SMITH: Mules hitch ride across Golden Gate Bridge

The mules have made it across the bridge.

When John Sears appeared in Sonoma County with his three mules earlier this month, the pensive wanderer was hoping for better luck at the Golden Gate Bridge than he had encountered at the Highway 29 bridge over the Napa River.

Highway Patrol officers arrested Sears on June 26 after he and the animals walked across near Napa's George F. Butler Bridge. The CHP said had he ignored one officer's order that he stop and he later became verbally combative with others.

Sears — he prefers the name Mule — arrived Friday at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. He tied the mules under some trees in the parking area, then snapped off a branch about as long as his mules are wide.

Sears, who's 65 and a Bay Area native who tells of roaming with mules through 16 states, then walked the entire span, using the stick to measure whether there would be any tight spots for his pack animals.

Reaching the south end, he decided it would safe for his entourage to pass late at night, after all the cyclists and pedestrians had left. He asked permission to cross.

Kary Witt, deputy general manager of the bridge, went out and talked with him.

Witt said it would not be safe for him to walk across the mules. He and other bridge officials also were loathe to allow a precedent that might encourage others to come to the famed span with animals.

But Witt didn't merely send Sears away. Calls were made, and officers with the mounted unit of the National Park Service Police arrived with a horse trailer and offered Sears and his animals a ride.

Sears accepted. The officers whisked the travelers across the span and let them off in equestrian-friendly Golden Gate Park.

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