“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again
One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to go horse camping. Rachael (being my go-to-girl when it comes to embarking on a new adventure) is my usual traveling companion on these trips.
We are spoilt for choice in Oregon when it comes to diversity of habitats. Within a few hours’ drive we can gallop for miles along secluded beaches; wend our way through magical old growth forests, dense with ferns and moss; or climb steep mountain trails to explore crystal blue lakes and spectacular waterfalls.
When our kids were young, our family spent most of our summer vacations camping and hiking in the Sierra Nevada’s in California. However, whether spending the night at designated horse camps with permanent corals (our preferred choice), or camping out in more rustic conditions where the only option is to highline, there is something unique about experiencing these trips with your horse.
I think the difference may have to do with the same spirit that overtook Bilbo so long ago - that desire to “wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.” It is the cowboy spirit that seeks to blaze trails and explore new horizons. It is the knight on his battle charger seeking new conquests. It is the desire deep in every man's heart to step out of a modern, hum-drum, everyday life and step into a great adventure.
One of our go-to resources when planning our trips is Riding Northwest Oregon Horse Trails by Kim McCarrel. In her book Kim offers information on over 100 trails and 23 horse camps that are open to exploration by horseback. She answers important questions such as: Are permits required? Is there potable water? What facilities are available? Or, when are the trails open/closed?
Armed with this knowledge and access to a trailer, there is no limit to the places you can go. Sure, owning a rig with living quarters is nice, but the wonderful thing about horse camping is a secret cowboys have known for centuries, all you need to hit the trail is a horse, some basic gear, and a spirit of adventure.