Betty Wagoner loves horses and the Methow Valley places she can ride them
By Ashley Ahearn
Betty Wagoner was raised on a dairy farm up the Twisp River. She still remembers her first horse, Nell, “an old mare who didn’t want to leave the barnyard but I made her,” the 81-year-old smiles.
Every day when Wagoner got off the school bus, it was her job to get on Nell and round up the cows so her parents could milk them. Nell was the first of a long line of horses in Wagoner’s life.
Thirty-four years ago this spring, Wagoner founded the Methow Valley chapter of the Back Country Horsemen of America and organized the first spring ride. This year she’s just as eager as ever to saddle up and join the festivities this weekend (April 27-29).
The Back Country Horsemen started in Montana 40 years ago and now has chapters all over the country. The organization advocates for access to public lands for equestrian use, and organizes members and volunteers to help federal and state agencies maintain and clear thousands of miles of multipurpose recreational trails every year. The Methow Valley chapter has more than 100 members and contributed more than 700 volunteer hours improving and maintaining trails and campsites throughout the valley last year.
The Spring Ride this weekend is the Methow chapter’s most important fundraising event of the year, and it’s open to everyone – whether they ride horses or not. People are invited to camp out for the weekend at the Beaver Creek Campground or just attend the Saturday night festivities and silent auction. The ride happens on Saturday morning from the campground.
“There’s a steak dinner and excellent western music around the campfire on Saturday night,” said Wagoner.
Wagoner has devoted countless volunteer hours to the Back Country Horsemen over the years because trail riding in this valley has been an important part of her life. “I want my kids to be able to ride so we have to be organized to volunteer. The U.S. Forest Service doesn’t have the funds to do all the maintenance needed on the trails, so we help out,” Wagoner said.
In 1949, when she was in junior high school, Wagoner was crowned Twisp Rodeo Queen (back when Twisp had a rodeo). She says she feels blessed to have been able to spend her life riding in the Methow Valley.
“We’ve got such beautiful scenery. The flowers in the spring, leaves in the fall. The views,” Wagoner said, though she added that there are quite a few more “No Trespassing” signs than she remembers seeing in her girlhood.
At 81, Wagoner is still an avid snowmobiler and cross country skier. She’s getting knee surgery this spring so she can keep riding her quarter horse gelding, Koda.
“I’m 81 years young and very fortunate to have lived here my whole life, and that my health has held to be able to do all the things that I love,” Wagoner said.
Spring trail ride this weekend
The Methow Valley Back Country Horsemen will host their annual Spring Ride Friday through Sunday (April 27-29) at Beaver Creek Campground south of Twisp. The fundraiser supports public trails maintenance.
Come for the whole weekend or just the Saturday silent auction, dinner and entertainment (auction closes at 5 p.m. Saturday). A Discover Pass or Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife pass is required. Cost is $30 for adults and $15 for children. For the barbecue dinner and entertainment only, the cost is $10 for adults and $7 for children under 12. Registration includes overnight camping, Dutch oven potluck on Friday, trail ride on Saturday, and a barbecue dinner and campfire entertainment on Saturday. Breakfast on Sunday is $7.