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Serpa takes reins of backcountry horseman
Serpa and mule pic
Former Turlock resident Dennis Serpa and his trusty backcountry mule, “Johnny,” pose for a quick snapshot before taking on a Huckleberry Lake mountain trail. Serpa, who has 20 years of experience in clearing and repairing trails in the Stanislaus National Forest and Emigrant Wilderness, was recently elected president of the Backcountry Horsemen of California. - photo by Photo Contributed

Former Turlock resident Dennis M. Serpa was recently elected as president of the Backcountry Horseman of California (BCHC).

Previously Serpa served as a public lands liaison for the Mid Valley Unit of the BCHC, which is a 3,000-member statewide equestrian organization of volunteers that  work to ensure backcountry trails remain open for recreational horse, mule and hiker use.  His new post took effect on Jan. 1.

Serpa has been a dairyman and farmer in the Turlock and Oakdale area since 1970. More than 20 years ago he discovered the BCHC at Bishop Mule Days (held annually in Bishop), and joined the organization to improve his own backcountry education and experience. Later, he administered volunteer service projects to clear and repair trails in Stanislaus National Forest and Emigrant Wilderness. Serpa is also qualified as a wilderness rider to educate backcountry users in the principals of Gentle Use/ Leave No Trace policies.

“I’ve really enjoyed my experiences in the backcountry. You get a real sense of accomplishment clearing and maintaining those trails the old fashioned way,” Serpa said.

When Serpa and his crews clear trails they use nothing but elbow grease and hand tools.  “We are really going back 100 years using hand tools like a six-foot whip saw,” Serpa said.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 prohibited the use of machine tools in backcountry federal areas.   

Serpa says the  Backcountry Horseman’s number one challenge is to increase youth participation and awareness in BCHC programs. Serpa and his wife of 45 years, Loretta, currently reside in Oakdale.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.