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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Wild Mare Horse Camp, Siuslaw National Forest, Oregon

Well you never know what the weather will bring, and with this year in particular I realized pretty quickly that my last camping trip of the season would not be in the high country as per usual, so I decided to go to one of the only beach camps I haven't been to yet.

Wild Mare Horse Camp.

On my way there I stopped at Baker Beach outside of Florence, I was going to ride for a day and then possibly spend one night there, but when I pulled in, all the camp spots were full. I've stayed at Baker before and at the time it wasn't that busy, but now there is a camp host and a lot of non horse people camped there. When I was there before, I didn't ride on the beach that much or on the little inland loops because I spent more time on the Cape Mountain Trails. To read about my trip in 2014: Baker Beach

I tacked up and rode on the little loop past Lily Lake, then over to the Berry Creek Trail and then I randomly followed a trail inland that eventually became very soggy, so I turned around, took the trail onto the beach and headed south.
I rode until I reached the first of the houses along the shore and then headed back. At one point I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and when I looked to my right, a bald eagle was flying right beside me at my level, he dropped down to the beach, grabbed a dead critter and took off again with a couple of crows harassing him.
Arriving back at the camp I saw that all the spots were still occupied, so I did the hour drive south over to Wild Mare Horse Camp.

Lily Lake.

A few riders from C&M Stables on Baker Beach.

Baker Beach.

Riding on Baker Beach.

Wild Mare is part of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and is one of the nicest beach horse camps I have ever seen, with 12 paved spots that have either log or steel corrals. There are two bathrooms, two manure bins, a day use area, potable water from spigots (although you cannot attach a hose to them) and garbage cans. They are all back-in spots and # 6 has the most room for an especially large rig. It is $22.00 per night and is a reservation camp, but at this time of the year it is first come first serve, and although there were a few people there the first night, they all left the following day.

In mid October the last thing I was expecting to see were mosquito's but there were a number of lethargic ones flying around half heartedly. There are bat boxes set up throughout the camp for this purpose.

There is a plaque in the camp dedicated to the wild mare who used to roam free amongst the dunes. The plaque has conflicting dates/timelines to the history I read online about her. Apparently she was not actually turned loose on purpose, she escaped as a two year old, and although many people tried, no one could ever catch her again, so there she remained for 32 years....and became a local legend, hence the name of the camp.

Wild Mare Horse Camp.

The plaque dedicated to the wild mare.

On my first day I took the Wild Mare Trail from camp that leads to the ocean and rode north along the beach...... and rode and rode and rode! You can definitely ride for many miles this way, but the scenery is not particularly varied. Eventually I went inland for a little while and rode on a few of the OHV trails as well.

On the Wild Mare Trail.

A natural tunnel on the Wild Mare Trail.

Just over the hill to the ocean.

Horsfall Beach.

Rode on a few inland OHV trails briefly.

The following day I bundled up and rode south, it was supposed to be cloudy and very windy. As it turned out it was neither, and I was forced to shed my layers as it very quickly turned into the nicest, warmest day so far. Instead of just beach riding I wanted to ride most of the North Spit Trail system. You can also trailer over there to save a few miles in the saddle, but I just rode to the end of the spit on the beach first, then cut inland through an area where it is closed from March.15th through Sept.15th for Snowy Plover's to nest, and then over to the North Jetty.

A beautiful day on the beach.

Sandpipers are always entertaining.

At the signage for the North Jetty.

On the North Jetty.

The Cape Arago Lighthouse was visible in the distance.

From the jetty I rode back along Bayside Rd. (which is underwater at high tide) until I got to the Gray Trail then followed the South Loop to the Bunker Trails. The trails are well marked and the junctions have maps so you can tell exactly where you are. The southern side of the North Spit Trails are forested and there is a World War II bunker to check out. Just after examining the bunker I rode into some deeper woods and as I looked ahead on the trail, I saw a bear. I saw him a millisecond before he saw me, at which point he left in a hurry. If anyone had asked me recently how often I see bear while riding or hiking I would have said rarely, but this is the third bear I have seen in the space of a month, all in completely different locations!

The North Spit Trails are well marked.

The World War II bunker.

On the North Spit Trails.

On the North Spit Trails, just before the bear sighting.

I then rode along the Dune Trails, on the north side of the spit, and at times you need to keep an eye out for the markers in the distance, since the trails become harder to see.

On the Dune Trails.

The following day was misty and cloudy, I thought about doing a short ride from the day use area, since there are other inland trails leaving from the camp, but they are pretty deep sand and my horse had spent enough time slogging through the stuff already. So I drove on home, very pleased that I had had three nice weather days in a row, which can be a rarity. Apparently a storm came through right after I left.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Martin's Dairy Horse Camp and Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

I had to wait more than a month to go on another camping trip, due to the eclipse week, a small accident I had that I needed to heal from, (not horse related), then forest fires were burning everywhere, BUT after the labor day weekend, I finally departed on Sept. 5th for California.

The Cinder Cone in Lassen National Park.

After over four hours of driving south, I was still in heavy smoke, which was not encouraging, however once I got to the camp it wasn't quite as bad, so I tacked up and went on a ride.
Although on Trailmeister it states that there are 25 miles of trails, I looked everywhere but I never found any!

Martin's Dairy Horse Camp is in the Klamath National Forest and has four spots with not a lot of room to maneuver. After unsuccessfully trying to back into a couple of them, I made do with pulling straight in so I would be able to open my trailer doors.
There is a turn around area at the end of the camp and it is also a tight squeeze, but doable. So unless you want to unhook, if you have a rig longer than mine, 39.5 feet total, you will not fit in the spots.
There is a communal set of four corrals with a water trough that reaches all of them, but there is also a perfectly good spigot and a hose, so I didn't bother filling the huge trough. The water is potable, there are bear proof garbage cans, and a bathroom and it is $10.00 per night. There are picnic tables, fire rings, (actually more like wood stove type of things), and no manure bin.

The corrals at Martin's Dairy Horse Camp.

There is a day use area, then the horse camp, then another large non horse camp all within short distances from one another, but not a trailhead to be found. So I just rode on the many dirt and gravel roads in the area. Unfortunately it got smokier the longer I rode so I cut the ride short and headed back.

That evening the smoke was so thick I was forced to hide in my trailer and was starting to wonder what I was doing there...when it started to storm, with buckets of rain, thunder and lightning right above my head, which was a little scary, but definitely got rid of the smoke.

The Little Shasta River.

Found a spring.

Pretty country but the smoke was getting heavy.

The next day was clear and I went for a ride towards the top of Willow Creek Mt. I wanted to save my horse's energy for our next destination, so I only rode a short while again. In the afternoon I spent my time driving back into Oregon to Klamath Falls to buy something important that I had forgotten at home. While there, the air quality was horrible, then a storm blew in again and the wind kicked up so much dirt and blew it across the road, that we all had to stop driving, since we couldn't see the cars in front of us.

On the way up Willow Creek Mt.

On Thursday I continued my journey south to Lassen National Park. There are three stock campgrounds in the park, Summit Lake, Butte Lake, and Juniper Lake. These are reservation only camp spots and they are big enough for a group. Summit is the most popular, in fact it was reserved for the rest of the season, and I think I know why, although I did not go over there I know it is on a paved road with easy access. Juniper however is on a long gravel road, that is rough and sometimes rocky and has one pretty steep section. On my way up the steep section I heard an unusual noise, I looked in my mirror and saw a tire lying in the road behind me. My spare had fallen out from under the truck. I backed down the road, got out and used brute human strength to get it hoisted into the back of my truck. The metal thing that it sits on was still attached to it. Sigh. I had just had it re-installed since I had blown a tire on my last trip.

Juniper Lake Stock Corral sits next door to a ranger station that is unmanned. It is $28.00 per night and there is a bathroom, and two large joined steel corrals with water troughs. There are bear proof garbage cans and metal food lockers, picnic tables and fire rings, but no potable water and no manure bin. The ranger station has a small map of the nearest trails, but there is a better more detailed map online you could print out.

 Juniper Lake is just a short walk downhill and it is the largest lake in the park, beautiful, clean and pristine. This area is fairly quiet and because the road to the non horse campground nearby is not RV friendly, there is not a whole lot of traffic, just a few car campers or hikers arriving here and there.

The Juniper Lake Stock Corral is next to the ranger station.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived was that the water troughs were empty, this was puzzling since I had actually had someone call me from the park a week and a half ahead of time to confirm how many horses I was bringing, so they would know how much water to have ready for me. Very luckily, I always carry a barrel of water, on this particular trip it was meant to refill my trailer, but since the last camp had that handy dandy spigot and hose, I had already done that, so I was able to use the water in the barrel for my horse.

Juniper Lake Stock Corral.

On my first day of riding in the park I chose to head out to Butte Lake, passing Snag Lake first along the way. I wanted to do a loop but found a short section of trail past Butte Lake that was signed "no horses". At this point I had already ridden over 10 miles one way so I just turned around and went back the same way. I saw not a living soul on the trails the entire day.
A few bonuses about riding in a national park: you know the trails will be cleared, there are no hunters, and the junctions are all marked complete with mileage to all the destinations. This was handy as every day I started with one plan but would often change my mind mid way through, since I could just add up the mileage and figure out how much farther I wanted to go.

Snag Lake.

Aspens beside Snag Lake.

Butte Lake has little lava islands with trees growing on them.

Trails are well marked at every junction with mileage.

There is some confusion on the website about stock use in the park, it says all stock users must fill out a back country use permit, so I went and looked at the self serve ones they had at the ranger station. They are free so I was going to grab one and fill it out, but when I read them they are meant for back country camping, which you cannot do with a horse anyway.

The next day I did a 20 mile loop first passing Horseshoe Lake, where there is a cabin that I eventually learned someone actually stays in. What a peaceful and serene spot with a creek running through a meadow, and the lake sitting directly behind the cabin. I then continued on to Swan Lake and the Twin Lakes where I was on a stretch of the PCT for only about a mile, before I veered off towards Rainbow Lake and the Cinder Cone.

The cabin at Horseshoe Lake.

There were a few of these fun bridges made more for people than horses. This was one of the better ones.

Horseshoe Lake with the tip of Lassen Peak in the distance.

On the trail to the Cinder Cone in a burn area.

The Cinder Cone.

Once I got to the cone I saw that you could not ride horses to the top of it, so I went along the side and looked at the large round balls of lava strewn about. Clearly I am not a geologist and I have no idea what the right terminology is, but it was interesting and different from what I am used to seeing back in Central Oregon where we also have a whole lot of lava.

Beside the Cinder Cone.

Beside the Cinder Cone.

I plan to come back to this park and hike in some of the non horse zones, like Lassen Peak, the Sulphur Works and I would like to climb to the top of the Cinder Cone, since it has a crater in the middle and you can get a great view of the Painted Hills from there.

The Fantastic Lava Beds.

On the way back I passed by the opposite side of Snag Lake from where I was the day before.

Snag Lake and Mt. Hoffman.

On my last day I headed up Harkness Mt. which is just south of camp, where I got some great views of Lassen Peak and also of the entirety of Juniper lake. There is a staffed fire lookout on the top and a nice lady named Tina was on duty, and she was delighted to see a horse. Although she meets and greets many hikers in a day, a horse was a new experience and she had some baby carrots as offerings which Rina was delighted to accept. I actually spent about an hour up there just chatting and then left her to diligently keep watch for fires. I rode down the other side of the mountain, over to Indian Lake, and then back to Horseshoe Lake making a nice loop. Once I was back on the main road, I took a detour to the top of Inspiration Point and then headed back to camp.

Almost to the lookout on Mt. Harkness.

Lassen Peak.

Looking down on Juniper Lake from Mt. Harkness.

The Mt. Harkness Lookout, built in 1931.

A rare photo of me, on the Mt. Harkness Lookout.

Mossy trees on the way back to Juniper Lake from Horseshoe Lake.

At Inspiration Point.

Since this was a slightly shorter riding day, I got back about an hour earlier than usual, and it was the warmest day thus far, so naturally I went down to Juniper Lake and lazed about on the deserted beach and had a relaxing swim. A perfect end to my trip! On a side note, when I arrived back at camp I saw that someone had come by and filled my water, or tried to, they started to fill the trough, then gave up on that and just filled the bucket I had out. Not sure if this happened because I had mentioned to Tina that there was no stock water and she called them, or if they just happened to come by and any case I now wonder whether the tank had been filled originally and maybe there was a leak or ?...... I guess I will never know.

Juniper Lake.