Are you intrigued by the idea of doing a long-distance trail ride? The Metolius-Windigo Trail in Central Oregon is an excellent place to try long-distance riding for the first time.
Merle Lake, on the Metolius-Windigo Trail.
The Metolius-Windigo Trail
The Metolius-Windigo Trail (or the Met-Win Trail, as most locals call it) is 150 miles long, with horse camps dotted at intervals along its length. You can through-ride the Met-Win Trail with a pack horse, of course. And if you plan well, you can through-ride it by ultralight packing on your saddle horse. But maybe you’re not all that keen about having to pack all your gear and sleep on the ground. Luckily, with a little forethought you can through-ride the Met-Win by trailer trekking — that is, by moving your trailer each day as you ride along the trail.
Graham Corral, on the northern part of the Metolius-Windigo Trail.
The northern half of the Metolius-Windigo Trail is particularly well-suited for trailer trekking because in many cases the horse camps along the trail are about a day’s ride apart. On the southern part of the trail, however, you’ll need to primitive camp (the Forest Service calls it “dispersed camping”) most of the time.
Mules highlined at a dispersed camp on the Metolius-Windigo Trail.
When you stay at a dispersed campsite while trailer trekking, you’ll need a way to contain your horse at night. You can either highline your horse between two trees or bring a portable or electric corral. And if you’ll be spending the night at a place that doesn’t have stock water, you’ll need to bring your own supply.
When dispersed camping, you’ll need to either highline your horse or set up a portable corral.
Trailer trekking has some logistical challenges, of course. You have to identify places along your route where you can camp in your trailer. And you have to have someone in your group who can stay with the horses while you move the trailers, plus you’ll need a way to get back to the horses after you’ve set up your new campsite. On the positive side, however, you can carry stock water and hay in your trailer, which gives you the flexibility to camp at places that don’t offer water and grazing for your horse.
The Metolius-Windigo Trail
You can handle the logistics of trailer trekking a couple of ways. Let’s assume you stayed the night at Point A and today you plan to ride to Point B and spend the night there.
Trailer Trekking Option 1
This method requires having a driver for each trailer, plus one person to stay with the horses at Point A and one person to follow the trailers to the new camp at Point B and shuttle the riders back to Point A so they can saddle up and ride to Point B. In this case, the shuttle driver doesn’t ride.
Cultus Corral Horse Camp
Trailer Trekking Option 2
This method requires a driver for each trailer in the group, and one person to stay with the horses at Point A. Once the trailers have been moved to and set up at Point B, one of the trucks is unhitched and used to shuttle the riders back to Point A. Everyone saddles up and rides, leaving the shuttle vehicle at Point A. After everyone arrives at Point B, another truck is unhitched and two people drive back to Point A to retrieve the shuttle vehicle. In this case, everyone in the group rides.
Trailer trekking is fun and easy.
Trailer trekking is easy and fun, and the Metolius-Windigo Trail is a terrific place for your first long-distance ride.
For more information, see Riding the Metolius-Windigo Trail, by Kim McCarrel (Ponderosa Press, 2017). Available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.