Win­ter-Rid­ing Op­por­tu­ni­ties

Trail Rider - - CONTENTS - BY ROBERT EVERSOLE

JJan­uary, the start of a brand-new year of fab­u­lous trail rid­ing and camp­ing with your horses and mules. Wel­come to a new col­umn in The Trail Rider to high­light hid­den trail-rid­ing trea­sures across North Amer­ica! Each reg­u­lar is­sue, we’ll travel around the con­ti­nent and visit a few new ar­eas to ride and ex­plore with our fa­vorite horses and mules.

This is­sue, we’ll start in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia with a desert rid­ing ad­ven­ture. Then we’ll visit the East Coast for a stop in the moun­tains of North Carolina. Fi­nally, we’ll swing around to the Pa­cific North­west for a misty day ride near Seat­tle.

Vern Whi­taker Horse Camp, Anza Bor­rego State Park, Cal­i­for­nia

GPS Co­or­di­nates: 33.348831, -116.399595

Quick Fact: The high­est tem­per­a­ture recorded in Anza Bor­rego was a scorch­ing 122 de­grees in June 1990.

This place is big. Re­ally big. Cov­er­ing 916 square miles, Anza Bor­rego State Park is the largest state park in Cal­i­for­nia and the se­cond largest state park in the en­tire United States. The park in­cludes 12 wilder­ness ar­eas, 500 miles of gravel roads, and more than 100 miles of des­ig­nated trails. Only two hours from the cities of San Diego and River­side, it’s also easy to get to.

The park is named for Juan Bautista de Anza, a Span­ish ex­plorer from the late 1700s, and the Span­ish word bor­rego, which means bighorn sheep. Por­tions of the 1,210-mile-long Juan Bautista de Anza Na­tional His­toric Trail run through the park as it trav­els from No­gales, Ari­zona, to San Fran­cisco, Cal­i­for­nia.

Anza Bor­rego is home to the largest num­ber of en­dan­gered Penin­su­lar bighorn sheep in Cal­i­for­nia. About 280 of these mag­nif­i­cent an­i­mals re­main; 200 call Anza Bor­rego home. Rid­ers with sharp eyes might also catch a glimpse of speedy road­run­ners and grace­ful golden ea­gles.

The best times to visit Anza Bor­rego are win­ter and early spring be­fore the desert be­comes dan­ger­ously hot for horse and hu­mans. Spring vis­i­tors will es­pe­cially en­joy the Tech­ni­color show from the desert wild­flow­ers. In a good year, a knee-high car­pet of flow­ers will rise up from the desert floor and stretch for miles.

It’s al­ways nice to have a spe­cial area set aside just for equine use. It’s even bet­ter when the equine area is as well-kept and ap­pointed as the Vern Whi­taker Horse Camp in Anza Bor­rego. Af­ter a long day of ex­plor­ing in the sad­dle, horse and mule campers will ap­pre­ci­ate the many ameni­ties found here, in­clud­ing mod­ern re­strooms and show­ers

Camp­sites are large enough to fit liv­ing-quar­ters trail­ers, and in­clude fire rings, grills, and pic­nic ta­bles. For your equine friends, you’ll find spa­cious cor­rals, ma­nure bunks, and even a wash rack.

Of course, it’s the rid­ing you’ll come here for, and a visit to Anza Bor­rego won’t dis­ap­point with 110 miles of des­ig­nated trails to ex­plore, in­clud­ing por­tions of the Pa­cific Crest Trail that runs for 2,659 miles from Mex­ico to Canada.

The park’s sandy trails twist and me-

This win­ter, sad­dle up, and ride in tem­per­ate climes on these top trails. BY ROBERT EVERSOLE

an­der through 600,000 acres of canyons, washes, and ridges. Along the way, you’ll en­joy scenic views, from dra­matic vis­tas and lake beds to an­cient pic­tographs.

For more in­for­ma­tion, go to: www. trailmeis­ter.com/trails/anza-bor­re­godesert-state-park-vern-whit­taker-horse­camp/; www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=638.

Anita Alta Camp­ground, Lenoir, North Carolina

GPS Co­or­di­nates: 35.989971, -81.637697

Quick Fact: The “blue” of the Blue Moun­tains is caused by the trees. The dis­tinc­tive bluish haze is pro­duced by the nat­u­ral re­lease of hy­dro­car­bons into the at­mos­phere from trees and other veg­e­ta­tion.

Just a few miles from Lenoir in west­ern North Carolina is a 375-acre camp­ground nes­tled on the bor­der of the Pis­gah Na­tional For­est in a spur of the Blue Ridge Moun­tains. With miles upon miles of trails to tra­verse in the for­est and a well-ap­pointed camp to en­joy, the Anita Alta camp­ground is a fab­u­lous place from which to ex­pe­ri­ence this por­tion of the Ap­palachi­ans.

Horse campers will wel­come Anita Alta’s many ameni­ties, in­clud­ing bath houses, rental cab­ins, and kitchen pav­il­ions. Pre­set high­line posts are avail­able, and the camp is friendly to the use of por­ta­ble cor­rals. The camp­ground also of­fers a fish­ing pond, horse­shoe and vol­ley­ball courts, creeks, and even wa­ter­falls and caves to dis­cover.

De­spite the pleas­ant dis­trac­tions, you’ll want to spend most of your time in the sad­dle. The rid­ing area that can be ac­cessed di­rectly from Anita Alta cov­ers nearly 12 square miles of rolling hills, ridgetops, and ravines with al­most 40 miles of well-marked and main­tained trails that wind and loop un­der dense forests of birch, beech, and maple. It’ll take you sev­eral days to cover all of the trails, and then you’ll want to ride them for a se­cond and third time.

Camp­ing and rid­ing at Anita Alta is a year-round op­por­tu­nity; spring and fall are pop­u­lar times.

The folks that make Anita Alta a re­al­ity are the mem­bers of the Blue Ridge Horse­man’s As­so­ci­a­tion. This hard­work­ing group has re­vived a ne­glected 4-H camp into a vi­brant camp­ing and rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Since 2009, the BRHA has added 10 new trails to the ex­ist­ing trail sys­tem, as well as re­paired and re­ha­bil­i­tated the en­tire camp with new wa­ter sys­tems, drive­ways, and camp­ing ar­eas.

Main­tain­ing the camp and the trails is quite an en­deavor, and the BRHA does charge a nom­i­nal fee for camp­ing and day use. When you visit, you’ll quickly see that the small fee is well worth it.

For more in­for­ma­tion, go to: https:// www.trailmeis­ter.com/trails/anita-al­ta­horse-camp; www.brha.us.

Tay­lor Mountain Trail­head, Ho­bart, Washington

GPS Co­or­di­nates: 47.432604, -121.971175 Quick Fact: Seat­tle av­er­ages 201 cloudy days a year and is one of the top five raini­est cities in the lower 48 states.

Lo­cated in the Pa­cific North­west just east of Seat­tle, Tay­lor Mountain’s 30-plus miles of trails lay less than 30 miles from the bustling me­trop­o­lis of Seat­tle and share in the re­gion’s mild, wet win­ters. If you’re will­ing to don raingear this month, you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence Tay­lor Mountain’s fab­u­lous sys­tem of horse-friendly trails.

The Tay­lor Mountain rid­ing area in­cludes well over 1,900 acres of county park, plus ad­ja­cent Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and City of Seat­tle prop­er­ties. It’s a big area filled with loop­ing and wind­ing trails that criss­cross mountain crests, val­leys, and mead­ows. This work­ing for­est is man­aged not only for won­der­ful rid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, but also as a work­ing for­est. This means that oc­ca­sion­ally rid­ers will en­counter log­ging and other op­er­a­tions, as the land is ac­tively man­aged to con­serve and pro­tect the ecosys­tem.

And what an ecosys­tem you’ll find here! From gur­gling streams framed in Juras­sic-like ferns to forests filled with alders and firs, you can find a va­ri­ety of en­vi­ron­ments to ex­plore. Routes range from broad gravel log­ging roads to twist­ing sin­gle-track trails that hug the hill­sides and climb to moun­tain­tops with out­stand­ing views of nearby Mount Rainier tow­er­ing in the south.

Horse and mule rid­ers can en­joy the many faces of Tay­lor Mountain through­out

the year. Win­ter rides can take rid­ers from damp and misty lowlands to snow-sprin­kled trails in the higher el­e­va­tions.

Spring rides in­clude thick masses of pink Sal­monberry blooms and the oc­ca­sional bear sight­ing. Sum­mer brings blue­bird skies and, again, in­cred­i­ble views of Mount Rainier. Falls col­ors aren’t lost here ei­ther, with alders crowned in gold and yel­low. Fall rid­ers with sharp eyes have a chance of sight­ing Coho salmon in Holder and Carey Creeks as they swim up­stream to spawn.

The trail sys­tem at Tay­lor is ex­tremely well-marked and main­tained. Do­ing much of that main­tain­ing is the Ta­homa Chap­ter of the Back­coun­try Horse­men of Washington, whose mem­bers par­take in nu­mer­ous work par­ties.

Be­sides trail clear­ing projects ev­ery year, the Ta­homa chap­ter was in­stru­men­tal in ac­quir­ing the new horse-trailer park­ing area with plenty of room for 25 truck-and­trailer rigs. As you ride this trail sys­tem, you’ll give thanks to Ta­homa for work­ing hard to clear the many downed branches and trees each year!

For more in­for­ma­tion, go to: www.trailmeis­ter.com/trails/tay­lor-mountain; www.king­county.gov/ser­vices/park­srecre­ation/parks/trails/back­coun­try­trails/tay­lor-mtn.aspx. TTR Robert “TrailMeis­ter” Eversole is the horse­man be­hind TrailMeis­ter.com, the largest on­line eques­trian-trail and horse-camp­ing guide in the world. When not help­ing rid­ers find the straight scoop on new places to ride and camp, he’s a highly re­quested clin­i­cian at equine events around the na­tion, where he shares his knowl­edge of trail rid­ing, camp­ing with live­stock, and trail safety.

The Vern Whi­taker Horse Camp in Anza Bor­rego State Park, Cal­i­for­nia, of­fers mod­ern re­strooms, show­ers, and camp­sites large enough to fit liv­ing-quar­ters trail­ers. For your equine friends, you’ll find spa­cious cor­rals, ma­nure bunks, and even a wash rack.

Robert Eversole

KEN CAR­PEN­TER PHO­TOS Horse campers headed to North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Moun­tains will wel­come Anita Alta’s ameni­ties, in­clud­ing bath houses, rental cab­ins, and kitchen pav­il­ions. Pre­set high­line posts are avail­able, and the camp is friendly to the use of por­ta­ble cor­rals.

KATHY YOUNG PHO­TOS The Ta­homa Chap­ter of the Back­coun­try Horse­men of Washington, was in­stru­men­tal in ac­quir­ing Tay­lor Mountain’s new horse-trailer park­ing area with plenty of room for 25 truck-and-trailer rigs.

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