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In the Company of Giants

WMjuly2014I recently had the privilege of being asked to speak at the 27th annual Klamath Falls Wilderness Skills Clinic hosted by the High Desert Trail Riders chapter of the Back Country Horsemen of Oregon. What an event!

It’s often said that the world is a small place; recently I learned first hand that this old adage is certainly true. It seemed that many of the luminaries of the mule world and certainly the Western Mule Magazine world were hanging out together at the Klamath County Fair grounds in southern Oregon.

The Wilderness Skills Clinic’s theme this year was “Horsin’ around is fun for the young and the young at heart”. The energy that all of the High Desert Trail Riders had certainly played to the theme as none of them stayed still for long as they worked tirelessly to make the clinic a success with more than 50 events and seminars (yours truly gave several talks on how to use a map and compass and ideas on camping without pack animals in tow), a mountain trail challenge course, and my personal favorite the mule auction. Beyond the very busy schedule and event happenings, throughout the whole of the show contributors to Western Mule were in on the action.

Our own Ed and Sue Haefliger came down from Washington to help me out during my talks and boy, what a draw to the booth they were! I think news of Ed’s presence created quite the stir. For each of the three days of the event, Ed could be found holding court from his chair at the booth; helping his fellow mule riders and packers with saddle fit questions and generally being an excellent resource for all things packing and mule related.

Any mention of the Haefliger’s has to be accompanied by the Wagners. Terry and Sandy were in attendance with their Three Bells Mules saddles. While Terry may not have had a seminar on the official schedule he certainly wasn’t klamathslacking based on how long I had to wait anytime I wanted to swing by to say hey, he always had a few people in line waiting to consult him on saddles and fitting issues. I just wish Terry had brought some of his new line of pink cinches with him as I had planned on picking one up for my wife. Now I guess I’ll have to wait until next year to get one for her.

Not only were Western Mule’s regular writers in Klamath Falls, so were many of the folks whose ads we see here on a regular basis.

Chris Tornow was in attendance with a booth filled to the brim with her excellent packing equipment. Chris recently sent me a set of her riding saddle panniers that I really like. On my website I do reviews on trail riding and packing equipment where I interview the manufacturers so it was a real pleasure to do a video segment with Chris on the all of the many benefits of this piece of packing gear that easily transitions between a riding saddle and pack saddle.

Proving that the world is a small small place it was over the weekend at the Clinic that I finally met Bob Hickman of Hickman Suspenders. Since I suffer from a case of “nobuttatall” disease I rely on suspenders to help hold up my trousers and Hickman Suspenders are the ones I use. It was great to visit in person with the fellow that I count on to prevent any embarrassment on the trail.

Although I met many many readers of Western Mule over the course of the weekend, there was one meeting that especially stands out. If you’ll recall the Western Mule, April 2014 issue, in the Letters to the Editor section, in the lower right hand corner was a photo of Rocky the mule with a “Do Rag” worthy of mentioning on top of his head. Rocky’s people Rick and Cathy stopped by and visited for a while with Ed and I. Talk about people that ride all over Oregon; these folks fit the bill and I hope to accompany them on a ride into Oregon’s portion of the Cascades at some point.

Well there you go, a brief recap of an outstanding mule focused event. This year’s event added yet another successful year to the the string of 26 previous clinics. These entertaining and educational gatherings help the High Desert Trail Rider chapter of the Back Country Horsemen of Oregon continue their mission of keeping Oregon’s public lands open to equestrian use (even horse riders!). To learn more about what the Back Country Horsemen of Oregon does give them a visit at or

As always for North America’s largest horse and mule trail and camping directory please visit we’ve just re-vamped the entire site and I might add it’s excellent. Happy trails!