High Sierra Pack Goats
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Jodie Gullickson learned everything she could about pack goats, and after months of studying, reading, and taking copious notes, she set out to get her first goat. High Sierra Pack Goats was born.
by Jodie Gullickson It was a gopher hole that changed everything.
Jodie Gullickson was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016. Continuously worried about running out of water, she regularly carried too much. As a result of the extra weight in her pack, she got stress fractures in her feet. Then, after 687 miles of hiking, she stepped in a gopher hole and broke a small bone in her foot. Despite that, she hiked the next 44 miles out of the wilderness. She was pulled out the last six miles on horseback after a few men heard she was injured and came looking for her.
When she was laid off from the University at the beginning of the pandemic, her husband agreed that going on another big hike was in order, but he wanted her to take an animal with her for company. He was thinking about a dog. She had a different plan. “Wouldn’t it be fun to take one of my mom’s goats, put a little pack on him, and have him carry my water? Then I wouldn’t worry about water, and I wouldn’t worry about my feet!” She googled “packs for goats,” and the results read “packgoats.com.”
She learned everything she could about pack goats, and after months of studying, reading, and taking copious notes, she set out to get her first goat.
She found Bosco on Craigslist and drove four hours in a snowstorm to pick him up in her mid-sized SUV. He didn’t even have an accident in the car on the way home. He just talked to her gently throughout the ride. After teaching him to walk around the block on a lead, then teaching him to accept wearing a pack, she gently got him used to the idea of wearing panniers. She got a goat packing partner, and soon after, they obtained Oatcake, Sharkey, and Jon Snow. They put a small number of water bottles for weight in the panniers and gradually increased it. They hiked the goats six times a week for eight miles a day over mountainous terrain to get them ready to hike the 172-mile Tahoe Rim Trail.
In June of 2021, they successfully completed the trail. Throughout the journey, many people told Jodie that their backs or knees were bad and they were on their last trip. They said having a goat carry gear for them would change their lives. So Jodie formed High Sierra Pack Goats LLC to help people get into the backcountry who might otherwise not be able to do so. She currently takes people on walks with her (now seven) goats through Airbnb Experience, and she works with a foundation for people with brain injuries who have mobility issues. She also takes the Girl Scouts on picnics with the goats. She is working with several National Forests to obtain permits to create three to six-day full-service goat packing tours later this summer.
All thanks to a gopher hole.
Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/highsierrapackgoats/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/highsierrapackgoats/
Morning Walks with High Sierra Pack Goats: https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/3158930
River Walks with High Sierra Pack Goats: https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/3203695
Originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.