First off, I’ve never packed a mule. But, I feel I can truly say it is hard work because I have watched the effort twice this summer!
If I was in charge of the pack trip I would probably have sticky notes all over the barn with lists of things to remember. This photo is just a glimpse of some of the gear, some packed in nice uniform rectangular packages, some waiting to be packed, that 7 Lazy P wranglers were working on.
We were at 7 Lazy P’s upper ranch west of Choteau. All told, I think there were going to be 12 mules and each would carry 2 packages for a 10 day pack trip in to the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The weight needs to be similar on each side of the mule, which stands to reason, and the wranglers make sure there is nothing that could cause a mule to get a sore spot. There’s quite a science to this job. The mules are connected with a rope and that is probably where the term “pack string” originated. As the wranglers work with the mules they find out the best lineup order for them. Each mule has a personality and that determines location in the line.
The timeclock doesn’t stop at 5pm the day before a pack trip. Jayce and David were packing late the evening before, due partly to delayed airline flights for some guests. They estimated that each of these pack bags weighed about 80 pounds. For those of us who do circuit training, this gives new meaning to exercise.
I’m sure it just takes one 10 day pack trip with something forgotten to make sure it doesn’t happen a second time. We visited with the wranglers while they worked, then headed back to the main lodge after giving a request to Jayce. When he finished his pack work, we wanted him to come and play the fiddle for us.
He might have been tuckered out but he was smiling as he walked to his cabin to grab his fiddle!