More mules

16 03 2017


We do have water in the desert, in spite of our very dry late-winter conditions.


The Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Regional Specialty Packstring is Glenn Ryan’s baby; he has been the head honcho and mule packer since 2004.

This link and this one to the crew will give you more information, and if you Google it, you’ll find all kinds of articles about the amazing work this outfit does throughout the West, including this one last fall in The Durango Herald.


Katy Bartzokis is a permanent seasonal employee with BLM, based in and around the Steens Mountain Wilderness Area of Oregon. She’s the only BLM packer she or we know about. She’s definitely the best one we know. ๐Ÿ™‚

If you’re packing in and out of wilderness areas, these are the folks, and these are the mules, you want on your trail (if you even have a trail; we flagged one through the greasewood and over and through and down into and up out of arroyos).


Here’s the full string, led by Katy, who led three mules, and Glenn, who led the last two. Our BLM range tech Justin Hunt is visible at the back. This was shortly after we left the trailer – loading site – and you can see Disappointment Road in the background. The big Forest Service rig may have drawn a few curious glances from the few travelers who passed by during our work days. ๐Ÿ™‚


To highlight a couple of the mules, this is sweet Karla. Katy and Glenn had folded the now-empty “mantis” and bundled the ropes and then manti’d them and were tying them on Karla’s pack saddle for the trip back to the trailer (we’re at the drop site in this photo). A “manti” is what you or I would call a tarp or square of canvas. Packers like Glenn and Katy use them to wrap bundles of taped-together staves and T-posts. Very neat – and I don’t just mean “keen.” ๐Ÿ™‚ Usually, the folded mantis went back in the emptied panniers (which carried wrapped wire rolls), but on this particular trip, we had just staves, which were packed and roped and tied like you see in the photos above. So even bundles of mantis and ropes were themselves manti’d and tied on for the return trip.


And this is big Skid – the only mule with a forelock and one of only two boys (johns?) in the string. Sweet boy!

All the mules have their personalities, of course, and all marched right along – this was their first job out of winter pasture – to carry a LOT of pounds worth of fencing supplies into McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area to help with our fence-maintenance projects. We love them all. ๐Ÿ™‚

Mucho big thanks again to Glenn and Katy, Joey, Karla, Lena, Roz and Skid, Karmel and Sly, for all your work and patience with us! We’re so incredibly grateful for your skilled, amazing work – here and elsewhere on America’s public lands!

Thank you also to our BLM range folks Mike Jensen, Justin Hunt and Garth Nelson; our Spring Creek Basin mustang herd management is so good thanks to you all. Thank you to BLM’s Mike Schmidt and Keith Fox, who took time away from their regular duties to help us one day. Thank you to SJMA’s volunteer coordinator Kathe Hayes, who keeps us rolling on these projects. And thank you to advocate and volunteer Kat Wilder, who does it all when it comes to working for mustangs. ๐Ÿ™‚

Around the bend with mules

15 03 2017


There are only so many hours in the day … and we made the most of an extra day to haul in more fence supplies with Glenn Ryan and Katy Bartzokis, Karmel and Sly, and Joey, Karla, Lena, Roz and Skid with the Rocky Mountain Regional Specialty Packstring! (We also had the help of BLM rangeland management specialist Garth Nelson and range tech Justin Hunt, and hardworking advocate Kat Wilder.)

Ya’ll get just one pic this morning because the hours of the day ran out on scheduling this blog post. But these folks not only are incredibly photogenic, they worked super hard to minimize our work later by hauling in loads and loads and loads of wooden posts, steel T-posts, wooden staves and smooth- and barbed-wire rolls, so you’ll see more photos soon.

For projects in the backcountry, going where ATVs fear to tread (and wilderness study area rules won’t allow ’em anyway (thank goodness)), MULE POWER ROCKS!

More pix to come. And another note to locals: Glenn and Katy – and the mules! – will be at the Ag Expo at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds this weekend. Check ’em out, shake their hands, admire the mules. They’re absolutely awesome, and we couldn’t be more grateful for this excellent partnership! ๐Ÿ™‚

Mules helping mustangs, part 2

14 03 2017


And who wouldn’t smile, to be on a good horse, packing good mules in Spring Creek Basin, Southwest Colorado, on a gorgeous spring day?!

Katy Bartzokis (above) and Glenn Ryan and their horses and mules were back to haul more fencing supplies into the basin for future work, and we had more help in the form of Mike Schmidt and Keith Fox, who came to help Kathe Hayes and Kat Wilder.

So many photo opportunities … so little time to actually peruse the images and select ones for publication! And we welcome Glenn and Katy, Sly and Karmel, and Joey, Karla, Lena, Roz and Skid back tomorrow for another few trips into the wilderness (McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area, that is). (So someone has to get to bed!)

Locals: Glenn (and Katy?) will be at the Ag Expo at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds this weekend with the mules and horses that made this project happen. If you go, please stop by and heap thanks upon them for helping our beloved Spring Creek Basin mustangs. Their work will enable us to rebuild fence sections without having to carry in hundreds of pounds (1,000 or more? we should add it all up!) of materials. Just one wooden post for an H-brace weighs 50-some pounds.

Many, many thanks!!




Mules helping mustangs

13 03 2017


Spring Creek Basin herd manager Mike Jensen leads Katy Bartzokis (BLM) and Glenn Ryan (Forest Service) and their mules to a drop site with fence materials for some upcoming projects – including alternative spring break!

We are so stoked to work with the Rocky Mountain Regional Specialty Packstring to get these supplies hauled into the basin by mule power!

This project is completely possible because of some big “horse” power, so BIG thanks to awesome mules Joey, Karla, Lena, Roz and Skid, and saddle horses Karmel and Sly. ๐Ÿ™‚

And extended thanks to San Juan Mountains Association’s volunteer coordinator Kathe Hayes, who heads alternative spring break each year; Justin Hunt, BLM range tech; and tireless advocate Kat Wilder.








Alternatively …

31 03 2016

Once upon a time in a place far, far away from civilization – better known as Spring Creek Basin – it snowed during alternative spring break. And then we had many, many years of pretty excellent weather, during which we completed many projects for the benefit of our mustangs that call this faraway place their home on the range.

Brumley Point forms part of Spring Creek Basin's southeastern boundary.

Tuesday would have been the first day of the annual two-day work project for alternative-spring-break partiers in Spring Creek Basin. However, Ma Nature had other plans, and she sent howling winds and blowing snow to this southwestern corner of Colorado.


Yesterday was the second day of our Spring Creek Basin project. Despite a light skiff of snow on the ground in the morning, we got a fairly decent start, and students carried several loads of materials and tools to the work site – which now is about mile from the road up the southeastern fence line.


BLM range tech Justin Hunt gives a safety talk before Mizzou students carry tools and supplies to the work site.


University of Missouri students pick up materials to carry to the work site from BLM range specialist Garth Nelson.


Libby and Nina carry staves up the big hill.


Nina (left) walks back to the truck for more supplies while SJMA’s Kathe Hayes leads Jenna and Bailey to the work siteย  with a second load of tools. SJMA’s MK Gunn is at far right.

And then it snowed again.

At first, they were lovely little flakes floating on the breeze.

Then those flakes got bigger and heavier, and they started sticking to the ground, and the dirt started getting damp and started sticking to the bottoms of our hiking boots.


Mizzou’s Chalen helps Southwest Conservation Corps-BLM GIS intern Josh Ryan carry wire to the work site along Spring Creek Basin’s southeastern boundary during alternative spring break. BLM’s Sean Waggoner follows with the chainsaw and T-posts.


University of Missouri students Luke and Jessica carry staves about a mile to the work site while snowflakes start to fall.

About noon, we made the decision to call it a day. By the time we got back to the road, the snow had stopped … but the next wave was on its way.

Between the waves of snow, students carried armloads of T-posts and staves, buckets of tools and handfuls of tools, stretched a string to straighten the next section of fence, built an H-brace, pounded T-posts and cut wood away from the path of the new fence line (actually done by our BLM range tech). A couple of them even got as far as dropping posts and staves along the line. But we didnโ€™t have time to take down old wire and string and stretch new wire.


Garth pounds a spike into a cross brace held by Chalen in the H-brace built before the snow really came down.


Garth helps Chalen and Luke tighten the wire holding an H-brace together.


Justin cuts a tree away from the fence. Sean and Mizzou’s Megan serve as safety spotters. We learned that while we can’t cut even dead trees to use as posts in McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area, we can use chainsaws to clear such trees from a fence line.


Sean holds wire while Nina and Megan attach strands to a T-post when the snowfall got heavy.

Weโ€™ll continue this project on other (sunny) days. ๐Ÿ™‚

We sincerely thank this yearโ€™s Mizzou crew for being hearty and willing to brave the elements to tackle this ongoing project! It was great to meet you all … and thereโ€™s always next year! We also thank SJMAโ€™s Kathe Hayes for her ever-cheerful organizational skills and taking care of the students, as well as members of the Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association and Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners (who represent NMA/CO, Four Corners Back Country Horsemen and Mesa Verde Back Country Horsemen) for helping with funding.


University of Missouri students gather with BLM and SJMA employees in front of Temple Butte, just outside Spring Creek Basin in McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area, during alternative spring break. From left to right: Justin Hunt, Bailey, MK Gunn, Josh Ryan, Jenna, Nina, Jessica, Megan, Luke, Libby, Kathe Hayes, Garth Nelson, Chalen and Sean Waggoner.


SCC working for our mustangs

27 10 2015

Here in Spring Creek Basin, we are incredibly lucky to have the benefit of multiple partnerships that work for the well-being of our mustangs. Our newest partnership is with Southwest Conservation Corps, based in Durango. Thanks to the diligence of San Juan Mountains Association‘s Kathe Hayes and Tres Rios Field Office range specialist Mike Jensen, we have an SCC crew tackling an especially difficult section of fence: across an arroyo and up a steep, shaley hill.

Long-time readers know about our wonderful alternative spring break program with University of Missouri students and that, for the last four years, students have been rebuilding the basin’s southeastern fence line. The SCC crew, which has spent the summer building trails, building fences and planting trees, is jumping ahead a bit to the steep section.

As we are with every bit of help that comes our way for the benefit of the mustangs, we are hugely grateful for their work!

Southwest Conservation Corps' Jordan explains previous fence building by University of Missouri students to SCC crew members along Spring Creek Basin's southeastern fence line. The SCC crew is on site to replace a difficult section of the fence that goes up a steep hill.

Jordan explains previous fence building by Mizzou students to SCC crew members, starting the first day of their hitch in Spring Creek Basin. Mizzou students and BLM employees and volunteers have set the bar high with the new fence! From left: Sarah, Eric, Jordan, Abby, Aaron, Toby behind Dillon, Dillon and Zoe.

Southwest Conservation Corps' Jordan stands by with a shovel whie Eric takes his turn at digging a post hole for an H-brace in Spring Creek Basin's southeastern fence line.

Jordan stands by with a shovel while Eric digs a post hole for their first H-brace.

Southwest Conservation Corps crew members Dillon, Jordan and Zoe place protective staves around a tree that will serve as half of an H-brace in Spring Creek Basin's southeastern fence line.

Co-crew leader Dillon helps Jordan and Zoe protect a tree with staves around which to wrap wire. The Mizzou students this spring ended their two days of work with an H-brace on the other side of this tree.

Southwest Conservation Corps crew members Abby and Aaron use the post puller to remove a rotted post in Spring Creek Basin's southeastern fence line.

Crew members Sarah and Aaron work together to pull out an old fence post that had a rotten bottom from being in the ground for who knows how many decades.

Southwest Conservation Corps co-crew leader Dillon checks the level of the cross post on an H-brace installed by crew members including Abby and Eric (shown) in an H-brace they installed in Spring Creek Basin's southeastern fence line.

Crew members Abby and Eric, who helped dig the hole for the H-brace post, watch as Dillon checks the level of the cross post.

Southwest Conservation Corps crew members Sarah, Zoe, Aaron and Eric watch Jordan as he shows them how to twist staves in crossed wires to pull together an H-brace they installed in Spring Creek Basin's southeastern fence line.

Co-crew leader Sarah (there are two Sarahs on this crew) and crew members Toby, Aaron and Eric watch Jordan show them the twisting technique of the staves in the cross wires that bind the H-brace together.

The crew finished the H-brace and strung strands of wire on their first day of work … which started with about a quarter of an inch of rain! As you can see, the day ended with beautiful sunshine.

One of the coolest part of the day? Seeing the pintos as we drove to the work site and again as we returned to the camp site. ๐Ÿ™‚ The horses are the reason for the work, the partnerships … the tramping through mud carrying heavy posts and fencing tools. They’re absolutely the reason we do all that with smiles!

Partners for mustangs

3 10 2015

Wednesday, I partnered with folks from BLM, the Forest Service, San Juan Mountains Association and Southwest Conservation Corps to haul fence materials into Spring Creek Basin. Long-time readers of this blog are familiar with the outstanding alternative spring break program that brings a group of enthusiastic University of Missouri students to Southwest Colorado each year (look under the March links in the blog roll). In addition to working in Spring Creek Basin, students work on other areas of San Juan public lands for a week before heading back to class in Columbia, Mo. After four years, students have rebuilt quite a long stretch of our southeastern boundary fence – carrying materials in by manual labor because of its location in McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area (no motor vehicles allowed).

Now that we’re pretty far in, and a steep bit of shale hill is coming up (literally), SJMA’s Kathe Hayes and BLM’s range specialist/herd manager Mike Jensen got the attention of the SCC (based in Durango) to give us a hand. While we want to give the Mizzou students a spring break they won’t soon forget, we don’t want to get too crazy. ๐Ÿ™‚ Next spring, they’ll continue to rebuild fence from where the last group left off this past spring toward the base of the hill. This fall, the SCC crew will leapfrog where this spring’s students finished to start rebuilding a section from close to the base of the hill UP the hill.

To ease the workload of both crews, our little group hauled fence supplies this week: wooden posts (for H-braces), T-posts (to replace worn/bent/warped ones), lots and lots of staves (to stabilize the wires between T-posts), and rolls of smooth-twisted and barbed wire (to create wild-horse/life-friendly fencing that cattle won’t want to mess with from the outside) – to a site convenient for both the SCC crew this fall and Mizzou students in the spring.

Many, many thanks to BLM’s Mike Jensen, Justin Hunt and Garth Nelson, SJMA’s Kathe Hayes, the Forest Service’s Harold Park, SCC’s Jordan and BLM/SCC’s Lauren for providing the human labor (including hours of scheduling and logistics!).

Huge, huge thanks to our four-legged crew: Traveler (who packed posts), Trapper (who packed staves and T-posts), Pinch (who packed wire and spikes and Lauren :)) and Zip (who packed staves), as well as Jammer (who packed Harold) and Sneakers (who packed Kathe). These seasoned Forest Service veterans made our job much easier – and they worked for apples!*

BLM range tech Justin Hunt leads Forest Service pack horse Trapper with a load of T-posts while Lauren leads Pinch toward the dropoff point along the southeastern boundary fence of Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area. A Southwest Conservation Corps crew will be in the basin in October to replace a steep section of the fence, which has been worked on for four years by University of Missouri students during alternative spring break.

Here’s a teaser pic of Justin leading Trapper after Lauren and Pinch on the way to the cache site, following Kathe and Harold, who led the other two pack horses. For more pix of a great day of work that benefits Spring Creek Basin’s beloved mustangs, check out SJMA’s photostream on Flicker.

* Jammer and Pinch are Harold’s personal horses, and Sneakers belongs to Kathe.