YAKIMA VALLEY — People who enjoy the outdoors come from all backgrounds and walks of life, living in and around towns throughout the Yakima Valley.

One group, the Yakima Valley chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Washington, believes in promoting the use of the wilderness and national forest lands while keeping them maintained.

Robin Faulk is the group’s past president and shared how a group of individuals who enjoy riding their horses on trails where passenger vehicles are prohibited spend time venturing into nature and keeping it accessible to others.

“We want to be inclusive,” she said, noting there are state and federal agencies that are incapable of maintaining the thousands of miles of trails that exist throughout Washington.

In the Naches Forest alone, she said there’s more than 1,000 miles of trails that are sometimes damaged by acts of nature, and sometimes by human complacency.

“We could be cleaning up fallen trees,” Faulk said, noting there are many natural causes for forest debris like logs fallen on the trails. “Or, we could be cleaning up trash.”

People enjoy the trails through the wilderness in a variety of recreational ways, whether hiking, on horseback or on ATVs.

No matter the case, Faulk said it is important to keep the trails maintained so that those charged with managing the land don’t close them to the public.

“It’s important to get people out, enjoying our forests and trails,” Faulk said.

But those lands wouldn’t be as enjoyable if they were neglected and deemed unsafe.

Faulk said the Back Country Horsemen is also in need of younger people interested in enjoying the trail rides and work days.

There was one project involving the stabilization of an area turned into a bog. No mechanized tools could be used, but a work group averaging age 68 worked with forestry officials to complete the job.

Faulk said it was a matter of perseverance and dedication to keeping the trail open that enabled the group to complete the job in a team effort.

Work groups like that one consist of people of varying abilities. Even something as simple as someone bringing water to those expending their muscle power are appreciated, Faulk said.

While riding the trails, the group not only observes and takes in the surroundings, they try to educate others about the philosophy of “Leave no trace” as they encounter others along the way.

The horsemen have assisted camping groups with gear needing pack animals, they stock small ponds with fish for conservation and work with legislators to promote public access to the forests.

“We don’t want trails to be closed to public access,” Faulk said, noting it is nearly impossible to get them reopened.

To learn more, visit http://bchw.org/.

Jennie McGhan can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 114 or email JMcGhan@sunnysidesun.com

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