Hello From Ellie
As published in the November 2016 issue of Western Mule Magazine
Western Mule Magazine meet Ellie, Ellie say hello to Western Mule Magazine.
Ellie joined the TrailMeister herd in late August and she’s been patiently educating me ever since.
The earliest information that I can find on Ms. Ellie comes from Letty M who brought her home from a feedlot in Northeast Oregon and enjoyed her for the next ten years. She had been abandoned at the stockyard for over a month and the managers talked Letty’s husband into giving her a home. It wasn’t an auspicious beginning but it turned into a fabulous decade for both Letty and Ellie.
Although Ellie wasn’t formally trained to pack she took to her new job with enthusiasm. From 2005 to 2011 Ellie worked in Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness area. In 2013 a relocation moved Letty and Ellie to Montana. There Ellie started her Bob Marshall Wilderness adventures with many trips into that vast area as well as journeys into the Cabinet Wilderness which though a bit smaller is just as wild.
Life happens and in 2015 Ellie joined Teresa Y’s herd and shortly thereafter moved to the Spokane, WA area where she enjoyed a life of luxury until I eventually found her.
I’d been looking for the “right” mule for a few years. My favorite Western Mule bad influences Ed Haefliger, Terry Wagner, and John Hayes had been coaching and sending me prospects regularly but either the timing wasn’t right (Is it ever?), the price too high, or the beast wasn’t a good fit for my needs. I’m glad the search is over!
In mid-August of this year a friend from facebook told me about a molly mule near Spokane that I needed to look at. On my first visit to see Ellie she walked past me then backed up so that I could scratch her behind. Other than a few long discussions with my much better half, bringing Ellie home was a done deal.
Since Ellie has been in her new home we’ve been taking her out at every opportunity. Front country trail ride? Ellie is ponied along. Work party? Ellie’s there. Pack trip? Ellie’s bringing the vittles! She’s a dream when ponied. No pulling back or diving for snacks along the way. She’s the most workman like animal that we have.
Our first pack trip with Ellie occurred just 30 days after we brought her home. 3 nights and four days in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness in Southeast Washington with Ellie packing the bear boxes. Other than worrying me by not drinking for nearly 36 hours she was perfect. Ellie really showed her true colors as she carefully picked her way through wildfire downfall along the route.
I’m looking forward to sharing more of Ellie’s adventures as we get to know one another better over the coming years. With a coat of white already blanketing the high country we’re staying low and planning trips for 2017. Ellie will be visiting some new areas with trips into the Pasayaten Wilderness and returning to some of her old haunts with trips back into the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.
More on the location of our first wilderness trip with Ellie in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness from the Panjab Trailhead.
The Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness area, bordering southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon, is a smallish wilderness covering only 176,739 acres. However, what the Wenaha lacks in scale it more than makes up for in its grandeur. The wilderness is a maze of deep, sheared walled canyons cutting into broad mesas and ridgetops that tower 2,000 feet overhead. From the mesa tops riders can enjoy scenic panoramas of the Wenaha River and beyond to the route of the Oregon Trail far below.
The wilderness and surrounding forest is managed by the US Forest Service and they’ve done a nice job in keeping the area open to stock use. The Panjab trailhead has been equipped to provide stock users with a great experience. Eight camp sites, complete with feed bunks, fire rings, picnic tables, and a vault toilet await riders going into the wilderness.
With over 200 miles of trails to explore within the wilderness riders won’t soon run out of places to visit in this remote corner of the world. Trails are very rocky and can be steep-ish in places. On the mesa tops riders will find vast meadows punctuated with forests of ponderosa and lodgepole pine. Sharp eyes may catch a glimpse of elk, bear, or many of the other critters that call this spectacular area home. In the fall you’ll be lulled to sleep by the haunting whistles of elk ringing through the night air.
Elk hunting is the largest activity within the wilderness so check the calendar before you leave and be sure to wear blaze orange during hunting season.