Meeting Eli – an honest friend

Monk, Little Girl and Eli Smith

Monk, Little Girl and Eli Smith

We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend. ~Robert Louis Stevenson
In April 2016, I was coming back from Los Angeles with the Mules, coming down San Emigdio Canyon at Wind Wolves Preserve in Bakersfield. I had hung my cartridge belt on the saddle horn. My cartridge belt carried my cell phone, camera, various devices and wallet. When I stopped to rest for the night and was unpacking the kids, I discovered that it was missing. It had come loose and fallen off.
I remembered where and when I stopped to take off my cartridge belt and hung it around the saddle horn, but I had no idea at which point it fell off. Did it get caught up in a tree branch or bush along the trail and fall off? For the next week, I walked back and forth along a 3-mile wide open stretch searching in San Emigdio Canyon along the creek trail and swept the tall grasses in the pasture to no avail and couldn’t find it. I notified the administrative office at Wind Wolves Preserve in case any hiker turned it in. I thought that I would never see it again.
Almost eleven months later, this past Monday evening, I received the following message from Eli Smith: “John, I was hiking at Wind Wolves Preserve and found something that belongs to you. Why don’t you message me and we can coordinate getting it back to you!”
This evening, Eli and his friends drove from Los Angeles to Bakersfield and very graciously returned everything to me. The Mules want to thank Eli for his honesty and taking the time to search for me and reconnect me with my belongings.
We appreciate all the good people we encounter in our ages old nomadic way of life. Each day we are reminded that we’re here: the outside, the web of life, the beautiful earth, a place like no other. We have come to this place, a place of golden sparkling light, a place for anybody and everybody. Give your faith, hope and energy to this place at which time you connect to it and receive the magic and endless possibility of infinity. As you walk in this place with these mules you spread the awareness that this beautiful earth, like no other, can only be protected by the way we live one day at a time.


Lady has retired – just Little Girl and the Monk now


Lady is too old now to haul a load all day so we left her with some great folks. It’s just Little Girl and the monk now. We’ll have another blog post or several coming soon sharing stories of our 31 years traveling with Lady.

16601772_1261637050595434_4043966866890003550_oThe photo above is Little Girl standing alone infused and enveloped by the energy of 3 Mules Nation, a nation of people following, watching, giving their hope, faith and energy to that nation. A Nation born from a history of hundreds of thousands of years. Human beings wandering and living with their animal companions with respect and reverence for each other and the planet earth from which their nation and themselves were born. A 3 Mules Nation of people (human beings) unwilling to accept and conform to the new paradigm of gadgetry and glitz (endless discovery) at the cost of that most sacred relationship immersed in the magic and wonder of human beings wandering their home earth.

~The Mules

The Mules had a scare on Friday; we are all okay

Snow on ground at over 6,000 feet elevation

Snow on ground at over 6,000 feet elevation

fullsizeoutput_596On Thursday morning, we packed up and left San Emigdio Canyon where we had spent the previous day. That night the temperature at 6,085 feet elevation was below freezing (in the low 20s or high teens with wind chill) – much colder than it was below the mouth of the canyon where we had been camped. Our intended destination was San Diego. The El Camino Viejo a Los Ángeles (Old Road to Los Angeles) is the route to get there by foot from Wind Wolves Preserve.
We traveled up the canyon for 2 hours 45 minutes, then reached the highway at Pine Mountain Club and proceeded east. We reached Frazier Park (elevation 4,542 ft) about 4:30pm. We had walked 6 hours that day with temperatures in the high 30s and decided to stop for the night and exercise our God given and legal right as well as anybody else’s whether traveling by horseback, bicycle or merely walking to use public space when in transit from one place to the next for the purpose of rest.
fullsizeoutput_589I unpacked the kids, put them on picket lines, made them comfortable, pitched my tent, ate some oatmeal, and went to sleep.
fullsizeoutput_590Upon awakening in the morning, I walked up the bank to check the kids and found Lady to be in distress. I maintained a watch for one hour and decided to get her to a vet.
I called the lady who voluntarily serves as the admin and informed her to the situation. Using the 3 Mules Facebook page, she contacted the many people who follow and offer their help and support to the Mules on their endless journey through the Megatropolis.
Scott, Gretchen and Tom

Scott, Gretchen and Tom

The help the Mules needed materialized in a very short time in the form of Scott Rogers, president of Backcountry Horsemen of California – Kern Sierra Unit, Gretchen and her boss Tom, who came with a horse trailer.
We loaded Lady and Little Girl into the trailer and went to Bakersfield Veterinary Large Animal Hospital where she was thoroughly checked and declared to be in excellent condition for her 38 years of age. (Vet thought that the freezing temperatures at high elevation may have caused her stress as her condition improved at 300 feet above sea level.)
fullsizeoutput_588fullsizeoutput_587The Mules are now at Scott Rogers ranch where they will stay a few days then return to Wind Wolves Preserve. The Mules can no longer expect Lady at her 38 years to serve the Mules as she has so admirably done for most of her life. She is nearing retirement. She has earned and deserves it.
The Mules say thank you to all those who have joined this new nation, a nation growing up within a nation, by giving their hope, faith and energy to this nation. Respect and reverence for this earth and all its inhabitants.
The Mules
At Bakersfield Veterinary Large Animal Hospital

At Bakersfield Veterinary Large Animal Hospital

Our camp at Scott's ranch

Our camp at Scott’s ranch


Happy Thanksgiving

The Mules give thanks on this Thanksgiving Day for this beautiful place called earth, the home of the human race. We give thanks to creation for all the animal companions who we enjoy and share this magical dance of energy and motion played out on the earthly stage. We give thanks for all the people we have met along the way and follow the 3 Mules page and peer through the window and watch and support the Mules on their endless journey using their God given right to move freely on earth. The Mules are all of us and we must be and remain free if we are to stay human.
Happy Thanksgiving.
The Mules


California’s Nomadic Shepherds

15145062_1821223961486878_714624876_o-1img_3689The other day as we were heading back to Wind Wolves after getting groceries and supplies in Bakersfield, the Wild West was materializing before our eyes with a large amount of sheep tracks and droppings left everywhere.
Curious about where these sheep came from and where they were going, we did a Google search on “Bakersfield sheep” and an interesting Los Angeles Times article returned called “End of a Tradition: Young Basque Shepherds No Longer Flock to Calif.” The article discusses the Basque immigrants who have been coming to California for over 100 years to herd sheep as few Americans want these jobs.
What caught our eye in this article the description of Aleman and his nomadic life as a shepherd in California.
“For 21 years Aleman has lived the lonely, nomadic life of a California shepherd. After the winter lambing, Aleman spends April and May in the Mojave Desert watching his flock during spring grazing. He spends his summers on the mile-high meadows of the Owens Valley on the slopes of the Sierra. In the fall, he returns to the Kern County foothills.”
“At one time, Aleman and the other shepherds lived in tents and followed their flocks’ peregrinations by foot over the century-old California Sheep Trail. It was one of the longest animal drives in the nation–400 miles over the Tehachapis to Mojave, up past Lone Pine and Bishop to the high mountain summer meadows of the Sierra and then back to Kern County.”
“We adapted to the loneliness of shepherding better than a lot of people because most of us are from very small villages with few neighbors. We grew up with the isolation.”
Maybe sometime in the future, the Mules will find and explore this 400-mile trail. Have any of our readers ever traveled the California Sheep Trail? If so, tell us about it.


The Mules and rams sharing premium shade at Wind Wolves Preserve on a hot 95F day in May 2016.

The Mules and rams sharing premium shade at Wind Wolves Preserve on a hot 95F day in May 2016.