Dan and Marja are Backcountry Horseman volunteers who pack gear and supplies for ITA projects as well as other groups doing trail work in the Wilderness. We applaud their enthusiasm for protecting and maintaining Idaho’s trails and volunteering for seven pack trips across Idaho in 2023 alone! For our backcountry projects, their packing services are key to reaching remote places and getting the work done. Projects are always more fun when greeted by Dan and Marja’s smiles, treats at the trailhead, and getting to take selfies with their burro, Pedro. Thank you Dan and Marja for all you do for trails!
A little about the Waughs written by Dan:
I was born and raised here in Idaho. I grew up backpacking, hiking, hunting, and fishing. I did my first 12 mile hike intoAlpine lake in the sawtooths when I was 6. I enlisted in the military in high school and did 16.5 year in AF special operations with 7 combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and 3 additional training/peacetime. I was wounded on my 3rd tour in Bahgdad and fractured my back in 3 places and a suffered a TBI. After numerous deployments after and years of abuse from deployments, they medically retired me after numerous surgeries.
I knew I wanted my kids to experience the wonders of Idaho. I moved back in 2015 and knew I couldnt backpack like times past due to my injuries, so I decided to get a pack string. One horse led to the now 23 horses, mules, and burro on our place.
Marja grew up in Northern CA in the Sierra Nevadas and loved the outdoors. She loved hiking and fishing and of course horses. She packed for a pack station out of high school for 5 years before joining the navy as a K9 handler. She was medically seperated due to an injury while in Afghanistan.
I met my Marja in 2016 and we married in 2019. We opened a saddle shop together in 2017 and started a equine breeding operation. We joined BCHI around 2019 after some pressure from some good friends and quickly the spark was reignited in both of us in terms of our love for conservation.
We both were asked to be on the Idaho Horse Council, I am the Trails Committee Chairman and Marja was the office administrator but now is on the trails and horse expo committee. We are very active with BCHI, we do on average about 5-7 pack support trips a year packing trail crews for not just ITA, but also other organizations. This year we did 7. We packed about 2500lbs total in just over 100 miles in multiple wilderness areas this year.
This past spring, I became the vice chairman for BCH on the state level and hope to use my passion, knowledge, and experiance to not just grow our org but also increase our partnerships like we have with ITA.
When we arent packing crews, riding for fun, hunting, showing horses, or building tack we do normal family stuff. We are blessed our two teenagers like going along and seeing our wildlands on our adventures. We are blessed to have the ability to not just volunteer occasionally, but be able to participate in conservation either doing trail work or packing others on a regular basis. We love what we do and as winter approaches we already are planning next year!
We have had so many memories made not just trail riding but also doing work. From howling with a pack of wolves less than 1/2 mile away while leading a pack string, to face offs with bears and moose, and peoples reactions when they hear we are working with and packing trail crews, its always rewarding. And we have had bad experiances as well. But, people do love seeing the horses, mules, and even my little burro Pedro! He may be the most popular.
Which leds into why trails are important to us. We may be equestrian focused, but we also have or still hiked, biked, and even still use our UTV on motorized trails. Our lands and trails in Idaho, espeically non-motorized trails are quickly faiding away at an alarming rate. Groups and even state and federal land managers can’t keep pace with maintaining our trails. We have to change our mindset and work with those managers to find unique and new ways to manage resources and improve our trails.
It’s imperative to continute to recruit, finding reoccurring funding sources, create new and espeically strengthen partnerships, and spread the love of conservation to those around us especially the next generation of conservationists. It’s work sure, but it’s also memories that will last a lifetime for those who do it. Like many veterans our eyes were on the horizon for our next battle. For Marja and I, our new battle is fighting for and maintaining our trails with groups like the Idaho Horse Council, Back Country Horseman of Idaho, and especially Idaho Trails Association!
Hope to see everyone on the trail! And if ya see our Donkey, be sure to vote for Pedro!- Dan Waugh