Well, it was indeed an adventure and a grand one at that.
Unfortunately, my grand plan of typing up my blog entries every night in Notepad - or even live since we actually had wireless - ran into the harsh reality of total exhaustion every night except the first night.
Here is what I wrote the first night:
Thursday night, 10/18/2007
So here I sit, on the ground next to the tent, watching the mosquitoes fly in front of the computer screen. Bonnie Raitt sings in the background, sounding a bit tinny through my laptop speakers.
Yes, actually, I'm at a campground. AND! I've got power! Very cool. There is even wireless, but I can't access the network, yet - I suspect I need to pay a fee for it.
Wow. Big mosquito just buzzed my screen. Hang on.. time for repellant, be right back.
Okay. This this is pretty geeky. Oh, well.
The sky is beautiful, pinky, orangy clouds as the sun sets. Oak and Manzanita curling up around us into the sky, sweet, cool air to breathe.
And, yes, I miss my horse. However, unlike other times I've been away, at least I'll get a horse fix this time. Without accosting mounted police officers, anyway.
We made sure to stop by the barn and say good-bye, of course. My daughter will come up and ride her Sunday and a couple of our barn-mates are keeping an eye on her, so she won't feel too neglected. Lucky horse. :-)
More on our adventure tomorrow night - maybe even live, if I can get onto the Wireless. :-)
And that, folks, was as far as it went where documentation was concerned. I was lucky to stay awake through dinner most nights. :-)
It was awesome and we learned a lot. Like the fact that mules follow horses without having to have halters on them. (At least most of the time - unless you've captured them just to worm them and give them shots, then they might give you a little trouble for a second or two. Or 30. More on that later.) We also learned that there is a lot to learn and that common sense and communication go a long way when you're working together to tie weight on 1,200 pounds of muscle.
I have never pulled on so much rope in my life! Steve and I figure we loaded and tied the equivalent of a 5-day, 6-mule pack trip in two days. (30 loads, easy.) My hands, though not blistered much, were indeed feeling the strain. As were my shoulders, arms, back, and stomach muscles. Great workout, by the way. It made me very glad I'm in decent enough shape; it was hard work! But very satisfying, too. And really, the only way to learn the art of packing is to do it over and over again until it's second nature. We're hoping to set things up so we can practice at home, though I can't imagine Lena being nearly as cooperative as the two mules we worked with, Mabel and Four-by-Four, and suspect we'll have to rig ourselves a practice mule like we started with.
This is Mabel, she's 26 (-ish) and retired. She's a Percheron cross, so very tall and a bit challenging for those of us of the short persuasion when it comes to checking our knots. Luckily, she is also very patient with folks tying loads to her.
This is Four-by-Four (4x4) and I am not sure how old he is. He is a quarter-horse cross, so a "small" mule compared to Mabel.
On the last day, we also worked with Steve Ybarra's horse, Peanut, a cutting-horse bred gelding who is actually distantly related to Lena. We rode him and led 4x4 through an obstacle course. He did a great job of showing us how to deal with mules and various obstacles.
It was a great trip and my first real exposure to mules. They are pretty cool animals and fun to work with. I'll be setting up an online gallery of more pictures of knots, loads, and mules shortly.
Lena was mostly glad to see us, and really glad to get out on the trail today with Doc. It was absolutely gorgeous here and she was on remarkably good behavior.
All in all, a great experience that I would recommend to anyone seriously considering wandering into the back country with horses. It's an eye-opener about what you really need to do to safely get to some of the most beautiful places in this country and not end up hiking out chasing your stock.