Most of us living in Washington State know that we live in God’s country; however, knowing and seeing are sometimes two different things. Even driving our highways, the majority of people don’t actually see the beauty of Washington. To experience the sights, the smells, the wildlife, and the glory of nature, it takes a more adventuresome nature. You need to get out of your car and get on the trails. Hiking will get you to some wonderful places, but there are trails that are a little more rugged.
Meet the Pierce County Back Country Horsemen of Washington (PCBCHW). They are a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping horse trails and other trails open, accessible, and in good condition so their friends, neighbors, and visitors may enjoy the vista of the hills, rivers, streams, and mountains of Washington State. The PCBCHW not only rides the trails, but helps keep them open.
They have just completed a year long project.
The Middle Fork Snoqualmie, located just east of North Bend and close to Interstate 90, has over 100 miles of trails, most of which are within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The Middle Fork Snoqualmie River has the iconic Gateway Bridge, spanning the river. The Gateway Bridge was showing its age and the wear and tear of climate and visitors. The decking, installed almost 30 years ago, was cracked and becoming unsafe for horses (tripping hazard).
The equestrian community raised all the funds necessary to renovate the bridge, including $1,000 from the Pierce County Chapter of BCHW. Volunteers met on April 12th to discuss all the details of a week long work party to remove old decking and install new decking.
The first four days after Easter a work party made up of BCHW and Washington Trails Association members began removing old decking, cleaning the bridge’s sub-structure. and installing new decking.
Now that the decking is installed additional volunteers will turn their attention to the Pratt River Trail. The United State Forest Service (USFS) was going to abandon the Pratt River Trail (which is a right turn off the Gateway Bridge) because it had not been maintained for over a dozen years. Because some BCHW members wanted to reopen that trail and were willing to do the work, the trail’s status changed from “abandon” to “hiker/stock” trail. Slides, tree falls, and massive root balls are just some of the problems volunteers face and overcome. The Pratt River Trail is about 15 miles long.
Volunteers worked steadily and were thrilled to put the last pieces down to finish the repairs and once more make the bridge safe for riders, their mules, and horses.
Thanks to the BCHW and the Washington Trails Association, the renovated Gateway Bridge will allow riders and hikers to experience the joy of nature of our Pacific Northwest.
For more information about the PCCBCHW and the work they do, please call 253-307-5358 or visit: pccbchwa.org/index.html