One hundred mules will step out in formation on Friday, Oct. 18 to start a 240-mile journey alongside the Los Angeles Aqueduct that will take them from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles in about 27 days to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the completion of the Aqueduct.
The first three days of the moving artistic and environmental statement being conducted by the Metabolic Studio will give Inyo County residents a chance to enjoy the sight of the massive mule parade moving across the landscape. The public is also invited to events and programs that will allow everyone to explore the Owens Valley’s agricultural heritage, sample locally grown food and examine how the tenuous nature of the Colorado River watershed could affect Los Angeles, the Owens Valley and the West. Finally, a community celebration with food, music and fun will be geared to shining the spotlight on the stars of the show: the 100 mules who represent the equine workforce that helped build the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
“The Metabolic Studio will perform ‘100 Mules Walking the Los Angeles Aqueduct,’ a commemorative artist action to connect Los Angeles to its water supply,” noted a press release from the Metabolic Studio. “Many people in Los Angeles don’t know their water comes from 240 miles away,” added Lauren Bon, head of the Metabolic Studio and driving force behind the 100 Mule event.
Trekking with mules alongside the canals and pipelines of the gravity fed aqueduct as it snakes through three counties and nearly 50 communities, is one way to raise consciousness about Los Angeles’ water infrastructure and invite “direct contact” with the resource and its conveyance, she added.
In Inyo County, where it sometimes seems that residents have almost daily direct contact with water issues, the aqueduct and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the commemorative mule march will be both a visual feast and an opportunity to reflect on the past, present and future of the region’s history, which is intertwined with its water history.
First, the large-sale equine procession has to get started, though.
The assembled mules and horses and wranglers will begin their expedition on Friday, Oct. 18 at the L.A. Aqueduct Intake structure, located at Aberdeen Station Road, about 10 miles north of Independence. The public is invited to see the mules begin their epic trek. Representatives from the City of Los Angeles and the LADWP will begin the day by unveiling a plaque that memorializes the opening of the Intake and the LA Aqueduct in February, 1913.
The plaque ceremony will take place at about 10:30 a.m.
Shortly thereafter, around 11 a.m. the 100 Mules Walking the Los Angeles Aqueduct will be off on their journey. The mules will be organized in 10 strings of 10 mules, with a wrangler in charge of each string. The mules will carry custom-made banners, Dolly the “power mule” will be carrying a solar panel, and there are likely to be other surprise loads in the herd.
Once under way, the mule train will move along the eastern side of the aqueduct.
On Saturday, the mules will make camp around Manzanar, and two events will take place in Independence. Both are free and open to the public.
Local historians Richard Potashian and Lynn Johnson will present “Eden Interrupted,” an overview of agriculture in the Owens Valley before and after the completion of the aqueduct. The talk will begin at 2 p.m. in the Legion Hall in Independence, at the corner of U.S. 395 and Kearsage Street.
At 4 p.m., the public is invited to meet the mule team during a Community Potluck and Harvest Celebration on the grounds of the Eastern California Museum, 155 N. Grant St. in Independence. Members of the Owens Valley Growers Cooperative will be on hand to discuss the formation of Farmer’s Markets in Independence and Lone Pine. Please bring a dish to share.
There will also be a ceremony by Zen Archer Hirokasu Kosaka during the afternoon.
On Sunday, the mules will travel to Lone Pine.
The public is encouraged to drop by the Echo Park Film Center mobile film bus, which will be parked in town starting at noon, and contribute ideas, content, photos and comments for the documentary work-in-progress, “Where Does Your Water Come From.”
Los Angeles and Southern California get a substantial amount of water from the Colorado River, water which is piped across the desert to California’s coastal cities. The huge plumbing system that has sprung up to spread and use Colorado River water is getting a bit stressed of late, with long-term drought conditions and too many demands for too little water.
The documentary film “Watershed” explores those issues, and presents a raft of alternatives to the current water ethic in the West. The film will show at 2 p.m. in the Lone Pine Film History Museum, and admission is free. Afterword, associate producer Forrest Pound, an Owens Valley native, will be on hand for a question-and-answer session.
The mules should arrive in Lone Pine around 4 p.m., and will spend the night at the Lone Pine Rodeo Grounds, directly behind the museum. The public is invited to help with a “Community Welcome” for the mules and riders, co-sponsored by the American Mule Museum in Bishop and Film History Museum. Food and refreshments will be available, and music will be provided by Sandy and the High Country, with special guests Coale Johnson and Victor Silvas.
At 5 p.m., the spotlight will be squarely on Dolly the Power Mule who is carrying solar panels that generate power and light, and her companions carrying an art studio, library and archives and other aspects of the march’s “urban form.” The discussion of this experimental aspect of the march will take place at the Metabolic Studio IOU Garden, at Willow and Main Streets, in Lone Pine.
On Monday, the 100 Mules Walking will walk around Owens Lake and eventually camp near Haiwee Reservoir. From there, the group will continue south, stopping at various communities along the way, and eventually arriving at the Aqueduct Cascades, on Nov. 5, to mark, to the day, the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Owens River water to Los Angeles, via the aqueduct.
For more information on the events in the Owens Valley, call the Eastern California Museum, (760) 878-0258, and the Lone Pine Film History Museum, (760) 876-9909.
(Read more in the Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013 edition of The Inyo Register.)