The packhorses hauling rock up Badger Mountain on Saturday will look a bit like they have stepped out of a western film.
They will be helping the Rattlesnake Ridge Riders put gravel on one of the newer trails of the Badger Mountain Preserve.
The local chapter of the Back Country Horsemen of Washington will be improving a half-mile of Skyline Trail.
Cynthia Gauthier, a Rattlesnake Ridge Riders member, said the nonprofit group is using the remainder of a $5,000 grant from REI to pay for the gravel. The grant also helped improve the trail head and replant a burned area on Rattlesnake Slope Wildlife Area.
The chapter does service projects, including trail maintenance. The goal is to make sure public areas and trails remain open for horseback riding, she said.
A couple of the group's rides are held on Badger Mountain trails each year, Gauthier said.
Skyline Trail is a 3-mile multi-use trail that starts at the west side parking lot on Dallas Road and meanders to connect with the 1.3-mile Canyon Trail and then the 1-mile Sagebrush Trail, creating a loop.
The section that the Rattlesnake Ridge Riders will work on is the half mile that connects with the Sagebrush Trail, said Jim Langdon, Friends of Badger Mountain trail master. It's a new portion that was built last year, and the loop it helped create is called the Trailhead Park Loop.
Most of the trail miles are open to horseback riders, cyclists and hikers, except Canyon Trail, which is limited to hikers, Langdon said.
The trail system has brought more people to Badger Mountain for recreation, said Paul Mellick, who lives nearby. He started riding horses on Badger Mountain about 23 years ago, well before the trails were created.
Mellick, the Rattlesnake Ridge Riders trail boss, said he used to be able to ride for two hours and not see a soul. Now, he said he sees 50 or more people on that same ride.
Mellick will be out on the trails Saturday with his horse and two packhorses, hauling gravel up and down the trail, along with another Rattlesnake Ridge Rider.
Other volunteers, including Friends of Badger Mountain members, will spread the three truckloads of gravel evenly along the path.
The horses can carry about 200 pounds in a load, Mellick said. For a human, about 40 pounds would be a struggle.
"We can move a lot of gravel in a short period of time," he said.
The gravel helps stabilize the trail and prevent erosion. Without it, the trail dirt turns to "moon dust" as fine as flour, Langdon said.
"It makes a better surface for everybody," Mellick said.
The Rattlesnake Ridge Riders helped gravel the trail last year, Gauthier said, but that gravel has been trodden into the ground, so a new layer is needed.
Volunteers should meet near the top of the preserve where Skyline Trail connects to the Canyon or Sagebrush trails after 9 a.m., and should bring a lunch and wear boots, gloves and a hat. For a map and more information about the preserve, visit www.friendsofbadger.org.