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Postby Ed Anderson » Tue Mar 02, 2010 5:10 pm

For those who are considering riding their horse on the Pacific Crest Trail I strongly recommend that you research every aspect of your proposed journey thoroughly during the planning stage. Then, during your ride, you will have to research still more to verify, confirm and add to your original research. Riding the PCT is a lot more difficult than hiking it. Resupplying food for yourself and for your horse will become a major concern. Recognize that the hikers have more options than equestrians do. Realize that you will have to bring extra food on the trail for your horse. To supplement Primo's graze I brought, and needed, five or six pounds of processed feed to be fed on an average day. Hikers, coming to a road crossing, can hitch-hike into a town or a city to pick up resupply food at a Post Office or elsewhere; or buy it at a market. You can't do that with a horse (I could only go into towns when I reached my rig - which was not often.) and even if you could, you will not find feed stores in the small towns near the PCT. If you are riding with a companion, one person could stay with the horses while the other could go into a town or city. That might become complicated and time-consuming - but it is a possibility. The load could be too heavy to bring back while hitching. Riding with another person might not last for your planned journey. For various reasons you might decide to split up. So, it is better to plan for each person to be able to go solo if that becomes necessary. The following are different approaches to resupply. You might end up using some combination of them.

1) CACHE OR SEND AHEAD Sending your supplies ahead from your rig or caching them at road crossings are possibilities for resupply. I purchased all of my food and Primo's feed before leaving home. I got better prices on my food by buying in quantity at Costco and at large supermarkets. I bought all non-perishables and stored them, by category, in large Rubbermaid plastic containers; these were carried in my camper and in the horse trailer. During my PCT journey I would leave Primo in good care and drive the rig ahead, caching and dropping off resupplies as I went. I cached (buried, and well camouflaged) resupplies well away from the trail near road crossings and trailheads. I also sometimes dropped off resupplies (prearranged) at an equestrian center, a farm, at a residential garage and at a Ranger Station. Of course, I could also resupply whenever I rode to where I had last parked the rig, always having obtained permission in advance to park. After parking the rig, I would hitch-hike or take a bus (if available) to return to Primo and my tent and supplies. For all of my caches and drop-offs, and in camps at night, I now strongly recommend storing people food and horse feed in zip-lock freezer bags inside OpSak bags. The OpSak bags effectively prevent odors from escaping. This will prevent bears and rodents from being attracted to food smells. When caching, and in camps, I also use my bear charms (the term comes from the Yukon). Bear Charms are simply moth balls inside cotton tobacco sacks. I put two or three in each, and carry about 20. Bears dislike the smell of moth balls - that smell does not represent food.

2) Another approach to resupply, and one commonly used by PCT riders, is to have support - someone to drive and meet them at pre-planned locations with resupplies. This doesn't always work, because, for various reasons, the rider(s) and the resupply person don't always get to the agreed-upon location at the agreed-upon time. Perhaps the resupply person has had an unexpected emergency and can't make it at all. Perhaps the rider(s) had come upon an impassible obstacle, or one that would be very risky to get past. Maybe the rider(s) have found a great place to camp and would like to take a layover day. The best chance of this approach working, consistantly, would be if both rider(s) and the support person had satilite phones to remain in contact.
Last edited by Ed Anderson on Mon May 21, 2012 8:46 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Postby grayhair » Tue Mar 02, 2010 5:36 pm

Ed's very informative post is extremely helpful. I would however be concerned about taking a pack horse on the PCT. One should not consider taking your second horse and making him a pack horse without extensive training and packing on a less challenging trail. Don't let the PCT be his training ground because there are far too many things that you will encounter. When I researched the PCT for my thru ride I was warned by many horsemen who live in the area that few successful thru rides with pack horses didn't end in tragedy. Because the odds seemed against getting to Canada safely with a pack horse I left my second horse home even though he had many hundreds of miles packing and I walked for the first few days when we were heavily loaded. The one benefit of taking only one horse was that we bonded, trusting and relying on each other. This unexpected benefit would be welcome by any person who loves horses.
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Postby datawoman » Wed Mar 03, 2010 6:36 am

Ah---pack mules? Been used for over 100 years in the Sierra to pull, tote, load, drag, carry, ride, drive, and haul?????

Oh yes--they eat less, are stronger, live longer, are more disease resistant, are smarter, don't run off like horses that are hobbled, remember everything (oopps that is a negative if you are cruel), etc., etc., etc.

Check out Bishop Mule Days if you don't have experience with long ears.

You do have to be a mule man or woman to work with them. They are not obliging like horses--they have to want to follow you and you have to prove you are a worthy leader. Then they MIGHT follow you. Sometimes.
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Postby Ed Anderson » Thu Mar 04, 2010 10:04 am

Hello Datawoman,
Welcome to our forum. Thanks for posting in.
While I don't know much about mules, I am a Back Country Horseman and an occasional volunteer doing trail maintenence work. Many BCH use mules and, of course, I have often met packers and Rangers with mules used as pack animals.
But, it can't be that all mules are identical. Not all donkeys could be identical. There must be desirable "blood lines" as there are with horses. And the horse half - I'm sure some breeds must be favored over others. I would think that the genetic contribution of an Arabian horse would be very desirable. Excellent feet, impressive endurance, exceptionally strong hind quarters and short, strong backs (fewer ribs and vertebra).
Realizing that, sadly, I am also aware of mules sometimes falling off trails to thier deaths just as horses sometimes do. While I was doing my llama research, a packer in Washington told me of a tragedy in another western state when an entire string of horses and mules were lost They fell of the trail when spooked by llamas. The packer said that they had been "hard tied" together. Big mistake. Once one falls others are pulled down.
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