After selling his all-animal veterinary practice in 1986, Ben York, DVM, returned to doing what he loved most - riding backcountry trails. In the summer of 1992, he became only the second person to ride the entire 2,638-mile Pacific Crest Trail in one shot. (For more information, see "Border to Border" on page 50.)
York, who grew up in the saddle, graduated from high school in 1943, then spent four years in the infantry. He then attended veterinary school at the University of California-Davis. Summers, he led mule pack strings into the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Meanwhile, "a great looking gal in the rodeo club" at U.C. Davis caught his eye. He made a favorable impression on Adeline Wright when he helped teach her Pinto, Starlight, to trailer load. "But she knew more about horses than I'd ever imagined," he says about his wife of 52 years. They have three children, Victoria, Valerie, and Ben III.
After retirement, York became involved in the Backcountry Horsemen of California and the Pacific Crest Trail Association, eventually serving both as president.
When he and Adeline decided to tackle the Pacific Crest Trail, more than 250 friends and organization members helped to make their dream a reality. After an accident sidelined his wife, York continued on.
Although a few years later he rode the trail again, that first ride remains his most memorable. His journal, PCT by 2 in 1992, is a valuable commentary for anyone contemplating the journey. (To order, see the contact information on page 54.)
We caught up with York at his home in Alpine, California, to talk about that memorable 1992 ride, his best trail mounts, and more.
TTR: Tell us about your earliest memory of riding and your first horse.
York: I was born in Pleasantown, California, where my dad trained riding horses. One of my very first memories is of my dad putting me on top of a big, broad mare and promptly flying off into a manure pile!
Later, a little Nevada mustang mare named Trinket became my first horse. A local dog-food company routinely went to Nevada to round up mustangs, which could then be purchased for $10 each back in Pleasantown. Trinket was a sorrel mare, 14 hands high and about 750 pounds. She wasn't real sociable, all business - but a great ride, and she taught me lots.
TTR: Tell us about your first "real" trail ride.
York: The first ride I recall was with my dad and my younger brother, Marshall, delivering a pair of Clydesdale horses from Livermore, California, to Modesto. It was a three-day ride, and Marshall and I rode one horse, dad another. We packed a mattress to sleep on at night, which was a real challenge during the high winds we encountered en route, crossing Altemont Pass. But for two young boys, it was all adventure and excitement.