In April of 2013, an opportunity presented itself serendipitously that had the capacity to bring value to the myriad of skills, talents and assets we had, that here-to-for had no economic value or use to much of anyone!
We were approached by representatives of the Lauren Bon’s Metabolic Studio from Los Angeles. Lauren, an artist whose broad range of works delves into nearly any and every aspect of Art imaginable, had been engaged in numerous projects in the Owens Valley for several years. From community gardens and theater to restoration projects and photographic explorations, she has a broad range of visionary and engaging talents. At the time, it was the 100th Anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and Lauren had been looking for a method to very literally ‘draw a line’ from the source of Los Angeles’ water – the Owens Valley – to L.A. Having been made aware of the enormous contribution of mules to the building of the Aqueduct not to mention their incredible service to mankind in general, Lauren and her team at the Metabolic Studio envisioned using mules to draw this line. We were initially engaged to “scout out a route to take mules from the Lone Pine area to downtown Los Angeles and to do a feasibility study.”
This was accomplished in May of 2013, and submitted to the Studio. By mid- July we had not only authorization from the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power to use much of their right of way along the Aqueduct for the event, but we had determined to begin at the actual Aqueduct intake a few miles from our 8 Mile Ranch on October 18th, 2013. The route finalized and by Lauren, her team and us as collaborators ended at the “Cascades” in Sylmar California, where the Aqueduct essentially ends, then continued by circumnavigating the San Fernando Valley to finish off at the vaunted Los Angeles Equestrian Center.
A few months of preparation before takeoff launched an all out fast paced process to obtain access to private places for camps, (more scouting!); gain permits from literally dozens of Government agencies, write emergency plans, Stewardship and Animal husbandry plans for such entities; develop protocols for nearly every imaginable scenario including animal rights protesters; hire a crew of wranglers, camp team, corral teams, truck drivers and cooks; purchase and/or manufacture camp gear, corrals, water equipment, pantry trailers, pack and mule equipment (from halters and sidepads to specialty containment devices and Panels); rent trucks and trailers for kitchens, privies and showers, water delivery, (potable & non potable), camp and corral transport, fuel vehicle (for gas, propane and diesel); develop timelines for various law enforcement and traffic management agencies; organize timelines and sourcing of services from grocery deliveries to septic pumping(!); develop reliable water supply sources for the entire 270 mile route and 18 campsites; source laundry services; develop financial procedures and certainly not the least of which: source and bring together 100 + mules from Eastern Sierra packing businesses. It was truly a whirlwind!
While much has been written and much more will be written about this historic event, there is a facebook page dedicated to the journey (“One Hundred Mules Walking the Los Angeles Aqueduct”) as well as a feature length documentary of the same title. The film has been shown to much acclaim at Film Festivals around the world, making its first theatre debut in Bishop, California during the 2014 Mule Days Celebration to a packed house! Its initial viewing was on KCET – Public Television, the same month.
We could not have been more grateful to be asked to organize and produce the event with Lauren’s vision and incredible talents.
In closing – someday we’ll write a book about the journey!