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  • MULE CROSSING: Mules of Molokai

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    By Meredith Hodges

    It is no secret that mules, due to their innate sensibility and incredible surefootedness, are the equine of choice for packing and riding into untamed wilderness areas. Dependable mules carry thousands of tourists down the steep trails of the Grand Canyon each year. This enables many to take in the splendor and beauty of an otherwise nearly inaccessible corner of the world.

    Not limited to Mainland activities, mules are also used on the island of Molokai in Hawaii to carry tourists on a memorable ride down the Kalaupapa Trail to the Makanalua Peninsula and the settlement of Kalaupapa. Years ago, before it was discovered that leprosy was not highly contagious, afflicted persons were taken to the Makanalua Peninsula by boat and left there. The sheer cliffs on the landside of the peninsula prevented them from leaving. Father Damien de Veuster of Belgium built the first church and brought hope to the old settlement of Kalawao.

    Today, people are allowed to come and go, and the settlement is permitted to delight in some of the modern-day conveniences. Though the settlement is only 12 square miles, there are cars and mini-buses to aid in transportation. After the mule ride down the cliff trail, mini-buses give personal tours around the settlement where you can learn about everyday life then and now. You’ll see their homes, general store, dock, medical facilities, lonely graveyards, the old settlement of Kalawao, and Father Damien’s church, St. Philomena.

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