2016 Backbone Challenge Ride July 18 thru July 23

Press Coverage:
July 19 Ventura County Star
Santa Monica Observed

Ruth's Notes on Trail Camps and the BBT Ride

Day one is completed! Todays ride was not too bad. Up the windy and narrow Ray Miller Trail, along the wide Overlook Trail and then down the wood Canyon Vista Trail into Sycamore Canyon. Fine weather and good company made the time pass quickly.
Day two is in the books! The ride today was much longer (nearly 14 miles) with lots of climbing. From Danielson Ranch we climbed up Blue Canyon to the Chamberlain Trail into the Sandstone Peak High Country. From there we dropped down to the Mishe Mokwa Trail head before finishing on the Backbone Trail where it crossed Little Sycamore Canyon Road. Thank you to the volunteers who provided water for the horses at the Mishe Mokwa Trail Head.
Day three is completed! The ride today not as long as yesterday (nearly 10 miles) with bits of climbing and descending. From Litle Sycamore Canyon Road we climbed up the newly created Etz Meloy bypass trail; crossed Mulholland then meandered towards Encinal Canyon. From there we crossed into Trancas Canyon which we then rode towards Kanan Road.
Day four was another hot but beautiful ride from Kanan Road to Monte Nido. No camps were available so the group stayed at a private ranch.
Just got word that the Cowgirls have arrived safely in Topanga State Park. Just a few miles separating them from the end of this journey.
Just like that the Cowgirls ride has concluded successfully! With any luck we will have the story as described by the actual Cowgirls...


  • Calamigos Ranch – fabulous dinner for 35, cabin available for riders
  • Harrison Maps – set of maps of Santa Monica Mountains
  • West Valley Horse Center
  • Bright Star Saddlery
  • Dr. Merle, Conejo Equine Vet
  • Numero Uno Pizza, Agoura
  • Pollo Loco, Agoura
  • ParkWatchReport – shirts for volunteers

Non-Profit Supporters

  • Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council – website & FB
  • Recreation & Equestrian Coalition – fuel

The Press Release

Five courageous ladies are embarking on a major challenge of skill and adventure in a couple of weeks. The Backbone Trail Cowgirls are setting out to ride the entire Backbone Trail on horseback as the first group to do so since the trail was completely opened end-to-end and officially designated as a National Recreation Trail. The trail, which goes from Pt. Mugu State Park in Ventura County to Will Rogers State Historic Park in the Pacific Palisades, was officially designated as a National Recreation Trail by US Secretary Sally Jewell and National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis on June 4, 2016. By averaging about 11 miles each day, their journey will cover the 67 Backbone Trail miles of mostly rugged terrain with some pretty hefty elevation changes along the way.
This trip was spearheaded and organized by Ruth Gerson, 81 yr, who first rode the trail almost exactly 25 years ago. She will be riding her 19 yr old Mustang, Crystal. The other participants are Jeanne Wallace, 73 yr, with her 21 yr old Quarter horse, Dill; Janet Peterson, 63 yr, with her 19 yr old Peruvian Paso, Sunny; Tracey Potter, 53 yr, with her 9 yr old Red Roan, Scooter; and Kimberly Gustafson, 45 yr, with her 12 yr old Spotted Draft Quarter Cross, Chief. These ladies have chosen to do this ride for 4 reasons: to publicize the Backbone Trail as a National Recreation Trail, to inspire others to be adventurous, to demonstrate that age is only a number for horses and riders, and to illustrate the need for equestrian and hiker trail camps in the Santa Monica Mountains!
Their trip will begin at the Ray Miller Trailhead in Pt. Mugu State Park on Monday, July 18, 2016 and finish on Saturday, July 23, 2016. They will camp near the trail each night and have their horses in corrals or high lining them. No hotels for these women! They have a support team of friends who have volunteered to take on various tasks such as pre-riding parts of the trail to identify obstacles, clear brush and downed trees, drive the rigs from campsite to campsite, bring dinners in the evening, meet with water for the horses where the trail crosses roads if it is very hot, and help in any other ways needed.
What an amazing journey this will be! These women will be riding across the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains. The views will be spectacular, not to mention the wildlife and wildflowers. It will not be easy, but they all share a common thread, a sense of humor and a sense of purpose.
California State Parks, National Parks Service and Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy are all strong supporters of this ride and have made every effort to ensure that all goes well. There are 2 non-profit organizations also supporting the ride: Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council (SMMTC www.smmtc.org) and Recreation & Equestrian Coalition (REC www.gotorec.org). Park Watch Report (PWR www.parkwatchreport.com) is a website and phone app for State Parks that is used to improve trails and address safety issues by engaging the public; they are also supporting the ride.
The Backbone Trail Cowgirls will provide a daily update of their adventure on the Backbone Challenge Ride 2016 that will be posted on the here.