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Backcounrty Packer Issue.....horse manure at campsite
#32207 07/17/13 10:29 AM
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I just finished the Kern River loop...Horseshoe Meadows down to the Kern River, to Junction Meadow, up Wallace Creek and back around over New Army Pass.

While on my trip, I encounter my favorite campsite soiled with horse manure. Below is my email to SEKI.
*********************************************
On my July 9th thru the 14th backpacking trip from Horseshoe Meadows down the Kern River and back to Horseshoe Meadows via Wallace Creek (loop), I stayed at my favorite campsite located on the Kern River, which is located at the junction of the Rattlesnake Trail and Kern River Trail. I have stayed there many times over the years; however, this particular stay brought anger to me.

The site is located on the Kern River, a beautiful camping site after a long day. The site requires the hiker to follow a “use” path through trees, ferns and over some logs. The site is nicely isolated.

My complaint stems from the fact that when I arrived at the site, there were several piles of horse/mule manure on my normal tent site, as a matter of fact, 2 other flat areas that support tents also had horse/mule manure on them: another tent site was dug up by horse’s hooves. All 3 tent sites were situated next to the developed fire pit and eating area (log benches).

I don’t like to expand camping sites, but in this case, it was unavoidable. Who wants to pitch a tent next to horse manure or for that matter an eating area?

It angers me that some packer chose this site; it is a totally an inappropriate place for horses. The site is now, for a long time ruined by the stupidity of an individual. How long will it take the manure to fade away….. a very long time since the manure will dry out, but the visual part of it will remain for years.

The camping site will now eventually will be enlarged since hikers will now move away from the soiled area.

The packer who did this should be forced to remove the manure and clean the site up.

Thank you for reading my email.

Paul

Last edited by Paul; 07/17/13 10:45 AM.
Re: Backcounrty Packer Issue.....horse manure at campsite
Paul #32220 07/17/13 02:53 PM
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Have you heard back from SEKI about this? Were there horse or mule prints on the use trail? Was the manure recently deposited? If so, it would have been attracting flies.

You mentioned a developed fire pit. Was there any sign of a fire having been used recently in the pit? Isn't there a ban on campfires in the Southern Sierra? The fire pit might have been built by packers, before the fire ban.

The log benches you mentioned had probably been placed there by packers...long ago. The logs had to have been cut using equipment not usually carried by backpackers: cross-cut saws or chain saws. Just about any log bench set-ups were created by packers or other stock users.

It may be a site that is used by packers and their customers, which is why it is so isolated. Packers often use such sites so that they, their stock, and customers are not visible to the prying eyes of cranky backpackers, and keeps the stock away from backpacker camping areas. I know of several sites like this along the John Muir Trail, one of which is near Big Pete Meadow. Guess what, the Park and the rangers know of their locations. The Parks and the Forest Service usually require packers to use particular camp-sites, and even designate stock turn-around areas for them. I would venture to guess that this favorite camp site of yours is also used by packers from time to time.

Please don't be offended by pack stock and their poop. Without our four-legged friends the trail system would be very difficult to maintain, and remote ranger stations would be really hard to supply without using helicopters. A packer friend of mine resupplies the Le Conte Canyon ranger station regularly throughout each Summer, and has resupplied the Yellow-Legged Frog research camp near Deer Meadow. Please, get over it.




Last edited by Bob West; 07/17/13 02:55 PM.
Re: Backcounrty Packer Issue.....horse manure at campsite
Bob West #32235 07/17/13 06:27 PM
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Hi Bob, this is my 49th year of hiking in the Sierras and I have encountered many packer sites. I always stay out of them since, well, from my perspective, they have gone to great lengths to establish them....elaborate fire pits, nice log benches, fire grills, sometimes cupboards... well you get my drift. In this case, I have stopped at this particular site the last 5 or so years and a few prior to that. It's small in that it really doesn't support horses or mules. The fire pit, believe me was the same as I left it on my October trip last year. The fire pit had not been used. And yes, there were flies around the horse manure..... Don't laugh, but I make it a game to determine how long ago a horse has been through a particular area. The logs in question were small, nothing large.

I am a trooper when it comes to horse drives and all, having participated on 2 consecutive Bob Tanner horse drives out of Bishop to Mammoth. And I have learned my lesson on mules...they kick, they kick when they walk, when they run...Bob Tanner (on our first night out at a campfire....by the way, great guy, great stories on John Wayne), told me back in 2003, if you find yourself in the middle of mules, "get out."

I understand where you are coming from, however, the site is really not appropriate. There is a site a couple miles down the Kern that has fences, pastures, campsites and all.

And, my daughter has a horse..... Bob, don't be offended, I love the smell of horse manure. I've done my share of cleaning out stalls.

Take care

Paul

Re: Backcounrty Packer Issue.....horse manure at campsite
Paul #32242 07/18/13 06:21 AM
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Thanks for your response, Paul. I see you are also an "old-timer", like me.

Yes, I like the smell of horse manure...except when cleaning stalls in the middle of the winter, with a foot of snow on the ground...LOL.

I wonder if SEKI or Inyo keep a record of packer campsites? I'll ask around.

Cheers!

Last edited by Bob West; 07/18/13 06:22 AM.
Re: Backcounrty Packer Issue.....horse manure at campsite
Bob West #32248 07/18/13 09:10 AM
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Bob, in the movie, "Apocalypse Now", if they change the phrase from "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" to "I love the smell of horse manure in the morning" would be how I feel, same as you.

Good posting with you.

Paul

Re: Backcounrty Packer Issue.....horse manure at campsite
Paul #32249 07/18/13 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted By: Paul
"I love the smell of horse manure in the morning"

You guys are crazy!   grin

Re: Backcounrty Packer Issue.....horse manure at campsite
Steve C #32250 07/18/13 03:29 PM
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Oh, I guess so, but our veggie garden loves the stuff when we use it as fertilizer.

I'd rather smell horse or mule poop any day than human excrement...like wag bags along the trail.

Re: Backcounrty Packer Issue.....horse manure at campsite
Paul #32346 07/24/13 04:15 PM
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I am not sure how the manly smell of horse manure has been elevated to some iconic status redolent of a "real America." It's brilliant PR. But I'll cheerfully match my experience and time-on-trail with anyone here and state clearly that the smell of manure and horse piss in a campsite is awful. If packers want to roll around in s**t all day, fine but they should have the basic manners (also required by USFS and NPS regulations) to rake it out of campsites. There was a site in LeConte last year that was occupied by three people for two days. They had 5 head of stock. They wrecked both the meadow and campsite which smelled horrible for 2 weeks after they left as well as being pawed up and chewed up. It was well within what's allowed by regulations.

I don't see people extolling the American virtues of living next to a sewage treatment plant... .

So how would the pro-horse crowd (or anyone else) react if, say, 15 boy scouts did the same amount of damage? Dug holes in the meadow, yanked up grass for beds, crapped and pissed all around the campsite? Why is it ok when horses are involved?

Developed campsites such as the one described are not allowed. My colleagues and I have spent years taking them apart, burning the benches, pulling the nails out of trees, packing out the wood burning stoves and water cans, finding the can dumps scattered all around in the rocks as well as buried. Tons and tons of this stuff. It's mostly gone but there's still major can dumps hidden around the older and less visited packer camps.

The one in Big Pete that Bob talks about (I think) is where we direct stock parties. However, if we're talking the same one, it doesn't have any benches etc. left.

What I'm concerned about is that Paul found a trail crew camp. They're not supposed to, but they do leave "improvements" up and those are scattered around the parks. A new superintendent, so we can only hope your letter was effective.

Even at their best (and there's a lot of very good packers nowadays) the impact of stock users on campsites and, especially meadows, is pretty outrageous. It would never be tolerated -- nor is it -- when humans cause the same level of impact.

And, not wanting to be seen as a "cranky" backpacker, I do have to say that until a critical mass of packers recognizes their actual impact is seriously disproportionate to the number of people they bring into parks and forests -- and works towards mutual solutions -- then I'm going to continue my cranky ways.

g.

Last edited by George; 07/24/13 04:16 PM.

None of the views expressed here in any way represent those of the unidentified agency that I work for or, often, reality. It's just me, fired up by coffee and powerful prose.
Re: Backcounrty Packer Issue.....horse manure at campsite
George #32355 07/24/13 09:02 PM
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Originally Posted By: George
I am not sure how the manly smell of horse manure has been elevated to some iconic status redolent of a "real America." It's brilliant PR.


As I stated in another thread "a sorely missed component to these back country discussions".

I once attempted an ill-timed hike on the Bright Angel Trail (in Grand Canyon) It was my bad fortune that I chose to mosey down the trail right after a re-supply train heading for Phantom Ranch(?) had just been through. After a couple of miles of gagging over the urine smell/droppings on the trail, I bagged the hike and got some <fresh> air.

Not sure if mules smell different than horses, but I was definitely not having a nostalgic moment.

Originally Posted By: George
there's still major can dumps hidden around the older and less visited packer camps


This reminds me of a term that I heard used for such trash heaps: "artifacts". Yeah, right, as I said: trash heap! I have a bad attitude about "artifacts" because I once took a 15 mile round trip dayhike to a "pristine" (see where I am going by the quotes) lake that was a 1,000ft descent that one would have to lumber out of in order to reach the final destination. After hours of blister filled misery, I reached said 'pristine lake' and was greated by a 6' artifact-cum-trash-heap that had probably been growing for 100 years (polite folk that they were for keeping the crap all contained through the ages) Ten minutes later, I was cussing my way back out of that 1,000ft pit cum lake (called Lake Warren; located in the Tahoe Nat'l Forrest -- a brutal day hike)


The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.
Re: Backcounrty Packer Issue.....horse manure at campsite
Bee #32367 07/25/13 10:04 AM
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Well, the semi-good news is Grand Canyon drastically cut the number of animals per day allowed into the canyon. I don't know how much of a difference it makes for a person's trail experience (a little mule s**t & piss goes a long way...) but at least a move in the right direction.

In the 70s I worked in Little Yosemite Valley which had a daily resupply to the Merced High Sierra Camp come through. Some summer days the stench was overpowering. When I got to Sequoia Kings, I was actually amazed how much better it was. Everything's relative and, though I don't find the trails all that bad, many of the outstanding -- iconic -- meadows of Sequoia Kings are absolutely wrecked to my senses as a result of stock use.

While I'm here -- and for those who don't already take the time -- I would advocate more people just go out and walk slowly through any of these meadows. I have often sat and watched hikers click clack by, their hiking poles going at a furious rate, Whitney beckoning them on. Yet I can literally spend all day in some meadows and, except to get water, I rarely see anyone out just walking around in one exploring and experiencing them.

Hang out by the stream. Don't even fish, just hang out there. We need a deeper appreciation of meadows for just what they are, not only incredibly complex ecosystems but as these small islands of peace scattered throughout the Sierra. This is especially true of NPS. Almost all efforts and thinking about meadows are directed towards how they're related to stock grazing: how many night of grazing will they support? What criteria should be used to determine when a meadow is grazed too much? Maintaining fences so stock don't get too far from certain meadows or, occasionally, protect the meadows from stock.

The essence of what a meadow is gets lost in this distracting line of management and research. On the entire John Muir Trail, there is only one meadow that is entirely closed to grazing by stock and so free of their impacts (Vidette).

So, get off the trail occasionally, ignore the high granite peaks and get out into meadows more often! Become a meadoweer!

I've used this quote often but, what the heck. From the legendary Randy Morgenson:

Quote:
All the meadows in Evolution Valley were grazed this summer, and they all looked it. Yet Franklin Meadow apparently was not, and in October it was a place of knee high grasses, ripe and open panicles drifting on the moving air, luminous-bronze in the backlight. It was a very different place and a very different emotional experience of a mountain meadow, and entirely consistent with what one might rightly expect of national park backcountry. It was a garden. I sometimes wonder whether range management concepts are any more applicable to our business than timber management concepts. The difference between a grazed meadow and a logged forest may only be one of scale.


None of the views expressed here in any way represent those of the unidentified agency that I work for or, often, reality. It's just me, fired up by coffee and powerful prose.
Re: Backcounrty Packer Issue.....horse manure at campsite
George #32379 07/25/13 04:02 PM
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Smith! BEEhive! Locally, Round Valley (meadow)....I am the laziest hiker around (which could explain why I refrain from keeping the statistics on my really low "summiting success")

I like to study the steady march from lake to forest that every meadow suffers as its ultimate fate (if left to its natural progression.) Trees fall along the fringes, bears come in to feed, deer spend the night.

Summits are highly overrated.


The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.
Re: Backcounrty Packer Issue.....horse manure at campsite
Bee #32479 07/29/13 10:05 AM
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Hey George......

I wish I had taken some pictures; however, this site that I speak of is a site that I have been visiting for a number of years. The area is accessible by climbing over a couple logs, walking underneath a fallen log, through trees and ferns.

This is my 49th year of backpacking; I started when I was fifteen.

It's not large enough to support more than a horse and mule so a trail crew would not use it. I venture to guess that it was a spur of the moment stop by a packer.

I spoke with a ranger on Saturday at lower Rock Creek and she mentioned that she has stayed at the site many times and was disappointed in what I had to say. As with people, either be hikers or packers, there are some that violate rules.

Oh, by the way, miserable 4 days in the backcountry..... at one point, it rained from 5am on Friday to 11am on Saturday. During this time I was doing some cross country hiking from Rocky Basin Lakes, up and over the ridge down to Siberian Basin and then picked up the PCT to Lower Rock Creek. Miserable, miserable!!!!!

Paul

Re: Backcounrty Packer Issue.....horse manure at campsite
George #32503 07/30/13 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted By: George
So how would the pro-horse crowd (or anyone else) react if, say, 15 boy scouts did the same amount of damage? Dug holes in the meadow, yanked up grass for beds, crapped and pissed all around the campsite? Why is it ok when horses are involved?

As a member of the pro-horse crowd, I would like to say that I hate horse damage and walking through fresh horse excrement (not to mention mule piss quicksand on the Bright Angle Trail) as much as you do. Somehow, I don’t mind picking up a wheelbarrow or two of fresh manure on my property every day. It fills an 18-wheeler every 8 months. Put just one small pile of the same stuff on the trail where I walk or in the campsite where I want to camp, and I find it totally disgusting. Our horses stay out of the wilderness.


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