Back in April last year, I interviewed Joan about her 15.3 mule Buckshot and it quickly became one of my favourite Tales. Go check it out if you haven’t already, or if you want to refresh your memory! Buckshot is a trail-blazer extraordinaire who will face anything – even a mountain lion.
Since then, Joan and Buckshot have continued doing fantastic things and have even been joined by another mule, Tennessee. Lately, Joan says that she has been using her mules for the very reason we all ride mules – to keep us safe in challenging environments. She made a recent post to the Mule Girls group about how the last three weeks have been spent with friends, exploring newly re-opened trails in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Alpine Lakes Wilderness – an area that is only 40 miles east of downtown Seattle. She very kindly allowed me to reproduce her images and captions here! I hope you enjoy going on this virtual tour as much as I did. Over to Joan:
“During our three day trips to the area we made over 80 water crossings. Less than half of the crossings had bridges. There are steep mountain sides lining this valley so we had many beautiful mountain creeks dropping to the valley floor. You always heard water falling over rocks during the entire length of each ride.”
“We found many of the trails challenging. The drop off on the left is over 200 feet and, as you can see, the right provides a fairly steep cliff surface. The trail itself is not very wide.”
“We had many peek-a-boo views of the mountain tops surrounding the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley as we rode. Yes, that is snow in the crags in the mountains across the valley.”
“The Middle Fork Snoqualmie River is on our right, a 30 foot drop from our narrow trail to the water. You can see that we don’t have any room on the left to move away from the edge. I have two mules. My molly, Tennessee, is in front of me and I am on my john, Buckshot.”
“The beauty of the area is unparalleled. This part of Washington State has over 30 varieties of moss and many of them lived on the rocks in this valley. Breathtaking! This is one of the bridge styles used in the trail system.”
“As we got closer to the trail head the trail was able to get wider in some parts. If you look carefully you might be able to tell that the drop off on the left of the picture is a good fifty feet down.”
“I am sure that you have heard that Seattle gets a lot of rain. The western face of the Cascades (which this area is) gets almost three to four times as much rain as Seattle does. You can tell by all the green! Here the trail drops over 50 feet on the left. And, like much of the trail system out here, the other side of the trail is pretty vertical.”
“We grow big trees out here.”
“I think that one of the reasons my mules love these trails so much is that all they have to do is to open their mouth and it’s likely to get filled with green, tasty things to eat. The trail is not very wide here and the drop off is pretty far down. But the mules know and love their job and we trust them so we are all enjoying the vistas around us.”
In the original Mule Tale, I mentioned how Marty and I wanted to grow up to be just like Joan and Buckshot. Sadly, things didn’t turn out as I’d hoped with my funny little dun mule – but it’s not over yet! We may not having anything quite like the terrain of the Cascades, but Xato is proving to be a good and reliable trail ride who takes the ups and downs of the Punchbowl with ease.
Here are some photos from our most recent ride – I think we’re doing well at creating our own little bit of wilderness!
(Xato also agrees that narrow trails mean he just has to open his mouth and inhale anything that passes, even if it’s poisonous…)