Winston Churchill once said, "I have always considered that the substitution of the internal combustion engine for the horse marked a very gloomy milestone for the progress of mankind." Though he may not have considered the combustion engine's sweeping implications for the pizza-delivery industry, Churchill has a point. After all, motoring by at 70 miles an hour with the windows up so you can hear the radio and keep the A/C in is hardly the best way to ingest the world. To see it on horseback, though, is to plunge right into it.
Riding groups like the Gallatin Valley Back Country Horsemen (GVBCH) savor this forgotten art of taking one's time. The group's weekly outings and devotion to horse education put it at the top of the list for anyone interested in riding or learning to ride, and you don't even have to own a horse to joinï¿½other members can hook you up. But one of the organization's most notable elements is that it is also committed to maintaining the backcountry trails it uses.
"Our basic mission is to keep trails open to horse use," says spokesperson Rich Inman. "We feel we can do that by making a contribution to taking care of those trails." GVBCH says it cleared over 22 trails in 2007 and plans to do even more in 2008. "We'll clean 35 to 40 individual trails, around 500 miles or so," says Inman. "That's water barring, logging out trees, rerouting. We've built bridges," he adds. The Forest Service assists the group by providing lists of trails that need work and lends out chainsaws, equipment, and other basic tools. Inman says that the GVBCH often does this work in concert with other trail-minded groups. "On National Trails Day, we go out and clear trails together."
Despite the sometimes heated debates about who among hikers, bikers, ATVers, riders, snowmobilers, and snowshoers should be allowed to use various trails, Inman says his group doesn't get a lot of grief for being on the trails. "We get along with everybody, and we get a lot of thanks from people for keeping the trails open," he says.
To learn more about the GVBCH and its poker ride fund-raiser (July 18-20), visit bchmt.org/gvbch/. Also, check out the GVBCH's cool trail-etiquette video at video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7993157362824803060.