Archive for the ‘Burros’ Category

‘Born to Run’ author likes ‘Wild Burro Tales’

August 11, 2010

A few years ago, Christopher McDougall came out to cover the Leadville International Pack-Burro Race for Men’s Health magazine. Since then, he’s become a New York Times best-selling author with his book “Born to Run.” When I was putting “Wild Burro Tales” together I contacted Christopher and asked him to read the galleys. He provided this kind quote, which is on the back cover of the book:

You need to read “Wild Burro Tales” to discover why Hal Walter is the poet laureate of pack burros, and why pack burros deserve their own poet. For the same reason we’re lucky that Jack London went to Alaska and Hemingway took a fancy to bullfights, we got a break when a writer of Walter’s talents decided to immerse himself in the weird and wonderful world of pro burro racing. Not only does Walter capture all the drama of “the longest, highest, roughest, toughest test of man and beast” where “a big animal gets in the way of a big ego,” he also pays as much respect to the scrappy old miners who created the sport as the blazing young newcomers who are redefining it. No one knows more about this unique partnership of complex animals and extraordinary athletes than Walter, and it’s hard to imagine a writer who could describe it better.

— Christopher McDougall

Author of New York Times Best-Seller “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen”

How to get a copy of “Wild Burro Tales”:

• Available at The Book Mine in Leadville, The Hand Hotel in Fairplay, the Book Haven in Salida, Candy’s Coffee and Westcliffe Super Market in Westcliffe, and The Bookery in Pueblo.

• Order a signed copy directly from me.

• Order from

• Order from Creastespace:

Caballo Blanco meets Burro Negro

July 31, 2010

If you’ve read Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen,” then Caballo Blanco, aka Micah True, needs no introduction. If you haven’t read this New York Times Best-Seller, it would be easier for you to get the book and read it than for me to try to explain who Caballo is.

Caballo Blanco, Burro Pinto and Jalapeno.

There’s a reason the book has been on the NYT Best-Seller list for months — it’s because it’s a great read. A good part of the story is devoted to tracking down and explaining the almost mythical Caballo Blanco who lives much of his time among the Tarahumara, or Raramuri, people in the Copper Canyon country of Mexico.

I had to go on no such search to find Caballo. All I had to do was drive an hour to the Bill and Julie Canterbury Ranch near Howard, and I already knew how to get there. Caballo appeared there Friday ready to try his hand at pack-burro racing. This was Caballo’s first introduction to the sport prior to running the Leadville’s Boom Days race next Sunday, though he’s seen plenty of burros in Copper Canyon, and hires them out to pack gear on tours that he guides there.

Caballo is also no stranger to long-distance running — that’s mostly what he does, and he’s competed in countless ultramarathons, including the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon, which he organizes.

This venture into pack-burro racing was arranged through Roger Pedretti, brother of the late Rob Pedretti, my close friend whom I wrote about in my book, “Wild Burro Tales.” Roger took up pack-burro racing as a tribute to Rob following his death, and now travels from Wisconsin each summer to run in the races.

It seems Roger struck up a friendship with Caballo over Facebook (go figure – Caballo has nearly 2,000 Facebook “friends”), and talked him into checking out pack-burro racing. Of course Caballo needed a decent burro, and so Roger contacted me and I decided to set him up with Spike, who has actually won the Leadville race a couple times. Spike, by the way, is black.

So we met at Cantebury’s for a training run, up the Howard Creek road. Basically we just ran uphill about three miles and then back to the ranch. Caballo did well keeping Spike moving uphill, but on the way back down Spike managed to get away from him a couple times.

After the run I asked Caballo how he’s coping with the newfound fame brought about by the book. He said that he has mixed emotions about it, and that he’s “trying to keep it real” by channeling the energy into helping the Raramuri people sustain their culture.

Last year the race he organizes brought in 100,000 pounds of corn for the Tarahumara, and $14,000 in prizes. In fact every Raramuri who finishes his race is awarded 500 pounds of corn. But Caballo wants to do more. He’s traveling the country doing speaking engagements in hopes of raising more awareness about the Tarahumara. And he’s contemplating a book of his own.

Apparently Caballo and Roger have a couple more training runs scheduled next week to give him more opportunity to get acquainted with Spike. It’ll be interesting to see how they do at Boom Days next weekend.

‘Wild Burro Tales’ is out!

July 27, 2010

My little jab at the Literary Industrial Complex — Wild Burro Tales – Thirty Years of Haulin’ Ass — is now available. I released the book Sunday at the World Championship Pack-Burro Race in Fairplay.

While the race itself was a real challenge — my burro Laredo was sour on the competition — the book was well received.

This collection of stories had its origins in my adventures on the Western Pack-Burro Racing circuit. But it grew to include a fascination with equus asinus, my exploration of using these animals as backcountry packers and saddle donkeys, and as therapeutic riding animals for my son Harrison.

The book contains a few selections from my original book Pack-Burro Stories, some of which have been reworked. In addition, there are several more essays and short stories that I have written in more recent years.

I was fortunate to have local artist Lorie Merfeld-Batson provide pen-and-ink drawings to accompany some of the stories. Several photographer friends provided some great photos. I am thankful to all who helped bring the stories to life with these images.

I’m also extremely grateful for Mary Lyn Koval’s editing expertise.

I’ve written about many of my adventures with burros over the years, but producing this book has been another all-consuming experience in and of itself. For now, signed copies are available directly from me. Send $18 ($15, plus $3 shipping and handling) to Hal Walter, 307 Centennial Dr., Westcliffe, CO 81252.

‘Haulin’ Ass’: The movie trailer

July 10, 2010

I just looked this up. A trailer is a preview or movie advertisement. Last summer, Trevor Velin, a New York filmmaker who has become a good friend, came to Colorado to make a documentary film on pack-burro racing. Trevor was out last week and wired me for some additional voice-over. He showed me his rough cut of the film, and some of the scenes moved me to tears. He really found and explored some raw nerves in the three characters — myself, Curtis Imrie and Roger Pedretti. Sport meets art head-on in this documentary. The movie is due out this summer. For now, here is his trailer for the film.

A good day on the trails

May 20, 2010

Good energy out on the trails Wednesday with my old friend and veteran pack-burro racer Kendra, and new friends Mel and Rob, all from the Denver area.

Mel and Ace.

Kendra brought Mel and Rob here to check out pack-burro running. They were introduced to Ace, Redbo and Laredo. And everyone got to run with every burro except Rob, who served as the official photographer for the outing and somehow missed out on his chance to run with Ace. Rob has a good eye with a camera.

We took a jaunt through Bear Bones Ranch and then through the school section to see if we could locate our cows, but the cattle were hiding in the brush. Then we cut over through Bear Basin Ranch for some cross-country, trails and double-track dirt roads.

In the end we had put in two hours of running. All the donkeys and people had good workouts. It was decided that Ace is the most steady, but in the end Mel pulled away with Laredo and got back here first.

Kendra takes her turn with Ace.

Back at the Out There Pack-Burro Ranchito we enjoyed fresh salads before they headed back to civilization. I hope to see them all back here soon.

Photos by Rob Hering.

Simple arugula salad; Marines deploy longears

April 12, 2010

I try to eat a salad every day, but recently I’ve been bored with the same old leafy routines. So I decided to invent some new salads that are nutritious and simple.

This one’s simply baby arugula and kiwi fruit. Wash and dry the arugula leaves and place in salad bowls. Under running water take a paring knife and scrape the fuzz off the kiwi fruits, retaining the brown skin which contains valuable tocotrienols. These are hard-to-find components of the vitamin E complex that are generally not available in vitamin pills. Slice the kiwis crosswise and serve over the arugula.  I like to dress this with lemon-flavored flax oil.

• • •

I try to avoid the news because I believe it is bad for your health, brain-wave function and general outlook on life. It’s also addictive. Especially, I tune out opiniontainment channels. However, someone recently sent this Fox report about the Marine’s use of donkeys and mules in Afghanistan. There’s also a video clip mid-story. Interesting in this age of high-tech warfare that we turn to mules and donkeys for back-country transportation when the going gets rugged.

Spring training and Spike’s new trick

February 28, 2010

Saw an actual robin yesterday while doing some snow removal in the driveway. Not that a robin is totally unheard of up here in the wintertime, but it did seem a little bit out of context.

I took it as a sign, and decided to open spring training a little early. I ended up taking Spike out for a 90-minute run. I hadn’t done anything much over an hour since last fall, so I was pleasantly surprised to feel pretty good for this first longer workout.

Spike did pull a new trick on me, however. There’s a cattle guard on Brush Hollow Road that has a three-way gate. Essentially there are two wire gates that hitch to one post where three pastures meet at the road.

I had opened them and put Spike through on a long lead, and was wrestling with the hasp on the last gate. That’s when I noticed Spike eyeing the cattle guard and thought “Oh $%#@.’”

At this point I realized all I could do was stay stlll, watch, and hope for the best.

And what I watched Spike do was simply an amazing lesson in just how sure-footed donkeys can be. He walked right over that cattle guard, placing his feet, both the fronts and backs, directly on the metal rails. There was no misstep, no slip-up. He simply walked right over a cattle guard that would eat most horses alive. Not that I view this as a good thing for Spike to do, but it was amazing to watch.

I had to reopen the gates to put him back through before we could continue on our way.

The Burro Boy, an essay

January 3, 2010

Download and read my essay, theburroboy, illustrated by Lorie Merfeld-Batson.

The gift that could change someone’s life

December 13, 2009

If you are looking for a meaningful gift to give someone this holiday season, consider the book “In Fitness and In Health” by Dr. Phil Maffetone. You just may be giving someone the gift of health!

This book details the diet, nutrition, exercise and lifestyle strategies that I’ve used to stay healthy and fit, and to compete at pack-burro racing, for many years. But it’s not just for athletes — the principles can be used by anyone who wishes to improve health and fitness.

If you order this Monday or Tuesday there’s a 20% discount — you get the book for $14.39 (the regular price is $17.99). It’s an inexpensive gift for friends and family.

To order, go to:

Many of you know that I have worked with Phil as his editor since 1998, and have been the editor of this book for three editions, now. We worked on two printings of the 3rd edition starting in the late 90s. And there was a major overhaul of the book for the 4th edition in 2002.

However, this new 5th edition, which I edited and designed earlier this year, is more complete and more interesting than all the others. It contains updated information, and some totally new material about organic foods, sunshine, gut health, and more. It tells how to optimize the diet for physical and mental performance, and how to make healthy dietary choices to prevent disease.

This book could change somebody’s life, or even save somebody’s life.

What better holiday gift could there be?

A second Thanksgiving

November 29, 2009

It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving and I just wanted a turkey dinner. One cooked by me. My friend Peter had a spare bird, so we made a deal.

It started in the morning when I roasted a small pumpkin for an almond-crust pie. This was followed by a frenzy of cooking: a sausage-rice dressing, mashed cauliflower, prepping the turkey for roasting, green beans, gravy. It was a full day in the kitchen.

After all this cooking what I really needed was some fresh air and some exercise.

It was late and the turkey was still roasting when I headed outside and selected Redbo out of the pasture. We headed out running onto the Bear Basin Ranch trails and somewhere out there the sun slipped behind the Sangres. It was damn well dark when we came off the trail and struck out on the road home — two more miles ahead in the dark.

An overcast sky captured the glow of the waxing moon and all was still except for my own breathing and the clip-clop of the burro’s hooves. It was an exhilarating experience as Redbo headed for the barn with his big trot, and my feet, in step with his, quickly searched out the invisible ground. Perhaps this is how it would feel to fly. Nearing home, Redbo’s ears perked up and his head towered high over my own to point out the ghostly gray forms of deer coursing through a field in the weak moonlight.

In many ways it was one of the most interesting and thrilling runs I’ve ever had with a burro, better even than some races I’ve won.

Back home the smell of roasting turkey filled the air, and soon this would be joined by the sounds of friends. Indeed, there was much to be thankful for.

• • •

A friend sent this link to a story about a man and his autistic son who were swept out to sea by a rip tide, though the story is really about much more than that. It’s yet another interesting look inside the world of autism and is highly recommended reading.