Lawson was sleeping when his friend came knocking on his door at 7:45 a.m. with unusual news — there were mules stationed at nearby Brand Park. The graphic designer thought his friend was joking at first, but then ran up the street to catch a glimpse of the mass of four-legged creatures.
PHOTOS: 100 mules walk through Glendale for 100th anniversary of the California Aqueduct
“If you're like me and you're fascinated by the desert and western history, then this is for you,” the Glendale resident said. “There's a romanticism about it, I guess.”
Artist Lauren Bon and Los Angeles-based Metabolic Studio are behind what they call an “artist's action” to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the animals that helped build it. The aqueduct brings water from the Owens River in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains to Los Angeles.
More than 250 people gathered in Brand Park to see the mules, each wearing blue-and-white signs that said “100” across the sides of their bodies and American flags that were attached in between the signs and appeared to sprout out of the mules’ backs. Some mules carried plants and small solar panels.
The last leg of the trip, which began in Lone Pine, Calif. last month, stretched from Brand Park to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank. Rolling street closures blocked traffic as the mules plodded along, led by riders in cowboy hats. Spectators clapped and waved at the procession.
Peter Rusch, assistant director at the Doctor's House Museum in Brand Park, said he saw the mules and their handlers camping up in the hills above the museum Sunday night and was most surprised to see the animals that carried small satellites and solar panels on their backs.
“They didn't allow us to get too close, but I did sneak a little pet,” Rusch said.
Pat Duffy of Sherman Oaks had also seen the mules before. He and a friend drove about 120 miles to take pictures of them crisscrossing an area known as Jawbone Canyon, where the aqueduct abuts a switchback trail.
“It was just an adventure,” said Duffy, who played “When the Saints Go Marching In” on a tin whistle before the mules began their descent along the Glendale trail.
Councilwoman Laura Friedman had an adventure of her own on Sunday as she rode one of the mules through La Tuna Canyon and Sunland on a roughly seven-hour ride.
Friedman, an experienced equestrian, saw a deer get trapped in the pack of mules, spooking the animals.
Also, one resident in La Tuna Canyon asked the crew if they were shooting a Hollywood movie.
“Riding 100 mules into Glendale was pretty spectacular,” Friedman said, gushing about the mountains and valley views she saw along the way.
Dale Tallakson of Burbank was there when Friedman and others paraded on the mules through Sunland. He was driving a Chinese exchange student he’s hosting to a school near the parade route on Sunday when he saw the mules walk by.
“I didn't know a thing about it. I was absolutely shocked,” said the retiree, who didn't have a camera on him that day, but brought one to Brand Park on Monday to snap pictures to share on Facebook.
“It's something you don't expect to see and [will] never see again,” Tallakson said.
Ten-year-old Angelie Bormeo was surprised how many mules were going clip-clop, clip-clop down the Glendale trail. She’d seen a mule before when she was 3 years old, didn't remember it.
“But this, I'll probably remember,” she said.