Northern Colorado
Back Country Horsemen
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Incorporated: 23 September 2003
Nonprofit Corporation

NCBCH is 13 Years Old
As I look back it is hard to believe this chapter is 13 years old.  It all started with my search for back country riders.  I had moved to Colorado & wanted to find like-minded horseback riders.  Get me out of the arena; I had my share of that.  I wanted to be out on a mountain trail.

My searches led me to the Colorado Back Country Horsemen, but all the chapters in Colorado were down south.  I meet with Jan Swarm, Colorado's state president at the Colorado Horse Expo in Denver, Colorado. We talked about me joining a group down there but that was going to be too far for me to drive when I wanted to ride every weekend or on my days off.  I left disappointed but at least I had found a group of riders I wanted to be involved with.

So my search continued, until that one phone call that changed the path I was on.  Jan said "Why don't you start a chapter in Northern Colorado?"  Panic, shock, terror washed over me.  "I can't do that, I don't have a clue how to start a chapter, let alone run one. I'm not a leader; I follow really, really well. It can't be me."

Well as you all can see, it can be me.  My passion for keeping trails open was stronger than my fear.  So on June 25, 2003 we had our 1st meeting & to my surprise I found "My people, I found my home, I found where I belonged."  Northern Colorado Back Country Horsemen had a start & with the help of several people we started the next chapter in Colorado.

We were off and running, we had a lot to learn but we pulled it together & made it work.  There are so many people I need to thank for always having my back; for showing up to the 1st few meetings. That believed we could make NCBCH one of the best chapters in Colorado.  

Over the years, people have come & gone all leaving a little part of themselves with me.  I have learned so much from these people, their families, horses, mules & dogs.  Yes, I did learn from their animals.  It is amazing what a 4 legged animal can teach you. Like the saying says; “You have left a Foot print, Hoof print, Paw print on my heart."  NCBCH is more than a group of people it is a family.

For a small chapter over the years we have done some amazing things.  We started educating people on Leave No Trace, clean up after your horses at every trail head, leave your camp better than you found it. Respect others on the trail & safety for all.  We had some amazing rides; we have gone on road trips together to try out new trails & to some amazing places in different states.  We camped together, rode together; we fought to keep trails open & worked on trails to keep them open.  We signed up with the FS Adopt-A-Trail program & offer our services to any project that came up.  We contacted other horse groups & explained to them what BCH was all about & along the way we made many new friends.  

Over the years I was blessed with meeting, riding & working with some amazing people. Some are still with me today but some have moved on but still have a special place in my heart.  We have laughed, we have made plans & changed plans, we have agreed & disagreed, we headed for a trail head to ride where we found nowhere to park our trailer so we took our horses on a road trip & never took them out of the trailer.  We've ridden in the rain, wind & snow. We had wonderful spring rides & some really warm summer rides.  We've pulled together when someone got hurt or when a horse needed hauled out of the mountains.  We called and asked for help & more than one person showed up.  We welcomed in triplets as our youngest members & all adopted them in.  Such a blessing to see them being raised to love this land.  

We've done small projects like designing & putting up signs at the trail heads reminding people to pick up their manure. We put in a wheelchair mounting block for Larimer County Open Space, put on packing clinics & done tons of educational programs. We took the FS trail class & had members go through the sawyer class. We had 2 members go to Montana and take the Horse Master Trainer Class & now are Master Trainers.

Our biggest project was getting grant money, designing & building a 17 corral horse camp for the Colorado State Park near Walden, Colorado.  Then a few years later we helped Larimer County Open Space design & build a horse camp with corrals & hitching rails at Hewlett Gulch near Estes Park, Colorado.  Our 2017 project will be working with the Wyoming BCH on rebuilding the corrals at Pelton Creek on the border of Colorado & Wyoming near Laramie, Wyoming.  There are 14 pole corrals that need the rails replaced. They were built in 1997 by the Snowy Range BCH. We plan on cutting down the lodge poles & replacing all the rails.  What a fun project this will be working with the Wyoming chapter. Cast iron cooking & cream can cooking will keep us all feed.

So this is why I love being a member & supporting BCHA.  It is more than just riding in the mountains, being on a trail crew, fighting to keep our trails open to riding & pack stock. It is a group of people all over the country that have pulled together to keep packing, camping & riding in the back country open for our next generation. It is also a group of people that realize that the generations of mountain men, outfitters, guides & packers are becoming a part of history but one we need to keep going & not just something we read in books.  This country was open by these men & women; their pack strings & outdoor skills.

Now as part of the older generation, which I hate to admit, my passion for the back country is still there but I have slowed down some.  Cutting out trees with a cross cut saw, putting in water bars & moving large rocks is something I am now leaving for the younger generation.  But what I am seeing is a lot of our chapters consist of us older people.  So I hope we are all out there teaching the younger generation the mission of BCHA.  We need them & their support.  

Over the years the mountains I grew up riding in have changed, the beauty is still there but in a different way.  It used to be we rode through lush forest, open meadows full of wildflowers where creeks ran clear & caught trout in mountain lakes for our dinner.  Now with the beetle kill, trail closures, fires, climate change & human interference; the beauty is a little harder to see, but is still there if you just open your heart to seeing it.

Let us join together & introduce the next generation to the wonders of a high mountain trail. Let's open their eyes to the site of seeing a pack string hobbled in a meadow & listen to the bell ring from the lead mare.  Let’s sit with them at an open fire at night & teach them the constellations & wonders of the night sky. Let them hear the wind whispering through the trees as night sounds settle for the evening.  Watch in wonder as a falling star crosses the sky & the moon dips behind a high mountain peak.  Wake up to the morning sound of birds singing, a humming bird darting through camp & the chatter of a squirrel scolding you for being in his forest.  Watch the sun rise over a lake & watch the light sparkle off the water surface. Watch the trout wake up & come to the surface for their morning breakfast.  Startle a moose as you round the corner of the trail or watch your horse’s ears as he picks up the scent & site of a heard of elk or a doe & fawn.  Let them wade in a cool mountain creek or swim in an ice cold mountain lake.  Let them learn to pack a mule, balance a pack with a rock or hobble a horse. Set up a tent so they can sleep out in the wilderness.  Let them hear an elk bugle or a cat scream in the middle of the night.  Let them get dirt on their hands mud between their toes, cook on an open fire & taste how great a meal is even with a little dirt in it or a little burnt around the edges. Let them experience the power of a high mountain rain storm & feel the hair stand up on their head as a bolt of lightning strikes a little too close.  

Teach them the old way, how to survive & be able to take care of themselves & their animals. Teach them how to high line a horse, build a shelter, and start a camp fire & how to make sure it is completely out. Don't let these skills vanish. Let them ride over a mountain pass still covered in snow, drop down into a beautiful meadow full of meadow grass & watch a lone bear digging up grubs in a dead tree. The wonders of mother nature are still there; we might have to look a little harder than we use to but if you sit in silence you will see & hear what mother nature has put before you.   

So to me being a member of BCHA is more than just a passion it has been my life.  How many people can say they are living the life they dreamed of?  Many years ago my parents asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I said a horse & a week long pack trip into the Winthrop Wilderness in Washington.  They granted my wish & put me on the right path.

Vickie Buchanan
NCBCH Founder
December 2016


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Vickie with Tripper
The First President and Founder of NCBCH

  I was blessed to have a father teach me all about camping,
  horses, packing and hunting & fishing.  I remember the first
  camping trip I went on; while we were packing to leave he  
  said, "Leave the camp better than we found it."  At 6 years
  old he taught me "Leave No Trace" , I have also been
  blessed to have packed the Cascade Mountains of
  Washington, camped and ridden the Selway River area of  
  Idaho.  I now live close enough to Wyoming to ride the Snow
  Range and live right in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. 

  My life has been an amazing adventure; it has taken me to some beautiful places.  At times I worried I didn't know the ways of the city, I wasn't glamorous enough, I didn't want to be a country girl.  But now I am proud to be that girl.  I would rather be in the mountains on my horse any day.  I love what Mother Nature has put before me.  So that is where my passion is and why I believe in BCH.  If I can keep horses and pack stock in the back country for future generations, then my work with BCH has been done.

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