California’s Nomadic Shepherds

The 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.

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