The Whiskeytown Chaser endurance ride is scheduled to return on April 9 with new event organizers and courses.
The long-distance equestrian event has evolved a great deal over the past two decades. It has earned a reputation as a great early season training ride for the prestigious Tevis Cup 100-mile ride over the Sierra Nevada, and as a difficult ride in its own right.
After the Chaser was canceled last year, longtime participants Jennifer Powell and Kris Wright took over as organizers from Bonnie Sterling, who successfully managed the event for years. Powell and Wright are trying to pump new enthusiasm into the 50- and 25-mile rides, and they have modified the courses considerably with the inclusion of 11 miles of trail in the Bureau of Land Management’s Swasey recreation area, which lies adjacent to Whiskeytown.
The Swasey trails are gentler and less technically demanding that many of the Whiskeytown trails. The Swasey trails help replace the Kanaka Peak Loop, a brutally hilly, rugged trail that has been closed since a 2008 fire. Powell hopes the new courses attract first-timers who might have been scared away by the event’s reputation.
Audra Homicz, of Weaverville, who has ridden the Chaser once and served as a volunteer for three years, agreed the inclusion of the Swasey trails will make the ride relatively easier.
“I am really looking forward to it,” Homicz said. “I haven’t ridden all the way from Swasey to Whiskeytown before and have wanted too. This would be a good opportunity.”
The 50-miler also incorporates Whiskeytown’s Rich Gulch, Logging Camp and Ridge trails (known to mountain bikers as The Chimney, Satan’s Crack and Taco Stand, respectively) for the first time.
Local mountain biking enthusiast Mike Berg prepared a series of maps of the Whiskeytown Chaser course, which is available on the event website. I encourage all equestrians, mountain bikers, trail runners and hikers to check out these sweet maps. A mountain biker providing maps for an equestrian event demonstrates how well cyclists and horse riders get along in our area. We’re lucky not to have divisive battles over who can use which trails, conflicts that are common elsewhere.
“We’ve been really appreciative of how friendly mountain bikers are and how aware they are of our horses,” said Powell, who pedals a two-wheeler when she’s not atop her Morgan.
Both the 25- and 50-mile courses start and end at Horse Camp on Paige Bar Road, and many of the participants will indeed be camping at that location. It’s a good central location, but it can get crowded, so Powell is considering relocating the base to the Swasey property in future years.
“There is not a lot of communities where you can have a ride of this caliber in your backyard,” Powell added. “I want to emphasize that it is a ride, not a race. Yes, we do give prizes, but just to finish is an accomplishment.”
Powell also would like to bring back a ride and tie event to the area. In ride and tie, two-person teams share one horse. One person rides while another runs, with the team members switching off during the race. Whiskeytown has been the site for ride and tie races in the past.
Anyone interested in participating in the Whiskeytown Chaser as a rider or as a volunteer should visit the event website and contact Powell. And if you’d like to see ride and tie return, let her know.
Paul Shigley is senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a frequent contributor to Planning magazine and tried to run up the Kanaka Peak Loop several times. He walked. Paul Shigley may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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