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RE: [pct-l] Effects of horses


I appreciate hearing your viewpoints on this list.  I've thought for a
long time that all people who value open spaces over strip malls should
consider themselves allies.  Otherwise we'll end up with a lot of strip

In that spirit, I'll pass on to you one reason why I sometimes get
really pissed at horseback riders.

In 1996 I hiked the Susquehannock trail in North Central Pennsylvania
(quite a ways from the PCT).  The Susquehannock trail is almost entirely
in the Susquehannock State Forest.  There is a beautiful section of that
trail that runs through the Hammersly Wild Area.  That section of trail
is cut into the side of a steep hollow and is about 18 inches wide.

Last year I backpacked with my (then) 9 year old daughter along that
same section of trail.  Some jackass had taken five horses through the
day before.

(1) In 1996 I smelled the stream, the woods, decaying leaves on the
ground.  In 1997 I smelled horse shit.

(2) In 1997 I got to walk through piles of fresh "road apples".

(3) In many places I could see where a horses hoof had knocked through
the edge of the trail.  It was like hoof shaped bites where the trail
had just given way underneath the weight of the horse and rider.

(4) Where trees were down the horses had gone off trail.  Where they
went off trail was nothing but torn up earth and mud.  The ground cover
was completely gone and there was nothing left to hold the ground in
place in heavy rain.

(5) I met several people who had seen the horses go through the day
before.  They told me that the horses often balked at places where the
trail got difficult.  I suspect the horses had better sense than their

Now I know, and you clearly know as well, that I just described the
effect of horses on a trail that was designed as a human footpath.  And
from your previous posts I believe that you would never do what these
people did.  Part of what gets me, and I think many other hikers, upset
about horseback riders is the amount of damage that even a small number
of horses can do in the wrong place.  Thoughtless backpackers annoy me
too, but the amount of damage that a single thoughtless backpacker
usually causes is limited and often easily repairable.  For example, I
routinely pick up and pack out the trash that other folks leave behind.
I've even been known to properly bury other people's toilet paper.  But
there is no way that I can repair the damage that even one horse does to
a fragile trail.

Also, just as with mountain bikes, there is a "freedom means going
anywhere I can get to" attitude that is prevalent in part, not all, of
the "horsepacking" culture.  The problem is that those, possibly few,
people cause a tremendous amount of damage.

It isn't fair to you, or to other responsible riders, for hikers to get
angry just because you're on a horse.  It is never fair to generalize
that way.  The anger and frustration, though, is pretty easy to

-- Jim Mayer

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