Mt. Whitney Packers
of the 1940s - 1950s
photos courtesy of Paul Lamos from the archives of his stepfather,
and former MWPT packer, - Bill Smart.
some time off from shoeing
Around the Shoeing Station - Another View
left to right: unknown, Archie Deans, Ed Thistlewait, Oli Robinson (?)
packers life is, without a doubt, one of the best there is. It
is too bad that here in the west that that life is confined to
the summer. When winter sets in, so does the snow and everyone
goes back to some "fall back" job - school for the
students and saddlery or something else for the non-students.
It seems that no matter what the job at the pack outfit it is
always exciting; and, something which you yearn to do. It might
be the toughest job that you've ever done in your life - shoeing
stock, wrangling, packing up camp, loose herding stock or driving
stock trucks - but for some strange romantic reason seldom does
a packer not wish to return the following summer.
Thistlewait died, along with his dog, while packing in the mountains.
He loved his whiskey and his pipe. The combination, along with
his sleeping bag, was the end for him and his dog, who slept
curled up at his feet in the sleeping bag. Wendel eventually
opened up Gil's Station at Coso Junction. Oli and Archie both
had pack stations operating out of Independence at the same time."
Haylas Smith - July 9, 2000]
From 1947 Sierra Club Bulletin
Pete Garner riding
in the backcountry Porfilio (Pete) Garner sits atop his trusty
steed, Ikey, appearing as if he were "Tonto" waiting
for "Kimosabe" to show up around the next bend. Mt.
Whitney Pack Trains, besides, at one time, being co-owned by
Tommy Jefferson (a full blooded Paiute from Owens Valley) was
eager to hire anyone who was willing to give it their all. Whether
you were a flatlander from the cities of Los Angeles or San Francisco,
high school or college student, cowboy or native-American Indian
it didn't matter. What a great outfit to work for!
Porfilio (Pete) Garner - Another View
Gilmore atop one the Mt. Whitney Pack Trains Mules
Charlie Gilmore - Another View
when your horse went lame there was always a mule. And just maybe,
Charley preferred a mule to a horse. Going over Trail Crest Pass,
en route to either Mt. Whitney or Crabtree Meadows was so precariously
dangerous that almost anything was preferable to riding a horse.
I can't recall how many times I just plain preferred to walk
down the Whitney Portal side of the pass rather than ride a horse.
I recall the incident with Kathy Jefferson when her horse slipped
on the ice near weeping rock and her and the horse went over
the side sliding down several hundred feet to the snow bank at
the bottom. Thank goodness neither were hurt, but neither's nerves
were ever the same again.
and the Mountains"[pdf]
Club "High Trip" Packers
you believe this group - fifteen packers! Those original Sierra
Club "High Trips" were something else. Just these fifteen
represented 90 head of stock. Throw in a few extra saddle horses
and a couple extra strings of mules and you were already over
100 head of stock. That spelled WORK no matter how you put your
chaps and spurs on! But to the packer, it was a freedom afforded
him like none other.
to R: Dick
Troeger, Mert Stewart, Unknown, Unknown, Charley Gilmore, Ivan
Hanson, Tommy Jefferson, Unknown, Ike Livermore, Tom Ott, Unknown,
Unknown, Ikie (Pete Garner's famous horse), Pete Garner, Bill
by James R. Wilson and Robin Hansen
do in the backcountry when shoeing bronc mules.
Shoeing - Another View
L to R: Unknown,
Tommy Jefferson, Concepcian Zuniga (?)
Shoeing - Another View
Left to Right: Dick Troeger, Unknown (directly behind Dick),Pete
Garner, Unknown, Bruce Morgan, Charlie Gilmore
mules in the High Sierra backcountry took ingenuity, daring and
often times sheer guts! It was another one of those jobs that
had you swearing a blue streak in addition to twisting the mules
nose nearly off with a rope noose. But, can you imagine yourself
doing anything else during those long summer and fall months?