By Patty Wilber
While a good number of my Appaloosa cow horse friends were at the Appaloosa World Show (doing a great job! I hope Indy will be good enough to go in 2019), me and my own cow horse turned trail horse for this week, LT, Jim and my BCH buddies Peter and Mary Ann went to clean up a junky, litter-strewn hunting camp in the Pecos Wilderness, for the Forest Service.
Mary Ann and I made a first run at it Friday Oct 23, but only made Beatty’s Cabin (14 mile round trip) due to unforeseen minor, but delaying, complications. Since the days are getting shorter and the weather is getting colder, we wanted to check this box before the snow froze the high country off for the season. October 28 looked like it could work for the 22 mile round trip. A little cold, but no chance of precipitation
We saddled up in 23 degree F weather
We left Jack’s Creek at 840 am (left home at 545 am).
Elk Season is over there, it is getting too cool for back packers, there were only a few deer hunters, and the majority of the cattle (except the lost stragglers) had been taken out of the high country last week (still behind schedule), so we very nearly had the trails to ourselves.
We had all dressed for the cold and rode most of the way, content without conversation, enjoying the solitude of each other’s company, the feel of our horses, the spareness of the white-barked leafless aspen and the fall-browned grass.
Just past Beatty’s flats, we spotted three horsemen maybe a mile ahead of us.
Over an hour later, we left trail 24, hit Gascon Trail, found the creek that was supposed to be right near the camp, but we could not find the blue flagging that a previous hiking crew had used to mark the spot when they had discovered the camp (and started on the clean up), so we began to wander.
We wandered right to the camp, and it was a mess.
As we tied up and began to come up with a plan, one of the riders we had seen rode out of the trees.
He said half of it was their cow camp (which is allowed, but generally the Forest Service knows where these are located) and they still had 20 head they were in search of, despite the fact that they were well past the permitted last grazing date. Then he said the other half was a Forest Service camp. Not.
Then he decided it was really an outfitter’s camp, and last year those outfitters had made a mess that the cow guys packed out.
After he settled on that story, he noted that the neatly packed tent and one chair oddly stashed behind a log right next to a pile of human feces and used toilet paper, was theirs. The rest was not.
Except that wood stove.
And a two man saw.
We agreed to leave those things, the rider left, and we and set to work. The (illegal) camp must of been all his, but the guy was surprisingly undefensive, and thanked us for the work that BCH does. Of course, we probably just saved him from cleaning up his own mess…
We buried the human waste, gathered lots of blue Coors Light cans, folded the torn up wall tent parts, collapsed the broken chairs, took stuff off the tree nails, removed a constructed a wind break and rehabbed the fire pit and extracted burned garbage. We were not able to get the big nails out of the trees.
This mess made me proud of our association with Camp Kingsbury, which is also packed into a Wilderness, with wall tents, wood stoves, cots, and all sorts of comfy amenities. But when we go, we try to Leave No Trace.
We made it back at dusk (about 6:30) and the temperature had fallen to 37F.
Good crew, good job, good riding!