Mule Packer Paradise: Ranch Maintenance in Shawnee, Colorado
- Meet the mules of the Rocky Mountain Specialty Pack String
- Enjoy daily access to hiking and fishing on the North Fork of the South Platte River
- Listen to barn talks by our host and local speakers
- Fresh, hearty meals
- Access to pools and showers
|Dates||May 31–Jun 7, 2014|
The Sharon Churchwell Fund is offering youth 18-25 years old a discount on this trip. Visit the Sharon Churchwell Fund page for more details.
Come to the valley of the North Fork of the South Platte River, adjacent to the Lost Creek Wilderness, 50 miles southwest of Denver’s metropolis, where there is a unique Forest Service facility. On the historic AF Ranch, once operated by Arthur Gould, the Rocky Mountain Specialty Pack String -- 11 mules, 2 saddle horses, and lead packer, Glenn Ryan -- have their home. The highly trained mules, horses, Glenn, and his seasonal assistant service the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado, eastern Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, and South Dakota. The pack string provides low-impact heavy hauling into wilderness and limited-access areas, train others in packing, and educate and entertain the public through outreach and parades.
One may think that pack strings are a throwback to a long ago time of mountain men and prospectors. In this modern era however, the pack strings serve to preserve wilderness values in our public lands. Sierra Club Service Outings have a long history with pack strings, which bring the heavy tools, materials, and, most importantly, our kitchens and food to feed our hungry workers in the backcountry camps.
This is a wonderful opportunity to support the public agency and public lands by helping to improve the facilities home to this unique operation of the Forest Service.
Our work will include fence removal and building. This will help with range management by improving how the stock are rotated through the pastures. As the time of our trip gets closer, Glenn may find other projects for us to do around the ranch. Tools will be provided.
Plan to arrive by 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 31. That will give you time to get settled before dinner. We’ll get acquainted, meet Glenn and his staff, and get oriented to our work for the week. We’ll also learn about kitchen procedures and sign up for kitchen duty.
We will work on the project for the next three days. After work each day, there will be time to relax, take a short walk, hitch a ride down to the river, or take advantage of the pool and showers as they are available. You may also bring and enjoy a sun shower in camp. After dinner, we’ll gather for talks, presentations, and stories.
Day four will be a day off from work and we can choose among other activities. We can hike into the adjacent Lost Creek Wilderness and find bristlecone pine and experience mountain tundra, or hike up to a couple of peaks that are nearby. Folks wanting to fish may spend the day on the river, and those wanting a quieter day can spend the day in camp.
We’ll continue our work for the next two days.
Departure day is Saturday, June 7. We will have a hearty breakfast and make a sack lunch for the trip home.
The AG Ranch headquarters is located on Colorado Highway 285 in Shawnee, Colorado, near Bailey. If you fly into Denver, the drive to Shawnee is about one-and-a-half hours. Carpooling is encouraged if you rent a car for the drive from Denver. Participants will be provided with a list of names and addresses to encourage carpooling.
Accommodations and Food
We will set up our tents near a barn that will contain our kitchen. Participants need to bring a tent, sleeping bag, pad, and personal gear. We expect to have an eating area with tables and a tarp shelter. Camp water will be supplied by the Forest Service from a water tank brought to the site.
Come with the attitude that food is part of the adventure. Our meals will both satisfy your appetite and be a social gathering after a day’s work or play in the outdoors. The menu will be healthy, nutritious, high-energy, frontcountry cuisine. Meals will be vegetarian, with some opportunities for meat during the week. Meals often include protein in the form of dairy and soy products. We will have a group commissary, with everyone taking turns in meal preparation and cleanup afterwards.
Before applying for the trip, folks with food allergies, dietary restrictions, and/or strong preferences must contact the leader and cook to see if reasonable accommodations will be possible within the limits of the commissary.
Our work will be easy to moderate in difficulty and will involve pulling the staples that hold the wire, rolling the old wire, and pulling old posts. There may be some digging of post holes. Most wire can be attached to standing trees and some brush may need to be grubbed from the new fence line.
Equipment and Clothing
The work will involve various provided tools and eye protection. You will need sturdy work shoes or boots, strong gloves, and long pants. You will need a day pack to carry your lunch, water, raingear, sunscreen, etc. You will need personal eating utensils, such as bowl, cup, and spoon. A plastic food container with a tight-fitting lid is necessary for carrying your lunch to the work site each day. We will provide a first-aid kit for emergencies, but you should bring any personal medications you require. You must have a current tetanus shot within the past 10 years. A complete list of needed equipment will be sent after you have been accepted onto the trip.
- Pike National Forest Map
- Stegner, Wallace, Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs: Living and Writing in the West.
- Stegner, Wallace, Marking the Sparrow’s Fall.
- Elser, Smoke and Bill Brown, Packin’ in on Mules and Horses.
- Black, Joe, Horses, Hitches, and Rocky Trails.
An important function of the Rocky Mountain Specialty Pack String is to preserve wilderness values by providing heavy hauling without the need for mechanization that is prohibited in wilderness areas. The National Wilderness Protection System was established by the 1964 Wilderness Act. At that time, 9.1 million acres, (684,000 sq. miles) were designated wilderness within the United States. This accounts for 5% of the land area of the country with just 2.7% of this located in the lower 48 states. Wilderness designations are scattered throughout the country, similar to urban open spaces, and together represent the land area of Minnesota. There are those who challenge the restriction from the resources on that amount of land.
Despite protections for the land, wilderness is still exposed to harmful effects of poor air quality, impaired water quality, and the human component of climate change. These are issues that are central to some of the Sierra Club's campaigns -- the trip leader will provide an overview on them. Participants are encouraged to share any conservation/environmental issues they are experiencing in their own areas.
Notes for Sierra Club Outings
- Carbon Offsets
- Electronic Billing and Forms
- Electronic Devices
- How to Apply for a Trip
- Leader Gratuities
- Liability Release and Assumption of Risk
- Medical Issues
- Non-discrimination Statement
- Participant Approval
- Reservation and Cancellation Policy
- Seller of Travel Disclosure
- Travel Insurance
- Trip Feedback
- Trip Price
- Wilderness Manners