Pack critters help prepare Capitol Forest trails

Staff writerApril 14, 2013 

Each bucket of gravel was weighed before it was added to a horse or mule pack.

And most of the loads carried by animals during the Great Gravel Pack-in at Capitol State Forest Saturday were about 180 pounds, according to Darrell Wallace, executive director of the Back County Horsemen of Washington.

“The animals actually like it,” he said. “They love getting out and working.”

About 90 people — and 25 pack animals — participated in the daylong work party to prepare trails for the forest’s May 1 season opener.

Much of the work focused on a 1-mile portion of the nearly 3-mile Equine Loop near the Margaret McKenny Campground. It became a year-round equestrian trail in December.

“This is a section of trail that we’ve never really graveled before,” said Nick Cronquist, community outreach and volunteer coordinator for the state Department of Natural Resources.

The trail has been getting “regular use,” but it’s too early to gauge how many people used it during the winter season, he said. The DNR recently installed counters along the trail so that it can monitor usage and get some numbers, Cronquist added.

Volunteer Michelle Kerle said she was happy so many folks turned out for the event.

There were representatives from Back Country Horsemen of Washington and Oregon, members of Friends of Capitol Forest, all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts, mountain bikers and hikers, according to Cronquist. Some folks came from as far away as Bellingham, Spokane and central Oregon, Cronquist said.

“The enthusiasm here is so great,” Kerle said. “It’s a great way to keep it a resource for everybody.”

Throughout the day, about 32 yards of gravel were moved by animals and ATVs with attached trailers.

Afterward, volunteers were treated to a spaghetti dinner, some cowboy music and a chance to socialize around a campfire.

There were extra treats for the four-legged helpers, too, Cronquist said.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 lpemberton@ theolympian.com@ Lisa_Pemberton

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