Outdoors Blog

Café Mulé finds private land to serve coffee in Foothills

How to make pour-over coffee

Matt Bishop of Cafè Mulè demonstrates how he made trailside coffee Saturday in the Boise Foothills. He hauled his gear to this spot by hiking 1.5 miles with his mule.
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Matt Bishop of Cafè Mulè demonstrates how he made trailside coffee Saturday in the Boise Foothills. He hauled his gear to this spot by hiking 1.5 miles with his mule.

Matt Bishop, Richard the Mule and their Café Mulé operation are no longer renegades.

Bishop, who began serving coffee in the Boise Foothills in May despite a string of regulatory hurdles, has found two private landowners who gave him permission to serve coffee at a total of three locations on the Ridge to Rivers trail system, he said. Those landowners provided trail easements to Ridge to Rivers.

Operating on private land removed the limit on how many people Bishop could serve and allowed him to accept tips and donations.

“It’s great to serve where there’s no question about permitting,” Bishop said. “I’m there doing something the private landowners appreciate and the people recreating on their land appreciate. There’s just no gray area now.”

Bishop’s quest for permits through Ridge to Rivers and the federal land agencies that own much of the trail system was denied. He began serving coffee for free in late May to a maximum of 73 customers to stay under the U.S. Forest Service’s 75-person limit for a non-permitted event. However, the Forest Service argued that even that was not allowed.

Bishop kept serving on Forest Service land until he was able to reach an agreement with the two private landowners. He served coffee on seven consecutive weekends before taking a break. He’ll be back out July 30 with a new product — cold-brew coffee. He’ll serve cold brew until temperatures cool, then switch back to hot coffee.

His three locations are the intersection of Kestrel and Red Cliffs, above the Foothills Learning Center; the lower part of Sidewinder, which is farther up the Hulls Gulch area; and the lower part of Three Bears in the Military Reserve area.

He’ll be on Sidewinder from 7:30 to 11 a.m. on July 30. Future locations are announced on Wednesdays at cafemule.com and on social media.

Bishop served more than 70 cups of coffee June 25 and July 4, he said.

“Seventy people in three and a half hours — it’s good, it’s fun,” he said. “People were staying and talking.”

He had one man ride to the coffee stand on a mountain bike one weekend and on a horse the next weekend. The man also brought two friends who were riding mules. One customer made a donation for Richard’s feed — and specified a quality variety.

“It’s fun to meet people who are passionate about coffee and passionate about animals,” Bishop said, “to get their input and see the follow-through on being a little part of it.”

Watch as runner Paul Bolick arrives at Cafè Mulè -- Matt Bishop's coffee stand on a trail in the Boise Foothills. The supplies were packed in by mule.

The reception, like it was the first morning he served, has been overwhelmingly positive, Bishop said — despite this Michael Deeds column.

He plans to continue serving coffee for free, which prevents him from turning away people who don’t bring money on their hikes, runs or bike rides.

“It’s great to say it’s on the house,” Bishop said. “People have stayed 15-20 minutes to talk. They get in conversations with other people. It’s just a rewarding experience. If I started charging, I would lose people who just happen upon us. I’d be not as inclusive and lose some of that community element that’s been kind of cool.”

Table Rock trail will be closed Monday

Table Rock trail No. 15 will be closed Monday to repair damage from the recent fire. That trail is required to reach Table Rock from the Old Pen trailhead. However, you can still hike to Table Rock on the Tram trail.

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