We’ve been riding horses while we have been at Triple J Wilderness Ranch but they have quite a few mules in the corral also. Mules are used for pack trips into the Bob Marshall Wilderness area and there is quite an art to packing them.
One of our wranglers is ready to give us a demo on how this job is done. First of all, the mule is huge. He’s a good model though, patient and seemingly easy-going.
As we perch on haybales, the wrangler explains the saddle (quite a bit different from the ones we’ve used for horseback riding). Large canvas tarps are used to package everything that will be carried on the mule. Each side needs to be close to the same weight and tied on the mule so it doesn’t rub or come loose. Obviously, everything isn’t rectangular and the same size but the wranglers use 50 pound feed sacks to demonstrate how they build the canvas packages and tie them on to the saddle. Each piece of gear has a name but I was so intrigued with how they were doing this I forgot to write them down.
First of all, I probably couldn’t lift a 50 pound feed sack with one hand and tie a knot with the other. And, my knots leave quite a bit to be desired. It doesn’t take long to realize how physically demanding this job is for the wranglers. They wouldn’t have to worry about scheduling a cardio-workout after this done.
Once the mules are packed they are all tied together to make what I call a pack string. The dispositions of the mules dictate where they go in the string.
All of the ranch guests turned out to watch the wranglers show us how to pack the mule. There were lots of questions and lots of photos of our model mule with his bags packed. Very interesting!