Lightening the load
If you happen to pass Boy Scout Troop 9082 on a trail in Central Oregon, you might also find you are sharing the trail with a group of pack goats.
Adam Sather, scoutmaster for the troop chartered by the Prineville Presbyterian Church, said the troop has been taking pack goats on its adventures for several years. The boys have taken them out for overnight trips twice.
During the summer months, Sather noted that the troop goes on at least one overnight trip per month. Once per year, the troop gets out for a weeklong outing. Members range from 12 to 18 years old. Sather has been with the troop for approximately 10 years.
Sather raises goats and had the idea to incorporate them into the Scouts' hiking and camping adventures as pack animals.
"I have owned them for many years and did a little research on them," he said.
He began with smaller and younger goats, having them carry 5 to 7 pounds. He said they used dog packs initially, and the troop took the goats on their first weeklong trip to Lake Berley in the Jefferson Wilderness — on the Santiam Pass. The trip included a hike 7 miles each way. The goats carried food items, water and kitchen utensils.
"They just worked out really well, and this last September, we took them up Mill Creek," Sather said.
He had the same goats — but they had grown considerably. For that trip, they were able to carry 35 pounds each.
Sather said that the goats feed on local vegetation. The first time the boys took the goats for an outing, they tried to use a lead rope.
"They just wouldn't go," he said. "Further down the trail, we just took the lead ropes off and they followed us without any problems in a single line."
He added that if they met other hikers — who would stop to look at them— the goats would start to follow the other hikers.
"Whoever was moving, the goats would follow," he said. "We would have to hold on to them until the other hikers passed, and then we would be fine."
Another trip, they encountered water crossings.
"Goats naturally don't like water. But they did well -- and when they came up to the first crossing and the lead goat went across, the other goats followed," he said.
Trevor Hockett has been in Sather's Boy Scout troop for about three years.
"They couldn't carry much in the beginning, because they were small -- but it was fun," Trevor said.
He had never heard of other Boy Scouts using pack goats. Trevor's mother, Heather Hockett, had never known of any other troops using goats, either.
"I think they are cute as could be, and they are easy to take," she said. "You don't have to take much food, and they just nibble along the way. They stayed with the kids, and they were easy to haul. They just hauled in a little trailer."
"It made the trip, for sure," Sather concluded.
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