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[pct-l] horse packers

    I swore to avoid  participation in no-win threads like guns, fires,
horses, bikes, FS rules and barefoot hiking [G],  but may I offer a
suggestion? If folks are outraged by equine trail-rutting (which is
pretty awful some places), they might bitch to the Sierra Club (reason
stated below) as well as the organizations mentioned so far. And, before
"complaining" to anybody, it might be enlightening, even productive, to
have cilivilized dialog with The Enemy him/herself.... 
    For the record, I _like_ professional horse packers, and have great
sympathy for them (scratching out a living in the modern world, etc), so
I often find myself in conversation with them. Apparently, their
client-base has shifted dramatically from exclusively hunter-fisherman
types to recreational hikers who wanna "talk the talk" but not "walk the
walk" - or at least not with a heavy pack on their backs [G].  Old-timers
and country-folk (I loathe the word Redneck) are famously-suspicious of
the motives of urban "eco-freaks", but they speak in awe of the economic
boost individual "tree-huggers" have given their outfitter businesses. A
small % of these customers are truly aged/infirm, but most are under-40
gym-member-types who can afford to pay to have somebody else (hee haw)
solve the pack-weight dilemma for them...
    And there is alot of financial pressure put on packers to start
hauling riders/dunnage as early-season as possible; that translates to
pack strings moving along trails still muddy from spring runoff, which
causes a great deal of damage. Not to mention clients' expectations of
"roaring" campfires & elaborate "comfortable" camp set-ups; it's tricky
to explain to paying customers that their convenience must be superceded
by concern for the environment. Nowadays, packers are addressing a small
area of the Impact Problem by replacing (at great expense, BTW)
traditional outfitter gear like huge canvas tents, iron dutch-ovens, etc 
with lightweight "backpacker"- style equipment, so that fewer head of
stock are needed. (Some clients complain about this, saying it destroys
their Authentic Old West Experience.) Most are "getting tough"(er) with
clients (those of you who work for a living know how hard that is) -
stressing firmly in brochures and before/during the trip their intention
to minimize backcountry-trail impact. 
    I cringe when I see any group being "tarred with the same brush";
there are sloppy/thoughtless _private_ horsemen just as there are packers
with out-of-date backcountry-travel attitudes - just as there are
fishermen, hunters, backpackers, day-hikers, and thru-hikers who are
ignorant of/uninterested in environmental regulations - all individuals
who believe their particular concerns are more important than any others.
   By the by, the other posters are right about horsemen doing much of
the trail maintenance, and rescue-work, too. In his unprompted vitriol
about horses, Dave B.  might remember that it was a horse-packer that
carried his hiking buddy to safety when he broke his ankle on a Sierra
trip not long ago..              bj 

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