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Renegade Hoof Boot Repair Day

Mules Brick and Cracker are taking two days off from our mule ramble at Nancy and Bill Sluy’s CCC ranch. The mules have enjoyed lots of grain, deep grass and two well-earned rest days. While I was here, I had a chance to go over my Renegade hoof boots with new friends Hanna and Lisa.

Hoof boot party: Hanna Bartnick, Lisa and I doing some routine hoof boot maintenance. The beauty of hoof boots is that most brands can be… Continue reading

Virginia Highlands Horse Trail Mule Ramble Update: Cripple Creek

Howdy. Mules Brick, Cracker and I wanted to give you a quick update about our pack trip up the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail. We’ve been on the road nine days now and have traveled about 70 miles. Cell phone reception has been pretty much nonexistent, but I finally got some coverage in Cripple Creek.

Brick, Cracker and me on Grayson Highlands (photo by SheRa)

 I thought you’d enjoy these photos from the last few days. The Virginia Highlands horse trail… Continue reading

Listen to Mule Cracker Eat His Breakfast

Brick, Cracker and I have been on the trail for nine days following the Virginia Highland horse Trail from Elk Garden to Ivanhoe, Virginia. Grain is too heavy to carry so I picket them out along the way to fill their bellies on the grass that we come across. Most of the ride is through deep forest but luckily, we have come across grassy openings along the way.

This morning, Brick, Cracker and I are camped at the Hussey Horse… Continue reading

SheRa Just Wants to Transition And Hike the Appalachian Trail

Mules Brick, Cracker and I recently met SheRa on our mule ramble up the the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail. “All I want to do is walk through the forest,” SheRa told me. It turns out that’s not easy if you’re transitioning from being a man to a woman.

SheRa holding Brick (Elk Garden, Virginia)
SheRa (Elk Garden, Virginia)

Listen to SheRa’s Story

Click on the player below to listen to my story about SheRa and her epic backflip off Brick

Becoming SheRa

A few days after I met SheRa in Elk Park, I ran into her again in the Scales camp on top of Grayson Highlands. SheRa told me she is the first person to complete hiking the Appalachian Trail while transitioning from being a man to a woman.

We had a fascinating discussion that goes beyond the scope of what I can peck into my phone on the top of Grayson Hughlands, but I did make a recording of my thoughts that I look forward to sharing with you.

I will say that I found SheRa charming with a kind sense of humor. She grew up in Tennessee and says, “Deep down, I’m just a redneck from Appalachia.” She told me the hikers she met on the AT were amazingly supportive and encouraging of her transition. She also points out she’s suffered physical assault and social media criticism by strangers who disagree with her choice. “I’ve had restaurants not serve me, the law called on me and some guy called me a faggot while I was drinking a whiskey in a bar to celebrate the end of a hike. All because they don’t understand that I’m just want to live my life and part of that is becoming a woman. I’ve always felt that way and now I’m going through with becoming on. How does that hurt anyone?”

In that way she’s like everyone else I’m meeting on the AT.

“All I want to do is walk through the woods,” she says.

Here are some photos of our visit.

SheRa always dreamt of riding a mule and Brick made that dream come true
Okay, this photo isn’t supposed to be in this post but I can’t figure out how to delete it. It’s a wild strawberry I found on Grayson Highlands.
Hang five

If I have one takeaway from my encounter with SheRa it’s this. If you don’t understand someone, start by being kind. Then ask them the questions you’re afraid to ask.

More about SheRa on Facebook at SheRa Be Free.

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Listen to Two Mules Clip Clop Across a Railroad Bridge

This morning my mules Brick, Cracker and I tackled the first leg of our mule ramble. We plan to spend the next two days riding 30 miles up the Virginia Creeper Trail. It all started in front of an ancient locomotive.

Start of the Virginia Creeper Trail (Abingdon, VA)
Brick giving a locomotive parked at the trailhead the side eye

Here are some photos and audio from the day you’ll enjoy.

Cracker crossing the first of 15 trestles we encountered… Continue reading

Goodnight Wishes From Damascus

I am writing you tonight from my hammock. It’s slung between my horse trailer and a stock panel. It’s pitch black outside and the night air smells like camomile.

Where I’m writing you from

I hear Brick and Cracker munching clover off in the night and I feel a deep peace. Tomorrow I saddle up and start my ramble. Here are a few more pics of where we’re camping.

Tonight I’m staying with Mike and Cindy Johnson. That’s Cindy in… Continue reading

Clothes For A Three Week Mule Ramble

Good Monday morning. The mules and I are heading to Damascus, Virginia today, to start our mule ramble. Right now I’m getting gear loaded into my saddle bags. Here’s how many clothes I’m taking for our three-week ramble.

The clothes I’m bringing on my mule ramble: 1 spare shirt, 1 spare pair of pants, 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of sock liners, thermal top and bottom (because it can get damn cold on the top of Grayson Highlands and… Continue reading

Join me For a Mule Ramble Along The Virginia Highlands Horse Trail

Hey, let’s go mule rambling! My mules Brick, Cracker and I are heading out next week on our next mule ramble, and I look forward to sharing the trip with you. Here’s a sketch of my intended route.

The Route: Virginia Creeper Trail to Virginia Highlands Horse Trail to Iron Mountain Trail

Like all my mule rambles, I’ve given myself permission to quit at any point for any reason. That sure takes the pressure of saying you’re going to do… Continue reading

Join us For Mule Days at Leatherwood 2024

Big mules, hairy mules, braying mules and sleepy mules. Mules chewing tie rails, wallowing in mud, running loose and standing with their giant ears flopped out to the side. Yes, Mule Days at Leatherwood is underway this week, May May 4 to 10.

Mule Days personified (mule-ified?): Clint and his mule Billy preparing to go for a ride. Clint says Billy is a “forward” mule which explains the tinkle in his eye (and Billy’s).

My wife Julia and I are… Continue reading

Which Swarm Box Will Catch the First Swarm of Bees?

I put up four swarm traps this week in the hope of catching a swarm of wild bees. Of the four traps I put out – Walnut, Oak, Wisteria and Willow – which one do you think will catch the first swarm of bees?

More about each swarm box in just a sec

How to Catch a Swarm of Bees

Last year, I built a swarm box, caught a swarm of wild bees, and installed them in a horizontal bee… Continue reading

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