It’s no secret that the East Kootenays is a jewel for backcountry recreation.
From hiking, to biking and everything in between, there are tons of options to head out to explore new and old trails or hit the nearby mountain ranges.
You can add the newly-formed East Kootenay chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen of B.C. to the list of groups that can be found in the outdoors with their equine companions, as they strive to promote, preserve and expand on the extensive trail network throughout the region.
The province-wide organization, which is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year, opened a regional chapter a year ago to advocate for recreational backcountry issues in the East Kootenay.
Headed up by Brian Marriott, the EK chapter, which boasts roughly 30 members, meets once a month for meetings and an activity—usually a ride with their four-legged partners.
Marriott stresses that the Backcountry Horsemen of B.C. wants to ensure that the the wilderness—and the trail networks throughout the East Kootenay and the province—remains open for all users, not just equine riders.
“It’s kind of a share the trail concept, and that’s what the Backcountry Horsemen are all about, is to keep wilderness open to equine and trails open to all non-motorized, hikers, bikers, that sort of thing,” Marriott said.
And when the spring and summer hit—even if it’s not members of the BCHBC—there are equine riders who are always on their horses throughout the area.
“We’re all riding on a constant basis. It’s amazing…I know there’s quite a group around that Wardner area that ride almost daily out there, either along the river or out through the Remparts, or up through the Pickerings and stuff like that,” Marriott said.
“People here, especially in spring breaks and summer holidays and those who are retired, are constantly riding.”
While the long rides don’t happen in the winter, the group has recently headed out to Wardner to a member’s property and hitched up the horses to some sleighs for sleigh-riding.
Other trips in the spring, summer and fall have included rides into Baldy Lake, an overnight venture to Dewar Hot Springs and a poker ride out in Bull River.
Marriott touts the rugged beauty and the access to backcountry terrain as a major draw for people who wish to explore the wilderness by horseback.
It’s not like some other parts of the province, where wilderness areas are regulated, he added.
“We’re very fortunate, too, in that we’re not hampered by some of the restrictions put on by other areas, as far as not being able to use trails or going out into the bush,” Marriott said.
“I don’t even have to trailer; I can ride out the back end of my property into 100,000 acres and not see anybody.
“But you get down into the Interior, or the Okanagan or the Island, all those people, they get to ride in groomed areas, where it’s kind of restricted as to what you can do, when you can do it, and how you can do it.”
Though the group is newly formed in the East Kootenay, the provincial body of the BCHBC is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year, and has a long history of contributing to trail building efforts in chapters around B.C.
Marriott noted that in Manning Provincial Park, just outside Hope in the Lower Mainland, has seen some work by the BCHBC in trail-building, as well as the construction of a barn and corrals.
“We do a lot of work as far as maintaining trails in certain areas, whether it’s here in the East Kootenays or in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island or up around Terrace or in the Okanagan,” Marriott said.
Closer to home, the group has previously done some work along the Trans-Canada Trail in conjunction with Al Skucas and Trails BC and is hoping to pitch in on some more projects in the future, whether they be kiosks, washrooms or trail signage.
“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Marriott said. “Logistically, we have to be solid in how we get the material to these areas and how we’re going to secure them, but we’re looking at stuff up in Dewar Hot Springs and we’re also looking at some stuff at Top of the World [Provincial Park].
“It all just takes time. We don’t have a projected plan for the next year, two years, five years kind of thing, but that’s kind of the areas that we’re looking at.”
The group meets once a month on the third Tuesday of every month at the Heritage Inn for roughly an hour to talk about and plan upcoming rides or trail building projects. If you wish to get involved, visit their website at www.bchorsemen.org or call Marriott at 250-919-8150.