Mule Tails and Trails
by Angie J. Mayfield, Loogootee, Ind.
A group of mule riders Angie guided to Whiskey Cave
Recently, I had the pleasure of helping organize the largest gathering of saddle mules east of the Mississippi, if not anywhere, and we’re still telling stories and sifting through pictures of an amazing week at McAllister and Friends’ Shawnee Mule Ride in southern Illinois. From April 15-24, more than 300 mules and riders from 24 states, plus New Zealand, Canada, and Switzerland, visited High Knob Campground to trail ride and explore the 280,000 acres of Shawnee National Forest. Some stayed a few days and some stayed the entire event, but all left as friends for life and admirers of our scenic piece of paradise here in the Midwest.
Anthony McAllister riding under Jackson Falls at Shawnee
Tucker's mule Booger helps Florence Brimstein of Ohio with a trail map
Bill Meyer of Tennessee jumps off a rock at Shawnee. His mule, Waylon, won second place for Best Trail Mule at the Shawnee Mule Ride
Loree Brown of Michigan
Of course, even with all of the fun activities, the best part of the week was meeting new mule people, including Mule Girls I’d talked to for years on Facebook, but never met in person, and also seeing the excitement of first-time visitors after experiencing the phenomenal trail riding at Shawnee. Florence Brimstein of Chillicothe, Ohio, described Shawnee as “Hocking Hills on steroids.” Although some riders explored the trails on their own, others took advantage of the many organized rides scheduled each day for various landmarks, such as Garden of the Gods, Hurricane Bluffs and Initial Tree, Rice Hollow and Whiskey Cave, Dead Man’s Canyon, and others. Guides included myself, the McAllisters, Kathy Lawless, Rich Cooper, Tony Lusch, Ross Bird, Bill Meyer, and Wayne Moore. On the last Saturday, many of us left camp early to venture over to the western side of Shawnee to the Jackson Falls area. Rodney Ellis, who has trail ridden in some of the most remote and beautiful areas out West said that his Shawnee experience was “the ride of his lifetime.”
There are so many to thank and so many memories to cherish from the 2016 McAllister and Friends Shawnee Mule Ride. Make plans to come next year. Check out the High Knob campground website or McAllister and Friends Shawnee Mule Ride on Facebook. We’d love to meet you and your mule.
Ival McDermott of New Jersey and Caroline take a selfie
ANGIE and Sonny
Anthony MCAllister's grand-daughters, Jesselynn and Scarlett, fighting over Tucker at the dance. Scarlett was not at all happy about sharing her man with her sister