I was blessed to have a father teach me all about camping, horses, packing, hunting and 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 LNT - 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 and I now live close enough to Wyoming to ride the Snowy Range and live right in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies.
Many years ago my parents asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I said "a horse and a week long pack trip into the Winthrop Wilderness" in Washington. They granted my wish and put me on the right path.
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 country girl. I would rather be in the mountains on my horse any day. I love what Mother Nature has put before me.
Over the years the mountains I grew up riding in have changed. The beauty is still there but in a different way. It use to be we rode through lush forest, open meadows full of wildflowers where creeks ran clear and we caught trout in the mountain streams and lakes for our dinner. Now with the beetle kill, trail closures, fires, climate change and human interference the beauty is a little harder to seem but if you just open your heart you'll see it.
I love being a member of BCHA. It is more than just riding in the mountains, being on a trail crew, fighting to keep our trails open to riding and pack stock. It is a group of people all over the country that have pulled together to keep packing, camping and 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 and packers are becoming a part of history but one we need to keep going and not just something we read about in books. This country was opened by these men and women with their pack strings and their 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 and 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 and their support. To me being a member of BCHA is more than a passion. It has been my life. How many people can say they are living the life they dreamed of? If I can help keep horses and pack stock in the back country for future generations then my work with BCH has been done.
Let's join together and introduce the next generation to the wonders of a high mountain trail. Let's open their eyes to the sight of seeing a pack string hobbled in a meadow and listen to the bell ring from the lead mare. Let them hear the wind whispering through the trees as night sounds settle for the evening. Let's sit with them at an open fire at night and teach them the constellations and wonders of the night sky. Let them watch in wonder as a falling star crosses the sky and the moon dips behind a high mountain peak. Let's let them wake in the morning to the sounds of birds singing, a hummingbird darting through camp and the chatter of a squirrel scolding you for being in his forest. Watch the sun rise over a lake and watch the light sparkle off the water's surface. Watch the trout wake and come to the surface for their morning breakfast. Let's let 'em startle a moose as they round corner of a trail or watch your horse's ears as he picks up the scent and sight of a herd of elk or a doe and 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. Let them learn to 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 and mud between their toes, cook on an open fire and taste how great a meal is even with a little dirt in it or it's a little burned around the edges. Let them experience the power of a high mountain rain storm and feel the hair stand up on their head as a bolt of lightening strikes a little too close.
Teach them the old way, how to survive and be able to take care of themselves and their animals. Teach them how to highline a horse, build a shelter, start a campfire and how to make sure it is completely out. Let's not let these skills vanish.
Let them ride over a mountain pass still covered in snow, drop down into a beautiful meadow full of grass and 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 and hear what Mother Nature has put before you.
Incorporated: September 23, 2003
Non Profit 501c3 Corporation
As I look back it is hard to believe the Chapter is 15 years old!
It all started with my search for back country riders. I had moved to Colorado and 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 met with Jan Swarm, Colorado's State President at the time, at the Horse Expo in Denver. 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 well. It can't be me!"
Well as you 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 first meeting and to my surprise I found "My people, I found my home, I found where I belonged." Northern Colorado Back Country Horsemen had a start and 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 and made it work. There are so many people I need to thank for always having my back; for showing up to the first few meeting, that believed we could make NCBCH one of the best Chapters in Colorado.
Over the years people have come and gone all leaving a little part of themselves with me. I have learned so much from these people, their families, horses, mules and dogs. Yes, I did learn from their animals. It is amazing what a four legged animal can teach you. Like the saying says; 'You have left a footprint, hoofprint or pawprint on my heart.' NCBCH is more than a group of people it is 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 and safety for all. We've had some amazing rides; we have gone on road trips together to try out new trails and to some amazing places in different states. We've camped together, rode together, fought to keep trails open and worked on trails to keep them open. We signed the Adopt A Trail form with the Forest Service and offer our services to any project that came up. We contacted other horse groups and explained what BCH was about and along the way we made many new friends.
We've done small projects such as designing and placing signs to remind people to clean up after their horses. We installed a wheelchair mounting block for Larimer County Open Space, put on packing clinics and done tons of educational programs. We've attended FS training classes and send two members to Montana for LNT Master Trainer Classes and now have LNT Master Trainers.
Our largest project to date was obtaining a grant, designing and building 17 corral horse camp for Colorado State Forest State Park near Walden, Colorado. A few years later we assisted Larimer County Open Space design and build a horse camp with corrals and hitching rails at Hewlett Gulch near Estes Park. Our 2017 project was rebuilding the corrals at Pelton Creek, just across the border between Colorado and Wyoming. Working in conjunction with Wyoming Great Divide BCH we revamped the 14 corrals that were constructed in 1997 by Snowy Range BCH, a now defunct group. What a fun project that was! Cast iron and cream can cooking kept us well fed.