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Horses and Packers

Grab your bear can or camp chair, kick your feet up and chew the fat about anything Sierra Nevada related that doesn't quite fit in any of the other forums. Within reason, (and the HST rules and guidelines) this is also an anything goes forum. Tell stories, discuss wilderness issues, music, or whatever else the High Sierra stirs up in your mind.
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby mokelumnekid » Fri Sep 17, 2010 10:27 am

This was discussed at length last Dec. and BMFB knows (he pitched in then) that many of us on this list in fact do endorse co-existence and are not fanatical about this issue (nor most issues in my experience).



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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby Bad Man From Bodie » Fri Sep 17, 2010 11:02 am

Brilliant everyone.....agree! As always I am impressed with HST members. It appears most folks understand there are bad apples in every user group. No matter what, it’s all about having respect for one-another including mother nature. If you can respect that, you earn the privilege to experience the wilderness for what it is! If you are an a-hole and happen to ride in on a horse or walk in on two feet, your still probably an a-hole…….and that’s your bad (Karma works both ways ehh). :partyman: :partyman:
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby mokelumnekid » Fri Sep 17, 2010 11:37 am

Amen to that! Would love to share a brewski with you some day...This historical material is fascinating and it is really cool that people are *riding* over that route again. BTW have you followed the work of that guy who has found Fremont's winter camp below (east of) Carson Pass and the site of the first crossing there? He's also the guy who has written most convincingly on Fremont's lost cannon (name escapees me now...). He has a pretty extensive website on all that.
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby ERIC » Fri Sep 17, 2010 4:57 pm

Love the history lesson, thanks! Wish there were more posts like that on here. Packers always seem to be a wealthy source of historical knowledge...

On a related note, one of my favorite history-related Sierra Nevada books is Place Names of the Sierra Nevada by Peter Browning. Good stuff!
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby justm » Fri Sep 17, 2010 8:07 pm

Well said, especially the last part about an a-hole is an a-hole whether they come in on a horse or backpack in, :partyman:
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby rightstar76 » Sat Sep 18, 2010 1:23 am

Wish they weren't so expensive though. I guess if you share the cost with several people it's not so bad.
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Sep 19, 2010 2:09 pm

There have been times in my backpacking that I have used horse packers. It is a bit elitist to be totally against horse packers. When my children were tiny I have had horsepackers take us in, and then we VERY slowly walked out. When elderly parents who loved the outdoors were no longer able to do a backpack, we used horsepackers. When working on a tight vacation schedule, I had a pack outfit take me in to save 3 days. On the other hand, there are places that are too easily damaged by horses and should be off-limits. And, for anyone who uses a trail, there probably would not even be a trail there if horses had not used the route. Trail maintenance also could not be done today if trail crews could not be serviced by horse packers. If you really do not want to see traces of horse use, just get off the trails entirely. Go to a lake behind a fortress of miles of talus and you will not see signs of horses. I agree that one horse can damage the trails more than one person, but I think there is room for both areas allowing horse use and those not allowing horse use. A good packer does not want to ruin a trail anymore than we do. And, it seems to me a little like the pot calling the kettle black when you do not like horses because your dog rolls in horse poop!
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby paul » Mon Sep 20, 2010 6:03 pm

Here's a book with a little more history:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/ ... lleypac-20

Packers and pack stations are almost a dying breed. There used to be many more pack outfits than exist today - the business is shrinking. Personally, though I don't like the state of some trails that are heavily used by packers, I would be sorry to see them go. They bring many folks into the high country who would not otherwise get there to appreciate the beauty, and those people are more likely to want to preserve that beauty if they've seen it themselves. My opinion, anyway. Plus I feel the packers are part of a long tradition that I'd like to see maintained. Their practices have improved greatly over the years - some by choice and some not - and their impact is much less than it once was. I think there is room for them.
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby sierramel » Thu Sep 23, 2010 2:51 pm

Well, I might as well throw in my 2 cents.
Having switched over from carrying a gigantimous pack (and the resulting ruined back) about 14 years ago, to using llamas instead to carry my gear, and then also living a couple of miles from several major trail heads in the sierras, I have a rather unique perspective.
First, the llamas, as most folks know, leave next to no trace. They hike barefoot, generally weigh less than 400 pounds, browse rather than graze, and leave pellets as opposed to piles of stinking horse-hit covered with flies. This, in addition to the fact that they are proven smarter than your average usual **** horse, which when it sees a llama on the trail tends to spook like it has seen a flying saucer and run off with its eyes rolling in its head, trampling everything and everyone in its path. God.. I could tell you a zillion stories about my encounters between me and my llamas and horses on the trail.
Most pack pack outfits, at least in my area, generally have lead riders who are pretty congenial on the trail, particularly if hikers (and those with them with "those damn llamas") follow trail etiquitte (did I misspell that?): get down off the trail, don't try to pass them from behind or squeeze past them, and don't make any fast, unexpected moves (so the livestock doesn't go apeshit).
Now when I get a possible clue of any pack train (noise, whistles, cowbells, hoof noise over rocks- ahead or behind me-, downwind stink) anywhere NEAR my vicinity, I have to run and get off the trail and hide me and the llama (s) in the brush, out of sight, and not MOVE, so the horses don't know we're there. The horses figure out there is a llama in the neighborhood, and we have a trainwreck.
Not many horse outfits have bothered to integrate one of those ecologically correct llamas into their stock corrals, so nine times out of ten there is always a potential rodeo on the trail. I can tell you I get pretty tired of playing leapfrog on the trail with a pack train.
I think the worst mess of a trail, and the least cooperative outfit I can describe - at least lately - is the one out of Rock Creek, the Mono Pass trail. Oh, a few of the trail leads are pretty nice, but the trail itself is destroyed from the amount of horse traffic. This past summer I was dodging pack strings of 20 or more loaded down horses, several times a day. Up and down the trail. At night, even though its against regulations, they were even loose-herding their animals (unsupervised I might add) down the trail (something the Pine Creek Pack Station used to do until they got busted and fined several years ago for the depredations they were indulging in in French Canyon). I was having 20 or more loose horses and mules at a time, following a belled horse, stampeeding through my campsite at dusk with no cowboys anywhere in sight. Needless to say, me and the llama were a little concerned.
The Rock Creek Pack Station had a semi-permanent horse camp set up at the Third Recess junction, and what a mess they had made of the area. Packers coming and going with groups of tourists on horseback, trampled vegetation, bare dirt, and FLIES!
Sorry for the rant - anyway, the Mono Pass Trail closer to the top on the east side of the pass, and particularly on the west side of the pass, is the most knee-twisting, ankle-busting, toe-jamming piece of horse-churned rock I have ever been over that wasn't cross country.
The aromatic piles of old and new horse "excretia" were impressive, the biting black flies were a plague. In the heat of the summer the trail itself was a mix of pulverized powdered horse manure and a little dirt. Really disgusting and doubtful healthy to breathe.
One year I was up on the bench above French Canyon, out of Pine Creek, where Puppet, L, Moon, Star (etc.) lakes are located. The Pine Creek Pack Station had a week-long campsite set up there for a group of tourists next to the inlet of Moon Lake. There were horse-turds floating down the stream and into the lake. The small wet meadows along the trail were a mass of manure and deep hoofprints. This kind of damage tends to last for years.
Well, at least know you know why I object to most horse traffic in the backcountry. At least in some places the Forest Service is using llamas for trail work. I guess the F S isn't all bad.
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Re: Horses and Packers

Postby quentinc » Thu Sep 23, 2010 4:27 pm

Personally, and I'm sure I'm in the minority, I appreciate the rant. :)

My favorite story (in retrospect) about the Mono Pass trail is when, about halfway up, I realized there was a pack train approaching from the rear, and another heading towards me from above. I had visions of being smashed to death, like when the walls of a room hurdle in towards each other in cartoons. Fortunately, not being burdened with a llama, I was able to cut a switchback and get around the top pack train. How they got around each other, I will never know. Since I haven't been back to that trail since, it's possible the two trains are still there, facing off into eternity.

I don't know much about llamas, but unlike mules, they sure are fun to see in the backcountry!
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