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HOrses

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HOrses

Postby balzaccom » Sat Dec 05, 2009 9:36 am

Hey--I thought I'd troll for another argument here...this from a recent post to my website. Thoughts?

Horses

Yes, we know that there is a long tradition (and booming business) in horse packing trips into the Sierra. And there are many very reputable packers who make a serious effort to keep their impacts on the wilderness at a minimum. We've camped near some of these groups, and never gave it (of them) a second thought.

And there are also people who would never be able to get into the backcountry if they didn't do it on horseback. We welcome anyone in that category, because we think the wilderness needs all the friends it can get.

But if you are considering a horse packing trip, here are a few things that we would like you to keep in mind.

1. The fact that you were able to pack in beer and steaks does not give you the right to entertain the rest of the valley with rebel yells in the evening. Yippee Yo Kiy-yay may be appropriate on a cattle drive, not a wilderness trip.

2. The fact that your packer left you alone in the wilderness does not mean that you don't have to follow the rules. It does not mean you don't have to know what the rules are. It does not mean that you can break the rules as long as you cover up the evidence before your packer returns.

3. Finally, we've done a few simple calculations on how much a horse impacts a trail vs. a hiker on foot. If you take the overall weight of each, and then divide by the area of the footprint of each animal, it's pretty clear that a horse does more damage to the trail than many, many hikes. (A 200 pound hiker puts about 6 pounds per square inch of pressure on the trail, cushioned by socks and vibram. A 1000 pound horse puts closer to 100 pounds of pressure on the trail, with a steel shoe. Another way to look at this is that one horse is equivalent to 15 hikers. And a pack train with eight horses does more damage to the trail than 1000 hikers.)

This is partcularly obvious in a couple of very difficult trail situations. One is when a trail traverses a meadow--the horses really do pound that trail into a deep rut very quickly. Sure, hikers will also do that, but read the facts above. And when the trail is wet or muddy, it's even more. And the other situation is when the trail crosses a moraine or other rocky section, and the horses kick cobble after cobble into the trail. These are murder on hikers. and can twist an ankle in a second.

We don't really have a solution to this problem. But we can't help thinking that the fees that these packers pay don't come close to repairing the damage the horses do to the trail.


check out my website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Balzaccom

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Re: HOrses

Postby hikerduane » Sat Dec 05, 2009 11:00 am

We need to address trekking pole damage also.

It would be nice if we could mitigate pack animal damage in fragile areas like meadows and wet areas. I was up in the Lakes Basin area in Sept. and the Feather River College Pack Station Management class had a trip to the lake I went to. They were getting ready to leave the Saturday morning I arrived, but the horses were not packed up yet or in the process of being packed, so they were all tied to trees still. I hated to see that, advocating it was ok to use this practice. I believe the horses should have been on a picket line, not sure of the terminology, where a line is run between two points and the horses are tied to that. Anyway, much evidence of ringing on the ground from horses. I called the Forest Circus when I got home and left a message for a lady I know, about the resource damage not only from the horses but from the motorcycles that came down the trail from the road above the lake where the PCT crosses. No response from her.
Piece of cake.
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Re: HOrses

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Dec 05, 2009 11:35 am

This is one of the reasons that I enjoy getting off the trail so much. I realize that there is a big spectrum from responsible packer-aided parties and those that behave poorly, but deep rutting and erosion, along with abundant piles of stinky poop (and contrary to Richard Pryor's great skit on this--flies DO mess with it) are unavoidable. Steve Roper (in his edition of the Sierra Climbers Guide) has a particularly spirited rant on these issues. I also believe many trails are also overengineered to cater to pack trains rather than foot traffic only.

I have an enduring memory of a very hard day on the trail with my wife (big distance and elevation gain) that concluded with camping at some lake where a packer-aided party had packed in virtually everything, including a portable generator no less. They had a boom box hooked into the generator and were blasting it at full volume. Another gripe often made by others is that the more irresponsible parties pack in things that someone carrying stuff on their back would never (or seldom, unless they're Norman Clyde) carry---then leave them behind as junk that is very heavy for us backpackers to carry out.

I am thankful that the vast majority of folks don't take their stock off trail, for that has been my escape from more negative aspects of stock usage.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: HOrses

Postby paul » Sat Dec 05, 2009 1:48 pm

I agree that horses do more trial damage than hikers, and I have generally found that there is more trash in areas where folks come in on horseback than in areas where they don't. BUT. I will stand up for the packers, as a group and in general, as opposed to their clients. Most packers I have met are people who love the mountains and do respect the environment. Some could use a little education on the impacts they have, while others are very cognizant and very careful. Not so much for the clients. One cause of this is that the clients do not get their own wilderness permits, and thus they do not hear the ranger's spiel on the wilderness rules, and may not even be aware of them. Most packers are just barely making a living - it's not a real profitable line of work. To expect the packers to educate their clients in low-impact methods is asking a lot of them. We can't expect people to intuit what proper low-impact travel and camping entails. They need to be educated somehow. Maybe they should have to get their own wilderness permits. But that extra hassle might put people off and hurt the packer's business, which I for one do not want to do. The same goes for asking the packers to pay higher fees to the Forest Service. I don't know what the answer is, but I do think that finding a way to educate both packers and their clients is an important part of it. Yes, there will always be a few yahoos who go into the mountains just to party. not much you can do about that besides avoiding them in the backcountry. But most of the packers and their clients do care about the mountains, and will alter their behavior for the better when they understand why they need to do it.
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Re: HOrses

Postby maverick » Sat Dec 05, 2009 2:42 pm

Hi Balzaccom

I don't believe it, it has come to trolling on HST, and not the "horses and packers" issue
again, what is this world coming to?
If you had to troll could you not have picked another issue?
Eric can you implement some anti-trolling software, darn!
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Re: HOrses

Postby maverick » Sat Dec 05, 2009 2:45 pm

Just joking!
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Re: HOrses

Postby balzaccom » Sat Dec 05, 2009 10:38 pm

well...I could try the old fly-fishing vs, spin fishing, catch and release?


grin
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Re: HOrses

Postby mokelumnekid » Sun Dec 06, 2009 12:39 am

Please move this to the Campfire section of the site- that's where this kind of stuff belongs. I'll comment when it gets over there.
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Re: HOrses

Postby ERIC » Sun Dec 06, 2009 2:06 pm

Haha! Here we go again with this one. :) There have been other threads on the subject - although I think the best ones were lost when the site was hacked a couple of years ago. I'll move this thread to the Campfire, but let's still keep the discussion clean. It's a hot topic. Please don't let your emotions get the better of you.

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Re: HOrses

Postby balzaccom » Sun Dec 06, 2009 4:35 pm

Thanks, Eric
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Re: HOrses

Postby oldranger » Mon Dec 07, 2009 11:35 am

As a relative "newbie" I guess I missed the previous threads. I've been a backpacker since the late 50s and beginning in the early 70's became an occasional client of commercial packers. From 84 through 90 I was a stock ranger for the NPS. Like my fishing I'm not a purist in this issue. I agree fully with Pauls comments and want to add a few of my own.

1. Trail damage--There is no doubt that stock can wear out trails more rapidly than people traffic. A lot of the problem is poor trail location and sometimes construction. When I was a backcountry ranger I tried to get early season restrictions on stock travel in order to prevent stock from turning wet sections trail into a quagmire. Sometimes all it would take is preventing stock from using certain trails for a few weeks and the problem wouldn't occur.

2. Trash--yep the potential for people with stock to leave a lot more trash than backpackers. But the shear number of backpackers means that, as a ranger I did more picking up after backpackers than horse people. You couldn't believe the amount of stuff I found miles from the closest a horse could get.

3. Stock management- It really is possible to reduce the impacts of stock near campsites if they are properly managed. I always tried to set a good example by unloading my stock, checking them out and turning them loose (a viable option in most of the Roaring River Country due to drift fences). If turning loose meant too many miles the next morning a high line would would be used over the least sensitive site I could find--out of camp. A pet peeve I had with a lot of private stock users is that they would have a fire going all day. On moving days I would get my stuff packed up, find the stock bring them next to camp then load them up and get out of dodge.

4. Commercial Packers--Most operations don't make a lot of money. And there is much less stock use than 50 years ago. Between Fish Camp on highway 41 and Clover Meadow s. of Yosemite there used to be 5 pack stations now there is 1. The number of operators on the E. Side has been reduced significantly by reduced demand. Now the FS has a quota on the number of trips the operators can make to specific areas so that if demand were to increase they may not be able to meet the demand. The ability of packers to influence their clients is extremely limited due to the economics of their operation. The wages of the employee who leads the stock generally is not minimum wage. Like restaurant servers they are dependent upon tips. You aren't going to tell the tipper to clean up or spend much time cleaning up when you have a long way to go before getting back to the packstation and your clients are in a hurry to get out.

5. Horse poop--If you complain about horse poop do you realize how urbanized and sanitized your life has become. A hundred years ago horse poop was a fact of urban life. We have become so separate from our rural roots that when away from the city we expect the same conditions. Lets go back 110 years ago to the sierra. Not only were there horses but thousands of head of sheep and cattle grazing, A single Sierra Club outing was supported by more horses than I have seen in the backcoutry in the last 10 years. I've compared photos taken in the Roaring River Country in 1940 with photos I took in the 80s. Conditions are much better.

6. Tradional skills--I admire packers who can pack and lead a string of 4 or 5 mules and keep an eye on another 4-6 dudes. Packing the stock and tacking a loose shoe on the trail are skills that should not be lost.

7. Still want to avoid or minimize signs of equine presence? Get off the trail! Go more than 10 miles from a trailhead. Figure out places with little stock use. In yosemite, for example there is little stock use on trails other than those that connect the High Sierra Camps.

Happy Hiking and Riding

Mike
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Re: HOrses

Postby maverick » Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:25 pm

Old Ranger wrote " I agree fully with Pauls comments and want to add a few of my own",
wow, that's a few Mike?
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