This program has been brought to you by Whole Health Family Medicine Clinic, your locally owned, direct, primary care clinic. You’re watching Durango TV news, I’m Wendy Graham Settle. What’s the number one complaint that backpackers have about heading into the wilderness? According to retired San Juan National Forest Ranger, Biff Stransky, it’s horse poop at the trailhead, or on the trail. Conflicts between horseback riders and hikers, mountain bike riders, and other trail users were one of the reasons that the San Juan Mountains Association decided to start a wilderness information program for horseman. Stransky, a Durango native, lifelong horseman himself, and thirty-seven year veteran of the Forest Service, proposed the program to the Association back in the mid 90s as an extension of its wilderness information program. The idea is to give them the idea of what they’re doing and what its impacts are, instead of just saying no. Educate them to say, look when you clean your horse trailer out at the trailhead with all the horse manure and backpackers have to walk through it to get to the registration box, you’re not making any friends, even though you say it’s just chewed up grass and conversely we try to tell the backpackers it’s nothing but chewed up grass. Tess Lewis, who later married Stransky, was the San Juan Mountains Association program director at the time, and she jumped on the idea. Just as wilderness information specialists on foot would educate backpackers, riders on horseback could help educate other riders. The idea became known as the Ghost Riders, a nod to the Leave No Trace philosophy that horseback riding volunteers share with their peers. The old days were gone, and horsemen needed to understand that they can’t do some, they weren’t bad practices, but they could certainly have been improved on and somebody needed to tell them, and the Ghost Rider, what’s a better way than to have someone who knows what’s going on, tell you what’s going on, rather than the government come up to you and say, this is what you’re doing wrong So that’s that was the strength of that beautiful program. We train folks to go talk to other folks. The Ghost Riders program began in 1996, and volunteers have been writing gently into the wilderness ever since. Nancy Seay, a retired veterinary technician, and Donna Fait, a retired postal carrier have been riding together in the wilderness, out of Pagosa Springs, for more than 15 years. They do it for the love of nature and their horses. I love being in the forest. I love our forest, and I love going out and trying to help people to enjoy the forest, and I just like to be on my horse too. The woman clear trails of fallen trees, pick up trash at abandoned camps, and gently educate horseback riders about cleaning up after their horses at trail heads, using proper restraints for their horses in camp, and camping away from streams and lakes. Most of their work however, entails saving hikers from themselves. I find that people get lost a lot or think they can do a lot more than they ind that people get lost a lot or think they can do a lot more than they can do, and I like to be able to help them out with that, and you know kind of show them where they are because a lot of people come from out of state and they’re not really ready for this. The San Juan Mountains Association will celebrate the ghostwriters program along with its other volunteer programs during its 30th anniversary fundraiser, scheduled for Thursday, September 20th at the Durango and Silverton Railroad grange hall. The party starts at 5:30 p.m. For more information visit S J M A dot org.