"Fly fishing is my passion, hunting is my weakness, and mules are a perplexing addiction."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


There is something about the wind that puts me in a funk, especially when it blows out of the north.  I can’t put my finger on it and I really don’t know why, but it’s a combination of depression, laziness, lack of energy, and the feeling of looking at my give-a-shit-o-meter and seeing it pegged at O.

This morning I shuffled out to feed the critters in my Uggs and jammies.  Silently cursing the wind, I stacked oat hay in the wheelbarrow and lethargically made my way out to the pasture, tossed the flakes in separate piles, and turned all the stock out to eat.  Knowing it had to get done, I reluctantly grabbed the manure rake and started cleaning pens when suddenly I noticed I had two visitors; Abby and Emma, two of my mules.

Normally when feed is available, my stock considers me invisible and pretty much nonexistent, but not this morning.  Emma gently placed her 200 pound anvil head on my shoulder and gave a sigh, while Abby stood next to me on the opposite side and just silently stared.  They were in a funk as well, and as they bid me ado and began walking aimlessly around out in the pasture searching for something unseen they were then joined by Zane, my third mule; all three wandering about, muzzles to the ground, searching.  They too, were in a funk, and suddenly it hit me; I knew why.

This past week I had the pleasure of joining with a group of fellow Backcountry Horsemen members and dedicated forest service workers (yes, there are still some out there) on a work party in the Sierras clearing trails in the Golden Trout Wilderness of an estimated 180 to 200 deadfall trees with crosscut saws.  Nearly all of these fallen trees were the result of the devastating McNally Fire in 2002.  Twelve years after that fire the charred remains of millions of trees are now falling with predictable regularity.  We heard at very least, a dozen or more crash while in camp at Jordon Hot Springs, and many others throughout each day as we worked.  One trail, the Red Rock Trail from Jordon up to Red Rock is virtually gone; over grown now with buck brush, manzanita, and the maze of fallen trees much like toothpicks tossed from above.

The good part is that we able to clear trail the nine miles from Blackrock Trailhead down through Jordon Hot Springs and down to Painter’s Cabin on the Kern River.  The more disappointing aspect was that we were only able to clear about 1.5 miles of the 41/2 miles of trail up to Indian Head and Red Rock.
All in all it was a great few days working with terrific people who are dedicated to keeping these trails open and passable.  The food was great and the camaraderie even better.  While it was in the low twenties at night, the days were cool enough to make it pleasant to push saw all day.  All twenty-plus head of stock, (mostly mules) were in absolute heaven grazing in the lush, green meadows at Jordon.

For some of us there is something about the high country that silently calls to us.  It’s like a beautiful, sultry siren with outstretched palms, curling its fingers, beckoning us to come to her; and we do, as often as we can.  And while we can’t wait to get to the mountains and be in the midst of some of God’s greatest creations, believe it or not, the mules do too.

So therein lies the mystery of the funk I find myself in; the same funk my mules are suffering from.  We miss the mountains and can’t wait to get back!