That first time sharing the trails with horses wasn't too bad. Mainly, looking back on it, because we didn't run into very many people on horseback. In fact, I only recall having to move out of the way for horses one time (horseback riders have the right of way on such trails--they outweigh your average hiker by a vast margin), and I think we only had to camp near horses one night. So, my first experience wasn't all that bad.
Since then, I have come to regard horses in our National Parks and National Forests as a truly negative thing. They give access to some of the most unsavory folk I've ever met while hiking and backpacking. Lard-asses who would otherwise never think of delving into a wilderness can be found crushing the spines of horses in National Parks. And they almost always bring all manner of nasty shit into the forests with them, including guns.
Horses and their riders scare off all of the wildlife. I never see any wildlife when I encounter goddamned horses on the trails. With the exception of flies and gnats. Horses carry their own little traveling ecosystem in their wake. Whenever horses pass me when I'm hiking, I am left to contend with vast swarms of annoying gnats and flies that find me and linger to bug the shit out of me when the horses have traveled on.
The horse shit isn't really a problem for me. As shit goes, horse shit isn't offensive. It's mainly grass and such and is easily avoided and if you step in it...well, no big deal. That's not the problem, at all.
The absolutely WORST thing about sharing trails with horses is the massive damage that they do to the trails. They utterly wreck the trails. Erosion is a hideous problem on trails that horses use. They absolutely destroy the vegetation under their hooves; they press into the soil; they denude the trail of dirt and leave only a ragged and blasted surface behind. In places where the soil is deep, you have to contend with huge chunks of real estate that is essentially muck--almost like quicksand.
At long last I have had it with the horseback riders.
One problem about the area where I went is that so many of the trails are for horses and hikers. Which means, essentially, that they are for horses.One trail was so badly damaged by horses that it had become nothing but a sea of mud and the Forest Service had erected a sign to dissuade both hikers and horsesback riders from using that stretch. It isn't safe for any of us now.
I managed to bag three peaks that I've wanted to summit for quite a long time, but I had to contend with doing so on trails used by horses. It was not a pleasant experience and I do not recommend that particular system of trails if you are a hiker or backpacker.
|Almost all of the trails in this area are for horseback riders and hiker/backpackers.|
|I had been hoping to see some wildlife in the two wilderness areas adjacent to the Grindstone campground. Alas, it was not to be: the forests were packed with horses.|
|This trail damage was mild compared to what I encountered throughout the Little Wilson Creek Wilderness.|
|I could not hike through this muck. My boots would vanish in the depths of the mud. I had to bushwhack around these sections, some of them quite long.|
|I didn't hike down this trail. If it was worse than the ones I'd already encountered, I didn't even want to know about it.|
|This group of riders were actually nice. They said hello and spoke to me and smiled. Some of the others I encountered were belligerent, as if I had no right to be on the trails.|