Giddy up: Horseback riders follow a trail from 1930s

September 2013 Posted in Arts, Culture & History
Karen Winter rides Holly while Donna Kamstra rides Jazz and Laura Jirges follows on Larry. Photo by P. Milliren

Karen Winter rides Holly while Donna Kamstra rides Jazz and Laura Jirges follows on Larry. Photo by P. Milliren

By Brenna Wiegand

Last year, 259 horseback riders headed to the hills for the yearly Waldo Hills Heritage Trail Ride. This year, organizers expect about the same.

Coordinated by Oregon Equestrian Trails, Silver Falls Chapter and GeerCrest Farm and Historical Society, riders revisit the past on a route established in the 1930s.

With permission from landowners, the ride traverses the beautiful Waldo Hills and its verdant farmland, access the old Molalla-Klamath Indian trail and head through Drift Creek Canyon.

The ride is about 10 miles and involves shallow creek crossings.

11th annual Waldo Hills
Heritage Trail Ride

The ride begins and ends
near GeerCrest Farm,
12390 Sunnyview Road NE,
5 miles south of Silverton
off Cascade Highway.

The first rider sets out
at 10 a.m.; the last at noon.
Horse shoes recommended;
no dogs or alcohol allowed.

Fees: Preregistered by Sept. 4,
$8; at the gate, $10.
Proceeds are split between
Oregon Equestrian Trails and
GeerCrest Farm and Historical Society.
BBQ lunch available

Ellen Carter at 971-239-4466;

Oregon Equestrian Trails is a
non-profit established 40 years ago.
Its mission is designing, building,
promoting, preserving and maintaining
horse camps and trails.

The Silver Falls Chapter maintains
horse camps and trails at Silver Falls
State Park and Santiam Horse Camp
outside of Gates, in addition to
putting on the Waldo Hills Trail Ride.
Various chapters hold trail rides year round;
for the calendar.

Julie Davie, an OET member, says the chapter will be encouraging the younger set to join in. OET is also holding a drawing to promote safety helmets.

“On a recent chapter evening ride, every single rider was wearing a helmet,” she said.

Silverton Fire Department will have volunteers available for first aid.

Karen Winter lives in Salem and boards her horse Holly at Promise Ranch near Aumsville. She takes advantage of the ranch’s indoor covered arena, large outdoor arena and obstacle course.

“I do a lot of trail riding,” she said. “I look forward to the Waldo Hills ride because it’s something you can’t do but once a year and they kind of change things up a little year to year.”

There’s even the option of lunchl, she said, served in the middle of the ride.

“You come into a little valley with the creek running through it and that’s where you get the barbecue if you choose to,” she said. “People are there serving and a bluegrass band is playing.”

“All we do is trail rides,” said Ron Williams, who’ll be riding his registered quarter horse Ice Man. “We go up the mountains; just went up to Big Meadows last weekend.”

He’s planning to pack in again shortly after Waldo Hills. Big Meadows Horse Camp, southeast of Detroit near the Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area, is gateway to many miles of forested trails dotted with many small lakes.

Williams lives on a 5-acre farm in the Lacomb area.

“There’s a gas station and a store; that’s it,” he said. “I’ve got to go into Albany and work every day to support my country life. I’m dirt poor because of the horses probably. That’s OK, I have fun with them.”

To him, the Waldo Hills ride is more of a social event.

Greg Thies rides on Chato. Photo by P. Milliren

Greg Thies rides on Chato. Photo by P. Milliren

“We’re usually up in the mountains with a couple people, so it’s fun to meet people and share that camaraderie with other people who have the same interests,” Williams said.

“It’s only once a year that you get a chance to ride through that area. It’s just peaceful being out there in the farmland like that. It’s an excellent, fun time.”

Born in Silverton and brought up in the Mount Angel/Gervais area, Greg Thies has enjoyed the event since its inception. He’ll be riding Chato, a 10-year-old quarter horse.

“I trail ride, I do open ranch competitions; I work cattle; horse camp…” he said. “I basically do everything but gaming on him.”

“I basically go to see what other riders are up to; how they’re treating their horses and all the new and latest stuff people are doing – I get a kick out of that,” he said. “My style of riding hasn’t changed. I think there are a lot of gadgets that come out that people try and find out sooner or later they don’t work.”

He said horses also go in and out of fashion.

“You’ll have a time where the buckskin horse is very popular and then it’ll switch and everybody wants to ride an Arab.”

“It is a fun ride on that canyon and they always put on good lunch and over the years I haven’t seem very many bad wrecks,” Thies said.

“They usually do a fair job of coordinating it and making sure everything is pretty safe – that’s important when you get big groups.”

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