Memorial Day Weekend Horse Camping at Skillman Horse Camp - Part II

On Sunday we decided to go out on the trails in the opposite direction of the previous day. Our goal was actually to make it to Bear Valley Ski Resort. The Pioneer Trail that runs through camp is nice for being actually well signed and it doesn't allow motor bikes so we didn't have to spend the whole time worrying about them coming up on us. It's also a really nice single-track trail through the pines.

The only downside is that it basically follows the road the whole way. So we could hear traffic most of the time and even see the road along some parts. It's not quite the wilderness when you're riding next to a 55 mph back country highway. We crossed the highway at one point and were riding along wider jeep roads, which were great for getting some trotting in when the rocks weren't too bad.

We eventually had gone almost 6 miles and were still about 3 miles from Bear Valley. At one point Eugene tried to drink from a tiny puddle that was no bigger than a tea saucer and probably held that much water. There were no creeks or springs and not even any mud puddles for the ponies to drink from. It was also pretty hot and I was concerned about them not having any water for what would probably be a 15-16 mile round trip. So we decided to turn around.

As we had been riding along, we could see some blue sky to the north through the trees, but no route to get to it. When we decided to turn around, there was an unmarked jeep/logging road leading off in that direction so we followed it seeking a vista. It was the right choice. Look what we found:

Heading back we stuck to the same trail as we wanted to avoid the motorbikes on the neighboring trails. As it was, we could hear them and that was concerning enough to the ponies. After Eugene flew sideways at a mountain biker (non motorized) we knew it was the right decision. He was really a good boy though and very brave when faced with hikers and other bikers. He wasn't even terribly bothered by the nearby dirt bikes.

It wasn't the most exciting ride just going out and back, but the trail really was gorgeous. I love riding through the big trees. I really want to go riding up at Redwoods National Park. Hopefully soon.

As we were coming back, my husband and I had the same idea about taking pictures of each other riding around a bend in the trail.

Back at the campground we sponged the ponies off and then let them roll in the pine needles. I feel like even if horses knew how silly they looked while rolling they'd still do it because clearly it's the best thing ever. I'm pretty sure rolling is Nilla's favorite thing after food. If I don't tie her tight or take her to roll right away, she'll try to roll while still tied to the trailer. She'll even try to roll before I get her tack off. In fact, she tried to roll while we were on the trail the one day when we were going through a deep, sandy section. I thought she just wanted to itch her leg until she started crumpling and I had to kick her on.

We had our lunch and saw one of the other campers taking her baby daughter for a ride around camp. And I do mean baby; she was only 13 months old. I have a cute picture, but I don't like to share pictures of other people's children. Sorry. After meeting the baby and other horses we noticed that Nilla was lying down eating her hay again. She was really loving the soft paddock to lie on (they have gravel paddocks at home) and the hay being on the ground.

Eugene wasn't lying down, but he was happy to get some face rubs.

After dinner of chicken chili in bread bowls (yum) we took the ponies over to the stock tank for some water and then let them graze at the grass growing nearby. We turned the spigot on for Eugene who was all over that. He's really such a character. Nilla didn't want to drink, but she enjoyed shoving grass into her mouth as quickly as possible.

After taking the ponies on their walk and taking the dogs on their own walk, we hung out by the fire having s'mores and then made some jiffy pop to eat while watching a movie in the truck.

We had originally planned to ride again the next day, but then decided we should try to beat some of the holiday traffic back. So the next morning was just a matter of packing up and hitting the road. The trip was considerably shorter, though we did still hit some annoying traffic in a few places. I was glad we'd left early though. It was so freaking hot that we didn't bother riding. We just dropped the ponies off and headed home to shower and sit in the AC.

Overall, this was a fun weekend. I don't think Skillman is one of my favorite campgrounds though. The campground itself is excellent and it's wonderfully maintained. I salute the Gold Country Trails Council for all their work. However, the campground is pretty close to the road and we could hear vehicles going by. I like camping to get away from the world; I don't really want to camp next to a highway. I was also pretty annoyed at just how poorly mapped and marked the trails were. It's not one of my favorites, but I did really enjoy the campground and I'd recommend it to anyone wanting to go horse camping. If you're thinking about going here, check out the Gold Country Trail Council's map and description of the campground to help in selecting your campsite. Not all of the sites have corrals so you'll want to pick the right one for you.

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