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    On one of my annual horse camping get-a-ways, I had the ride of a lifetime going down to Jordan Ranch from Black Rock Ranger Station outside the town of Kennedy Meadows on the Pacific Crest Trail.

    It was summer of 2017. After a particularly wet season, the trail was alive in technicolor. Wildflowers of every color were in abundance.

    More than anything, I was gratified and respectful like never before with the strength and stamina of my ponies. My gelding was 26, my mare an 18-year-old born with deformities that give her a short stride on a good day. While they were in good condition going into the ride, I was still surprised that they packed us up and down the 9-mile steep grade with no complaints.

    I may not have many camping trips left with my senior gelding—he is now 29 and diagnosed with neuronopathies that limit my ability to ride him. I will be forever grateful for my Summer of 2017 with my boy.

    Nona Green


    Mike Williams

    Riding and packing the Eastern Sierra with my wife, Sigrid.

    Mike Williams


    Lisa Iaria

    I love to ride horses in Ireland. Mount Juliet is a beautiful, stately manor house located on 200 acres of rolling green grass. It is known for its golf course and Ballylinch Stud Farms. It is a beautiful place to ride. Visiting there is truly an escape from the busy world.

    Lisa Iaria


    I went to Colorado Trails Ranch 10 years in a row and I also worked there one summer, so I hope I liked it! They made all new guests take a riding lesson. Everyone rode their horses their way.

    Anonymous


    Karen Lisa Dagnan

    Ah, it’s hard to pick since all (or at least most) horse vacations are happy times! I would have to say that camping and riding through Utah would have to be the most awe-inspiring, red rock-gazing vacation of all. However, Morro Bay is beautiful and fun. Black Rock is amazing. Caspers is lovely.

    Karen Lisa Dagnan


    Marcy Watton

    My Backcountry Horsemen of California unit arranged a camping trip in the Mojave National Preserve at the Black Canyon Equestrian Campground at Hole in the Wall. This is a beautiful and very remote desert location known for its unusual rock formations and Native American sites featuring petroglyphs, pictographs, and other evidence of ancient habitation. One day’s ride followed a sandy wash lined by high, dark-rock basalt walls etched in places with stunning geometric petroglyphs. The next day’s ride wound through a wide expanse of desert featuring cactus gardens and feral cattle cautiously watching our progress, all of which is circled by angular mountains. We came upon a curious array of hollowed out boulders that had tumbled down a mountainside eons ago and were adorned with Native American pictographs. Our third day of riding was canceled due to a ferocious storm, but we all promised to return to continue exploring this amazing place.

    Marcy Watton


    Monument Valley, with about 25 friends and their horses camping on the Navajo reservation with the Indians and riding out with the Indians every day in a different direction with our Indian guide.

    Anonymous


    There are so many… Anza Borrego in February with all the kiosks telling the names of the native plants. Joshua Tree and Palm Springs in March and April when the cactus are blooming—beautiful! Morro Bay in July riding along the ocean. Bandito in the Angeles National Forest or Big Bear, and—of course—Yosemite and the Stanislaus Forest. The Death Valley ride that ETI used to host. But my favorite was the ride where we packed into Ojai and rode through the condor preserve and back into the hot springs.

    Anonymous


    We love Rancho Oso, up in the mountains by Santa Barbara. It’s close to us and easy for a weekend getaway.

    Vikki Manos


    Kimberly Gustafson

    Myself and four other women, ages 45 to 80, were the first people ever to ride the Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains, end-to-end. That’s 70 miles in six days. It was the most amazing vacation I have ever taken in my life! We called ourselves the “Backbone Trail Cowgirls.

    Kimberly Gustafson


    My very favorite place to horse camp is Montana de Oro State Park near Morro Bay. I’ve been going there every year for about 20 years now, so it’s difficult to pick one favorite memory. I do miss our favorite State Ranger, Dave Berry (aka “Ranger Dave”). He is retired now, but for several years, he would ride into camp on his black horse and take us out on a nature ride. His wealth of knowledge, from plant names to history of the indigenous Chumash peoples, always left me awestruck.

    The horse camps are great with pipe stalls and running water for horses, to big camping spots for individuals as well as two large group camps.

    The trails are beautiful and where else can you ride five miles of beach one day, and then thousands of acres of mountain trails the next! The diverse trails, plant and wildlife, and beautiful weather make this my favorite place to ride and camp.

    Becky Borquez


    Susan Spicer

    As a child I rode the burro picnics every summer where children went down the river for a swim and a picnic. At about 8, I graduated to saddle horses and learned all the different trails in the valley, including an all-day mule ride to Half Dome. In high school, my boyfriend worked at the stables and so we could ride after he got off work. I married and bred horses and took my daughter to Yosemite to camp every year. When she was 10 to 12 she took her Icelandic pony up there along with our two horses and was the envy of every child in the valley! In 2010 I was fortunate enough to travel with some members of our club to Wawona and a year later, spent a week each in Bridalveil Creek and Tuolomne Meadows horse camps. It had always been on my bucket list.

    Susan Spicer


    Over the course of 13 months in 2013-14, I horse camped in 43 different states with my two mares. I am an artist and did paintings of my horses in all the states that I visited. At the time, it was an emotionally healing type of journey, but in hindsight, it was truly the adventure of a lifetime.

    Kathy Burns


    We rode to Cow Camp, a 100-acre ranch in the Golden Trout Wilderness of the Sierra. The trail included crossing a swinging bridge. We were surprised to see 150 head of cattle in the meadow at the ranch. At night, I put my bedroll down away from others. With five cowboys with nine dogs and a herd of cows, it was still very quiet, as not a dog barked and none fought. I fell asleep listening to the lowing and mooing of the cattle on a beautiful night filled with a million stars, coyotes howling, and a few horses neighing. In the morning, cows were lined along the trail with lead cows in front. Finally, they headed out—dogs, cowboys and pack horses. I had never expected to see and enjoy such a beautiful sight as all the cows gathered in the meadow and lined out along the trail. At Cow Camp is the best shower in all the mountains, with hot water piped downhill to a sheltered spot with an amazing view of the creek and the meadow. A most memorable and fun trip.

    Ruth Gerson


    Hunewill Ranch in Bridgeport. Family owned and operated since mid-1800s. Great trails, big fields, rivers, great family style meals. Move cattle if you want. We took my husband’s Quarter Horse once. Or, you can choose from their herd of 200.

    Anonymous


    Doris Lora

    Five or six years ago, some friends and I spent a full-moon night at Trona Pinnacles near Ridgecrest. We loaded up our rigs and took our horses to this fairly remote and unusual geological formation in the California Desert Conservation area. It is primitive camping with only pit toilets available. No water on site. We camped for two nights, one of them being a full moon night. We captured many great day and nighttime photos at this semi-famous location. Planet of the Apes was filmed at Trona Pinnacles. The best time to visit Trona Pinnacles is during the spring or fall. Summer temps are extremely high. Winter can be very cold. The terrain is rocky and sandy conditions mixed with hard pan. Once you leave the pavement it is a five-mile drive on a washboard gravel road. Sometimes impassable after a heavy rain.

    Doris Lora


    Sue Martzolf

    My best horse vacation ever has been every year in November for the past 34 years! It is ETI Corral 14 Death Valley Wagon Drive through Death Valley National Park. The sunsets are amazing, the road is amazing, the people are amazing, and the animals are amazing! The DV 49er Encampment is into its 70th year of celebrating the area’s important role in the settlement of the west and the addition of California to the Union.

    Sue Martzolf


    Marilyn Scheffers

    Pioneertown outside of Yucca Valley is one of our favorite places to horse camp and trail ride. The trail north of Pioneertown is an easy 2.5 hour loop. The 10.5 mile Sawtooth loop is spectacular in the winter months and takes about 4.5 hours. The terrain is a little challenging, but the rock formations are amazing. The horse camp area is nice with easy access. At night we enjoy dinner, drinks and music at the iconic Pappy and Harriet’s; an easy walk from the horse camp area. These accommodations adjacent to Mane Street are behind the old western buildings and include a fire pit and barbeque area with lots of old town charm. Totally recommend.

    Marilyn Scheffers


    We enjoyed our trip to Rancho Oso Guest Ranch and Stables in Santa Barbara. We went with a group of about 10-12 friends from Orange Park Acres and had a blast. We’ve also taken the horses on day trips to Fiesta Island in San Diego near Sea World. It’s about a two-hour trip around the island, unless you’re in a hurry. We swam in the ocean, grilled next to the trailer and played in the water before a relaxing drive home.

    Fran Klovstad


    Frankee Fullilove

    We like to vacation and ride in Costa Rica. My husband Michael and I like riding in the rain forests and on the beaches. Our next planned trip we will be staying at Establo San Rafael, a bed and breakfast nestled in the picturesque mountains of Puriscal, where owner Brenda Nasse introduces folks to natural horsemanship aboard her beautiful Costa Rican horses. December is usually a good time to go.

    Frankee Fullilove

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