Back Country Horsemen of America believes in the premise of America’s Wildernesses, and leads our nation both on the trail and in houses of government in preserving those wild lands. Highly respected for their knowledge, integrity, and work ethic, BCHA collaborates extensively with land management agencies and other trail user groups to create practical solutions to the problems that threaten the sanctity of our Wilderness areas.
One of the biggest pressures against our commonsense enjoyment of wild lands is the immense maintenance required for each individual trail, after every winter, every hurricane, every heavy rainstorm. Back Country Horsemen of America meets that challenge head-on from coast to coast by dedicating their time, muscles, and resources to on-the-ground trail work. Their sore backs, blistered hands, and sunburned faces mean that you can enjoy a horseback ride or hike through your favorite Wilderness on your favorite trails.
Nature’s Game of Pick-up-Sticks
What would our back country trails look like without BCHA? A few members of the San Juan Chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Colorado recently found out. Mike Pluth, his wife Rena Gallant, and their friend Annie Pack had planned a leisurely ride through the South San Juan Wilderness, including a picnic lunch. On a crisp fall day, they packed their lunches, prepared their horses, and took Fish Creek Trail up to Opal Lake, then turned onto the Leche Creek Trail #576.
Instead of the relaxing ride they had expected, they found themselves constantly having to pick their way through and around an unbelievable number of downed trees that crossed the trail at every angle like giant matchsticks. It took them over 3 strenuous hours to ride a mere 3 miles. The chapter had cleared these trails only the year before, and one of the riders had been riding these trails for the past six summers and had never seen it such a mess.
Are you Back Country Horsemen?”
Knowing the popularity of these trails, the chapter put them at the top of their trail project list for immediate attention. Mike, Rena, and Annie were joined on their first work day by San Juan Chapter’s Forest Service Liaison and Trails Committee Chairman John Nelson and his wife, Lisa. They split into two groups to use their time more effectively.
As San Juan Chapter members went about their work, a group from Fish Creek Outfitters happened by with an out-of-state family that had been coming to the area for 25 years to hunt elk. One of their first questions was, “Are you Back Country Horsemen?” When they replied that they were, the outfitters’ group thanked them for their efforts. They had found it very slow going, as well, on the trails littered with trees. The chapter cleared 27 trees that day to make the trail passable for all users.
Trail Users Big and Small
On another work day in the same area, two local teachers came through with about 20 special needs children who had hiked up to Opal Lake. The teachers asked if they were Back Country Horsemen. When they replied, “Yes,” the teachers thanked them for maintaining the trails. The children would not have been able to finish their hike if the trails had not been cleared. The children were fascinated with the horses and enjoyed the rare opportunity to pet them.
As they continued to open up these trails in the South San Juan Wilderness, chapter members met a couple from Phoenix, Arizona, who also asked if they were Back Country Horsemen. They said they follow the San Juan Back Country Horsemen on their Facebook page. They had purchased property in the area and plan to become chapter members when they move there.
Keeping Wild Places Wild
San Juan Back Country Horsemen continued to clear the Opal Lake trails with twice-weekly work days, weather permitting. These interactions with trail users hit home for chapter members the enormous impact their labor and effort has on the community.
“We are using the Wilderness as it was originally intended,” Mike said. “It’s a place where you can refresh your spirit and reconnect with nature.” Clearly, people truly appreciate the opportunity to experience that, and value its protection.
Back Country Horsemen of America is committed to keeping those wild places wild, today and for every generation to come.
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 342 North Main Street, West Hartford, CT 06117. The future of horse use on public lands is in our hands!