Maggie Moran is the newest owner of Adams Pack Station. The Pack Station has been operating since 1936 and remains today a working pack station operating much as it would have these past 84 years, ferrying freight by pack animal to and from Forest Service work projects, cabins, and Sturtevant Camp, miles from the nearest roads.
It’s located at Chantry Flat, one of the most popular recreation sites in the entire Angeles National Forest and the hub for numerous trails to mile-high mountain summits or alongside streams within deep cascading canyons.
We spoke to Maggie about her decision to buy the station, what a typical day is like as an operator, how the pandemic has affected her business, and what to expect if you plan on visiting the historic site.
How long have you been the owner/operator of Adams Pack Station and what exactly does a Pack Operation do?
I began packing the donkey train into the canyon in April of 2019, as the previous owner and I were going through the sales process. I began managing the rest of the operations, which include the small store and parking lot, that following June. The sale was finalized on December 4th, 2019.
Packing consists of loading goods and materials into the side packs of the donkeys in order to hike into the canyon and deliver to the privately owned cabins and to Sturtevant Camp located 4.3 miles into the canyon, as well as Forest Service projects.
Do you come from a family of Packers and, if not, what drew you to take on this unique role?
I entered into this venture not knowing anything about packing or about how to care for the donkeys. I was confident I could learn. Most jobs that I've had required me to learn as I went. I'm grateful for that kind of experience. I did however know how to manage and operate a facility and a staff and that is what I am doing when I'm not packing.
Did your friends and family think you were crazy?
I’ve held many odd jobs in my life, so the news did not surprise my family and friends. I did and still do get the occasional sarcastic "good luck" from people who don't know me, but that has never bothered me.
How do you care for the donkeys to ensure their safety and wellbeing?
The donkeys are actually not very difficult to care for. They’re fed twice a day and get a regular dose of deworming medication to stay healthy. We monitor their behaviors and energy levels as they pack to be sure they are in good condition. On the trails, we ask folks to step aside for their own safety. Donkeys do not have great spacial awareness and we don't want anyone getting pushed by the animals.
What role do you see the Pack Station playing for the hikers and families who visit Chantry, and what is your vision for the future?
With each owner, the pack station has morphed into a new place for the public. It’s always been a place to purchase snacks, maps, souvenirs, and visitors often need directions to trailheads, waterfalls, and other destinations nearby.
We plan to bring back live music and will introduce beer on tap from local breweries once we’re officially up and running. There are so many ideas for the future, but one step at a time.
I also understand you are working with the Forest Service and others to develop plans to reintroduce native plants to the Chantry picnic grounds. What inspired this idea?
Yes! One of my future plans outside of pack station operations is to spearhead a native garden project. The preservation of native plants is very important to me, and I have already reached out to the Forest Service regarding the idea. The plan is to create a space where schools and other groups can learn about our native plants, geology, and the importance of preserving these areas for future generations to explore and enjoy.
This has been a uniquely challenging year for many in our local community, and beyond. How have you been affected as a business owner, and do you see the Pack Station and Chantry Flat as providing anything uniquely important to our community in these times?
Like many businesses, we had to close for almost 3 months due to COVID-19. We’re uncertain whether the Forest Service will restrict trail activity given the recent spike of cases, but, for now, we are experiencing big crowds and decent business.
Chantry Flat is a unique place. An easily accessible gateway into a place of real outdoor beauty within the National Forest, with only 2 miles or less of hiking to waterfall and swimming destinations. Not to mention hiking through trails with historic cabins that are all uniquely built.
In a time when wifi reaches almost everywhere, and businesses and officials talk about having drones deliver packages to visitors in National Parks, do you see a role for Pack Stations in the long term? Or is it just a matter of time before technology finally makes the donkey obsolete?
I see there being a need for the pack station long into the future. Technology is great, but I can’t imagine drones being able to deliver heavy propane tanks and construction materials into dense tree-cover anytime soon. The cabin owners and surrounding communities really do rely on us and the animals for anything that can’t be carried up by hand.
Do you have any advice for those interested in visiting Chantry Flat and the Adams Pack Station?
We’ve been very busy lately, so I’d recommend arriving as early as possible (6-7 AM) to ensure a parking spot in the Forest Service lot. Otherwise, you’ll need to pay $20 to park in the adjacent lot. Although we sell Adventure passes for parking, we always recommend you purchase a pass beforehand in the event we are closed or sold out. We are currently open Monday through Friday and are closed Saturday and Sunday, though we will open on weekends when the Forest Service reopens the trails for weekend recreation. The trails are pretty packed at the moment, so prepare for the large numbers of people you may encounter, and remember to bring a mask and physically distance yourself from others.
For more information about the pack station, visit http://adamspackstation.com/, or on Instagram @adamspackstation and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AdamsPackStation/