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BCHC Mid Valley Unit

Panoche Valley Pack Trip

Tony Moules, rides through the Coast Range from Delhi, in Stanislaus County, to the Panoche Valley, May 22 to May 25, 2010.
All photos courtesy of Michael King.
You may jump to the newsletter article below the pictures.

Man riding a horse and leading two mules

20th century transportation, and 18th.


Man riding a horse and leading two mules

Into the golden hills of California


Man riding a horse and leading two mules

Tony and his stock.


Man riding a horse and leading two mules

First day


Man riding a horse and leading two mules

DEFINITELY not "Freeway legal"


Man riding a horse and leading two mules

Note the American flag


This is the only page of pictures. The newsletter article is below.

2010  •  Activities  •  Home



Panoche Valley Pack Trip

by Michael King

The lights came on early the morning of Saturday, May 22, 2010. Mid Valley member Tony Moules rolled out of bed with his mind already on the plans he had gone over many, many times. After sharing breakfast with his wife, Susana and young son Jonathan, he started to gather up and pack the final items that he would need for a trip that he had been planning for at least a couple of years.

This trip was not necessarily a long distance geographically, about 95 miles, but it was long in time miles. For you see, Tony was embarking on a pack trip from his home near Delhi to his ranch in the Panoche Valley, which is located on the southeastern side of very rural San Benito County. This valley is very sparsely settled due to the prevailing dry conditions that exist on the east side of the Coast Ranges. The agricultural operations there are now centered on livestock grazing, after irrigation water became too expensive to pump. For this trip Tony would be riding his saddle horse, Sonny, and carrying supplies on his pack mule, Skid, and a pack mule, Blackie, who he borrowed from his good friend, Dennis Serpa.

As the preparation activity picked up, Dennis arrived to help get the operation underway. They took food supplies out of the refrigerator and placed them in ice chests, put camping gear in one pile, horse equipment in another, and so on it went. With everything finally sorted out, it was time to catch up the stock, throw on the saddles and get the packs loaded. Finally, at 11:00 AM, with everything loaded, tied down and ready to go, Tony stepped into the saddle; and with a wave and a smile, headed out of the gate.

Dennis escorted Tony across the 99 Freeway and took a few pictures for posterity, and then Tony was on his own. The first day was a short one. Tony set up his first camp set up near Hilmar at the Duck Borges place near the Merced River. Rising early the next morning at 5:45, the procession headed out a little before 8:00 for an appointment with CHP Officer Gordon who closed the bridge over the Merced River so that the livestock could safely cross. With very strong northwest winds buffeting him, Tony traveled along Highway 165 south toward Los Banos. Upon reaching Wolfsen Road, where the strong wind finally eased a bit, he was able to get off the highway and ride through the Los Banos Waterfowl Management Area to Highway 152, just east of Los Banos. After crossing Highway 152 onto Santa Fe Grade Road, he located a place to camp at about 6:00 PM where he could also water and graze his stock. It had been a long day, but Tony remembers, especially well, the good will of two men who passed him by as he rode on a canal bank and returned a short while later with a cold beer for him to "help with the dust".

Bright and early the next morning, Tony grazed and watered his stock, gave them some grain and had some breakfast himself. Soon they were back on the trail and headed south on Santa Fe Grade Road toward Dos Palos. Tony remembers "Santa Fe Grade Road looking very straight and long, stretching mile after mile toward Dos Palos". Once in Dos Palos, he turned south onto Russell Road, then to Herndon Avenue. After a right turn there, Tony traveled a short distance west to a point where he was able to turn south again and travel through a very large almond ranch he had secured permission to cross. The beauty of the wide-open country and the solitude were a highlight of the trip for him as he rode along. Eventually reaching the Panoche Creek stream bed; he followed that west until he came to the California Aqueduct. As he was crossing the aqueduct in the quiet that the west side can provide, he remembers stopping for a few minutes and marveling at it. Crossing Highway 5, he watered his stock again in a stream and then continued a short distance on Little Panoche Road to a good camping spot for the night. It had been another long day and everyone was glad for the rest. After the stock had grazed and provided grain, they laid down for a nights rest. After dinner, Tony did the same.

Tuesday morning, with the goal now in sight, Tony once again got on the trail, riding through the low hills separating the San Joaquin Valley from Panoche. Before leaving cell phone country, Tony called a friend in Panoche and told him of his whereabouts. The plan was that the friend would meet up and secure Tony's video camera and film him coming into Panoche. But before that could happen, though, another friend just happened by on the Little Panoche Road and took a little footage himself. Finally reaching the fabled Panoche Inn, Tony's friends welcomed him with a cold drink or two. After a bit of socializing, he pressed on for the final 9 miles to his property, arriving at the ranch about 6:00 in the evening, very tired, but very happy too. With great thanks to his stock, they were treated to a long drink and some grain and turned out to eat to their hearts content.

In recapping the journey, Tony said that other than the wind the second day, the weather was warm and pleasant; the people along the way were extremely nice and helpful. The trip took three days to cover 95 miles, each day's riding being about 10 hours long. That would make the rate of progress a little over three miles per hour including stops every two to three hours to water the animals. Tony said that he thoroughly enjoyed himself and looks forward to making the trip again next year.

This is the only page of pictures.

2010  •  Activities  •  Home