Clad in emerald robes and capped with ermine stoles, Oregon's Central Cascades rise to greet horse and rider. Like many natural regions, this area feeds one's soul with its incredible beauty and offers tantalizing visions of trail-riding adventures into a vast expanse of wilderness. The Cascades have an additional attraction - numerous horse camps!
With eager help from our equine partners, 11-year-old Scout and 9-year-old Buddy, both Missouri Fox Trotter geldings, we decided to check out this area, including the Three Sisters Wilderness (in the Willamette National Forest), Todd Creek Horse Camp (in the Deschutes National Forest), and the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.
The Three Sisters Wilderness
The Three Sisters Wilderness is the crown jewel of the Central Cascades, with more than 242,000 acres and approximately 260 miles of trails. To get there, travel west from Bend, Oregon, on the spectacular Cascade Highway (State Highway 46).
This wilderness is generally accessible from July to October or early November, when the snow starts to fly. Snowfall may accumulate to depths of 20 feet at higher elevations; you might encounter snow on trails even during the first week of August.
In summer, this region generally receives mild, sunny weather. The sunshine, lack of grizzly bears, geological formations, and well-marked trails draw thousands of outdoor enthusiasts every year.
Todd Creek Horse Camp
Our first camp was Todd Creek Horse Camp and Trailhead, located 23 miles west of Bend, on the Cascade Highway. Even in August, there was a chill in the air at this 6,200-foot elevation camp.
Horse camp facilities were more than adequate. Metal pipe corrals were well maintained, and there was a water pump. Dead wood was easy to gather for an evening fire. And at this elevation, cozying close to a crackling blaze was the place to be.
We really hit the jackpot on camp neighbors! It just happened that we were camped next to nine amazing women who were members of the Back Country Horsemen of Oregon.
These women do wilderness pack trips and packing clinics, build and maintain trails, and are impressive representatives of Back Country Horsemen. Ranging from age 40 to late 60s, these gals were just as comfortable in the wilderness as some women are in their backyards. It was our joy and privilege to share their campfire and listen to their stories.