When mules and horses are golden! – BCHW Western Washington Long Ears Chapter
In July of this year as Sue and I were packing in a team of Biologists to survey the fish population on the North Fork of the Skokomish River in the Olympic National Park I had a field change thrown at us. My park issued radio cracked on as the Hoodsport District Ranger asked me to drop our cargo where I was and return to the Staircase trail head and pack up a big wheeled litter and carry it into the Nine Stream Camp for them. They needed our assistance in getting a hiker out with the litter we to were carry. A hiker that had fallen and broken her knee cap, the rangers hot footed it in to administer aid for the injury and we supported them by getting the litter to them.
We were in on the trail about 2 miles when we had to turn around. The location where we had to stop was not the best it was very narrow causing us to completely block the trail. This was a very busy Saturday and before we had completed off loading and turned around we had more than twenty five hikers coming up hill waiting and another fifteen waiting to come down hill. We had it blocked good but as soon as the hikers learned what we were doing they were more than willing to wait! Once we got back to the trailhead we hurriedly disassembled the litter and loaded it up securely on two of the pack mules. We brought the two extra mules (we would not leave them unattended in a very busy parking lot) with us as we got going in on the eleven and half mile trip. This is a slow trail with no place to make up any time on, so it was a case of when we got there, we got there. One does not want to be in such a rush that you become a problem not the solution!
We had a couple of downed trees on the trail to contend with but we got there in reasonable time. On arrival and after the litter was delivered we were next asked to haul out the injured hiker and her rescue parties packs to free them up to assist in the carry out. We jumped to it and repacked the mules with all of their camp and gear. We were now digging deep into the pre-night time and I wanted to be as far down the trail as I could get before it got too dark. As it turned out we had made it out all but to travel six miles before someone turned out the lights. “Goodness, what a long day!” At the end of the job we had put in a total of twenty two and a half hours and ridden twenty six miles, one job done and one abandoned to a higher priority.
The normal kind of work I do for the Olympic National Park is scheduled during the work week, not on a weekend (less impact on visitors). However, because the normal schedule was going to put me in conflict with another needed pack job we were able to shift days around. But now there was a higher exposure to hiker traffic. In fact on that day we came in contact with well over one hundred and fifty hikers alone or in groups.
It seems like the first question a hiker meeting a pack string on the trail asks is “where are you going or where have you been?” When they find out we are headed in with the pack string to assist an injured hiker or to supply the needs of a trail crew working to maintain the trails they are currently using we are often applauded and thanked for our efforts. This kind of public relations in the effort to keep stock use on these trails could not be handled better by a high price New York advertising agency! At that moment and in their memory “our mules and horses are golden!”
Coauthor: “The Mountain Canary Company Packers Guide Book” and
“The Mountain Canary Company Trail Skills and More”
www.mtcanaryco.com E: mail firstname.lastname@example.org 360-427-4297
Volunteer Packer: Olympic National Park, Olympic National Forest, Washington State Department of Natural Resources
Member: Back Country Horsemen of Washington, Western Washington Long Ears Club