One of the best comments we heard from the Caney Mountain Mule Ride was that “it felt like a family reunion.” Mule enthusiasts from Maine to Texas (14 states in total were represented at the ride) gathered at Caney Mountain Horsecamp, Big Flat, Ark., December 2-8, for the second annual mule ride.
December weather is unpredictable, as we all know. The ride started off with 70 degrees and the first few days were very nice. Mother Nature brought chillier temperatures the latter part of the week, but that didn’t damper anyone’s enthusiasm. We all just bundled up and rode every day.
It was a wonderful week of trail riding, campfire storytelling, guitar picking and singing, and great food. There were several newcomers to Caney Mountain this year. This is a testament to people posting pictures and comments on social media and word of mouth from their experiences at Caney.
The solar powered camp has much to offer. I would encourage you to look at the caneymountain.com and find the answers to any questions you may have about camping and riding. Owners, Charles and Teresa Taylor, welcome everyone to their camp and bend over backward to make sure you have a good time. The dining hall offers a breakfast and supper buffet style, country cooking at its finest. You won’t go away hungry. There are a limited number of rooms for rent, well maintained bath houses, and plenty of level camping spots with pens.
The forest service road into camp is seven miles. We have heard concerns about getting big trucks and rigs in to camp, and would like to assure you there are no issues with this. Camp owners work on the road all year long, keeping it accessible and have widened the road tremendously. They are driving semi trucks and 50-foot trailers in with no problem. We haven’t seen a rig yet that could not get in to this camp. The drive in is well worth what awaits you; scenic creeks, bluffs, rims and overlooks, waterfalls, caves and the Buffalo River.
Groups left out daily around 9:30 for whatever ride they chose. Most rides were five to six hours. It is advisable to go out with a guided group if you want to see the most scenic spots and get the local history. Trails are unmarked and it is best to go out with a guide until you know the trails. Charles Taylor takes groups out daily and there are three or four others available at all times to take people out.
Debra Racheter, Crest Ridge Saddlery, put on a saddle fit clinic free of charge. The saddle fit was held inside the dining hall this year due to the cold weather. There was a large crowd and the clinic was excellent. She also encouraged anyone interested to bring their mule to her campsite any time during the ride and she would evaluate the fit of their saddle.
Carl Cummings from Jim Motor’s in Cuba, Mo., brought “The Long Ear Series,” a new stock combo living quarter trailer, for everyone to look at during the ride.
Mule gatherings and events have really taken off all across the country. We encourage anyone interested to attend a gathering or event, start one in your part of the country and spread the word. We can all learn from each other.
There were 70 mules in camp at various times during the ride and the quality of mules that people are raising and riding is amazing.
The fun-filled week began with cowboy church and closed out with musician Butch Suitt, a member of the hard driving bluegrass band Highway 36. A wrap up speech was given by Anthony “Bull” McAllister and prizes were awarded to the youngest mule rider, oldest mule rider and the mule rider who traveled the farthest. A game was played during the week where cards were hanging at different locations in the forest. Prizes were given to those finding a card. There was also a drawing for a grand prize winner. Special thanks to Charles and Teresa Taylor for providing all the prizes. This is an added bonus enjoyed by everyone.
We would like to remind everyone about the reason for these gatherings. Dean and Lynn Titsworth use to hold gatherings like these at their house in the early 1980s for mule people. This gave people a chance to learn about mules, deal with mule problems and offered great riding. These gatherings had forever lasting great memories for us. We are carrying on what Dean and Lynn started. These rides are free with the exception of paying the camp owner whatever fees they charge for camping. This is for people to meet other great mule people from around the country. If you are having problems with your mule or are new to mules, some of the best mule handlers in the United States are at these rides to help you with problems. Also, if you are having tack issues or wanting new custom tack made we have outstanding saddle makers and tack vendors at these rides. If you have never traveled or camped with your mules these rides will be a great place to begin. Everyone is here to help. We want to thank everyone for their support and are always open for suggestions to make them better. We love to have families and young kids at these rides and are hoping for a good turnout of both at the June Mule Ride.
Facebook groups have been developed for McAllister and Friends Mule Ride and Caney Mountain Mule Ride. Please feel free to join the groups to get additional information and photos. Join us April 8-14 for the McAllister and Friends Mule Ride in Shawnee National Forest.