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Horse camp opens its gate
Twisting and turning on Chicken Coop Road, a single-lane county road pinched between Dungeness Bay and the foothills separating Blyn from Quilcene, Layton Hill Horse Camp is tucked away.
From the highest point of the camp is a panoramic view of Bell Hill, the Dungeness Spit and Mount Baker hazy in the distance.
Throughout the past six months a camp designed with trail riders in mind, but open to hikers and campers of all sorts, has been under way and is nearly ready to open its gate to hundreds of acres and endless horseback riding and hiking potential.
The first weekend in July will mark the grand opening of the Layton Hill Horse Camp and the long-awaited vision of Delman Sage, a retired horse logger. Sage always has wanted to create a space for family and friends and where like-minded people can have a place to stay with their horses while on the peninsula.
When Sage mentioned the idea to his youngest daughter and lifelong equine enthusiast, Anna Sage Neal, she “was all in,” Sage said.
“There’s a need for something like this on the peninsula,” Neal said. “I think there is only one other horse camp near Lake Crescent.”
Since January, Neal has been carving out every weekend and has devoted countless hours to helping her dad mold the 100 acres located a few miles east of Sequim.
Sage and his wife, Judy, have lived on the property along Chicken Coop and been neighbors to the property’s owner, Madelyn Saric, for nearly 30 years. Saric is a descendant of the original 1884 homesteaders and thus the camp is named in her honor. Saric’s maiden name is “Layton,” Neal said.
Neal and her brother are in the midst of purchasing the 100 acres from Saric with the condition the land will be “preserved,” Neal said. Although parts of the area have been logged to open up space for access and a trail system, the area remains well-wooded and private.
So far the camp is equipped with eight primitive campsites, but by the time Sage and Neal are through building the camp it likely will have 30-40 sites.
Each campsite has an individual fire pit and corral for containing any potential livestock. There’s a small building with camp rules and a place to register, a swing set with seats cleverly crafted from old girths that once kept saddles securely on the backs of horses. And, in the center of the sprawling campground, is a communal area with a big fire pit, place to cook food and/or heat water and tables and benches built from the timber harvested from the land.
Sage and Neal have taken advantage of a natural meadow etched into the side of the hill for the placement of the camp, but also for a trail obstacle course for trail riders to challenge their skills, a round pen and soon to be 50-foot by 100-foot outdoor arena.
From the campground there’s access for endless miles of hiking and riding along Department of Natural Resources roads for those interested in exploring beyond the camp area and the 6-mile trail system, not to mention the trail system just across U.S. Highway 101 at Miller Peninsula.
Though the camp still has some finishing touches and more to come, Sage’s idea, with the help and inspiration from his daughter, is beginning to take shape and the tireless hours of labor are paying off, not in money, but in satisfaction.
“Anything worthwhile is worth putting some work into,” Sage said.
Layton Hill Horse Camp will be supported on a donation basis at this point, Sage said. Although Sage doesn’t intend to make a profit, the donations will help with camp-related expenses.
Unless riders are attending an organized event such as the camp’s grand opening and coinciding trail obstacle course and trail ride, then campsites can be reserved by appointment.
Trail obstacle course
The obstacle course ride is affiliated with the national organization Equine Trail Sports and will be hosted by Neal at Layton Hill Horse Camp to kick off the camp’s official opening.
Sage and Neal have built about 10 different trail obstacles one might find while riding in the backcountry. From a wooden bridge the horses must calmly walk across to a variety of downed logs and brush that require horse and rider to carefully maneuver through. Each obstacle is judged and intended to demonstrate the strengths and weakness in the horse and rider’s communication. The event is open to all levels, as each obstacle has varying requirements depending on horse and/or the rider’s abilities.
“It’s (participating in the event) a great way to spend time with friends, family and your horse,” Neal said.
The event and day draws to a close with an old-fashioned hog roast.
Equine Trail Sports obstacle course and trail ride
When: 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday, July 5, and optional private trail ride Sunday.
Where: Layton Hill Horse Camp at 2514 Chicken Coop Road, Blyn.
Cost: Registration for obstacle course is $40 for adult competitors and $20 for student competitors or companion riders. Camping is by donation.
More info: Register online at www.equinetrailsports.com or contact Anna Sage Neal at email@example.com or 425-737-7404 or visit www.facebook.com/events/248534495325975/?ref=22.
Reach Alana Linderoth at firstname.lastname@example.org.