Rocky Mountain Pack String Promotes Stock Packing Skills

The Rocky Mountain Regional Specialty Pack String assists in managing and maintaining wilderness and back country areas using traditional animal packing livestock skills.

by Glenn Ryan, Lead Packer, USDA Forest Service

May 21, 2012

The U.S. Forest Service is committed to sound wilderness preservation and continued trail use enjoyment, establishing the Rocky Mountain Regional Specialty Pack String (RMRSPS) in 1990 with the following mission statement:

  • Assist regional elements in managing and maintaining wilderness and back country areas utilizing the traditional animal packing livestock skills;
  • Educate internal and external publics on minimum impact recreational principles, techniques, stock handling and packing skills; and
  • Proudly serve as ambassadors to the public, representing the history and legacy of the US Forest Service and its pack string program through public appearances.

With 9 mules and 4 horses we cover 17 National Forests and 7 National Grasslands. We are based out of Shawnee, Colorado, about 50 miles Southwest of Denver. Shawnee is on the Pike-San Isabel National Forest but our working territory ranges far beyond our home base. The RMRSPS services South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming.

Work for the pack string

The type of terrain and the type of work varies. The 2012 season will keep the pack string busy working on the following projects:

  • Wyoming Horse Expo April 20th thru April 22nd representing the U.S. Forest Service as goodwill ambassadors with packing demonstrations throughout the expo. (Douglas, Wyoming-Fairgrounds)
  • Packing Clinic “Packing for the Real World” extended to partners and volunteers working with their local agencies on their public lands May 21st thru May 25th (Mule Headquarters here in Shawnee, Colorado)
  • Work project packing in fencing material for the Wild Turkey Foundation from April 23rd thru May 3 (Chadron, Nebraska)
  • Work project packing three months of tools, gear, and supplies for the Colorado 14’ers from June 18th thru June 29th (Gunnison National Forest on Mt. San Luis)
  • Work project packing in bridge materials from July 30th thru August 3rd (Big Horn National Forest in Wyoming)

Attentive mule studies the welding process

Attentive mule studies the welding process

Learning packing techniques

Training is an important function of the pack string. The five-day intensive course on "Packing for the Real World" presents an opportunity to learn, share, and apply work-related packing skills in a real world setting, including test rides. Each day will provide informal but structured packing skills using the saw buck and decker styles of packing. Topics include: Safety, Tools of the Trade, Panniers/Manties, Minimum Impact Pre-Trip Planning, Knots and Hitches, Transporting Stock, Putting the String Together, Out Rider Responsibilities, 6-Principles for Leading a Packstring, Diamond & Top Loads, Loading & Packing Tools, Trail Etiquette, High Line, Turning-out Stock in the Back Country, Hobbles/Portable Electric Fence.

About the Author

Glenn Ryan, Lead Packer for the Rocky Mountain Regional Specialty Pack String, enjoys teaching and training Forest Service employees and the public to use proper safety practices as the students develop in their packing and mountain riding proficiency. Raised by his parents, who owned a hunter-jumper stable, Glenn’s horsemanship and riding skills goes straight back to riding jumping horses from the ages of 7 to 18. In 1975, he graduated from college with a degree in Natural Resources and started working with the U.S. Forest Service. For 22 years he has been a goverment packer with collateral duties as trails foreman, and back country patrolman. He is currently the lead packer, since 2004, for the Rocky Mountain Regional Specialty Pack String. He is quick to give credit for much of his horsemanship and livestock skills to working on remote cattle ranches in Northern California. “There is no better way to handle cattle than from the back of a horse,” says Glenn.

Contact: gryan@fs.fed.us


More Articles in this Category