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Kearns and Sons

Passing on the wilderness heritage

Youth packing classes held at Lake Como

By Jean Schurman

The Selway-Pintler Wilderness Back Country Horsemen held a packing ‘fair’ on Saturday at the Lake Como horse campground. Volunteers from the group split into five stations where they introduced about 30 4H and FFA students from the valley to horse and mule packing.

Stations included mantying (preparing the packs), packing, wilderness and back country basics, horse safety – including knot tying and high line tethering, and Dutch oven cooking. Using a pattern similar to the Fourth Grade Farm Fair, each group of students spent about 20 minutes at each station. Time was signaled with either a turkey call or an elk bugle.

The term manty comes from the Spanish word for horse blanket, according to Kathy Hundley who was conducting the mantying station. She explained how the canvas tarp was used to wrap up items needed on a pack trip. She also demonstrated how panniers or packing boxes are used and explained the difference between the two. She also added the manty could be used as a wind break when camping.

Bill Goslin of the Forest Service used his station to show what is and isn’t allowed in the wilderness. Using a map of the United States, he asked the youngsters to take photos of different activities that are done in the forest and place them where they thought they could be done. The activities ranged from skiing to hunting to dog sledding. Goslin showed them how to use a cross cut saw to clear a trail and how to hang camping supplies from a tree so bears couldn’t reach the goods.

Bruce Scott used his mule, Festus, to demonstrate how to pack an animal. He talked about the pack saddle and how the weight of the packs was equally distributed across the pack saddle. Students were then given an opportunity to try packing the mule themselves.

At the High Line and Knot Tying station, Rebecca Cameron showed the students how to secure a horse in the forest without damaging the trees. She demonstrated the use of hobbles and using a high line, which is a rope, strung between two trees. She also explained how important it was to know how to tie a knot that would secure an item but not get so tight that it couldn’t be untied. She showed them the knife she carries in case of an emergency such as a downed horse and how it would be used to cut the cinch to get the saddle off the horse.

The final station was the Dutch Oven Cooking station. The equipment used in packing was also included in this portion of the event.

The group focuses on working on trails in the wilderness and roadless areas. They have an extensive work program for 2012 including relocation of portions of trails, packing supplies into Forest Services projects deep in the wilderness, and general trail maintenance. The group adheres to the policy of no motorized tools during these projects and in their recreation. Their main focus is to keep the history of allowing horses and mules in the wilderness and continue this so that future generations can also enjoy the great outdoors along with their horses and mules. All stations reiterated how important it was to ‘leave no trace,’ the mantra of wilderness travel.

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