In the 125 years of the AMC Hut System various methods have been employed to carry food and supplies up to the huts. These days helicopters fly in dry goods and supplies at the beginning of the season, while hut crew pack up meat, dairy and produce twice a week. Back in 1929 the huts began experimenting with a more creative approach to getting materials into the huts - donkeys. Originally brought from Roswell, New Mexico, the donkeys
proved invaluable during their decades of use. The “muleskinners” would spend a
week hauling supplies up to each hut, then would load the donks into the truck
and move the corral to the next site.
|Packing construction supplies up the Valley Way (1929). Photo: AMC Archives|
|Muleskinner tending to the donks (1920s). Photo: AMC Archives|
Donks were used to haul everything from canned goods to
construction supplies to 5 gallon jerrycans full of gasoline. Galehead and
Zealand were largely built with materials hauled in on the backs of donkeys.
However, according to Harry Bishop, a muleskinner during the 1940s, there were some limitations; “you couldn’t haul
tomatoes or lettuce or things like this; it was rough on them. The donks would
bang ‘em all to pieces in the saddle bags. The salad would be made before you
|Unpacking supplies from donkeys at Madison (1941). Photo: AMC Archives|
The strongest donk during the 1940s was Trigger, who would
carry 180 lbs up to Madison, while some of the females would only pack about 80
lbs. At a certain point the donks just wouldn’t take any more weight. Bishop said, “there was no way in God’s world that you could make them take it either. They
might start up the mountain and if they just couldn’t make it…they’d huff and
puff and blow and this that and the other thing and you’d open the saddle bags
and take a few cans out of each side. If they were able to go along then you
had an idea of how much less to put in.”
|Carrying construction supplies up to a hut (1930s). Photo: AMC Archives|
Every donk had its own personality and quirks. Little Horse
was the most well-known, and the leader of the group. “We’d load the donks up
in the morning and start ‘em up the mountain and Little Horse would go right to
the beginning of the trail and he’d stand there. So help me I swear he was
counting the donks to see if they were all there,” described Bishop.
|Unpacking food at Zealand Falls Hut (1932). Photo: AMC Archives|
In 1964 helicopters were first used by the AMC in the
construction of the Mizpah Springs Hut, signaling the end of the era of donks.
While they haven’t been in the Whites for nearly fifty years now, Little Horse,
Trigger and all the others left their impact on the Huts system.
|Keystone helicopter ferrying supplies to Lakes of the Clouds Hut (1969). Photo: AMC Archives|