camp to our members at absolutely NO COST! Seth Diemel and Doug Morgan, owners of the Aspen Meadows Pack Station provide us with safe and steady mounts for our youth, awesome Wranglers, and a great price for the whole weekend. We really appreciate your support! Thank You to Parson's Embroidery Plus, where we get the famous camp t-shirts each year at a great price.
If your unit or chapter would like more information about our Youth Horse
Camp, please feel free to contact me! We were initially inspired and
assisted by Backcountry Horsemen of Idaho, who helped us get our program off
of the drawing board and into action just 6 years ago! Remember, we are all
partly responsible for helping inspire the next generation to foster an
appreciation for the backcountry. I can be reached at
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