Thank you trail stewards!

Many of us have a deep attachment to Boggs. For some it is their back yard, a short ride from their home or worth the long drive to be in a wonderful refuge where one can hike or ride for hours and meet few souls, if any at all, on the trail.

Trailwork VolunteersAnd what about those trails, eh? They’ve seen a lot of TLC from wonderful trailwork volunteers over the many years that Boggs has been in existence. Boone Lodge has been a huge advocate and recruited many (including this author) to devote time to clear brush from trails, build drainage structures, and help repair damaged trails.

Over the past year, we’ve had ‘regulars’ appear at our trailwork days: Phyllis Murphey, Brien Crothers, Obie Porteous, Matt Kolasinski, and Brad May. Board member Mike Kasper has been especially attentive to the ‘fuel ladders’ in certain areas, and has collaborated with Forest Aide, Katie Johns, and Forest Manager, Gerri
Finn, to target specific trails that needed immediate attention.

We also had a lot of help from out-of-county visitors – a crew of seven from Boy Scouts Troop 4 from Cotati who visited Boggs to camp and mountain bike on an October weekend. Even before setting up camp, they immediately joined us on a Saturday morning to clear sightlines on a 2-mile segment of Gail’s Trail south of Road 400.

Our trailwork efforts this past year have focused on eliminating blind corners and improving sightlines as much as possible. Brushing the sides as well as the top to get a vertical clearance of 10-12 ft for equestrians is part of this effort. In July, members of the Clear Lake and Kelseyville High School Bike Team helped us clear a problem area where the manzanita had grown very thick at the first switchback on Mac’s Trail.

As for trail hazards, many thanks to David Thiessen, Joan Hume, and Phyllis Murphey who got all western on the poison oak along the Interpretive trail this past June. Now that’s what I call dedication! Next time we’re going to make sure that we provide Tecnu and paper towels for our volunteers. Oh, and just remember that poison oak “sticks”, meaning the reddish bare branches and stems you see sticking out of the ground in the cold months are also covered with the offensive oil (Urushiol) which can trigger a nasty rash.

When the rains arrive, we’ll look into developing drain dips as alternatives to rock water bars where possible as the latter require greater maintenance. Drain dips serve as catchments that funnel water (if correctly placed) to a natural drainage area.

To sum up: a huge THANK YOU to all our trailwork volunteers, especially to those who keep returning! And to the “unsung heroes” – those who quietly do their part, especially cleaning up the forest as they go about their walk or ride – what you do is deeply appreciated. Removing a discarded can or bottle or any kind of rubbish from a trail corridor really does enhance our experience in the forest!

We would love to have more help in keeping our trails in great shape – especially from equestrians who have a higher reach than the average hiker – so please mark the second Saturday of each month from 9-11 a.m. as the Boggs trailwork day. After trailwork, you can set off for your hike or ride with a great feeling of being a trails steward. If you can’t volunteer but see something that might be an issue on the trail (downed tree,
eroded area, etc.) please do not hesitate to contact us at fobmtn@gmail.com or leave a message with the forest manager at 707-928-4378.

Wag, Walk and Wride at Boggs!

On a stunning autumn day in October, the Friends of Boggs Mountain (FOBM), the Lake-Mendo Unit of the Back Country Horsemen of California (BCHC), Main Street Bicycles, and the Clear Lake and Kelseyville High School Bike Team came together to hold the “Wag, Walk and Wride” trail etiquette event at Boggs Mountain Demonstration State Forest.

Image: Debbie Watson and Paul Villanueva of the Lake-Mendo Unit of the Back Country Horsemen demonstrate how to pack a mule for the backcountry.
Debbie Watson and Paul Villanueva of the Lake-Mendo Unit of the Back Country Horsemen demonstrate how to pack a mule for the backcountry.

BCHC President, Paul Villanueva, kicked off the program with a brief description of the Back Country Horsemen’s mission and goals. Paul explained their core mission is to preserve and protect existing trails, support multiuse where it already exists, and help foster goodwill among all trail users in Lake and Mendocino Counties. The BCHC also provides a valuable service for government agencies such as the Mendocino National Forest that avail of horse and pack stock to haul equipment in and out of the backcountry where motorized vehicle access is not possible.

In addition, the BCHC strives to educate trail users on proper trail etiquette to minimize user conflict. For instance, Paul recommended stepping off the trail on the downhill side to let equestrians pass as horses may consider someone or something above them a predator. Another helpful tip was to calmly talk to the horse and rider as you approach to help assure the animal that you are not a threat.

On some occasions, people will step aside and wind up behind a brush or tree thinking they can avoid disturbing a horse altogether.

“What might be considered courteous could actually result in agitating a horse on a trail,” Paul warned.

As prey animals, horses are always on the lookout for predators, and something unseen that makes a movement or noise near the trail can spook them. Paul emphasized that because hikers and mountain bikers need to yield to horseback riders, it’s often best for the equestrian to communicate with other trail users and guide them in a way that keeps their horse calm. In addition, it is recommended that young or green horses are slowly introduced to multiuse trails, and even experienced horses should be desensitized to many different objects and animals. Paul enjoys seeing his grandkids have fun riding their bikes around his horses, as it’s a great way to get them used to bikes on trails.

Sarah Reid, Trails Chair for the CA State Horsemen’s Association, provides clues to reading a horse’s body language. In the background, note Virginia Vovchuk’s horse, Shalako, as she cocks her rear leg in a relaxed pose, with head lowered, ears turned to the side.
Sarah Reid volunteers with the Mounted Assistance Patrol at Annadel State Park

Sarah Reid, State Trails Chair of the California State Horseman’s Association, was next to speak, and gave a broad picture of the California trail system. She also discussed steps taken at Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa to avoid conflict in a region that sees considerably more trail traffic than Boggs. As a member of the Mounted Assistance Patrol, Sarah and other volunteers serve as “trail ambassadors” ready to lend assistance or to provide gentle reminders on trail etiquette to park visitors.

Sarah also demonstrated some ways to read the body language of a horse. Lake County Horse Council president, Virginia Vovchuk, led her lovely Morgan horse, Shalako, toward center stage. Pointing out Shalako’s lowered head, the cocked position of her hind leg, ears slightly to the side are generally signs of a relaxed horse, Sarah explained to the captivated audience.

Sarah Reid, Trails Chair for the CA State Horsemen’s Association, provides clues to reading a horse’s body language. In the background, note Virginia Vovchuk’s horse, Shalako, as she cocks her rear leg in a relaxed pose, with head lowered, ears turned to the side.
Sarah Reid, Trails Chair for the CA State Horsemen’s Association, provides clues to reading a horse’s body language. In the background, note Virginia Vovchuk’s horse, Shalako, as she cocks her rear leg in a relaxed pose, with head lowered, ears turned to the side.

To illustrate a horse’s startle response, Sarah rustled the BCHC banner behind her, and Shalako suddenly raised her head, her ears spun toward the sound, and her muscles stiffened. “Buckin’ Benny”, Paul’s trusty pack mule that appeared to be dozing nearby, also gave a start. This demonstration was a reminder that equestrians have a responsibility to be able control a half-ton animal as best as they can, as well as for other users to be mindful of how they might elicit this response when approaching horses from around blind corners or from behind.

The Clear Lake and Kelseyville High School Bike Team were next on the program. With the help of four members of their team, Coach Tami Cramer briefly covered the history of the co-ed team and their plans for the future, which included growing the team through “interest rides” at Boggs this Fall.

To assuage trail user concerns about the training they do at Boggs in the winter and spring, co-coach Jeff Cramer emphasized that team members concentrate on technical riding, not speed. The young cyclists then explained the policy they strive to observe in interacting with other trail users, consistent with the trail courtesies discussed in the earlier part of the program.

Jeff went on to describe the arduous physical training mountain biking requires and how the experience helps to shape the kids’ attitude toward exercise and the outdoors, as well as instilling confidence.

Image: Tom Smythe gets acquainted with Shalako who stands by her mistress, Virginia Vovchuk, while members of the Clear Lake and Kelseyville High School Bike Team take turns to experience what it’s like to be on a different kind of saddle.
Tom Smythe gets acquainted with Shalako who stands by her mistress, Virginia Vovchuk, while members of the Clear Lake and Kelseyville High School Bike Team take turns to experience what it’s like to be on a different kind of saddle.

One of the highlights of the day came as bike team members took turns riding on a different kind of saddle – courtesy of Shalako. Virginia helped them get a feel for what it’s like to be 8 feet off the ground, and to put themselves on a mount that requires a different kind of skill and knowledge.

Every boy grinned from ear to ear, enjoying the higher elevation, but confessed some apprehension of “not quite being in control”. Hopefully, this realization gave them a more empathic understanding of the horsemanship skills required to handle a horse, especially on a multiuse trail where all sorts of things can unexpectedly come at or behind you.

Finally, Paul and another BCHC member, Debbie Watson from Willits, took back the reins of the program and gave a terrific hands-on demonstration on how to pack a horse or mule for an extended backcountry trip. They described the use of “panniers” – larger versions of road bike luggage – how to securely strap them on a pack saddle, the necessity of balancing the weight, and “smart packing”. Since Paul often spends weeks in the backcountry, the ability to carry everything you anticipate along with a few macgyveresque skills and tools is critical.

The Cramers, who also own Main St. Bicycles, got Specialized Bicycles to provide free water bottle giveaways stuffed with Halloween treats and Clif Bars. After refreshments, several participants took off for a “wag, walk and wride” to enjoy the rest of the Indian summer day.

“I went to an event like this at Montaña De Oro State Park near San Luis Obispo earlier this year,” explained Gigi Stahl, event organizer and FOBM volunteer, “and admired the camaraderie and trail stewardship in that group. FOBM feels that as more and more visitors come to Boggs each year, we need to develop a trail culture that is inclusive and prepared to handle heavier use in a diplomatic and informative way. Kids and adults in our local community are our trail ambassadors, and we’re grateful to Sarah Reid, other out-of-county as well as local participants who came to show their commitment to trail user education.”

“The Lake County Horse Council is a strong supporter of safe trails and education,” Vovchuk added. “It was great to share information about our horses with other trail users, and learn what we have in common.”

To keep the momentum going, the Friends of Boggs will be rolling out a trail etiquette brochure in early 2014.

Boggs’ Bird Frenzy

Birding Group at BoggsTwenty-one individuals of all ages enjoyed the “bird hike” offered by Friends of Boggs on Saturday, May 11, on the Interpretive Trail in Boggs Mountain State Forest. In addition to Cobb residents, there were participants from Kelseyville, Lakeport, Middletown and Hidden Valley as well as Marin County. The hike, led by Peg Landini and Darlene Hecomovich, was split into two groups: one for beginner and the other for intermediate to advanced birders.

Some of the especially interesting birds seen were the elegant Violet-green Swallow, Western Bluebird, Black-throated Gray, Nashville and Wilson’s Warblers, the Peg with "bird mug shots"cryptic Brown Creeper, and Western Tanager. Two lucky birders had a quick view of the Pileated Woodpecker fly up the creek – a bird that is always a delight to see.

In addition to that particular event, birding enthusiasts have been contributing their sightings on the kiosk. Other birds discovered at Boggs have included the Hutton’s, Cassin’s and Warbling Vireos, Pygmy & Red-breasted Nuthatches, Yellow-rumped and Orange-crowned Warblers, Black-headed Grosbeak, Pacific Wren, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Spotted Towhee, Dark-eyed Junco, and our local friends, the Stellar’s Jay and Common Raven!
Many thanks to the volunteers, participants and contributors who keep us informed of our winged residents!

Darlene & experienced birders

Hip, Hip, Howwoool !

"Dogs at Boggs" drew nearly fifty attendees and their well-behaved canine pals
“Dogs at Boggs” drew nearly fifty attendees and their well-behaved canine pals.

The first annual dog gathering at Boggs Mountain Demonstration State Forest, “Dogs at Boggs”, took place on a balmy weekend earlier this month (5/4/13). Participants came on foot/paw, by bike, car, and motor trike, and from places as far as Marin County.

Co-sponsor Friends of Boggs Mountain limited the number of canine participants to a manageable thirty. However, two doggone cute latecomer additions were also warmly received.

Dogs at Boggs Norwich Terrier
“WOW, Mom, this is so awesome!” wags Sadie, the Norwich Terrier. (You can’t see it but she IS wagging.)

The event was kicked off by dog handler and AKC member Leslie Puppo, who demonstrated the basic “sit-stay” exercise, and provided specifics on trail etiquette to achieve friendly and positive encounters on Boggs trails shared by hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers.

Trail etiquette on Boggs
Leslie Puppo discusses trail etiquette.

For instance, taking the downhill side of the trail to allow horseback riders to pass is a practice seldom known to hikers and bikers. Because a horse is a prey animal, any moving object looming above it can trigger its flight response. You and your dog (or other surrounding people and animals) certainly don’t want to be standing in the way if that happens.

Off-leash dogs in the forest can be problematic particularly for breeds with strong prey drive, herding or protective tendencies, and who are not responsive to voice control. Puppo recommends always to keep your dog on leash, and to shorten the lead when trail users are in close proximity. As for bikers who’ve literally been hounded by canines, a gentle squirt from a water bottle can befuddle the pursuer and allow a quick escape.

Before the group took off for a short hike on the Interpretive Trail, FOBM Director, event organizer and animal lover, Karen Rhoads, demonstrated the delicate technique of discarding Fido’s waste using poop bags. Amid chuckles from the audience, she also informed them of FOBM’s recently-installed poop bag dispensers in the main parking area, near the campgrounds, and horse camp.

The brief lesson on poop disposal appeared quite effective, according to Middletown High School volunteer, Carli Fauci, who owns three dogs.

“It was so funny. The dogs all got excited when they were out on the trail, and next thing you know, everyone was fumbling in their pockets for their poop bags,” she laughs.

Use poop bags at Boggs
Karen demonstrates the fine art of using a poop bag.

Keeping the trails poop-free certainly made the hike more enjoyable. The native dogwood trees were smothered in beautiful white blooms, and spring wildflowers were putting on a good show.

Following the hike and refreshments, every canine received a goodie bag and the coveted “I’m a Boggs Dog” button. Co-sponsor Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company got high marks for the generous goodie bags: all-natural dry food samples, a bag of jerky treats, two canned specialties and coupons.

Reluctant goodbyes were exchanged, and many participants asked that Friends of Boggs Mountain host the event again next year.

“It was a lovely day and wonderful to be around such well-behaved canines and their handlers,” remarked Peggy Campbell, who looks forward to the next gathering.

Her friend, Lynne Bruner added, “The pups, Frankie, Lucy, and Roscoe, had a wonderful time and slept well that afternoon.”

Many thanks go to the dedicated volunteers who donated their time and enthusiasm, and who helped make “Dogs at Boggs” a tail-wagging, tongue-lolling, howling success!

Moby, the toy poodle, with co-passengers Carole Christe and Buzz Foote leaving Boggs on their snazzy motor trike
Moby, the toy poodle, with co-passengers Carole Christe and Buzz Foote leaving Boggs on their snazzy motor trike. (Editor comment: I want!)

Click here to see more photos of the event.