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Manzanita Horsecamp        Story and photos by Bonnie Davis
  Living in California provides horsemen with the opportunities to horsecamp year around. During summer months when temperatures can soar into the hundreds in some sections of the state, horsemen can travel into the mountains and northern California for cool nights and days. When winter temperatures begin to drop in northern California, one can load up and head south to deserts and warm temperatures!

Ride on marked trailsLocated in southeastern San Diego County, the Manzanita Horsecamp on the Campo Indian Reservation provides cool nights and pleasant days away from snow and snow chains! At about 4,000 feet, this high chaparral country horsecamp averages about 60 to 70 degrees. This almost perfect temperature lasts from about Labor Day to Memorial Day and with its dry climate, few to no flies or bugs pester horse or rider. After Memorial Day weekend, the temperatures of late spring and summer begin to rise.

The camp is located in a small valley with oak trees surrounding it which helps to minimize the campers' exposure to wind -- which can seem almost constant. Even though the wind may blow, it's generally warm and quite comfortable for riding especially mornings and evenings.

The Lawless FrontierTrails are well marked. One can ride unrestricted over the 4,000 acres of chaparral while exploring the foothills of the Laguna Mountains. The setting is that of early "B" western movies and should look familiar. Many movies of the 40's and 50's used the area for filming. After all, towering stands of granite rocks, desert trails weaving through chaparral, stream crossing with no bridges, a nighttime sky full of millions of stars and coyotes barking, yapping and howling over the ridges to a full moon are what westerns were made of!

The camp has about 30 full RV campsites with hookups -- water, electricity, sewer -- and about 70 pipe paddocks. There are dozens of primitive (no hookups) campsites available each with a table and barbecue grill. In addition to the campsites, there's a wash house with full toilet and shower facilities -- so one can even bring an electric toothbrush or blow dryer while still "roughing" it with the ghosts of early western film stars. Fees run from $20 per night for hookups to $10 per night for primitive sites.

The camp is located about 65 miles east of San Diego and 50 miles west of El Centro off Interstate 8. Excellent towing conditions but the wind can be pretty strong so abide by highway warning signs of "High winds" and make sure the towing rig has a full tank of fuel.

From Interstate 8, take the Live Oak Springs-Crestwood exit. At the stop sign, turn south and follow Old Highway 80 for about three miles to the Live Oak Springs Resort. At the Resort, make a left turn onto Live Oak Springs Road.

There's a general store at the intersection. Good chance to buy any last minute groceries. The prices are fair, the help is friendly, the sandwiches are well made and it's the LAST food store you'll find!

Manzanita Horse CampFollow the paved Live Oak Springs Road for about a mile through the houses and resort. The pavement will end, one will cross a cattle guard and into the Campo Indian Reservation and the beginning of BIA-14 Road. BIA-14 is unpaved. It's an excellent sand-dirt road and even though one will encounter some "washboard", one can easily maintain the speed limit of 25 to 30. Stay on BIA-14 for about 6 miles. At intersections, there's arrow signs pointing which way to turn. Follow them into the horsecamp.

Reservations should be made in advance to assure a corral is ready and waiting for you. During winter months, individuals and clubs from central to northern California plant rips to Manzanita. We were there on weekdays and few other campers were with us but on weekend and during the holidays, the camp will fill up. For a brochure, write Manzanita Horsecamp, P.O. Box 952, Boulevard, CA 91905, or call 619-766-4070.    


Bonnie Davis is a free lance writer and horsecamping/trail riding advocate with over 30 years experience. Her stories, articles, and columns have been published in national and international publications such as Western Horseman, Paint Horse Journal, Horse & Horseman, Quarter Horse Journal, Western Side (Italy), Cascade Horseman, California Horse Review, Performance Horse Review, and San Jose Mercury News.  Bonnie was a featured speaker at Horsexpo in June '99.

? 1999 Bonnie Davis and The Bay Area Equestrian Network. The above story and photos are the property of the Author and may not be duplicated or redistributed in any way without permission.