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#138718 - 09/13/10 03:12 PM Horses and Packers
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1719
Loc: Napa, CA
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 and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#138738 - 09/13/10 08:52 PM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: balzaccom]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2123
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
A friend of mine down in the Cucuamonga area in CA, works for the FS down there and she likes them. They help maintain the trails and have done alot of work. It is in their best interest. I think they work on their PR also, most if not all I have met while on the trail have been really friendly. On the down side, last Fall, close to home on the Plumas NF in CA, the Feather River College Pack Station Management class had a group at a lake I went to. They had the horses tied to trees waiting to be loaded up. Not sure if they were there all night, but the damage was done. They should be tied out on a picket line if that is the word, I'm not familiar with it. Basically, a line tied between two points in a straight line which the horses are tied to. If they are tied to a tree they pace around it, leaving a trench around the roots. Not a pretty sight. I left a message with the Rec Officer who I know, but never heard anything.

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#138739 - 09/13/10 09:10 PM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: balzaccom]
aimless Online   content
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 2838
Loc: Portland, OR
It helps if you realize that most of the trails we have in the Western USA (not sure about other places) were built to facilitate horse or mule packing. Trails to fire lookouts were intended to allow mule trains to supply those lookouts.

In the 20s and 30s recreational trails were built so hunters and fishermen could access the forests, lakes, mountains and rivers of the backcountry and almost all of those early hunters and fishermen rode horses.

The PCT was conceived at first purely as an equestrian trail and its specifications were designed to make horse packing easy. Who else, they reasoned, would ever attempt a trail that long?

FWIW, we recreational hikers came afterwards and were not considered significant users of trails until after WWII. I have a Sierra Club book from the mid-1950s, Packing Light with Burro or Backpack that reflects the shift as it was taking place.

Which is not to say that your observations about the relative damage done by horses are inaccurate. It's just that, in a real sense, they were here before us and helped make the trail system possible.

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#138749 - 09/14/10 02:45 AM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: aimless]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6372
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Horse packers also help maintain wilderness trails that are too far from the roads for hikers to carry in the gear (crosscut saws et al) required. The Backcountry Horsemen of Washington, for example, maintain a large proportion of the wilderness trails in that state. If it weren't for their volunteer efforts, many more miles of trails would be abandoned due to USFS budget cuts.

_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#138754 - 09/14/10 04:58 AM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: OregonMouse]
lewis32 Offline
newbie

Registered: 08/31/10
Posts: 6
agree with you

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#138775 - 09/14/10 12:28 PM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: lewis32]
Fiddleback Offline
member

Registered: 06/22/04
Posts: 478
Loc: Northern Rockies
We (more accurately, My Lady) have horses. While there are trails in this area 'reserved' for equines, I won't take them on back country trails as the damage is just too great. Her llamas are a different story, however, and those that require assistance in moving great loads into the wilderness should consider those pack animals as an alternative.

My experiences with riders in the back country are not good. It started in VA (Jefferson NF?) where a string of riders stopped for a bag lunch...and left the bags and other lunch debris on the trail. Here in my area, I missed a turn and ended up on the wrong trail, an access into the Bob Marshall specifically for packers. I was trying to catch up to a rider/riders to get their directions back to 'my' trail but I was delayed and never did because I kept stopping to pick up the candy wrappers and water bottles that they were dropping frequently during any one hour. On another occasion one packer with a string of mules passed by my campsite...she didn't leave any litter but; 1) she wasn't on the 'equine' trail and 2) she seemed to let her mules stand in the stream for an excessive time with the natural results. And overall I've spent too much time dodging the piles of horse apples on trails and fighting the flys that they bring in.

I love horses. I think they're second only to dogs as intelligent, companion animals. But I'd rather not see them in the back country. They seem to bring out the bad side of their riders.

No offense... wink

FB
_________________________
"...inalienable rights...include the right to a clean and healthful environment..." Montana Constitution

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#138928 - 09/17/10 10:48 AM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: Fiddleback]
flyguyskt Offline
newbie

Registered: 09/15/10
Posts: 5
okay so when you break you leg sometime 20 miles from the road...i want you to refuse to be packed out on that horse the search and rescue bring in for you! nuff said

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#138931 - 09/17/10 12:10 PM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: flyguyskt]
Rick_D Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2801
Loc: NorCal
Darn straight, skippy, bring me that helicopter!

Originally Posted By flyguyskt
okay so when you break you leg sometime 20 miles from the road...i want you to refuse to be packed out on that horse the search and rescue bring in for you! nuff said
_________________________
--Rick

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#138936 - 09/17/10 01:23 PM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: flyguyskt]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2123
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
I know a guy whose son had a heck of a time trying to get Muir Trail Ranch in the Sierra to pack him out after he had broke his leg.

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#138938 - 09/17/10 02:35 PM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: balzaccom]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
I don't like stock of any kind on the trail. They may benefit the few, but at a cost to the many. I don't like stepping in/around poo all day, not to mention smelling it, so someone with $$ to spend can sleep on a cot and drink cold beer out of an ice chest, while someone else makes a profit by providing those things in the wilderness.

Horses do have a history in the backcountry but their time has passed.

I also don't like to see the wilderness used a a place of business but that's a different issue.
_________________________
If you only travel on sunny days you will never reach your destination.*

* May not apply at certain latitudes in Canada and elsewhere.

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#138941 - 09/17/10 02:50 PM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: Trailrunner]
Rick_D Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2801
Loc: NorCal
This.

The damage created by the few affects everybody, in a greatly disproportional fashion. There may well be regions where the damage isn't great and stock and people are easily managed in a fashion where both are accommodated, but the high Sierra is not one such region.

Originally Posted By Trailrunner
I don't like stock of any kind on the trail. They may benefit the few, but at a cost to the many. I don't like stepping in/around poo all day, not to mention smelling it, so someone with $$ to spend can sleep on a cot and drink cold beer out of an ice chest, while someone else makes a profit by providing those things in the wilderness.

Horses do have a history in the backcountry but their time has passed.

I also don't like to see the wilderness used a a place of business but that's a different issue.
_________________________
--Rick

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#179032 - 08/09/13 02:10 AM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: Rick_D]
ndwoods Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/02
Posts: 572
Loc: Santa Cruz CA, Sierra Hiker
I have horses, but I don't pack. Too much work and I like to backpack. But...I do enjoy seeing horses on the trail. I don't mind the manure at all. And the number of horses on the trail compared to hikers just can't explain the trail damage to trails that are powdered deep dirt...that is hiker damage.
Where I ride my horses, we have biker trail damage! Horses and hikers don't do near the damage bikers do!
All in all tho...I want everybody to enjoy the wild places...the more of us of whatever genre the better to protect our special places. So as irritating as the bikes are....come on out and play!:)
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http://ndeewoods.com/ and http://wilderstatepark.com/

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#179035 - 08/09/13 10:37 AM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: ndwoods]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By ndwoods
And the number of horses on the trail compared to hikers just can't explain the trail damage to trails that are powdered deep dirt...that is hiker damage.
Where I ride my horses, we have biker trail damage! Horses and hikers don't do near the damage bikers do!


In short - horses have four feet shod with metal. Why on earth would anyone imagine Vibram soles on two feet do MORE damage than four metal-shod feet? One pack train of 20 to support TWO hikers (saw this the other day) is far in excess of what is needed to enjoy the backcountry!!!!!!!!!! mad That powdered deep silty dirt is due to METAL shod feet.
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"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#179037 - 08/09/13 11:06 AM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: lori]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2123
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Lori/all, I had to laugh a little on my recent bp vacation, two nice ladies were out for a few hours on their horses, two bpers coming out, said something to them about the manure and such, I did not hear all that was said. I believe the bp was telling the women they should be picking up after their horses.
I see in some areas of the Sierra where horses have done quite a bit of damage to trails, in short sections. I do hate to see the long pack trains, I still smile and say hi to the packers, never know, may need their help sometime.
Duane

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#179042 - 08/09/13 12:36 PM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: hikerduane]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
I don't have anything against pack stock... Just excessive and inappropriate use caused by folks who use stock. Campsites engineered by people with saws and axes for example. Stock camps with great big manure piles, trees girdled by ongoing rope wear, and rusted metal can piles, old grates, even barrels rotting and rusting away are sometimes the price paid.

Without mules a lot of trail work would not get done. However, hiking past a "trail not maintained for stock" sign I am struck by the difference - suddenly one is on a true wilderness trail, not a wide pulverized dirt road....
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#179044 - 08/09/13 01:09 PM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: lori]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2123
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Yeah, I hate to see where horses have been tied to trees and there is a big ring on the ground where they have scraped it out. On my vacation at Lake #3 in Desolation Wilderness, I was very surprised at the damage that had been fixed at the south end of the lake, however, the horse folks were using the north end and there was evidence of horses tied to trees there and left as the ground was once again, dug out by the poor horses.
Also, a few bpers have not got the message about tp and the fire ban in Desolation, let alone the fire restrictions due to dry conditions.
Duane

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#181888 - 01/14/14 12:03 AM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: lori]
ndwoods Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/02
Posts: 572
Loc: Santa Cruz CA, Sierra Hiker
Lori I have never had shoes on my horses....the trend of riders these days is to have their horses barefoot.
_________________________
http://ndeewoods.com/ and http://wilderstatepark.com/

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#181890 - 01/14/14 12:08 AM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: ndwoods]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By ndwoods
Lori I have never had shoes on my horses....the trend of riders these days is to have their horses barefoot.


That may be true for you and packers you know, but all pack trains I have seen from Yosemite to Sequoia have been shod in the past few years.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#181896 - 01/14/14 09:45 AM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: lori]
rockchucker22 Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/12
Posts: 749
Loc: Eastern Sierras
Originally Posted By lori
Originally Posted By ndwoods
Lori I have never had shoes on my horses....the trend of riders these days is to have their horses barefoot.


That may be true for you and packers you know, but all pack trains I have seen from Yosemite to Sequoia have been shod in the past few years.
It would be dangerous for the horse to bare foot in the sierras'.
_________________________
The wind wont howl if the wind don't break.

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#182036 - 01/17/14 12:00 AM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: balzaccom]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2742
Loc: California
It is all a matter of managing stock and backpacker use- a balance. Many of the less used non-maintained trails would disappear if not for occasional horse use. On the JMT, I would say that backpackers do more damage simply because they probably outnumber horses by 100 to 1. If managed properly horses have their place in the wilderness, including the high Sierra. There are environmentally conscious packers and slobs, just like backpackers. A good packer does not want to ruin the trail anymore than we do. After all, they have to use that trail again too.

Emigrant Wilderness (where balzaccom does most of his backpacking) does have heavier horse use than most of the Sierra, because it is one of the few wilderness areas that remain friendly to horse packers (regulation wise). The horse people are legitimate wilderness users too, and some areas have to be left for them to use.

I agree that if all you want to do is have an animal carry your gear, llamas or goats are great. Some areas do not allow goats because of potential cross-species disease transmission to mountain sheep.

I have a very good friend who has had a family pack business for over 40 years and know many who have their own horses who use the wilderness. I have used commercial packers for spot resupplies and when my children were young I would have a commercial packer take us in (uphill), and we would slowly amble out (downhill).

I would say that about 70% of the time I have no problem with horse use or packers. There are times where I have seen lots of damage, particularly at large established campsites. I think you can get a skewed view because you really remember the badly damaged sites, and forget all the remaining area that is not damaged.

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#183043 - 02/20/14 01:38 AM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: wandering_daisy]
ndwoods Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/02
Posts: 572
Loc: Santa Cruz CA, Sierra Hiker
I never stay at established campsites anyway so doesn't bother me packers use em...in fact I would rather they always stay at the same place...there's room for everyone. They can stay where they stay and and I will stay where I stay...:)
_________________________
http://ndeewoods.com/ and http://wilderstatepark.com/

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#183067 - 02/20/14 07:48 PM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: ndwoods]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2742
Loc: California
I totally agree that there is room for everyone. As for people who do not want to see horses - be careful what you wish for. I am sure there are groups who would like to ban climbers, for example. Or scouts. Or dogs. Or all backpackers altogether. It bothers me that areas restricted to "Day use only" are increasing. I agree in regulating total numbers, but not pick and choose who can go into the wilderness and who cannot.

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#183068 - 02/20/14 08:12 PM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: wandering_daisy]
rockchucker22 Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/12
Posts: 749
Loc: Eastern Sierras
Originally Posted By wandering_daisy
I totally agree that there is room for everyone. As for people who do not want to see horses - be careful what you wish for. I am sure there are groups who would like to ban climbers, for example. Or scouts. Or dogs. Or all backpackers altogether. It bothers me that areas restricted to "Day use only" are increasing. I agree in regulating total numbers, but not pick and choose who can go into the wilderness and who cannot.
wonderfully put, couldn't agree more. We can all get along.
_________________________
The wind wont howl if the wind don't break.

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#183095 - 02/21/14 01:42 PM Re: Horses and Packers [Re: wandering_daisy]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2123
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Good point Nancy. I just hate horse packers tying horses to trees which cause the ground to be dug up around the trees. They have other ways to tie the horses up for the night. Locally, they put up a metal pipe hitching rack for the horses at one of the lakes I go to some and it seems to be the one the local community college takes students in the Equine program, Pack Station Management degree program. My thougths a few years ago before that was installed, great, teaching bad practices to future packers. The area seems to have recovered some from the misuse of a few years ago.
Duane


Edited by hikerduane (02/21/14 01:42 PM)

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