Oceanside / Mission San Luis Rey

Where we slept last night in Oceanside across from Mission San Luis Rey. Once again the Mules and this ages old nomadic way of life, which we practice with reverence and respect for Earth and all its inhabitants, will use the public thoroughfare to continue our journey moving freely in one of all four directions, how we choose, when we choose. The United States constitution, the supreme law of the land, guarantees every citizen within its borders, this essential and basic right to freedom of movement which the Mules stamp in and stamp down all day, every day for all to see, appreciate, and ultimately understand. The Mules are all of us.
 
The Mules

Mission San Luis Rey History [Source: www.sanluisrey.org]
Founded in 1798 by Padre Fermín Francisco de Lasuén, successor to Padre Junipero Serra, Mission San Luis Rey was named after St. Louis IX, King of France, who lived during the 13th century. Prior to Spanish occupation, the Luiseño Indians inhabited this area for hundreds of years. The Cemetery has been in continuous use since the founding of the Mission in 1798 and continues to be the oldest buried ground in North San Diego County still in operation. The Mission Church has been there since 1815.

From 1847-1857 the Mission was used as an operational base by United States soldiers. Notable figures that served at the Mission include General Stephen W. Kearny, Kit Carson and the Battalion of Mormon Volunteers. In 1850 California became part of the United States, and the Catholic Bishop in California petitioned the U.S. government for the return of the missions. In 1865 Mission San Luis Rey was returned to the Catholic Church by Abraham Lincoln.

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

Snow on ground at over 6000′ elevation

On 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.

I unpacked the kids, put them on picket lines, made them comfortable, pitched my tent, ate some oatmeal, and went to sleep.

Upon 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 3Mules.com 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.

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.)

Our camp at Scott’s ranch

The 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

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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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The Mules varied greetings received by city, county and state officials and officers in Ventura County

While our January 13th blog post told about our two separate police encounters in Simi Valley in Ventura County, this blog post will cover the varied greetings that we received from city, county and state employees and officers as we traveled through the Ventura County cities of Camarillo, Ventura and Ojai.

City of Camarillo
On January 21, 2016, we arrived in Camarillo. The City of Camarillo’s city emblem on all the street signs throughout the city and on the sign in front of city hall is of a man on a horse –the city’s namesake, Adolfo Camarillo, on his Camarillo White Horse that his family bred from the 1920s through the 1980s.

We first stopped by the City of Camarillo Library to charge our phone. As we were sitting outside the library, the librarian came out, introduced herself and presented me with this t-shirt and book “Farm City” by Novella Carpenter on inner city farming, which I find very interesting and appreciate the kindness of the librarian to give the Mules these gifts.

From the library, we proceeded to walk to Camarillo City Hall to deliver the Declaration of Emergency during which time we had two police contacts. During the first police contact, two plain clothes officers pulled up in an unmarked car, got out and wanted to know who we were, what we were doing and wanted to see our identification and wanted to know if we were offering services. We said no we don’t offer services nor do we ask for donations. They continued to ask us inquisitive type question. They were pleasant enough and went on their way.

It wasn’t too long afterwards that two police marked cars stopped us and basically wanted to know the same stuff and wanted to see our ID. It was a forced stop. We weren’t breaking any laws but the officer decided that we were illegally passing through the city of Camarillo.

We were not illegally passing through the city of Camarillo. We have the legal right the same as any automobile, the same as any bicyclist, and the same as any pedestrian to walk freely through the city of Camarillo. So, we weren’t breaking any laws but we were treated as we were. We were stopped forcibly by the police officer. He called it in and found out that we had the right and released us. He went his way and we went our way to Camarillo City Hall and were greeted kindly by Camarillo City Hall staff who came out to take pictures with the mules and ask questions to learn more about our ages old nomadic way of life.

After we left city hall, we found a big vacant area on that same road to rest for the night. In the middle of the night Camarillo Police car stopped to look at us but the officer continued driving. We got up in the morning and left the area clean as we always do and did not leave behind anything.

Ventura County Animal Services
While we were passing through Simi Valley and Camarillo, we stopped by Ventura County Animal Services building in both these towns and asked permission to fill our bucket with water for the kids. The nice staff and volunteers at the shelter greeted the mules and let us have some water to drink.

San Buenaventura State Beach

San Buenaventura State Beach, Ventura
On Sunday January 24 in the evening, we arrived in Ventura by San Buenaventura State Park just a little before dark. We had stopped here a couple times in the past to rest, so we decided that we would do so once again. We didn’t go inside the confines of the park. We were outside the fence in a large grassy area between the street and the fence. We stayed here. I picketed the mules out, fixed my dinner and went to sleep.

I got up in the morning and was packing up to leave. A park ranger drove up in his truck and informed me that I was illegally camping in a state park. He said I would have to leave immediately. I said I was in the process of packing up to leave. He said that if I didn’t leave immediately or if I ever showed up again, I would be subject to arrest and the animals would be impounded. I packed up and left.

Ventura River Trail, Ventura, CA

Ventura River Trail, Ventura
From San Buenaventura State park, we followed the Ventura Promenade to the Ventura River Trail going from Ventura to Ojai that parallels the Ojai River.

Where we spent the night

We walked for about 6 miles on the trail and found a good place to graze. It was a brushy vacant area that had no signs forbidding trespassing and had no fences or locked gates. It was a matter of stepping off the trail and walking back into the brush. We decided this place was also a good place to rest for the night.

Upon getting up in the morning the mules were happily grazing. I decided to do some shoeing. By the time I was through putting new horseshoes on the mules, it was around 11 to 11:30am. I took the mules out towards the freeway to let them graze in a grassy area. We were up there for about an hour grazing when we were approached by a gentleman in a white construction hat. He asked if he could take our picture, we said sure and we exchanged a few pleasantries and that was the end of it. The mules continued to graze and we were there for another half hour.

Lady along the Ventura River Trail

I decided to go back to camp and pack up and leave. As I was in the process of rolling up my horseshoe tools and putting them away in the pack boxes, two Ventura county sheriffs showed up with the gentleman in the white construction hat. The officers informed me that I was trespassing and I would have to leave. I was in the process of leaving so that was no problem.

I mentioned the fact that there were no signs or fencing so I could not be trespassing and I could not be arrested for that because there was no notification that I was trespassing. The sheriffs said, “We are giving you notification now and you have to leave.” I said fine. They hung around until I got all packed up. They were there for over an hour. When I finally got packed up and left, they left.

The Mules delivered the Declaration of Emergency to Ojai City Hall.

City of Ojai
We proceeded following the Ojai Valley Trail to Ojai and walked for about 6 miles when we found another good place off the trail to graze. We decided to stopped here for the night so that the kids could continue grazing. The next morning, we packed up and followed the Ojai Valley Trail to Ojai City Hall and delivered the Declaration of Emergency. We have had no police contact in Ojai.

While we were in Ojai, we met Molly who later put up a Facebook posts that nicely describes who we are and what we are trying to accomplish as we walk and live outside all day every day.


Mule has been living outside with his mules for 31 years. Just walking. He’s dedicated to trying to convince people that when we destroy nature, take up all the wilderness space with buildings and concrete and no room to roam freely, we’re destroying ourselves and our true nature. He’s trying to affect a change by encouraging the “People in Charge” to link the outdoor spaces, parklands, etc., so a horse, a mule, a bike, a walker – can pass through continuously without breaking a law. He’s also trying to have those same ones in charge consider making it possible for a traveler like him to spend one night legally in outdoor space.” 

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Chatsworth, California

On January 9 as the mules and myself were walking on Devonshire Street heading west, we stopped to take a break in front of the Chatsworth Fire Station. A gentleman named Bob approached and introduced himself. Bob had seen us the night before and had been looking for us. He told us that he boarded his horse two miles down the road at the Davis Ranch and invited us to refuel and rest there for the night. My feet were bothering me really bad, so we accepted his timely offer.

This area where we stayed was once the home of Roy Rogers, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz and other Hollywood stars. The rocky hills in the backdrop were used to film Roy Rogers westerns in the 50’s. Now this ranch is one of the last horse facilities in the area.

The Mules want to thank the Dana for allowing the Mules to spend 3 nights/2 days here at her ranch. Thanks also to Bob for inviting us to stay here.

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The El Camino Real

We like this photo taken by Tony Chiatello as we were walking on the El Camino Real in Carlsbad, California. Tony’s caption “Not everyday you see 3 mules on El Camino” was not a true statement from the 1600s to late 1800s when the El Camino Real was the route used by Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries traveling from Baja California to San Francisco by foot, horse and mule.

In the 1920s with the invention of the automobile, the El Camino Real slowly became paved over time from San Francisco to the Mexican border.

Thus, this route has historically been used longer by equestrian travelers than by those traveling in manmade machines.

We the Mules exercise use our right to use this ages old public thoroughfare called the El Camino Real.

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The Old Ridge Route

Little Girl, Lady and Babe walking on Old Ridge Route Road

Pictures we took while walking the Old Ridge Route Road between Gorman and Castaic. It was the main road out of Los Angeles into the Central Valley.

Its construction was accomplished with the help of hundreds of our longtime friends and partners in life, the Mule.

As the mule demonstrated its extreme worth in the days of yesteryear, they have now mysteriously created a new role for themselves as the carriers of a message to necessitate and spread the absolute need for balance between the Natural World and the man made world.

The Mules have been setting posts of energy as they travel through the state. We’ve set a post at the Golden Gate Bridge, a post in Mendocino County, a post in Imperial Beach, the southern most destination of our migratory journey, and a post in Griffith Park where the mountain lion presides. As these posts continue to be set, the energy created by hope, faith and energy freely given will flow to these between and around them. That energy will beam out and permeate every square inch of this state.

Stuff will happen like the wolf pack showing up in Northern California, the land bridge for wildlife across the interstate in Los Angeles, and the California state government acknowledging the absolute need for a comprehensive trail system.

It is all about energy – your energy. Learning that then accumulating and acquiring it by giving your hope and faith that energy will materialize into what you need. As the message the Mules carry continues to intensify with an understanding that a strong, healthy Natural World is essential to the wellbeing and happiness of the human race. People will give their personal energy for that end. Change will come – real change. Out of that energy will come the answers of how to. It’s all about energy materializing into what we need.

The Mules

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Ventana Wilderness – Rancho Salsipuedes

Three Mules and one monk were walking south through Fort Hunter Liggett on a road bordering the Los Padres National Forest when a gentleman by the name of Timothy Bottoms stopped his Jeep, got out, introduced himself and asked if the kids needed water or hay for he had brought some. The monk responded, “No. We are okay. Thank you.”
 
He then invited us to his ranch to take a break. We said yes that would be nice. So we walked to his ranch, which is surrounded by the Ventana Wilderness, and took a break.
 
Tim asked if we needed anything in the way of supplies, gear, etc. The monk responded with a yes. Our pack boxes were over 25 years old and worn to the bone. Tim said he would be glad to help so he did by supplying us with four new pack boxes.

Who Dee Do

Who Dee Do, our third mule will be staying at Tim’s ranch. He never became easy for me to shoe. He had to be sedated and that was not a practical scheme for us walking through the Megatropolis.

Who Dee Do will be living with Tim’s horses and mules, a great place for Who Dee Do to live.

The Mules say thank you to Timothy Bottoms for his kindness and support he has shown the mules, the identifiers of this ages old nomadic way of life living with respect and reverence for this beautiful place called Earth, the home of human beings. ~The Mules

About Rancho Salsipuedes: “Nestled in the verdant, peaceful valley, stands the thick adobe walls of the Mission San Antonio de Padua’s Portreros Mulos built by the caretaker friar and several neophytes…it established ranch support for the mission mules.

After secularization in 1834, the property came under the private ownership of Vicente Avile, who purchased the drought stricken Rancho for the stately sum of $13, all he had in his pocket. The Rancho remained in the family estate for over one hundred years.

The Avila Ranch, a 160-acre homestead, became known as Salsipuedes (“get out if you can”), which was later sold to Timothy Bottoms in 1975 as a family refuge.”

On the ranch is an old stone cabin and oven built sometime in late 1800s/early 1900s.

The trails surrounding the property are very difficult to travel and impassable with overgrown brush and fallen trees. During the time we were waiting for our pack boxes to arrive, we spent our time clearing these trails.

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What the 3 Mules have taught me

By Carol Lingham

John Sears, Lady, Little Girl, and Pepper, also known as the 3 Mules, have touched the hearts of many people during their 31 years living outdoors and traveling together throughout the western United States. We don’t see too many mules on the roads these days, which has led me to wonder, why not? And why are the 3 Mules, so loved by some and so discriminated against by others? I felt drawn to learn more about mules in general and found great information on LuckyThreeRanch.com. 

History of Mules in the United States

The first mule breeder in the United States was George Washington, who aside from being one of our most important founding fathers and first president of the United States of America, George was also an enlightened agriculturalist and visionary who from early on saw the true value of the mule and wanted one. The major obstacle George faced in obtaining a mule at the time was that the Spanish Government prohibited acquisition of the legendary Andalusian Donkey. Because the mule is a cross between a donkey and a horse, obtaining a mule was a problem for George Washington.

In 1785 King Charles III of Spain presented Washington with a gift of two jacks (2 male donkeys) and two jennies (2 female donkeys). Unfortunately during the voyage to the newly formed United States of America, one of the jacks died. The surviving jack, whose name was Royal Gift, lived on to sire an American dynasty that literally reshaped the landscape of our country.

By the early 1900’s, the mule population in the United States exploded to almost six million. With the advent of engine powered vehicles, the once critical role in agriculture and industry by mules was diminished.

By the late 1960’s, fewer than 10,000 mules existed in the United States. Many of these mules languished, unused, unnoticed, unappreciated, and in danger of fading from our culture altogether. A handful of mule and donkey lovers were determined to keep the extinction of mule from happening. In 1967, Paul and Betsy Hutchins founded The American Donkey and Mule Society, dedicated to the protection and understanding of the long ears. They publish The Brayer, a bi-monthly magazine with an international subscriber base.

Mules and donkeys resurged in popularity during the last 40 years with annual events like Bishop Mules Days in Bishop, California, which hosts more than 30,000 people and 700 mules. Mule stock shows, trade publications and television programs, such as Meredith Hodges’s Training Mules and Donkeys, foster interest in these amazing animals.

The 3 Mules

Mr. Sears and his beautiful mules add color and character when we see them walking throughout California’s populated and rural areas, passing steadily and surefootedly without blinking an eye. Most people who see the 3 Mules smile at first sight of them. The 3 Mules are patient and kind when approached by curious people who want to meet them. When some see 3Mules.com written on the mule’s pack, immediate reaction is to go online and look up the website to learn more. Other people seem to be panicked or suspicious to see a man traveling with mules in our midst and report the unusual sight to law enforcement. The range of reasons why some think that the 3 Mules should not exist and cohabitate among us is astonishing. It seems that collectively as a society we have forgotten a lot. Educators used to take students on field trips to see various kinds of animals. What happened?

Protect and preserve our planet

The 3 Mules show us to step back and look at our situation and the damage our urban sprawl is creating. Instead of arresting, jailing and impounding or being afraid of these beautiful rugged steady slow travelers and their capable handler, our society should reflect how we can better serve ourselves and our planet. The 3 Mules are expressing the urgency that so many of us feel, that it is time to be proactive and do something to help our planet and all of us who depend on it for life.

Our society should embrace and celebrate these beautiful, strong, steady, smart animals and capable individuals like Mr. Sears, who knows how to handle and care for his mules, and who loves the planet where he and all of us were born. The 3 Mules are sharing their journey with us and what they have learned.

How many of us could live outdoors every day and night for 31 years? Mr. Sears is the only person I know. It is remarkable how organized, self-contained and simplified his life is.

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