Shoshone mule Pack from Wyoming Helps Summit County Bridge Project

The Shoshone Specialty Pack String Group, a group from the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming, travels through the Rocky Mountain region to help transport materials for projects. In July, the group helped move more than 1,000 pounds of material north of Silverthorne.
Eileen Collins / Image Courtesy

The project, which could have taken weeks with manpower, was greatly shortened with the help of some furry friends from Wyoming.

Over the past week, local Forest Service managers have partnered with the Shoshone Specialty Pack String to move materials for a new bridge on the Lower Boulder Lake Trail in the Gore Range and to other project sites. Each mule can carry more than 100 pounds, which greatly reduces the stress on human rangers or trail maintenance volunteers. David Boyd, White River National Forest Public Affairs Officer, said a few dozen meters of bridge work will be completed by the end of the season.

“We have a very old bridge over the part of the Gore Range Trail where it crosses Boulder Creek,” Boyd said. We can use what we call the original material in some of it, which is some trees from there and that kind of thing, but it was important to get up there.”

Boyd added that because of the bridge’s location at Eagles Nest Wilderness, rangers were unable to use motorized vehicles or helicopters to transport construction materials for the new bridge. The Rangers were able to offload mules and horses near Boulder Creek Road, and the group used a pedestrian path to reach a bridge that needed repairs into the woods.

The Shoshone Specialty Pack series consists of four horses and 12 mules, along with a master packer and assistant packer, which provide assistance on a variety of projects in Forest Service units throughout the Rocky Mountain region. The group was created in response to the need for traditional packing skills during fires in 1988. Since then, the Regional Package Series has been transferred to the Pike and San Isabel National Forests in Colorado in 1992, and 26 years later – the Package Series has been moved back to Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming in October 2018.

In all, there were over 1,000 pounds of material that had to be packed and transported to the site on the backs of the mules. The Rangers packed the mules with the material and climbed approximately 2.8 miles of road to the site.

“If we hadn’t had the packing chain helping out there, there would have been a lot of trips with the Rocky Mountain youth band that worked on building the bridge,” Boyd said. He added that although the measurement is difficult, the mules likely helped reduce a significant amount of time on the project.

“If we were pulling them out manually, and we’ve done that elsewhere, most of the two weeks we would have been with the recommended base crew was just moving materials to the site,” he said. .

According to the Shoshone National Forest, the group will relocate to the San Juan National Forest in southern Colorado to help clear avalanche debris from a series of spring avalanches that collapsed in 2019. A 2021 report for the Shoshone Specialty String Pack states that last year, the group packing 386 mule loads, or 57,900 pounds, of materials and supplies over nearly 900 miles of country trails.

“(The Shoshone Specialty String Pack) oversaw the procurement, storage, and disposal of explosives for the Area 2 bombing program (and) oversaw the logistics of the Regional Bombing Program, including reviewing all bombing requests for the Pike San Isabel, Shoshone, White River and Bighorn National Forests,” the report reads.