The Mule Men

A History of Stock Packing in the Sierra

This book takes us inside the adventure, hardships, and joys peculiar to the packing trade. Part One is an account of the evolution of the packing trade, from early Spanish explorers and missionaries to gold-rush muleskinners to mid-twentieth-century outfitters. Part Two discusses the history of conservation in the Sierra Nevada and the role packers played, including the creation of the Sierra Club, the development of eastern California's national parks and forest, and the pressures of increasing population and government packing regulations. Part Three introduces colorful characters and offers personal stories and evocative descriptions of the backcountry experience, shedding light on why, for the mule men, the packing life was the only kind worth living. Includes sixty black-and-white photographs, four maps, glossary, notes, appendixes, bibliography, and index. (256 pages)


Published by Mountain Press Publishing in 2004

ISBN 0-87842-499-7


"Sierra packers, like their mules, are survivors. Louise Jackson looks behind the tall tales to examine just what it takes to run the stations and the mules. Nobody has tried to bring all this information together before, and no one has interviewed so many old packers to learn about their lives and the mules they depended on. Jackson gives us their story in a way that preserves the history with all its color. It is a well-packed, balanced load. Well-researched and fun to read, The Mule Men gives great credit to the people and mules of this little-known enterprise that has been such a large part of Sierra Nevada History." James B. Snyder, Yosemite National Park Historian, Yosemite Research Library


"I [...] expect this writing to be an important contribution to the literature of the Sierras. I found the book historically correct, the descriptions accurate, the feeling and the sentiment of the packers believable, and most importantly, it was entertaining. This writing should be required reading for anyone packing or going on a pack trip" John Crowley, former wrangler and Mineral King Pack Station


"[Louise Jackson's] meticulously researched coverage of packers, mules, and their historic place in the High Sierra makes fascinating reading. Every chapter is a smörgåsbord of interest and delight. It brings happy nostalgia of my almost sixty hears of High Sierra pack trips as a packer, outfitter, and leader." Norman B. Livermore, Jr., Sierra Club Director 1941-49

Go back