It is Labor Day! Let’s Celebrate the US POSTAL SERVICE MULE TRAIN MAIL.






ORIGINALLY POSTED LABOR DAY 2011

I was trying to find interesting ‘horse jobs’ for this Labor Day.

Searching ‘horse jobs’ turned up several postings for people who work with horses, but no interesting horse jobs.

So, I started poking around under any topic I could imagine.

And then I remembered this video I saw last week of a horse/rider delivering medicine through impassable roads after Irene.  If you haven’t seen the video, click here.

Click to watch the video

This was the information on YouTube:

This was the information below the YouTube video

 

That video got me thinking about horses that ‘deliver’.

That is how I found the articles on the town of Supai, in the Grand Canyon.  They receive their mail by mule.

RESEARCHING MULE MAIL…

I watched a news clip (linked here)  about the mule mail service of Supai.  It explains how the village is so remote – at the bottom of the Grand Canyon – that all groceries or anything one might need from a store, has to be delivered via mule.

So, the mules are each packed with 200 lbs of food, clothes, gear, equipment – you name it – 5 days a week, 52 weeks of the year.  In fact, the Post Office in Peach, Arizona (the last stop before the trek to Supai) has a walk-in refrigerator to deal with the Supai perishable mail…

The news clip went on to say that the mule mail is more reliable than helicopter mail service (the only other way in..) because high winds often ground the big birds.

Sadly, no one spoke about the specific mules or horses that make the trip… but, I thought the story was interesting and worth repeating.

The Post Office Logo

Here you go:

The mule train to Supai

Grand Canyon is home to a tiny village

August 12, 2001|By Gerry Wingenbach, Special to the Tribune.

SUPAI, Arizona — The Arizona sun hangs overhead like an orange kite as Bud Delaney loads his white pickup at the rear door of the Peach Springs post office. He grabs a cup of coffee and starts his daily delivery with a 60-mile drive across a fenceless desert toward Hualapai Hilltop. His cargo is five letters, several dozen boxes filled with bread and fruit, and a few hundred pounds of frozen meat. All of it is U.S. mail bound for the Shangri-La-like village of Supai in the Grand Canyon.

The Peach Springs mail route to Supai is the last mule-train mail delivery in the United States.

Simple, thataway.

The trail to Supai starts at Hualapai Hilltop, a stunningly scenic parking lot and corral perched on the edge of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, literally the end of the road.

Five days a week, 10 to 20 mules are contracted from the Havasupai Indians by the U.S. Postal Service. In a week they cart more than a ton of mail to Supai. Except for what is grown along a thin strip of fertile land, all of the villagers’ food is brought in on the backs of mules as mail.

“We’ve been moving mail down there by mule for years,” Bud Delaney says, as he helps a Havasupai mule skinner secure packing boxes to the string of mules. “Even on the windiest and rainiest days the mules get through to Supai.”

Half mile below South Rim

Supai and the Mules have worked together for a long time

Supai is nestled in Havasu Canyon, a half mile below the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The village is the heart of the Havasupai Indian Reservation, one of the smallest and certainly the most isolated in the United States.

Bordering Grand Canyon National Park, it is among the top choices on a long list of exciting wilderness destinations for adventurers visiting the Southwest. The only ways in and out are on foot, mule and horseback on the 8-mile trail, or via helicopter. Hikers are allowed to follow the mail route, and there are accommodations in a campground and at Havasupai Lodge, a modern 24-room hotel located in the village. Indian fry bread and burritos are the mainstays of a small cafe. A general store sells juice, sodas and snack foods.

Yikes! 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year!

(And here is a story about the trip down the canyon …)

The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and it also happens to be Charlie Chamberlain’s mail route.

At the dawn of this new ballyhooed high-tech millennium, with faxes and e-mail and all the rest, Charlie Chamberlain is still delivering mail by mule train, three hours one-way, every day, to a small Indian reservation 3,000 feet down on the floor of the canyon.

“This is the most reliable way to get the mail and these supplies down there.

And we can do it for less money,” Chamberlain told Geist. “And also, we can go in all types of weather.”

This was one of the mules from the video

“A helicopter can’t always fly on these rims. This wind gets to blowing out here sometime. You can’t fly in them high, high winds,” he added.

At sunrise, this outlandishly remote mail delivery begins even farther away in tiny Peach Springs, Ariz. According to postmaster Leroy Hearst, they deliver “about a foot of letters” to the bottom of the canyon.

But most of the mule train mail is food, and this post office is equipped for it: “In the continental states, we’re the only ones with a walk-in freezer,” Hearst explained. “Anything that they need down there in the village that you would go to the store or a department store or a food market, anything you get there, we can pack it and get it down.”

 

Talk about LABOR DAY – yeesh, not much fun for the mule…

On the daily 70-mile drive to the canyon rim, you don’t see nor hear another car or person. At the trail head, Charlie waits with about 50 horses and mules that will go down eight miles to the village of Supai.

The mule train will take almost anything you can stick a stamp on. “We got milk, we got eggs, we got all kinds of frozen food, plus the first class mail,” Chamberlain explained.

Express mail? “We just tie it on the mule and turn him loose and he runs all the way down,” Chamberlain said.

 

Supai is an oasis at the bottom of the Grand Canyon

For 21 years, Charlie has been going where UPS and FedEx fear to tread. They send their stuff with Charlie. Now is it really true about the Postal Service even in this route, you get all types of weather, rain, sleet, snow?

“That is absolutely the truth right here. I don’t know about anywhere else,” Chamberlain said.

Instead of staying behind and watching the car, Chamberlain insisted that Geist accompany him on the route. He was given a horse named “Greased Lightning,” a special animal they had prepared for him.

 

The reporter on the news clip went down on a horse for some reason…

Charlie gives pointers to city slickers, the kind who wear boat shoes to ride horses – uneasy riders, who may be a little squeamish about mounting a horse and riding off a cliff.

The beginning of the trip is breathtaking, they say, for those brave enough to look down. Geist held a fixed stare on the back of his horse’s neck.

And frankly, Geist’s horse didn’t seem too crazy about making this trip, either.

After a long ride down, Havasu Creek, a crystal-clear, turquoise stream signaled their approach to the village of Supai, an oasis in the desert. “Havasupai” means people of the blue-green waters.

Charlie Chamberlain’s arrival is always anxiously awaited. For the Havasupai Indians, the mule train is a lifeline; the nearest supermarket is 120 miles from the top of the canyon.

 

This looks like the way back up – too steep for me!

Insulated by its own remoteness and towering red cliffs, this village of a few hundred people is a step back in time: no paved streets, no cars, no streetlights.

Charlie’s wife, Agnes, has lived here her whole life. “I know when I go to town, it’s really noisy. You hear the trains, you hear the sirens, you hear traffic. Down here, you don’t. And it’s really quiet,” she told Geist. “I like that. I think it’s really neat.”

“It’s our job, to take care of the canyon, the Grand Canyon, and the water and the salt and the pain that we live through, you know, through with the land. That’s us. It has to be us. You know, we’re the guardians of the Grand Canyon. That’s what we have to live up to,” said Matthew Putesoy, who is on the tribal council.

Beautiful.

 

These rocks have been here for billions of years, the Havasupai for nearly 1,000, the Postal Service for more than a century, Charlie for decades.

“How many of these trips have you made up and down the mountain? You ever count them up?” Geist asked.

“No, but I figured one time over the 21-plus years I’ve been doing this, I’ve been around the world two times on horseback,” Chamberlain replied. “I love it.”

 

Official Post mark of the Mule Mail.

 



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2 comments have been posted...

  1. Kathy

    We hiked that route 3 times,about 9 miles to the village. Stayed at the only motel and enjoyed days of hiking and swimming in crystal clear waters. It is a beautiful place but I must say many of the horses & dogs are not well taken care of on the reservation and it was sad to see so many emaciated horses. After seeing a dead horse being dragged across the road to be dumped and seeing an emaciated mare with a young foal at her side, I could not stand to go back there. Because this is a reservation there is nothing you can do to help these poor creatures.

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