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Horses and Packers

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Horses and Packers

Postby balzaccom » Mon Sep 13, 2010 12:11 pm

OK—we’re going to say this right out loud: We’re not big fans of horses on the trail in the backcountry. And you’ll quickly understand why when you compare the impact of a pack train with the impact of a few hikers on a trail. It’s hard to argue in favor of the leave-no-trace philosophy and then suggest that horses should be allowed in the wilderness. They destroy trails and trample campsites. And they don’t really watch where they put their feet, which is why they kick so many stones into the trail, where we have to step over and around them. Sigh.

A single 1400 pound horse with pack puts about 70 pounds per square inch when it steps on a trail, and that weight is concentrated in a narrow band of steel. A 200 pound hiker with pack puts about 4 psi on the trail…and that weight is cushioned by socks and Vibram. And around the campsites, this traffic is even worse. One way to look at it is that a single horse, even if it were wearing socks and Vibram, would have the impact of 35 hikers. And a pack train of eight horses is about the same as 280 hikers. Think of that, the next time one goes by!

But we’ve also got to say a few words about the people who run these horses. Because we’ve had some really good experiences getting advice from people who run pack trains into the wilderness. And they’ve been very gracious about how they gave it, even though they knew that we were backpackers, and not likely to use their services.

This summer we ran into a pack train early in the season, where the rivers were still quite swollen with run-off. The driver from Leavitt Meadows Pack Station gave us a great trip on where to ford the West Walker River…and the encouragement to go for it. And we had a great trip.

And the Aspen Meadows Pack Station in Emigrant Wilderness also gave us some great trail advice on a lesser-used route through a series of back country lakes—also leading to a great trip there.

So when we see these guys on the trail, we’re always cheerful and friendly. But we’ll still try to limit how many horses they take into the backcountry, and how much that impacts our wilderness.
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/



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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby markskor » Mon Sep 13, 2010 1:05 pm

Horses and pack trains: Argh but probably a necessary evil to our Sierra enjoyment.
As for particular drovers, cannot say have ever had a bad experience with any one in person...pretty friendly and knowledgeable mostly...know their stuff and the country better than most.

My complaints (as above previously listed) center around their fingerprints - their scars left after camping, the trail damage, stamped down meadows, etc...leave no trace goes right out the window.

However, my biggest complaint is the trail biscuits, especially near any water/stream crossing. Research shows that ~8 - 10% of the stock harbor Giardia...and they still let them crap wherever.

I would venture to guess that the majority of parasites found in the backcountry come from these stock critters and not from the wild.
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby mokelumnekid » Mon Sep 13, 2010 1:40 pm

Hasn't this been covered in a previous post?
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby balzaccom » Mon Sep 13, 2010 3:37 pm

Sorry--my point was really about the solid information these guys have given me over the years. I just buried that behind the usual complain about horses on the trail.

Anybody else check with pack stations for info and conditions?
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby yosehiker » Tue Sep 14, 2010 8:26 am

Just a general question. Being new on the forum here I'm not sure of the proper etiquette of the community here, but I have noticed that there is a great reluctance to repeat any former topics. I understand the logic of not wanting to have multiple redundant threads, but at the same time it seems kind of silly to be of the mentality that once something has been discussed, it shouldn't be repeated. Opinions change, new information and knowledge comes to light, new people join in, there is a new angle to discuss, etc. In the 'real world', for the lack of a better term, this happens all the time. Not trying to bait or start a flame war, I will hold to rules of the forum, but just curious. Thanks.
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby Bad Man From Bodie » Tue Sep 14, 2010 11:55 am

Yosehiker....

You nailed it...and welcome!

This subject is a dead horse :D . I’m not sure if anyone can shed some light on the subject in respect to future management plans when it comes to stock in the high country. I have a great number of rebuttal comments for balzaccom, but am to the who cares point now. All I have to say is I will continue to use stock in the wilderness and will continue to be an advocate for the backcountry horseman and packers. I’m tiered of this elitist attitude that excludes everyone who doesn’t wear a floppy hat and sport ski pole walking sticks. Im a hiker, and a leave no trace horseman- so whats up?

Cheers,
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby windknot » Tue Sep 14, 2010 1:38 pm

Heh, we do all tend to wear floppy hats, don't we? No ski poles for this hiker yet, but I'm sure I'll be using some in the future.

I agree that this topic can bear additional discussion, especially when I believe Balzaccom's main point to be the wealth of knowledge of a particular area that packers have. I ran into a packer with the High Sierra Pack Station last weekend and we had a nice chat, part of the conversation going something like this:

Packer: "Yeah, I just got back from a 7-day trip out of Wishon taking some folks to X Lake, Y Lake, and Z Lake."
Dad, smiling: "The fishing sure is good in X Lake."
Packer, eyes widening and grinning broadly: "The fishing's real good in X Lake!"

Matt
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby mokelumnekid » Tue Sep 14, 2010 2:20 pm

Yosehiker:

There is a handy search function on this site. You can find a campfire post from last Dec. called HOrses that has three pages of discussions of people's opinions back and forth on this general topic. I don't believe a lot of new information or regulatory activity has occurred since that time. However if anyone wants to advance the topic- which they should do- a good way to do that is by reflecting on how mature a particular topic is, then tossing a pithy restart comment which can be done on the previous thread which will move it back onto the active page.

I appreciate that balzaccom's amended point was that packers can be a source of information.
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby Bad Man From Bodie » Tue Sep 14, 2010 2:48 pm

Let me tell you all one reason Im not a fan of horses in the high country....When I hike, I bring my dog Ellery. She is a white lab and she loves to run ahead of me a bit. When she finds a nice, fresh, smelly horse pile, she just loves to roll in it and even has been know to dine on the pile #-o . Then she likes to go for a swim, which ripens the smell in a fassion that I want to puke.

Packers are funny critters and yes they are full of information :unibrow: or HS. :^o .
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby justm » Wed Sep 15, 2010 8:57 pm

On my last solo trip into the Emigrant wilderness, I got really sick of seeing horse and cow **** everywhere!!! Not to mention the garbage at the giant horse packer camps , and I'll throw in the cattle , trampling everything, especially creek beds !!!
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby Bad Man From Bodie » Thu Sep 16, 2010 4:06 pm

Just to keep this ramble going until the next “Horse vs Man” topic is started next summer, I will add this little bit of educational information in hope to give a few folks a bit of a history lesson (resources provided upon request).

The first documented immigrant traverse of Sonora Pass appears to have been in the late summer of 1852 by a wagon train known as the Clark-Skidmore Company working their way from east to west. Originating from Ohio and Indiana, this party of 75 people and 13 four-mule wagons was the first wagon train to cross the Sierra Nevada via the Walker River-Sonora route and it took the party 35 days to blaze a trail of 60 miles over the rugged pass. The route they chose was a little to the south of the current pass crossing and went as follows: Leavitt Meadow to Fremont Lake to Emigrant Meadow Lake to Brown Bear Pass down to Summit Creek to Relief Valley to Whitesides Meadow to Burst Rock to Bell Meadow to MiWuk Ridge to Twain Harte to Phoenix Lake to Sonora and finally, to Columbia. This long trek was not without its mishaps and twice, half starved men were sent to Sonora and Columbia for food and supplies. Due to the difficult passage, many ended up deserting, and only 15 members of the original party reached Columbia.

The following summer, the trail, now known as the “Old Emigrant Trail”, challenged hundreds of travelers, and in 1853 - 600 wagons, 2,400 emigrants and 19,000 head of cattle were said to have used this route. Some of the notable parties were the Duckwall, Trahern, Kerrick, Browder and Crow and Stubblefield. The route was soon strewn with wreckage of prairie schooners, oxen yoke, bleached animal bones…and gravesites – which can still be seen in the Emigrant Wilderness.

I assume no one knows but a handful of us where you can find any sign of the actual trail. I assure you cant tell where nearly 20,000 head of livestock went up the trail. ImageShown in the photo is the actual trail used by the Emigrants-retraced by Greenhalgh party in 2008. Point being is there is nowhere near the number to stock in the high country today vs years past yet folks still complain.

This pre-contact attitude is ridiculous, what happened to common sense and coexisting?
justm wrote: by justm on Wed Sep 15, 2010 8:57 pm
On my last solo trip into the Emigrant wilderness, I got really sick of seeing horse and cow **** everywhere!!! Not to mention the garbage at the giant horse packer camps , and I'll throw in the cattle , trampling everything, especially creek beds !!!
:-({|= :crybaby:
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby justm » Thu Sep 16, 2010 9:20 pm

I hear ya, yes we can coexist, I know the history. The settlers and gold rush era brought lots of people and animals through the sierras, and now we are all hear; these are different times now. Population explosion and urban sprawl have made our wilderness areas more important than ever. There is a place for both backpacker and horsepacker. Large groups of yahoo campers with no regard to wilderness ethics and who have alot of money and fishout small lakes just to catch and keep there limit are another story, wink wink, ](*,)
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