Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Granny’s Adventure Continues...

by Anna Arnold, Romoland, Calif. 
photos courtesy of Kelley Jo Locke
November was a very busy one for me…not that I can’t find anything to do, I am always ready for a call saying let’s go, or do something. I get my neighbor, Maggie to feed the animals and take my dog to my daughters. I don’t have to pack, as I usually have it ready to go; grab a coat and let’s go…and that is just what I did.
I had gone to lunch with a client and friend of my daughter’s and mine, Jeanette Batton. She was talking about going to the Indian National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, NV in a few days and mentioned her friend was unable to go and would either of us like to go with her. She had tickets and rooms at South Point where the rodeo would be held. Well, yes, of course I wanted to go. So plans were made, and after a few stops to pick up some adult beverages and snacks, we were on our way. Jeanette is great to travel with, as she is an ex-highway patrol gal and knows her ins and outs on the highway. We arrived and went to watch the show; this was a wonderful rodeo, with members of many tribes from the U.S. and Canada competing in all the regular events.
Along with the rodeo there was a trade show. Many tribes brought authentic rugs, clothing and jewelry for sale. I had gotten an old Choctaw necklace years ago and was told it had been made by an Indian woman in Oklahoma. Well, being part Choctaw, I bought it. Now I brought it with me and asked some of the beaders to take a look at it. They were so careful with it and said, “Yes, it was old and very well made, you must be very proud of it.” And believe me, I am. I had to buy a beautiful little string of beads to go with it. So, now I will be wearing my beads, along with my pretties Danny has given me. I am a lucky lady.
After the rodeo we returned home. I then began to get pictures and stories from Danny Locke, Firebaugh, Calif. and his daughter Kelley Jo Locke of Fresno, CA. They planned a ride down the Grand Canyon some time ago and had asked me to go along. Well, I only have a four hour butt and knew I couldn’t make the six plus hour jarring ride down the canyon, sleep and ride out the next day. So, I wished them well and asked them to send me pictures. The following is my conversation with Kelley Jo:

How did you decide to go on this trip? 
Dad’s 80th birthday was coming up and I was trying to think of a gift for him. I thought of the Grand Canyon, as I never know when they will stop allowing mules to go down, and we could never make it down and back on our own two legs! I wanted his 80th year to be something special, and this trip was!

How long in advance did you have to make plans?
I called last November 1, one year in advance. I wanted to go in the spring, but you had to call on the first of the month that you wanted to go, so I missed that opportunity.

Was there a weight limit for riders? 200 pounds.

How long was the ride down and back?
I took five to six hour, depending on the group you were with, and how many stops they needed, i.e., dropping things on the trail, taking coats off or on, and so on. There are a couple of bathroom breaks, but none of us needed them, other than the lunch break at Indian Gardens, half way down.

Where did you sleep?
The night before the trip, we slept in the Thunderbird Lodge, then we slept in a cabin in the Canyon at Phantom Ranch, the following night we stayed at the Maswik Lodge.

What did you do for meals? 
We had very little on the way there; Dad was trying to make the 200 pound weight limit, and he had several pounds to go! We had grilled veggies and fruit and yogurt. On the mule ride they supplied a box lunch, turkey sandwich, fruit and trail mix. Once at Phantom Ranch, they cooked us a great family-style steak dinner. After the ride, we ate at El Tovar, a fantastic restaurant.

How did you decide what mule you were going to ride?
Our mules were assigned to us. When the mules were brought in, they kept yelling at one mule, Cuco, so it was Cuco this and Cuco that! I was thinking, I don’t want Cuco, but guess who I got! She ended up being perfect for me. Dad got Bert.

Why did you have to face the drop-off side?
As most people know, mules have great survival instincts. If spooked, they will not jump off the cliff. It also allowed the hikers to walk behind us. If they faced the wall and spooked, they could take a deadly step back, or they could kick a passerby and knock them off the trail.

What was your experience like?
Exciting, terrifying and humbling. Oh, and exhausting! But worth it…definitely a trip of a lifetime.

Would you do it again? 
Dad can’t wait to go again. I am happy with my experience and would like to take the rim ride next time. I would like to spend more time at the top. I didn’t get to see everything.

What about the other people on the ride?
Well, they were all great sports, even though they were first timers on mules. We made long time friendships with two ladies from Australia.
On the way home Danny and Kelley Jo took a side trip to Boron in the Mojave Desert. The mine is still in operation and I’ve written about the mine’s history and the mule teams there in other articles. There is a nice museum to visit if you’re even in the area.

When they returned home, Danny had to get his mule ready for the ranch sorting and trail trials being held at the Slender Ranch in Sanger, Calif. I told him I would meet him there, and was once again on the road. I drove six hours to the Slender Ranch. I got there a little early and Tucker was going out to chase cattle, so I rode along. And guess who I rode? Yep, the famous Donk-a-Lena, Hall of Fame Champion. We rode around their beautiful place after I got the OK from Mary Lou to ride her mule. Like me, she is very picky about who rides their mules! Thank you for such a sweet ride. Tucker did some trick riding on his famous race mule, ShuFly, but nothing was hurt and we went on.
The event was well attended. Some of our mule buddies showed up…Jason Smith and family, along with Jennifer Jones-Lauzon and daughter, Payton. Mary Lou also lets Payton ride her mule, and she rode her in several events. Later, Payton took her saddle off and was playing games with other youngsters.
By this point, Danny was a pretty tired man; I would be too. Riding the Grand Canyon, and then the sorting and trail event takes a toll. The Slender family invited us to the house for supper and a little get together before the show. Danny had team roped in his younger years, and all kinds of stories were told.
We stayed over until Sunday, as the show was late getting over and the morning fog was heavy. Danny went back to Firebaugh, and I traveled to Winchester. Now it’s Thanksgiving and we were both about traveled out, so we stayed home and enjoyed our families.
Another hit over the holidays was that of my handyman, Scott Johnston who suffered a stroke Thanksgiving Day. Thanks to his son’s fast recognition of what was happening, he got Scott to the hospital quickly, and it was caught in time. He is home now recovering. I sure do miss his company and help.
Speaking of recovering, our friend Sandy Powell, a photographer in our area, was injured in a wagon accident earlier this year. She was thrown out of a wagon, run over and dragged quite a ways.  Somehow, through all of this, she’s kept a great sense of humor. After the wreck Sandy was strapped to a backboard for hours and had a huge pain in her tush the entire time. The ambulance ride took hours, then the emergency room visit took even longer. After seven to eight hours, when she was finally able to get up and move a bit, a huge rock came out from underneath her; the rest of the gravel in her pants came out also. What a relief for her!
Our good friend, Porch Pig Patty Rustin Christen is having some of her own problems with her dad, Harry Kim. He’s been laid up after surgery and then Patty had to put down her trusty sidekick, Hank while she was taking care of her dad. My gosh, these girls are tough.
Lots of good rides are coming up out our way. March brings up the Palm Springs Guest Ride the last weekend in March, then the wonderful desert ride at the Boyd Ranch, out of Wickenburg, Ariz, Mule Madness is the middle of March, and their ad is in this month’s Mules and More. And somewhere along the way will be an 80th birthday ride for an ole mule lady.
I want to wish all you readers and mule lovers a wonderful New Year. God got us through 2017 with a lot of ups and downs. Make the best of each day, and remember to be kind and tell your loved ones how you feel. Time slips by quickly!

Look for me on the trail or at a mule gathering. I’m the Granny wearing a big hat, cool boots and riding a fine mule.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Mules and More’s 8th Annual Trail Riding Guide

We are working on our 8th annual trail riding guide for the April 2018 issue of Mules and More. Do you have a favorite place to trail ride, a destination trip or local trip, that you would like to see featured? Send your story and photos to us! Email or mail to PO Box 460, Bland MO 65014. If you email photos, be sure to send them in their original file size and format, and at least 300 dpi. The deadline is March 1. Also - the last several years we have chosen our April cover from submissions to the trail guide. So this might be your chance to be on the cover of Mules and More!


Do you own a campground, trail ride or overnight campground? Let us help you start the season out on the right foot, by getting your business in front of the eyes of thousands of mule owners! Contact us for information on how to advertise in the Trail Riding Issue, which comes with a complimentary spot in our online Trail Riding Guide. This year’s deadline is March 1. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Finding the Right ‘Tool’

by Lori Darlington
In September 2017 I took my Morgan mule to a mulemanship clinic in Clare, Mich., hosted by TS Mules (Ty and Skye Evans). I was having trouble with her and everyone was talking about the ‘tools’ this guy has to work with mules. I was excited and scared at the same time; excited to gain knowledge, but scared because my little mule has a range of problems. It turns out she only had one problem, an owner who did not get her requests for security and direction.
If you can imagine everything that can go wrong at a clinic, it did the first day. As I was walking my mule Roseannah out of the barn wind caught a 10’ by 10’ white canopy and blew over us like a big kite. This set Roseannah’s frame of mind for the next two days.
The first day she bolted and bucked at everything. For example, an audience member stood up from her chair and sent ‘Zannah into a bolting tornado; this was kind of how the entire day went. Ty kept instructing me to “get to her feet,” and tried to give me the directions on how to do this. “Her attention is not on you,” Ty said.
When the clinic was over I drove home bawling my eyes out. “To what extreme do I have to go to make my directions mean something to my mule while she is in this frame of mind?” I thought. “How do I get her attention on me? What the heck is ‘get to her feet’ and what does that mean?” I didn’t need clichés, I needed answers.
The next day was even worse than the first, with freezing temperatures, 20-30 mph wind gusts and pelting rain. Before the class I was ready to give up. Zannah was just beside herself with fear. I’ve never seen her like that. I spoke with Ty a moment about not completing the clinic…trying to come up with all kinds of excuses. I don’t really recall his exact words, but it was something like, “If you don’t want to learn to help your mule, you can quit.”
“How can he say that?” I thought. “How can he possibly think I don’t want to help my beloved mule? He doesn’t know anything about us!”
My friend Charlie just happened to show up that day to watch. Charlie spoke with Ty a little about the situation, and turned to me and basically told me to saddle up and get my butt out there (in a nice way, of course). It reminded me of a John Wayne quote, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” I didn’t want to seem like I wasn’t courageous, especially in front of my friend Charlie, who is the most courageous man I know. So, I saddled up and went out.

Lori and Roseannah’s first TS Mules Mulemanship Clinic

It was so miserable, at one point I thought I was going to pass out. Roseannah was the queen of wild bolting. I actually dismounted for a couple of minutes to catch my breath, only to get back on a cold, wet saddle. My butt was now soaked and cold. But, Ty hung in there, so I did, too.
I felt like I was just trying to survive. I wasn’t even able to listen to the class. I felt abandoned, ignored, and sad (pathetic really). I was very sad for my mule, who I love so much, and was just beside herself with fear.
As the day ended, we were walking out the gate when my little darling took a double barrel shot at Ty with both hind feet! Oh, I thought it surely couldn’t get any worse. Ty dismounted and dealt with the situation swiftly. I thought he is really going to hate us now (that probably couldn’t have been further from the truth). But, this instantly fixed the gate issue she was having. Ty kept saying, “She feels the need to protect herself because she doesn’t have a strong leader.” Once again I thought, great, what does that mean? And, how can I fix this? I can’t seem to “get to her feet” (whatever that means) when they are stuck to the ground, ready to bolt any second.
Ty kept telling me to keep her nose tipped into the class, keep her focus on what we were doing. At first I didn’t think this was a big deal. Zannah’s attention was on everything within a mile radius, she wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to bolt. She spent the entire time looking everywhere but at the task at hand. So, I paused for a moment and put a lot of thought into this. Could this small, subtle thing be a custom ‘tool’ just for my mule?
On day three, the clouds parted and it was truly amazing. Turns out Ty actually did know more about my mule than I did (who I have owned her entire life). Perhaps he had us sized up the moment we got off the trailer? How did he do that?
Every time she looked out into the distance for Godzilla, I gently tipped her nose back into the class. As I did this I kept a handle on my patience by repeating to her, “It’s OK Zannah,” or “I got your back Zannah.” This helped me to convey my intentions to her. I had to tip her nose back to the class over and over, about 30 times a minute. It took a great deal of patience and calmness. I knew if I lost my patience with her I could permanently defeat us both, and she would lose what little faith I could build with her at this point.
Then, after about 1,000 times of this, I suddenly felt her jaw start to soften and become quiet…then I saw her eyes start to soften. Trying to contain my excitement I thought, “I can build on this.” Next, her neck softened, and her head came down a little. Then her shoulders and back softened...followed by feet! I thought, “Oh, the way to her feet was through her nose!” Ty was telling me how to fix my problem the whole time. Something so subtle was so important to my insecure mule. How did he see this? I was trying to fix the symptoms. Ty was trying to point me to the cause. I’m so glad it finally dawned on me. Overnight my fearful mule became a more trusting individual. It was so outstanding that a couple of people in the audience were teary-eyed as we walked by them, relaxed and on a loose rein. It was hard to hide my own tears, as well, but I didn’t want Ty to see me be emotional. This will change my little mule’s life forever.
This ‘tool’ that everyone talks about is not a cliché. It’s very real! Although I think it can be difficult to see something, it’s an understanding of the most subtle cues and the ability to get to the foundation of the problem. I think this is Ty’s and Skye’s super power. They know mules and it’s like they can see into their souls. It was on me to listen to what Ty kept trying to tell me. It took me two days to realize he was trying to direct me to this tool the entire time.
I can apply this tool to all my equines. That one day was worth all the trouble I went through to get there. So, I just wanted to say to anyone who might feel defeated, keep trying to find the ‘tool’. I’m pretty sure Ty will root out what your mule needs. If he could see it with us, he can see it with anyone.

God bless Ty and Skye for putting up with humans like me, which includes late night texts from a defeated (and whiney) woman who was just not getting it.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Missouri Mule Days

by Sue Cole, Editor
In June this year Missouri Mule Days, Inc. was formed consisting of the following Board of Directors: President – Rob Tucker, Owensville, MO; VP – Cindy K. Roberts, Chesterfield, MO and Directors – Becky Tucker, Owensville and Teresa Mayberry. This hard-working, energetic group did a great job of putting together their first, of what they hope will be many Missouri Mule Days.
This year’s event was held at the Golden Hills Trail Rides site just outside the small town of Raymondville, MO. The facility provided everything a vendor, clinician or spectator would need for spending September 21-24 in the beautiful Ozark countryside. In order to help support a newly formed event of this type, I agreed to set up a booth. Not having the necessary accommodations for camping out for three nights I was very pleased to learn there was a 30 unit motel on the grounds and that for a very nominal fee, breakfast and the evening meal would be served in the trail ride dining hall.
For those with the ever popular mule trailer with living accommodations there were a large number of campsites with electricity and water-hookups, for a slight fee.
The group invited people involved in the mule industry living in Missouri.
The program began at 2 pm Thursday with Dave Recker of Columbia giving a clinic on Teaching your Mule to Lay Down, this was followed by Cindy Roberts, one of the founders of Mule Days, giving a presentation on How to Buy a Mule.
Friday’s schedule included Problem Solving & Mulemanship by mule trainer Loren Basham of Pair-A-Dice Mules from Belle; Recker once again was in the arena with his presentation. Saddlemaker Len Brown of Oak Grove, talked to a group on Correcting Saddle Issues, ending the clinic sessions; Basham gave another clinic. Throughout the day, those present could visit with Equine Dentists Brianna DeMoss of Bland, along with her mentor and his fiance Darrel  Wellen and Sarah Milligam of Illinois.
Friday and Saturday evenings found groups sitting around their camps visiting with old friends and getting acquainted with new mule people.
Saturday morning, Basham gathered together a group on mule back to get a little experience on Cow Working, followed by demonstrations from Recker, Brown and Roberts. All three days found Steve Dawson taking groups of riders to view the scenic trails, riding to a near-by cave and crossing a clear Ozark stream, Big Creek.
Evening entertainment also consisted of a Mule Trail Challenge. Women’s division was won by the very experienced mule lady Kelli K. Livengood of Bolkow. MO riding Copyright’s Chantilly Lace; 2nd Kim C. Noyes, Leslie, MO riding Otis   and 3rd Brianna DeMoss on Bonnie. Men’s division winners were 1st Sam Shetler, Boonville, riding Socks, 2nd Loren Basham riding Dixie Bell and 3rd Richard Carmack, Glasgow, MO on Babe. 
Nashville recording artist Jesse James was in concert two nights and several riders participated in a Mule Ranch Sorting.

There were several vendors located on the grounds, giving those attending an opportunity to shop for mule-related items, while enjoying an hour, a day or a weekend in the Ozarks. Plans will be announced soon for the dates and location for Missouri Mule Days 2018.
Alison Daniels riding "Smalls"

Camri Jones riding "Dixie Bell"

Participants in the cow working clinic move cattle in the arean

Shawn Beck on the trails - photo by Kelli LIvengood

Steve Dawson - photo by Kelli LIvengood

photo by Shawn Beck

Branding a mule owened by Cindy Roberts

February 2018 Jack Issue Details

The deadline for advertising for the February 2018 Jack Issue of Mules and More magazine is Tuesday, January 2.

This year, all color jack ads placed in the February issue will receive a complimentary banner ad (730 x 90 pixels) or box ad (250 x 250 pixels) to appear on our website for three months for no extra charge. Both the display ads and the website ads can either be set up in house or done your graphics designer. The website ads will feature a link to your website or email address.

To reserve your spot, email or call (573)646-3934. Find ad rates here:

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Cousins, Sisters & “Best Friends”

Riding the Gila Wilderness
by Audrey Stogsdill Beggs
R-A Mule Ranch, Sims, Arkansas

Our DNA says we are first cousins, but our hearts say we are closer than sisters and the best of friends. Our dads were brothers, Claude and Clyde Stogsdill; her name is Claudia Stogsdill Sharp. We are neither one considered “a spring chicken” and one of us is already on Medicare. We not only share DNA, but we share a love of riding and a sense of adventure. So, that is how we decided on an all-girl/ride pack trip at Gila Hot Springs Ranch located in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico.

Becky on Dashee with pack mules Star and Molly

This all started when my husband, Rickey and I drove to Cliff, NM last July and bought a wagon advertised in Mules and More by Russell Dobkins. I wrote a story about that trip (see “He Wanted a Red Wagon for His Birthday,” in the October 2016 Mules and More). 
Returning home I was telling our farrier Travis Coffman,about the trip and he asked if we went to Gila Hot Springs. When I told him we didn’t go that far north, he then told me about an outfitter there, Becky Campbell. Later I “Googled” Becky and found she had an outfitter company for hunters, but also took out riders furnishing Tennessee Walkers, and packed mules into the Gila Wilderness.
The Gila Wilderness is 558,014 acres of unspoiled land, with deep canyons, rugged mountain peaks, hot springs and a thick forest. This remote part of southwestern New Mexico became the first designated wilderness area in the United States. The Gila Wilderness lies in what is known as a transition zone, between desert and alpine forest; all of this makes the Gila very unique, offering a wide variety of life forms and magnificent scenery.

Sierra on Rebel with Pardner crossing the East Fork of the Gila River

After doing the research I sent Claudia an email and asked, “Is this something you would consider doing?” I sent the link to the website and our plans began to take form. Claudia and I had drifted apart since we were kids, but reconnected about three years ago when she had a cousin’s get together when she lived in St. Charles, Mo. I attended the get together and we have seen each other a lot, and talked at least once a week since then. She has been to our little mule ranch, and rode our mules twice in the last three years. She loves to ride, so naturally we had a lot to talk about. Claudia is retired but volunteers at an Horses for Heros facility that has therapeutic horseback riding for veterans and children with special needs. She doesn’t own equine and she says this scratches her itch to be around horses.

Audrey on Slim and Claudia on Mindy

I made reservations to fly, meeting up in the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport. From there we flew to Albuquerque and rented a car. We spent the first night in Old Town. We had planned on a sunset ride on the Sandia Tram, but it was cloudy and we were exhausted after our long trip, so we stopped at the little restaurant below the tram for a drink and snacks. We decided to go ahead and do the tram since it was too early to check into the motel. We boarded the tram with about 30 others; the ride up was a lot of fun. We got off at the top and walked around looking at the surroundings. We were at 10,000+ feet elevation and the air was pretty thin. After our long day, with very little sleep, and our drink, we were feeling the effects of it all. We had the chance to take the first tram back down, but decided to wait for another. That was not the best decision as after boarding the tram, and we were about halfway down, the wind came up with a vengeance. The tram was swinging and swaying so they had to stop the tram about halfway down the mountain; wind gusts were in excess of 80 mph, and this was not the most pleasant place to be. They let us hang over the mountains at least 30 minutes before we could get to the landing. There were at least five little ones, under five years old, and they were not happy. One gal just sat and looked at the floor and cried…I felt like joining her before we got down! Finally they got the tram moving; it was quite the experience and not one we plan to do again. It was a memory for a lifetime!

“Our Holiday Inn in the Gila Wilderness where Claudia and I slept. Spud and Pardner are beat after a long day of riding in the Gila Wilderness,” said AUDREY

We were up early the next morning and drove the old Route 66 through Albuquerque. They are restoring the old area and it will be magnificent when finished. We left Albuquerque, drove to Socorro and thru the mountains on the western side of New Mexico, the same route Rickey and I had taken to get the wagon at Cliff. I wanted to show Claudia the mountains, and stopped to say “hi” to Russell Dobkins, having a great visit with him and his wife, Ada.
We left their place and headed to the Gila Hot Springs Ranch, hoping to get there before dark. We decided we had enough gas in our Nissan Versa to make it to Silver City, not knowing there were some pretty big mountains to cross to get there. I was driving, and all of a sudden I see a flashing light on the steering wheel that said 40 miles to empty…this was an “Oh Crap” moment. We had just passed a sign that read, Silver City 29 miles. When I panicked Claudia looked at the gas gauge and said not to worry we still had two bars on the gauge, explaining as long as you have a bar there is nothing to worry about. When it went to one bar I started worrying, then there were no bars and I was really worrying. Then the miles reading went to a straight line. We turn off the a/c and Claudia said to just coast when we go downhill. I told her we had to go UP hill to be able to coast. I told her now was the time to pray. Of course, we had no cell phone signal, and there was not a house, a cow, horse, or mule to be seen. We did make it to Silber City, but I swear we got there on a prayer and gas fumes. From then on when the gas gauge showed half empty we filled it.

Becky with nieces Sierra and Christy getting ready for the trip

We arrived at Becky’s about 7 pm, after 40 miles of narrow road that had many switchbacks and at times it felt like you were going right off of the road into the canyon. Claudia is afraid of heights and was white knuckling it all the way. We spent that night in the apartment at Becky’s and she informed us where to meet her the next morning to get our horses for the trip.
When we got to the trail head Becky, her brother Angus, and a niece Christy, plus Christy’s three children, Sierra, Cayden and Lanie were all helping get the horses and mules ready for the trip. It was a family effort. Claudia and I put our stuff on a table to be loaded into the panniers and we just stood back to watch and take pictures. Fifteen year old Sierra went with us on the ride; Claudia and I were impressed with the teamwork everyone displayed.
It turned out to be Becky, Sierra, me and Claudia on the ride. We all rode Tennessee Walkers, and Becky had two pack mules, Molly and Star loaded with all the supplies. I had not ridden a horse (only mules) since 1990. Becky put me on a 7-year-old by the name of Slim, and Claudia rode Mindy, a mare. Sierra and Becky rode Rebel and Dashee (named after Cowboy Dashee in the Tony Hillerman books. We were accompanied by Ginger, an Australian shepherd, Pardner, a Great Pyrenees and Spud, a precious mixed breed. Spud had a horrible cut around his neck where he had supposedly got into a fight with a pit bull. It did not look like a dogfight, but like someone had taken a knife or box cutter and tried to decapitate him. He had about 60 stitches in his neck, but he was a fun dog, and even though he had some age on him he loved the ride.
Not long after we left camp and headed up the mountain, Becky turned around and told us to look down at the trail. There were mountain lion tracks on the same trail, going the same way we were going. They were not real fresh, but it was still a little unnerving way to start our three day ride. All we saw were tracks, never any real mountain lions.
The first day we rode about 14 miles into the Gila Wilderness. Becky has 25 acres and a cabin she has had for many years. Her dad came to this area in 1929, when he was 16 years old. He started the outfitting company in 1940 and it is still run by his children. Her cabin is in the East Fork Canyon  of the Gila Wilderness. She took her first outfitters out at the age of 15, and is still going strong. Her dad’s store, Doc Campbell’s at Gila Hot Springs is still open and ran by family members.
We had beautiful and awesome scenery on the trails. Claudia said later she thought we cross the Gila River at least 150 times in three days; I’m not sure how many times we crossed it, but we did so many times a day. The dogs loved the water and would be waiting on us when we got to the river.

Audrey with Slim

We had wonderful lunches prepared by Becky and Sierra for the trail, and would stop and sit for a while at a beautiful spot Becky selected. This was a time to take pictures and see the beautiful scenery. We arrived at the cabin about mid-afternoon on Monday. We helped Sierra set up the tent and get stuff unloaded off of the mules. Becky’s water supply is a pitcher pump and it had to have some work done before we could get water. It gave us a chance to have a glass of wine and help with what we could to prepare dinner. There was a propane refrigerator and propane cooktop. Later that night Pardner, the young dog started barking. Claudia worried that we had chocolate energy bars in our bags and that was a sure sign of having bear bait in the tent. I assured her that it was just the young dog, and if there was a bear there, all three of them would be barking. The older dogs never barked so I wasn’t very concerned. Spud slept right next to the tent on my side and I could hear him moving in the leaves during the night, so I felt pretty safe.

Claudia with Mindy

We were amazed that Becky took the halters off the horses and mules and turned them loose into the 100 acres; it is totally fenced, in the middle of the Gila Wilderness. She put cowbells on one of the horses and one of the mules, and off they went. Claudia said she sure hoped they came back the next morning, as we had two more days of riding. The next morning they were there for their feed.
As were just riding the canyon on Tuesday, Becky didn’t take the mules, we left them on a tie line. We rode about four hours and crossed the Gila River at least 20 times. We had lunch at an old dwelling that looked like something the Pueblo Indians had built. We felt some spring water coming out of a mountain, and it was very hot. We saw beautiful wild flowers and native plants to the area. We had dark clouds that morning when we left camp and by the time we returned we had encountered very high winds and sleet, which didn’t last long.
Claudia and I had a glass of wine and it didn’t take any time to get to sleep that night. The moon was full, but we were too exhausted to stay up and enjoy it.
As we were unsaddling a lady came by on a mustang and three pack mules, plus a young black and tan hound. She was repairing fence for a guy that owned the neighboring cabin that had belonged to Becky’s brother. This was quite unsettling to Becky’s horses and mules. The next morning Becky had to put on her boots and go after her stock; they were not happy that we had the company within our little area. The horses, especially Slim, was not a happy camper. Becky rode over to the lady’s camp and asked her to come get her horse and mules. She had been using a chainsaw and it was a little unnerving, not only to me, but to the horses. After she got her horse and mule, our bunch started settling down. While Becky and Sierra saddled the horses and loaded the packs on the mules, Claudia and I put the bear boards on the windows and cleaned the cabin.
One of the neighbor’s mules stayed behind and followed us all the way out of the camp, until we got past the gate and into the wilderness area. He was braying the strangest bray the entire time and wanted to go with us. We were very glad to get out into the wilderness area and get started back to base camp. I know I had a sigh of great relief to be away from the strange animals. I was ready to lead Slim and cross the Gila River. I told Slim it was not only unsettling to him, but to his rider also!
We took a shorter way back to camp, down a very steep mountain with lots of switchbacks. Claudia didn’t know what a switchback was, but I assure you she does now. As I stated earlier, she doesn’t like heights, so I told her to just look at the trail in front of her horse, to not look to the side, or in front. When we got to the bottom I would say she didn’t just have sweaty palms; her palms were dripping with water; but she was a trouper and she did it. We didn’t have sleet this day, but it did rain just before we got down the mountains. We didn’t worry about putting our slickers on, as we had been in these clothes for three days, and it wasn’t going to hurt us to get wet. All we needed was a bar of soap to go with the rain shower.
This was an awesome trip and we had such a wonderful time. We are already making plans to go back next May. Becky hopes to retire soon, but has assured us she will be there next May to take us on another wild adventure into the Gila Wilderness.
Life is a journey…enjoy the ride!