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What's new at WRPG!

November 2002

WRPG moves forward, operating in both Wyoming and southern Utah!

Time to check in with the ol' web page. WRPG moves forward, operating in both Wyoming and southern Utah. Our affiliation with the Shoshone National Forrest, Wyoming BLM, and the BLM managers of the Escalante Grand Staircase National monument continue to grow and thrive. Goatpacking seems to be gaining an ever increasing presence as a mainstream means of transporting people and their gear in the mountains. This year has seen the advent of the NAPgA, and though it sounds like something to do with golfing, it actually stands for North American Packgoat Association. Isn't that interesting. It is now less the case of explaining what goatpacking is, and more answering the questions of those who have seen it, and maybe even owns their own goats already! John Mionczynski would roll over in his grave should he have been there… maybe he rolled over in his bed, I don't know. Any one seen John?

Highlights of the 2002 season include a spectacular five day trip in the canyons of the Escalante for a wonderful family escaping the showers of Seattle. It is very rewarding to see these fine goats of WRPG performing in this very vertical world of sandstone. This is simply an amazing place, of sensually sculpted rock, gentle rivers winding through the arid landscape, and the many signs of the presence of a people from long, long ago. It is a perfect why to access spring when you need it most (March/April), or fend off winter if your not quite ready (Oct/Nov.).

Another strong point is that I got to lead both a Northern Traverse Trip, and our Southern Winds Expedition. Both trips having a great mix of friendly folks, up for the adventure. The goats seemed to really enjoy the extra attentions lathered upon then by the ever affectionate Northern Traversers. The Northern Traverse Trip also enjoyed some exciting mountain weather as we topped out along Down's Mountain. My good friend Chuck Lyman from back in Maine was able to come out and work the Southern Winds Expedition. And Luisa Hunker lent her excellent camping skills and delightful wit to the Northern Traverse Trip, before heading to Washington DC for her internship with NPR.

It was the first year for three kids, Stripe, Zuko, and Cat. These three boys did great learning the ropes of being members of the finest string of pack animals in the world; well we think so at least. Also added to the herd are six young'ns, namely, Beamer, Norton, Guzzi, Jake, Casey, and Mionzo. Yes Mionzo, in honor of the father of North American goatpacking John Mionczynski. Who is by the way alive and well in his own Atlantic City Wyoming. John led the trip I mentioned earlier in the Escalante.

Well it is snowing, the boys are casually dining on their hay. We are finally relaxing, fixing the occasional fence, and taking those long pleasant goat walks in search of tasty plants. Please check out the dates and descriptions of next year's exciting trips!

November 2000

WRPG has another great season!

Looks like the What's New section is an annual thing. The Wyoming temperatures are diving to -10 F, and the goat's winter coats are filling out. This seems to be the natural time to park oneself at the computer and reflect on the season. For the 2000 season, WRPG ran 18 trips, serving about 50 individuals. These ranged of course from simple two-day drop trips to the nine-day Northern Winds Traverse. As I write this, I want to organize the work to some extent as a journal of the learnings of a goatpacker. Though WRPG has a fourteen-year history, this writer has barely completed year three of his goatpacking career under the tutelage of John Mionczynski.

Winter last year saw the goats being cared for in the capable hands of Dave Keller. He spent many days especially in the late winter exercising the goats in the hills above the pasture. This paid off when we began packing as the boys were especially fit. The walks also allowed the animals to feed on wild vegetation that can give them many nutritional benefits that hay and supplements do not. The main lesson here being, of course, that goats, like people, need to be conditioned in order to pack. They really need to build muscle and keep exercising to maintain it. If they sit around the yard, they will struggle on those hills when they first go out.

So with strong animals, we stepped off on our first trip, the instructional Get Acquainted trip. Here participants were treated to three days of intense instruction on the art of goat packing by the single most experienced goat packer in the country (or the world for that matter). I speak, of course, of John Mionczynski, the founder of WRPG, and goat packing consultant. As more folks are getting into goat packing, I feel this trip to be almost essential to the development of a sound goat handler. There is no better way to learn to manage goats in packing and camping settings than to do it first hand with experts. We at WRPG feel strongly that all goat packers should consider taking such a trip, so that their packing will be more successful, and for the wellbeing of their animals.

That spring I wrote an article for Goat Tracks in response to one written by a fellow in Canada regarding his lost goats. I felt strongly, as did the editorial staff of the journal, about the choice to leave animals in the backcountry to fend for themselves. (See Goat Tracks Winter and Spring issues of 2000). Interestingly, as fate would have it, WRPG lost a goat this year. The animal broke off from the pack as we were bringing out a group of fishermen, and inside of five minutes was gone. This is a very unusual thing, for a pack goat to leave its pack, and for some time it had us all mystified. He had been missing for some nine days when he finally showed up back at the road head. I would note that during those nine days WRPG had searchers out looking for him. Three weeks later the same goat broke from the herd again and was missing for ten days. Again we searched and searched, even chartering a plane for flyovers. Again, he simply showed up and we got a call from a kind hunter. This time we got a bit more information, though. The goat had a silver dollar sized sore on his shoulder. It looked like a round patch of leather. This, according to John Mionczynski, was once a subcutaneous blistered sore that had gone unnoticed to me. John believes this was likely present for some time and giving the goat great pain while packing. This could account for the behavior of leaving the pack.

Two lessons come out of this for WRPG. First, and most important, to be more careful and frequent about checking for saddle sores. It is striking to see this sore after it surfaced. You can tell it hurt. Learning to catch it sooner is important, as well as prevention, checking and tightening cinches every hour or so. Second, to whenever possible have one person at the back of the herd. We have been using those little two way radios for the past year, usually sending one person up ahead on the trail to let us know when there are horses coming our way. Now we will be adding another to the rear of the pack when we have the personnel. Thus animals will get lost, and we need to make every effort to prevent this and then to get them back as soon as possible.

The rest of the summer was relatively benign, and most enjoyable. We did two missions for the US Forest Service, for acid rain studies. One even had the District Ranger along. We ran a flawless Northern Winds Traverse, this year fully catered, so no one lost weight while hiking along the Continental Glacier. We took four families on mountain vacations. We continued to supply the Bighorn Sheep Study. We packed in five fishing trips for Sweetwater Fishing Expeditions that found world class trout fishing. We delivered a re-supply to a family allowing them a longer stay in the mountains. We donated a free trip to the Wyoming Wildlife Federation that brought a couple from Wyoming out on our Red Canyon trip. They even wrote a complimentary article about us in the WWF newsletter coming out this month!

WRPG is entering a partnership with Gopher Adventure, an adventure consultant company out of Columbus Ohio. We will be offering two or three trips though this organization next summer, including the much-anticipated Gannet Peak Expedition, climbing the highest peak in Wyoming. Here Gopher will handle the bulk of the marketing and trip setup, and WRPG will provide goat support, guiding, and the permits. Steph White, owner of Gopher Adventure, is a long time friend and past colleague of mine from our days guiding for the National Outdoor Leadership School. Gopher Adventures is also in such partnerships with Sweetwater Fishing Expeditions here in Lander, SOLO Wilderness Medicine School in North Conway, NH, Paddling South in Loreto, Baja Mexico, Seascape of New Brunswick, Canada, Jackson Mountain Guides of Jackson, Wyoming, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park in Michigan. Steph helped out on several trips this summer of us. We think the partnership will enhance both organizations.

Out at the goat pasture we have a new hay shed, and the beginnings of a barn. Twenty-eight goats are wintering with us. We brought an old Oliver tractor to help with feeding and the maintenance of the pastures we use. We are planing on doing much more rotating of the herd next spring and summer, and will be experimenting with mesh electric fencing. We are adding one new goat, bred by Steve Douglas in Buela CO, and should be picking him up in the next couple of weeks. We continue to make the original packsaddle and a full line of goat packing gear, and have a healthy supply of John's book, "The Pack Goat".

Well the clouds are moving back in, suggesting the coming of the next snow. There are four tons of hay on a trailer hitched to my truck, so it is time to close this here up-date and get to more pressing work. 2001 brochures should go to print in the next month and be headed your way, so start dreaming of warm, leisurely mountain days on your next goat trip for next summer. Hoping to see you then.




November 1999

So much has been happening here at WRPG that we forgot to update the "What's New" page!

Well sort of. The 1999 season has come to a close. The Wyoming winter seems nowhere to be found. The goats have been in the pasture a month now, happily eating and growing their winter coats. Across the road they watch as Charlie and Dave work at building a little log cabin for the resident goat watcher (Dave) to spend his winter in. A new pasture was fenced up, though it will be a few years until the boys will see much of it, as there is much rehabilitating of the grasses to be done. Sheryl is banging out new saddles, and Linda is sewing WRPG panniers. Sheryl and Jake produced (with the help of five willing does) ten tops of the line pack goat-type kids this summer. Three of them are Wethers, Catman, Zuko, and Stripe. The father is a buck named Malcolm belonging to Steve Douglas of the Pueblo, CO, area. These kids are big and seem to meet the approval of John.

WRPG dabbled in the movie scene this summer. We were very lucky to have, as trip participants, two fellows named Garry who are professional moviemakers. They made an amazing video featuring Wind River Pack Goats on the Northern Winds Traverse trip and some footage of the Red Desert area as well. This 8-minute video will be available for sale, with the sale cost deducted from your next trip, as we are sure it will make you need to come along on a WRPG excursion!

The Northern Winds Traverse trip was a great success by the way. We were blessed with an amazingly stable weather pattern, and delightful mix of folks. John was able to tear himself away from the sheep study (click here to read an article about the sheep study) and relax with some old friends, of both the goat and human persuasion. In addition, Dave Keller, a goat-packing fellow from LaPorte, CO, came along with four of his boys to help as well. Goat wise, we had sixteen along and all did well. However, Amigo, a twelve-year-old, had to be changed out the first day due to some lameness likely incurred from his last trip. Amigo has been resting and seems better now. He is actively working with the new kids keeping them in line and showing them the ropes. (Click here to read an article written by participant Anne from a goat's perspective of the Northern Winds Traverse Trip)

WRPG did some conservation activism work in June when we co-sponsored a trip to visit the Red Desert with the Wyoming Outdoor Counsel. Mac Blewer and John waxed on about the area, educating all about this unique place. Again the rains held back and we enjoyed warm days and cool starry nights. The Red Desert's wilderness study areas are up for consideration/approval as well as some new pressures from the gas industry. (Click here to read more about the Red Desert.)

Jim Brabec and I did an adventurous trip for George Hunker, the local fishing guide. Two long travel days that involved climbing up and over the KnifePoint Glacier. Luckily, Steph White was along to photodocument the crossing. We are all quite certain that the Patagonia catalog people can not turn down these photos! The fishing was challenging and rewarding, and the remote location seemed to agree with all along. Jim has relocated to the Kansas City area with his wife and two boys. I expect he will be back for several trips next summer.

Drop trips were a success. We did several for George Hunker, one for some fishermen from Boulder, CO, and numerous Mionczynski drops for the sheep study. Next year we hope to expand this into the rock climber and family trip area.

Well those are some of the high lights. Next year we will be offering some new trips. The Red Desert Trip will be focussed on families. We were encouraged by the organization Cross-Cultural Journeys to create such a trip. We will be offering the trip to families of children from age eight and older (click here for more info). And a Photo Trip is being planned. Jackson Hole photographer Jim Gores will join us to help us focus our energies on capturing that amazing mountain scenery (click here for more info).

Well I hope it will not be a year again until this gets updated, but who knows. Me, I am looking at heading to Seattle for the Spring to work as a therapist in a high school there. Dave will be holding down the fort. Have a great winter!

- Charlie


What was new for 1999...

Wind River Pack Goats is changing ownership! During the spring of 1998 conversation regarding the transfer of ownership began between John Mionczynski and new owner Charlie Wilson. From this a great friendship has ensued, and the future of Wind River Pack Goats looks secure in the hands of its new owner.

Many of you already know that we chose to take non-use on our operations for the summer of 1998. This allowed us to best structure the organization for the coming season, and create a smooth and consistent transition. We did arrange to do some pack trips for the US Forest Service, assisting in the ongoing acid rain studies. Also Charlie has been providing goat support for John in his new capacity as a wildlife studies scientist for the Wyoming dept. of Game and Fish. John is conducting an in-depth study of the Wind River big horn sheep.

Read an article ("New Pastures") about Wind River Pack Goats from Goat Tracks.

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