For Charlene Boom and her husband, Rodney, traveling around the country with their horses for trail riding has become a major part of their life. This past summer was no different, with a trip out west.

“Our summer western riding trip has become routine, but it is still as fun and exciting as our first trip in 1972. There were two nights that were sure exciting that first time we were in Custer State Park because herds of buffalo would go right up through the camp by our tents,” she said.

The Booms were the only horse campers at French Creek at the time and at times they would worry about their horses.

“All the horses were highlined from the trees, which was scary because sometimes the buffalo would attack the tied up horses,” Boom said.

Today the campground looks a lot different, with 40 campsites with electricity, stalls for the horses and a shower house. Boom said there are also a lot more horse camping facilities in the Black Hills now than there was back then.

“It has been very interesting to us to see the evolution from tents to the mega sized living quarter trailers. It seems to us that the fancier and larger the rigs, the shorter distances and hours those campers ride,” she said.

This past summer’s trip for the Booms was planned for six weeks, only going to the Black Hills in South Dakota and Soldiers Creek near Fort Robinson in Nebraska. They planned to finish their trip at the Pitzer Ranch in Ericson, Neb.

“We had followed the news last year about the fire in Custer State Park, but we were not prepared for the total devastation of over 30,000 acres. The fire destroyed thousands of pine trees that were cut off for lumber so the greenness of the park was now totally black. South Dakota did reseed with 3,000 tons of grass seed with a helicopter so there was some green with new grass,” Boom said. “It will take years for the pine trees to recover, but the view from the hilltops provided many miles of clear views.”

This was not the first time the couple had ridden in the remnants of forest fires, having gone through Yellowstone in 1988 after it had been burned.

“It is always amazing to see how regrowth replenishes the burnt land,” Boom said. “Fort Robinson had really bad forest fires in the 1980s and many of those areas have dead trees and grass, but the trees, even today, haven’t reseeded.”

Boom said they hope to continue their western trips as long as possible, enjoying the scenery and riding the horses.

“Riders can really experience wonderful scenery and rides not readily seen from highways. With our riding trips, we always attend horse sales in the area, which gives us information about the business of raising and marketing (horses),” she said.

In January, the couple, who also owns CR Quarter Horses and Dalmations, will head back out on the road, this time for their annual trip to Arizona, where Boom said it is like a family reunion after all the years they have ridden there.

“We have a lot of friends there and we always have a great time,” Boom said.

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