The Trail Rider’s Guide to Surviving Winter
by Robert Eversole
Sometimes, despite our best intentions, it’s easy to hibernate the winter away and neglect the wonderful planning and preparing opportunities that these cold, gray and even bleak days provide. I’ll be the first to admit that it doesn’t take much to firmly plant myself in front of the fire and simply dream about summer’s bluebird skies. Unfortunately, dreams don’t come true unless you wake up.
The busy holiday season will soon be behind us and we can start to look ahead to the coming year and again contemplate long days in the saddle, camp cooking and, of course, the camaraderie of our best trail riding friends. This is an excellent time of the year to put your ride calendar together and attend as many learning opportunities as you can to better prepare yourself for back country adventure and fun in the coming year.
Plan (noun): The orderly arrangement of parts of an overall design or objective). Instead of just dreaming about the coming summer, why not actually start planning and scheduling the year ahead? A long standing habit at my house is to set aside a few hours on New Year’s Day to talk about where to ride during the year as well as what we need to do to make that happen. Then, we make tentative dates on the calendar (the BCHW calendar is perfect for this).
Early season rides will find many of us in the high desert, exploring such places as Escure Ranch and the always popular Burke Lake. As the weather warms, we’ll start working our way towards the mountain slopes at places like Audubon Camp and Joe Watt Canyon. Further into summer, the high country will become our playground. It’s not all play, of course. Many of us will be converging at places like Haney Meadow with work parties ready to repair and rebuild from the recent fire damage. And then there’s the PCT on the crest of the Cascades where the window between snow falling is mercilessly short.
No mention of ride planning would be complete without a nod to the many prize ride events that take place throughout the year. From the early Methow Spring Ride, to the later in the year Wine Ride, these events are well worth a spot on anyone’s calendar—for the food alone, if not for the new places to ride that these events open up to us.
Prepare (verb): To make ready beforehand for some purpose, use, or activity). Everyone has dreams, but for the vast majority they don’t come true because of lack of focus and activity. To make those dreams of riding the back country a reality plenty of work is required. I’m often amazed at the quality of classes and seminars our members put on during the winter months. For those of us who want the full experience of being a back country horseman, there are many chances to learn from the best. Ron Downing’s famous pack clinics and the annual mule barn pack clinic at the Olympic National Park are a couple of examples of learning opportunities you don’t want to miss. Then, put your newly honed skills to use at the Great Gravel Pack-In at Capitol Forest.
Rendezvous (noun): A place appointed for assembling or meeting. In just a couple of months, at The Rendezvous (see bchw.org), we’ll have the best chance of the year to get together as a group and learn from one another a myriad of skills ranging from Trygve’s packing class, to how to use the map and compass in the bottom of your saddle bags, Leave No Trace and of course the popular and extremely useful Dutch oven cooking demonstrations. I look forward to seeing you there!
As always, for ideas on places to ride visit the largest horse trail and camping directory in the US www.TrailMeister.com.
Originally Published December 2014 Issue
*As first published in the January – February 2013, issue of The Trailhead News.