Friday, May 26, 2017

Pack Mules, February 1961

Looking at today's Frontierland, it almost seems hard to believe that there used to be a time when guests could ride a gentle, trustworthy mule through a spectacular wilderness. But it really happened, by gum! I have the pictures to prove it.

In the early days there was just the "Rainbow Desert", but by 1961, the fabulous "Nature's Wonderland" had hatched. And you could view the many amazing sights from a Mine Train, or from the back of a mule. Each had its own particular charms.

I guess there was no height limit, because this buckaroo is less than pint-sized. I'll bet this was a new sensation, riding this living, breathing, swaying critter. His brow is furrowed, but I'm sure it's more a result of intense concentration than worry.

I wonder how long a trip via mule took? It was probably a pretty leisurely pace, giving guests time to really soak it all in. Of course the Mine Train went through Rainbow Caverns at the end, while the mules did not.

That lucky cuss, he's about to see bears, battling elk, geysers, a saguaro forest, wild pigs, rattlesnakes, antelope, beavers, and crazy rock formations. I'll trade places with you anytime, Tex!


Nanook said...


Sign me up for Cascade Peak and Rainbow Caverns-! (Who needs storm troopers-!)

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

I still have strong memories of riding the Pack Mules. Less scenic than the Mine Train, but as a kid, thrilling to ride a living breathing animal. Such simple pleasures. Frontierland seemed more authentic back then. Nice set. Especially since we don't see many pics of the Pack Mules. Thanks, Major.

fromnabulax said...

Although I can't remember how long the trip actually took, I do remember it as being the longest in the park, with the exception of the railroad. It was a great value for the ticket price. That plus the fact that it took you along a trail that actually felt completely removed from 20th century Anaheim made it my all time favorite as a kid.

On returning to the park as an adult, I would always scout out the remains stretch of trail from the upper deck of the Mark Twain and quietly long for the bucolic sweetness of the oh so gentle and quiet attraction.

Sadly the reinvention of the Disneyland of the 21st Century holds absolutely zero interest for me, and so the entire Disneyland experience at least for me exists solely as sweet memories. Memories and visits to blogs like this one.

Anonymous said...

My Disneyland is the Disneyland of the 60's and 70's. No kinship to what's there now. Can you imagine what OSHA would have to say about the pack mules?

DrGoat said...

I also remember the mules, but like K., no distinct memories. My sister, who was a few years older than me, had a horse, so I was already familiar with riding a big animal around. That horse never liked me much. Got thrown off only once, which was the last time I rode that cantankerous beast.

Patrick Devlin said...

What's not to love? Ride gargantuan beasts through the wilderness! Of course it's an "E" ticket...

I like the details of the buildings that were sort of an extension of Rainbow Ridge to the other side of the tracks. I forget that they were there, my memory no doubt colored by seeing even older photos online where there little other than the corrals and loading area.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, you are officially signed up! Please show up at least 30 minutes early so that we can select the perfect mule.

K. Martinez, I am always happy to find photos of the Pack Mules, for sure. A few years ago somebody put a Pack Mule photo on Facebook, and somebody commented that “this is not Disneyland”. This happens every once in a while, people can’t believe what used to be at the park!

fromnabulax, I never experienced the mule ride, but I figured it must have been pretty leisurely. Sounds amazing! Will there ever be a ride that takes 10 or 15 minutes in the future?? Your comment evoked all kinds of warm fuzzies.

Anonymous, I agree with you. And I don’t like being one of those people who complains about the way things are today, but my gosh, one look at those crowds, and I can think of all kinds of things I’d rather do. Lots of people still love it though, and I guess I am happy for them.

DrGoat, ha ha, I was never a horse person at all. My family would go up to the high Sierras in the summer, and we always went horseback riding. Seemed I always got the nag that wanted to go off trail, or that didn’t want a smelly kid on its back! During a long stay at my great aunt’s farm in Wisconsin, my grandma paid for riding lessons for “something to do” - I was glad when they ended. I had way more fun exploring the barn, the pond, the river that ran through, looking at the bats in the old "bunkhouse", etc!

Anonymous said...

Fun stuff today Major.

All the gentle trustworthy mules have been replaced with violent and subversive banthas.

I don't recall the mule ride at all, but it had to have overlapped with my early visits.

This is the first time I have understood that the Rainbow Desert existed before Nature's Wonderland. Does this mean that the early part of the journey, with Bear Country etc. was added later? What was there before, just trees? Or was this just a change in nomenclature to make the ride sound more exciting?

My experience with horses and mules was much like the others here. Rode a few times camping, but never struck a chord with me. We sent our kids to a horse camp when they were small, 4-6 grade. They had a riot riding and caring for the animals, but neither of them have shown any sign of being horse people afterward. My dad liked horses, having grown up with them on his farm, but he seemed happy enough with a tractor. He told stories of his horses standing out up to their chest in the slough water to avoid plowing. He would have to wade out to get them. The tractor never did that.


Chuck said...

Is that Harry Connick, Jr., in the first photo?

I wonder why they stopped selling cordwood at the Park.

JG, you're correct - most of the well-remembered outdoor show scenes were added in 1960 as the attraction was significantly enhanced and aligned with the "Nature's Wonderland' film series theme.

TokyoMagic! said...

I wish I had rode the Pack Mules before they took them out. The odd thing is, that I don't even remember seeing them in the park, even though we rode the Mine Train before the Pack Mules were removed.

Patrick, those buildings remained over there even after the Pack Mules were closed. They even parked one of the old DL Stage Coaches in front of them just for "atmosphere." I know the buildings were still there as late as 1976 and I'm guessing that they remained until the Mine Train closed the following year.

Nanook said...

@ JG-

When the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train opened, on July 2, 1956, there wasn't much there besides desert rocks and colorful geysers. But for the makeover, which opened on May 28, 1960, the name was changed to The Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland, and a whole lotta other 'stuff' was added to the attraction. Such as 204 "lifelike" animals, populating such diverse areas as: Bear Country; Beaver Valley, the Living Desert, and Rainbow Caverns. (Okay, not too many animals in those caverns). Not to mention a big fav on this site: Cascade Peak.

"As the most elaborate and ambitious animation project ever attempted, this $1.8 million re-creation of North America's wilderness country represents more than a year-and-a-half of development by Disney art directors and technicians. You get the idea. It was a Big Deal-! And it certainly showed.

DrGoat said...

Ditto Major. Exploring was always my favorite occupation back then. Never know what you're going to stumble across.

Anonymous said...

@Chuck and Nanook, thank you! Did not know this. The ride must have been pretty dull without the bears and the bobcat.


Anonymous said...

Yeah..the "mules" as we called the attraction. While I never was trained on it a number of my CM associates were. It was could be rather hot, dusty and smelly on a hot summer's day. While I don't recall any height restriction (there had to have been one along with age), there was a weight restriction. The mules were situated where the lightest guests we seated up front and increased in weight to the rear of the pack. You may see that in photos...the kids were up front. KS

Dean Finder said...

Were the buildings of Rainbow Ridge furnished, or were the windows obscured with curtains? Were they 5/8 scale as well?

Major Pepperidge said...

JG, I dunno, banthas always seemd sort of cool to me, not that I want them at Disneyland necessarily. Yeah, the early Rainbow Desert was relatively minimal compared to the spectacular “Nature’s Wonderland”, though I still wish I could have seen it. My mom owned a horse (at the property where we saw snow), it’s hard to believe that the San Fernando Valley was ever a place for those.

Chuck, it’s Harry Connick senior! I wondered if anybody was going to comment on the fire wood.

TokyoMagic!, I’m with you, I don’t remember them at ALL personally, though they were certainly there in my younger days.

Nanook, thanks for the info - it makes me want to see Nature’s Wonderland all over again. Especially Rainbow Caverns, wowee.

DrGoat, I guess I was lucky to have the kind of childhood that allowed such adventures.

JG, if nothing else the ride must have been considerably shorter too.

KS, I can only imagine what it would have been like to work with mules all day. And yet… there must be many more onerous jobs, even at Disneyland. If you have an affinity for animals, it was probably not too bad.

Dean Finder, I don’t believe that you could see inside any of the Rainbow Ridge buildings.