Jul 212017

By Patty Wilber

Last Sunday, the Pecos Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen (BCH) helped pack out a folding toilet, a propane tank and other materials that helped make Kevin Balciar’s volunteer trail crew happier on their 10 day stint working on Rito Los Esteros (#226) and Skyline (#251) trails in the Pecos Wilderness.

It was a tough job (really it was just fun), but someone had to do it.

Jim and I spent the night at Iron Gate campground.  In the past, BCH had avoided Iron Gate because the four miles of dirt road was a steep  trailer eater, full of deep ruts and hitch-cracking, axle-snapping holes.  It was repaired, and while still steep (we would not have got our camper and loaded three horse trailer out in the rain without 4WD), it only had two big holes and the surface was solid and not terribly slick, even with water streaming down it.

To begin the day, we had to get an early start to meet Richard, Amber and Peter who had ridden in Saturday and overnighted with Kevin’s group, so we rode out of Iron Gate at 7:10 am.

The route leaves Iron Gate and heads south on trail 249 then right on 250 to Mora Flats.

I do not know if we are on 249 or 250 in this picture. Trail 249 starts from Iron Gate camp ground and joins 250 which stays high for a while then drops down to the top of this valley that you can see to our right. The trail (240) then heads back south and is down there somewhere.

At Mora Flats, we crossed the Mora River, made a U-turn onto what I think is 240 and headed back south through the flats.  The valley narrows and 240 continues, but we headed east and up the steep #226 Rito los Esteros (RLE) Trail (“rito” means “little river” or “creek” and “estero” means “marsh”, in Spanish). Trail 226 joins 251 (Skyline) at the top.

Ritos los Esteros goes in and out of an old burn scar from the 2002 Trampas Fire (part of the Roybal Complex fire) * where most of the trees are down. This is nice because once down, there is  nothing left to fall on the path so if the way is cleared (which is what Kevin’s crew did a lot of last year), it should stay that way for a good long time.

Eventually, the RLE heads back into forest and that is where we met up with the others. The trail continues to 251, Skyline, and Kevin’s  crew cleared the RLE to 251 and some distance on 251.  There were lots of logs down this year, so they did not get as far as they had hoped.

The campsite was in the woods, and it is remarkable to think that the burned area (pictures below) once looked like this.

Amber and Will, getting ready to head down.

Richard and Chance

The working crew: John, Ben and Belle. Maybe in that order.

Longshot and Squirt with Peter

“that was a nice morning ride! 7.5 miles in 2 hours 25 minutes and we didn’t even trot! This is a nice place to hang out!”

“what? what do you mean we are heading back as soon as cometa is loaded? we just got here!”

We did indeed pack our load and were on the homeward trek at 10:15am.  We are an efficient crew!

The pictures on the way back showed the views better!

I think that is the Jaroso burn scar on the far side, and Hamilton Mesa is the green meadow area across the valley.

Cometa, packed, and Jim on Penny, in the burn. That view is pretty nice, eh?

Follow the path between the cut logs! The trail drops right off back to the Mora river. Amazing that this area was once thick forest!

Mora River on the way back.  This is where 240 joins 250 and 250 climbs back up to 249 which goes to Iron Gate. Longshot’s load is listing to the right. So are the riders, Jim’s cantle bag, and that tree in front of Peter. It was not the camera angle, I swear.

It was at this point that I took off my sweatshirt because I was getting warm.  About a mile later, the clouds coalesced and soon it started to sprinkle.  Then rain.  Then hail.  I kept thinking it was surely going to stop, so I only put on my short rain jacket (not my voluminous Muddy Creek jacket that covers me and a lot of my horse, too, and not my rain pants, either).  It kept raining.  My legs got quite wet on the last leg of the day, but I had Sno-sealed my boots last year and my feet stayed dry!

Jim and I had planned to hang out for a few hours at the campground since we were back by 12:30 (15 miles by lunchtime! We were proud!), but the clouds looked pretty dark, and the rain got heavier as we untacked, so we cleaned up our site, shut up the camper and headed out.

It rained for about half of the two hour drive home! But it had not rained at our house.

Since most of our tack was wet, we unpacked and turned the trailer into a drying rack!

Another fine adventure

  • If anyone has maps of fires in the Pecos, I would love to see them!