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Posted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 9:36 am
by balzaccom
Hey--I thought I'd troll for another argument here...this from a recent post to my website. Thoughts?


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.

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Re: HOrses

Posted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 11:00 am
by hikerduane
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.

Re: HOrses

Posted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 11:35 am
by giantbrookie
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.

Re: HOrses

Posted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 1:48 pm
by paul
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.

Re: HOrses

Posted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 2:42 pm
by maverick
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!

Re: HOrses

Posted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 2:45 pm
by maverick
Just joking!

Re: HOrses

Posted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 10:38 pm
by balzaccom
well...I could try the old fly-fishing vs, spin fishing, catch and release?


Re: HOrses

Posted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 12:39 am
by mokelumnekid
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.

Re: HOrses

Posted: 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.


Re: HOrses

Posted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 4:35 pm
by balzaccom
Thanks, Eric