Hailey, Idaho: Final Destination in the Snow

A mule voyage that spanned 10 states and included floods, ticks, highway melting heat and nose hair freezing cold ended in snow. Mules Brick and Cracker and I have arrived at our final destination outside Hailey, Idaho.

I added some grey to my beard those final miles. That fluffy white stuff is snow.

In to the Final 10 Miles

188 days after setting out from our North Carolina home, the mules and I tackled the final 10 miles to where my brother in-law Nick Parker and his wife Carolyn live outside Hailey, Idaho.

From the rodeo arena, where we spent the night,we made our way to the Hailey Coffee Company where the owner Santos brewed me a cup of coffee. As I drained the last gulp, the first snow flakes fell.

The final night’s dig: Brick and Cracker slept in the rodeo arena corral. I slept under the bleachers.
Headin’ in for a cup of coffee (John Delorenzo photo)
Mules Brick and Cracker and me with Santos (background) and some fellow Hailey Coffee Company fans (John Delorenzo photo)

In to the Snow

From Hailey, the mules and I still needed to ride 3 hours toward Triumph, where Nick and Carolyn live. What started as a snow dusting at the coffee shop turned in to a mule swallowing wallop of the white stuff. Luckily, temps hovered below freezing so the snow was talcum powdery grade. The kind of snow that piles up quickly then sits there politely without melting and soaking you to your last dry shirt.

At the risk of ruining my trust camera, I snapped and filmed my way gaily across the landscape. I thought you’d enjoy this “saddle eye view” of how things looked like as the mules and I traveled those final miles.

Taking a moment to adjust Cracker’s bridle (L). Brick is on the right hauling the pack saddle.
Snow and gloves slow everything down. That bridle keeper I can tuck in in seconds takes way longer when I’m wearing soggy pig skin gloves. Good thing Cracker’s a patient mule.
My right hand, here holding the rope by which I lead Brick. My gloves are soaked, my fingers numb.
The view off to my immediate right: Brick’s load. All up, she carries just over 100 pounds. That’s well within the limits of a 850 pound animal.
Fall frosting.
Idahoans are a hearty breed. Here, 3 fisherman tossing flies on the Big Wood river outside Hailey.
Bridges: one of the not too pleasant aspects of snow travel. Here, the mules and I prepare to cross the Big Wood river. The road is incredibly slippery under the mules’ hooves. This calls for tremendous balance on the mules’ part and my willingness to jump off in a flash in case they fall down. Luckily it never came to that.
Brick’s hoof boots. They did great in the snow. I plan to write up a full report on how the Renegade boots and barefoot travel served us in the course of our voyage. For more on my and my wife Julia’s experience with hoof boots, check out the Hoof Boot Report.
And we’re here! Nick and Carolyn greet Brick, Cracker and me down the street from their home. It’s been a reunion millions of mules steps in the making.
Hell yeah I put on my top hat for the final approach! (Carolyn Parker photo)
And they’re done! Brick and Cracker happily munching away in Nick and Carolyn’s back yard. Fear not. They’re well fed and warm. The coming week’s forecast is for dry, clear weather. They may prove hard to catch…

Processing it all

So what’s next?

The mules come first. They’re hanging out in Nick and Carolyn’s back yard enjoying super-sized rations of carrots, oats and the freedom of movement. They’ve spent most of their nights for the last half year tethered by 50-foot straps. No longer. Their enclosure is stoutly fenced so they can roam around freely.

As for me, I’m just processing that my ramble is over. I’m re-adjusting to novelties like plumbing, showers and life with mirrors. I can tell I’ve been sleeping in a tent a long time. Last night I slept in a bed. This morning, I woke up and noticed the ceiling overhead was dry. There was no frost up there over my head like there’s been the last month.

I just stared at the white sheet rock taking it all in.

Follow-up Posts

In the coming days and weeks, I’ll be posting plenty of updates on things I didn’t get to tell you about on the road. Folks we met. How the saddle held up. Oh, and what it’s like to travel over 2,000 miles with hoof boots instead of steel shoes.

And of course I still need to find a ride home from Idaho to North Carolina for the mules.

But right now, the mules and I are basking in the afterglow of our marvelous arrival.

Hangin’ up my hat….for the week. Soon enough, it’ll be back on my head off on another mission.

I hope things are well with you. I sure have enjoyed bringing your these posts and look forward to sharing more with you.

And to everyone that made this happen – most especially my wife Julia – a hearty THANK YOU!

’til soon.

Bernie / Hailey, ID


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Doug Winders
Doug Winders
4 years ago

Congratulations Bernie! What a journey! So many interesting people and places! I enjoyed meeting them all through your writings and photos. Looking forward to seeing you back in NC and hearing some more about the adventures and challenges you, Brick and Cracker experienced and overcame. Safe voyage home.

Fran Jewell
4 years ago

Bernie, I salute you in your wonderful, courageous and delightful accomplishment traveling here to our beautiful Hailey! Welcome! I’m sad though, that you had to arrive in our first snow storm! We have such delightful fall days here! Today, the snow was gone at my house and the sun was brilliant. I heard about your travels from a dear friend of mine in Ontario, Canada! I wish I had been following your journey from the beginning, but I am delighted you made it here safely and have hopefully enjoyed our quiet, cherished valley! I came 38 years ago and never left!!! I hope you find the lift you and the mules need home!

David Adams
David Adams
4 years ago

Thank you so much for sharing this adventure with us ! You were bathed with many prayers along the way by regular, everyday folks like myself. Your trip was also our trip. The one we wished we had made. Again- thank you and may God continue to watch over you and shower you with blessings!

Linda Sailer
Linda Sailer
4 years ago

Bill and I are so glad and thankful that you made it safely to Hailey. Bet the mules are happy not to have to go again for awhile. Wishing you well with getting the mules back home safely.

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