Weather in the Foothills

“Mule train: clippetty-clopping along the mountain chain.
Seems as though they’re gonna reach the top.
Mule train: clippetty-clopping through the wind and rain.
… Get along mule, get along.”
 ~ “Mule Train” by Frankie Laine, 1949
Sung by Gene Autry in the movie “Mule Train,” 1950

“100 Mules Walking the L.A. Aqueduct” arrived just in time for Veterans Day. Clear skies and a warm day welcomed them. Our plans to drive up 395 to see the mule train did not come together. I was disappointed as the beauty of the Eastern Sierras – especially in the fall – is unsurpassed. Just the idea of 100 mules walking from Lone Pine to L.A. – the length of the L.A. aqueduct – was enough to keep me captivated.

With the season’s first snowfall blanketing the higher elevations, and the lower ones fringed with golden-leafed aspens, the 250-mile journey began. Along the way the team encountered rain, strong winds and dust storms with temperatures below freezing. Mules are hardy creatures; extreme weather is tolerated.

Keeping close tabs on the mule’s whereabouts via Facebook, I became even more intent on seeing the mules in person. On Sunday they crossed the Verdugos to spend the night at the Brand Library. Perfect … I planted myself on a road up and behind, and waited. Alongside me came a ranger truck. It was L.A. Chief Ranger Albert Torres, a long-time friend and co-worker of ours. He escorted a writer for KCET and me to the mules.

There they were, taking dust baths and long drinks to cool down. Dinner was being prepared for both man and beast as they settled overlooking L.A. at sunset.

The mules are once again home, pastured around Bishop, for the winter. And here in the Crescenta Valley, the possibility of winter feels doubtful.

A cooling trend with a very slight chance of rain is predicted for the weekend. According to NOAA, rain totals are 12 inches below normal. Monday and Tuesday warmer temperatures and clear skies return … pristine.

Foot (hoof) note: I was able to pet a mule and scratch its long ears.

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Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the  National Weather Service. Reach her at