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18115Re: Gila Wilderness trip report

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  • Jeff Ross
    Oct 1, 2007
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      Neither I, nor the goats, carried any food for them. They did carry
      a couple liters of water, but they didn't drink it. I did. They
      drank from stream crossings. They ate wild forage (pine needles, oak
      leaves, twigs, flowers, weeds, etc, etc). They eat a little grass,
      but not much. Having had a very good monsoon (rainy season) this
      year, the Gila country is lush and green now. The goats really
      thrived on this food, and actually gained weight during the trip.
      When they are full grown (at about age 3) they will weigh 200-250
      lb, and will be able to carry about 40 lb each on a trip like this.
      There are several manufacturers of goat packing equipment. They make
      little sawbuck pack saddles and panniers. A complete saddle/pannier
      combo will cost about $200. The gear they need consists of a tarp, a
      leash for each of them, and a first aid kit. They sleep under the
      tarp, the leashes allow me to control them when we're near a road or
      other hazard, and we share the first aid kit.

      I bought these guys last year in June (for about $70 each), when
      they were 3 mo old. At that age they were ready to wean, or switch
      from milk to an adult hay/forage diet. I got them from a dairy. Each
      year the dairies have lots of little billy goats they just want rid
      of. Since then I've taken them camping and hiking a lot. At about 7
      months old I had them castrated by the vet. By that time they were
      stinking and fighting and I just about couldn't stand them any more.
      After their "attitude adjustment" procedure, they quit stinking and
      became mellow good natured guys. I waited that long before having
      them castrated so their urinary tract equipment would mature as much
      as possible. This is important because wethers (neutered male goats)
      can have problems with urinary stones, that can kill them. But for
      the most part they are very healthy animals. They will live and work
      for 12-15 years. For packgoats you want goats that are big and
      athletic. Avoid Nubians. They have a reputation for laziness. Mine
      are Saanen and Oberhasli. Alpines, Toggenburgs, and La Manchas are
      also popular.

      They I have had to learn a lot. Behaving on a leash, hopping in and
      out of the trailer, trail and camp manners, etc. They need a small
      shed and a pen or pasture with a GOOD fence. Goats are not easy to
      contain, and they are very vulnerable to predators, especially dogs.
      The more you can take them out to forage the better, but if you
      don't have the time, hay and a little grain will do. They aren't
      much trouble to keep, about like dogs. A lot less trouble and
      expense than horses or mules. They stay right with me while hiking,
      and just quietly hang around camp. If they start making noise
      there's something wrong (predators, forest fire, sasquach, UFOs,
      etc). I don't have to worry about them running off. Sometimes I have
      to zing a pine cone or stick at one when he gets too nosey around
      the cooking area, tho.

      I do worry about predators such as mountain lions, coyotes, bears,
      and wolves. But the boys stay close to me all the time. And if
      something scares them they come running to me. They are alert in the
      boondocks, and know they are prey. I put up their tarp near my
      hammock so they bed down close by. Predators here are hunted (except
      for wolves), and are wary of people.

      I transport them in a funky old trailer made from the bed of a
      pickup truck, with a camper shell on it. The US Forest Service
      office in this are has all kinds of strict regulations about using
      pack animals in the wilderness and surrounding national forest.
      These regulations are focused on keeping horses and mules from
      destroying meadows where horse people camp all the time. Horses and
      mules need grass and daily water, so certain areas tend to get
      overused by them. With the goats I can camp anywhere, the rougher
      the better. The forest service people I've run into have reacted in
      various ways. The trail maintenance crews are glad to see them
      eating stuff along the trails. The ranger in the pickup thought
      there should be more of them out in the woods thinning out the
      zillions of little trees that are growing like grass on the hills.
      All the brush and little trees make for a lot of forest fire fuel
      during dry weather. The district administrator didn't even come out
      of her office to talk to me about it. She just told the receptionist
      to hand me the official policy pamphlet on pack animals, which is
      written for horses and mules. Typical bureaucracy BS. For anybody
      who is interested in more packgoat info there's a good book on the
      subject. "The Packgoat", by John Mionczynzki. There's also a yahoo
      group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/packgoat/).

      We were along the northern edge of the wilderness. The roads into
      this area are long and rough. The trails are poorly maintained,
      rocky, and vague in places. This is very rough, remote country and
      the nearest towns are pretty small and far apart. Civilization is
      pretty sparse. About the only time many people are around is elk
      season (Sept-Oct). The rest of the year it's almost empty. We took
      the trail in from Willow Creek (about 30 miles east from Glenwood)
      and hiked about 8 miles south and east to Clayton Mesa (near Turkey
      Feather Pass and the Jerky Mountains). Elevation there is about 7500
      ft. We found later that there were lots more elk closer to the
      trailhead, where the elevation was 8000-9000 ft. We saw elk, wild
      turkeys, deer, a bear, and a bobcat. Great trip. Going back soon.

      Thanks for the tips and other hammock forum info.

      --- In hammockcamping@yahoogroups.com, N Thomas <norvell1@...> wrote:
      > I am curious as to what supplies you carried for the goats. You
      mentioned that they foraged, but what type of food or other items
      did you carry for them? How much weight do you expect them to carry
      when they fully mature? What type of pack/saddle/whatever did you
      use for them? Did you transport them out there yourself? Any
      problems from the park people?
      > Nice pics. I am in central Texas and goats are a dime a dozen
      here. I have pondered starting a herd for such activities, but am
      curious about the overall effort.
      > ---------------------------------
      > Pinpoint customers who are looking for what you sell.
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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