MALDEN – After more than two weeks on the trail, the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders Association completed its 45th 200-mile, cross-state trek Saturday, June 3.
The riders hopped on their wagons and horses in Easton on Thursday, May 18.
Since, they’ve traversed Kittitas, Grant, Kittitas and Whitman counties on what the state calls the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail.
Locals along the way have a different name for it – through Adams, Southern Spokane and Whitman counties, its known as the John Wayne Trail.
Wagons and horses made stops here near Othello, in Lind, Ralston and Revere before reaching the final stretch between Tekoa and the Idaho state line.
Several new riders joined this year to earn the honorary “White Scarf” – an earned token for a rider completing their first ride.
“Ages of the participants ranged from 12-85, coming from seven states, Alberta, Canada, and Germany,” volunteer Sharon Lindsay of Spokane Said. “A variety of horse breeds, mules and ponies provided the transportation, with a few hardy individuals riding bicycles.”
First-year rider and a new group member, Karen Hardy of Chewelah, noted how visual and fantastic her trip has been this year while urging others to join next year.
“The trail is such a gem for our state and that we go through all these little communities that are bypassed by the highways. We usually do a little fundraiser for the towns, and it’s really nice,” she said. “This whole world would be better if we could get out to meet our neighbors; this is a great way to meet your neighbors.”
People from across the West gather to ride the roughly 18-day trip.
“The horses love consistent work. To be able to just set aside the better part of a month is so good for them and us, “Hardy said. “It’s a very unusual site to see a hundred people on horseback anywhere.”
“This group has been around for years, and they sort of quietly and consistently worked on this trail with the legislature to create such an amazing trail.”
An average day for the riders starts at about 5 a.m. when horses are fed.
The John Wayne riders parking committee heads out soon after to assist in moving the caravan of vehicles and gear. Participants are transported via school bus into town and back, where they prepare their horses and set out for the ride to the next town.
“It takes a village, and it’s mostly volunteer-based,” said John Wayne social coordinator Olympia Granger of Bothel. “It’s a great way to see Washington because we travel through a lot of different terrains.”
Granger added a highlight to this year’s journey – the riders went through an ice cream shop drive through on horseback during their travel across Kittitas County.
Despite the ice cream respite, Granger said her favorite part of the trail is in northern Whitman County.
“Improvements to the trail in Whitman County were greatly appreciated and participants are already looking forward to next year, particularly the famous pie auction for charity held in Malden,” she said.
Results of the pie auction were not available before press time.
The John Wayne riders are always looking for new people to join the trek.
“Get out and enjoy the trail. It’s a really amazing thing in the state of Washington that other states don’t have,” Hardy said.