Pulling Together: Horses, Mules and People Put Up Picnic Tables

Horses, mules and people pulled together to solve this dilemma: Get picnic table and tie-rail materials up the new Canyon View Trail at Montana de Oro. Skilled human labor would be on hand to build the picnic benches, but just how would the materials get to the overlook spot specifically picked out for the picnic benches to sit? It took a coordinated effort of several trail user groups along with a work crew comprised of horses, mules and people to pull this project together.

The Behind the Scenes Work to get the Picnic Tables Built

Central Coast Concerned Mountain Bikers used grant money from REI to purchase the picnic table materials.

Using funds from an REI grant, the materials, manpower and connections were in hand from members of the Central Coast Concerned Mountain Bikers (CCCMB). Materials were to be delivered by California State Parks to the trail head. The big question was how to get the materials two miles up the trail and up to the chosen lookout point which is inaccessible by truck or car. The answer? Horses and mules to the rescue.

Through coordination with the California State Parks, two consecutive workdays were already in the CCCMB books for this project which was carried out in November 22-23, 2019. The bulk of the location prep was done on Saturday by 25 volunteers. Nine volunteers were on hand Sunday for the materials delivery and building of the picnic tables.

Collaboration: People Working Together Begins

Scott Couture of CCCMB reached out to Kathleen Phelps of Back Country Horsemen of California – Los Padres Unit (BCHC) for help. BCHC not only provided the horses and mules to pack the materials in, more manpower came with the package. Kathleen, who has extensive packing experience, lined up the horses and mules along with their owners for the job.

What Materials and Manpower Were Needed to Complete the Project?

Kathleen inventories the materials needed for the project, “We needed to pack pieces for two six-foot long picnic tables, 240 lbs of concrete (six bags), 10 gallons of water, tools and one six-foot long horse tie rail. Skip Dyke, who manufactured the tie rail, built it to screw together on-site so it could be carried in pieces. Skip added an eye on the ends which get buried, to provide a way to tie the poles when on the mules.”

Once on-site several hands engaged in a variety of jobs. Rich Phelps, a mountain biker, hung out at the top of Canyon View trail ahead of the pack horses and mules coming along. Karen Larson, a horse rider, stationed herself at the bottom of Canyon View trail. The posted people informed other bikers of the goings-on and asked them to take another route. All bike riders asked to turn away were very cooperative and understanding.

Since there was no tie-rail, yet, horse handlers, Mike and Karen Larsen and Kathy Longacre hiked into the site. Their job was holding the horses and mules while the materials during the unpacking and building of the picnic tables.

The tools and some equipment had to be packed out upon the completion of the picnic tables and tie-rail, so some animals remained on-site. Later, Mike, Karen and Kathy returned on horseback to view the project’s completion.

This coordinated effort resulted in a useful result using horses, mules and people working together.

How Many Horses and Mules Delivered the Materials?

Six packing mules and two horse packers plus six riding horses and one saddle mule packed materials up the trail. Most of the packers are seasoned and experienced, yet two were newer to packing.

Pack leader, Otis Calef, explains packing for this project, “Members of BCHC have packed in the Los Padres Forest and the Sierras for volunteer trail projects and for pleasure. Most of the animals were experienced with odd loads – something more than a pair of soft panniers that make no noise. This project required loading six-foot boards and pipes, plus miscellaneous hardware and tools.”

Horses, Mules and People Put Up Picnic Benches

The pack train leader was Otis Calef riding his mule Pretty Boy Floyd followed by his pack mules Honey and Annie, who are two of the seasoned packing experts. In fact, Honey is a Grand Champion log puller – a title earned at the 50th Anniversary of Bishop Mule Days this year.

Kathleen rides in on her horse Izzy while pack mule Gina packs in the concrete.

Pack mule Gina, owned by Kathleen Phelps packed the 240 lbs of concrete with no complaints. Kathleen rode her horse Izzy.

Greg Feinberg and his two horses, Nugget and Liz packed the 10 gallons of water.

Pack train bringing in the materials and tools.

Tote, a pack mule, toted up the 6 ft lumber pieces and the post hole digger while the mule Pistol carried up the picnic table legs and braces. These two mules are owned by Rick Jacobsen who rode his horse Quinn.

Shirley Rasmussen of the BCHC rode drag (the last horse up) on her horse, Fudge.

Kathy Redden of Atascadero Horsemen’s Club brought lunch to the volunteers on Sunday.

Packing the odd loads safely was the biggest challenge of the day.

All the equines were amazing helpers. Packing the odd loads safely and securely was the biggest challenge of the day. This took some time to figure out, but the equines did their job superbly. Rick Jacobson of BCHC provided essential experience of packing lumber and strong stock to solve the odd loads issue. His two pack mules brought in the picnic table pieces and tools on lumber bucks.

A Collaborated Effort

Pulling together, the horses, mules and people representing several local trail user clubs (CCCMB, BCHC, Coast Mounted Assistance, CA State Parks) all worked together to accomplish something bigger than themselves.

Kathy Longacre remarked about the day, “This project was a great example of cooperation with different user groups and California State Parks.”

Shirley Rasmussen appreciates the coordinated effort not only for this project, but for the multiuse of the trails. She has this to say, “We are grateful for CCCMB to make trails we can share. The bikes can scare horses and they can get into a dangerous wreck when the horses are surprised.” Here in SLO County the groups enjoy working together so all can appreciate riding the trails at the same time. Many SLO County trail locations are multiuse, which is unique. Shirley went on to say, “I’m proud to share the trails with others, especially CCCMB.”

How Can You Enjoy the View from these New Picnic Tables?

Horse riders enjoy the new picnic tables

This new Canyon View Trail is located within Montana de Oro State Park accessing it from either Islay Creek Road or Hazard Peak Trail. From Islay Creek Road it is a mile uphill. It will be the first left hand turn. From Hazard Peak Trail, it is 1.8 miles uphill. It will be the first trail on the right.


Montana de Oro one of the top trail riding locations in SLO County. Get more information on riding at Montana de Oro through our story, Riding the SLO County Trails: Montana de Oro. Horse camping enthusiasts will enjoy Hazard Horse Camp which enables riders to enjoy the Montana de Oro trails for days.

Photo credit: Kathy Longacre, Kathleen Phelps and CCCMB


Get Going! Explore the wonder and beauty of the SLO County trails from the best place on earth, the back of a horse. To keep this info at your fingertips we have developed a FREE Hot Sheet that will direct you to a few trail ride stories. We’ll continue to add trail ride stories to our website. You can stay up-to-date by becoming a SLO Horse News herd member. Get your Riding the SLO County Trails Hot Sheet here >.

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Former Pony Clubber, Eventer and Dressage rider who balanced training and showing with getting a college degree (from Cal Poly SLO), becoming a wife and raising a family.

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