To Preserve the Heritage of the Fur Trade Era

New Mexico Mountain Men

HORSE TREK 2004
NMMM Horse Trek V
July 22 – 25, 2004

Members participating:
  • Red Wing
  • Long Shot
  • Timber
  • Does It All
  • Pack Mule
  • Billy
  • Hands – Booshway
Packing

Thursday morning began at daylight with last minute loading of plunder and stock into vehicles and trailers for the drive to the trail head departure point. By 10:00 AM the packs were tarped and lashed down; and the excited members climbed aboard fresh stock to head up the Mimbres River to the first camp site of the trip. It is always a thrilling sight to behold of the time warp closing on pick-ups fading from view and re-opening 175 years in the past revealing a group of trappers heading into the mountains to ply their skills and luck as they seek the fortunes of the high country.

The first mileThe first mile always involves some minor adjustments of gear and arranging of animals to settle into a good travel mode and this trip was no exception. That done, the ride continued with a drop into the main Mimbres River which has suffered from the continuing drought as the first trail crossings were dry compared to a good flow on this route two years previously. However, by the first camp site several miles up, the water was flowing once again in semblance of at least a small creek. A delightful camp site was selected for the tall Ponderosa pines, Cottonwoods, associated river flora, and good grazing. The experience of the group showed true, as packs were unloaded, animals tethered, and camp set in a matter of minutes, allowing time for relaxing and a bit of fishing before the Dutch oven and coffee pot were licked by the flames of a cheery campfire. Hungers sated, tales told, and blankets rolled into concluded this day.

Friday morning dawned with dampness from a brief shower during the night, but the coffee began brewing early while various birds of the mountains serenaded the camp with wonderful and joyous melodies to announce the sunrise. In short order the camp was converted to packs riding on mules and saddles creaking under the weight of riders headed upstream to the high peaks of the Gila. The point where the trail forked to leave the river was reached in a couple of hours and the long climb to the second camp site at Squeaky Springs on Reed’s Peak began. The many varieties and colors of mountain flowers and plants in bloom was noted by the riders and feeble attempts at identification for possible eating or other uses resulted in the resolve for study when returning to the settlements. A very large Douglas fir tree along the trail was remembered as a place where moccasins were full of water from the inside the last time this trail was traveled by members of the NMMM. So far this trip the rain had located itself apart from the group, but the thunder rolled and echoed in the canyons as altitude was gained and a wary eye or two scanned the clouds for what could lay in store. Fortunately the weather held as the riders attained the beautiful grassy meadow near the top of the peak and while mules and horses rolled in delight and relief of no further work for the day, the second camp took shape in short order.

CampThe application of flint and steel soon had the pots boiling over the fire accompanied by laughter of a wild tale told or the nodding of heads when the remark is made, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” A couple of members experimented with different sets of their camps to further their knowledge and all seemed to work well except for mice chewing some leather not stored inside a shelter, which was different for that individual. And some discovered that application of capote before blankets is necessary at the altitude of this camp! One even wished for more hair above the ears.

Perhaps the altitude also contributed to some bizarre dreams…….. By Saturday morning it was second nature to pack up camp and be underway quickly despite the thin air causing momentary pauses. This would be a challenging day over several miles of unknown trail conditions providing a small clue of what those from 1825 had to face in the Gila as they searched for the plews. But first, the ride side-tracked to the very top of the peak to climb the old lookout tower and gaze out across the many miles of expanse on a fairly clear morning and see the distant settlements of T or C and Deming; features like the Plains of San Augustine, Caballo Lake, and the many canyons and peaks of the Gila Wilderness.

Cabin The abandoned lookout cabin is still being well cared for by the visitors who venture far for a brief stay.

A short back-tracking of the trail off the peak was necessary to start down one of the high ridges of the Black Range wherein lies the birth-place of the Mimbres River. Post card type vistas and beautiful flora, including many ready-to-eat raspberries, kept the travelers occupied as the trail continued to a fork that the location of was unfamiliar. Hopefully it would take the riders down the Middle Fork of the Mimbres hitting the South Fork and back to the main river canyon for the final camp. An old sign finally came into view pointing the way and it soon became apparent this was a trail "less-traveled". Numerous dead-fall trees lay across the trail and although most could be stepped over or jumped by the horses and mules, there were occasions when a detour had to be discovered by ride-around or hacking a new trail with machete’ and tomahawk through an aspen thicket. Horses scrambled to keep their footing in the often slick boulders and riders gave them their heads and held on for dear life at times! As is usually the case, good fun like this comes to an end and man and beast prevailed coming through unscathed and no worse for wear. The camp this particular evening seemed to take somewhat longer to set up and animals rested on pickets rather than begin grazing as soon as possible. A couple of flasks of snake oil were passed around to lubricate joints that had gone dry during the day and some fresh fish prepared by the "stream to pan" method allowed for an enjoyable fire.

The Sunday morning pack-up was completed in a slower and more silent fashion; not because of any linger of anything, but rather the fact that no one wished to return back through the time portal and leave the beloved mountains. However, the pace of the animals was quick as they knew where the trucks were and as all the participants took their last looks, each realizing the great value of keeping the spirit of the mountain man alive and well in the high country of the Gila. What a great ride!

Packing

One highlight well worth mention was the presentation at the first camp by NMMM Booshway Pack Mule, of Skinner rating to members Billy and Long Shot. Other highlights will be retold many times around the campfires. Congrats guys!!

The time portal closed at noon on Sunday and each rider received a small silver horse charm to mark the accomplishment and to be able to recall the memories. Each and everyone learned new things and polished the skills necessary to emulate those that are portrayed from the past.

See you in the high country,
Hands

high country


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