June 15, 2020 – Whatcom Talk – Steven Arbuckle
Whatcom County is home to a branch of the national Backcountry Horsemen organization. Not heard of it? Well, if you walk or run, ride a mountain bike or a horse, or just take the dog for a walk in the woods that cover much of our area, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with their work. I recently spoke with Mike McGlenn, who’s filled many positions with the Horsemen over the past 35 years.
McGlenn has worked with the Backcountry Horsemen at both the national and the local level, and his love of their mission is evident. Their goals include taking horses into the backcountry and wilderness, working to insure that public lands remain open to recreational use, assisting the agencies that manage those lands, and bringing the general public along for the ride.
Born in Concrete, McGlenn met his wife while living in Anacortes, and they moved to Bellingham in 1975. Along the way, he spent three years in the Army, where he performed safety inspections on helicopters, and spent time in a variety of places, from Oklahoma to Vietnam. He’s spent the last 35 years surveying boats. He and his wife have long been avid riders of both horses and Harley Davidsons. “There are very few roads or trails in Skagit and Whatcom County that we haven’t ridden on.”
Locally, one of the highlights of Backcountry Horsemen’s work is trail maintenance and creating trailheads. “We do a tremendous amount of volunteer work keeping trails open; if a horse
can get down the trail, so can you. If the trail isn’t open to us, it pretty much stops everybody,” McGlenn says.
But the horses aren’t just practical for judging the state of a trail. “When you’ve got something, you want to figure out a way to use it. Like the four wheel drive guys are always looking for a way to get stuck, we’re always looking for a way to load a bunch of gear on a horse and carry it into the woods.”
In a world where we often focus on developing technologies to move us into the future, this kind of work has a special charm. “There are many things that our guys pack that you would look at and think ‘How in the world did you ever put that on an animal?’ Well, that’s part of the fun and part of the skill. You can pack everything from a bowling ball to a piano, you just have to figure it out,” says McGlenn. “And often that’s the only way to get all of the gear or the equipment or supplies into a remote location, especially in wilderness areas.”
Using pack animals to get deep into the woods is not just a novelty. “The term ‘Wilderness,’ with – Click to continue reading and view photos.