Camp Kingsbury

By Patty Wilber

Jim’s elk hunt was last week and we went to Camp Kingsbury in the Cruces Basin in Northern New Mexico.

Cruces Basin trail head and camping area. Twenty-three miles on dirt road, three on 4-wheel drive road. Bring your own water.

Penny reading the Cruces Basin trail head and camping area sign. To get here we drove twenty-three miles on dirt road and three on a 4-wheel drive road. Bring your own water.

The camp itself was three miles in on a trail and all the gear (and water) was carried in (and out) by equine. There was a lot of gear!

Two wall tents, with wood stoves, people food, animal feed, and a guided hunt were all provided.

The Camp. Two wall tents, with wood stoves, people food, animal feed, and a guided hunt: all provided!

We took Penny, Lacey and Cometa and they joined nine other  four-leggeds that had come in a few days earlier.

Lacey: "i am really good at this."

Lacey: “check me out! i am really good at this!” Cometa:”yeah yeah. just wait til u r my age u young whipper snapper!”

Elk hunting at Camp Kingsbury means up at O dark thirty, a quick hot breakfast of oatmeal and coffee in the yellow beams of the propane lanterns, and then heading off in the white light of the LED head lamps (until you can see just enough to avoid major catastrophe–then the lights go off) to where you hope the elk are going to be.

On day one, we loaded Molly mule with a wheel chair and Dave (Richard’s brother to whom said chair belongs) rode Milford (also a mule). Richard claimed I would not need a chain to lead Molly, but as soon as we got her untied, she rolled her eyes at my head lamp and bolted.  Very few items fell out of her panniers–at least not any of the important wheel chair parts...not that we could really see much as it was dark anyway.

Molly came back.  “ok. over that.  i’m good.”

We headed out.

Being able to hunt with people that know that land means being able to hike in the dark without getting lost, getting oriented more quickly and finding elk more easily.

We went directly to Dave’s spot and set him up as the sun appeared on the horizon.

Ok, this was about noon, but you would not be able to see the set up when we first did it.

Ok, this was about noon, but you would not be able to see much when we first did it at dawn.

View at Dave’s place at dawn.

We moved the mules off  a ways,  gave them black feed bags full of alfalfa pellets and wrapped their dark leads ropes around the white bark of  two aspens.  I craftily let Richard do the tying.   Two hours later, the mules were spotted, feed bags and all, hightailing it straight back to camp. (Plausible deniability for me!)

Meanwhile, while the mules were plotting their escape, we stalked up on a bull in the yellow leaved aspen (we hit the  fall colors  just perfectly).  We were as still as the trees for a while and then, we moved a little too fast and spooked the bull and the two cows.

Regroup and a snack.





While were were camo’d in a shady glen eating string cheese, Hershey’s chocolate and sweet and salty granola bars, a herd bolted into the grove just a few yards away and hesitated.  We leapt up (a calculating stealthy bunch aren’t we?) and went for the guns. This convinced the herd to…

re-bolt! At once.

I was beat, from the altitude I guess, so I didn’t go with the hunting party  in the afternoon.  Instead I helped Amber get some supplies back at the trail head (I rode Lacey), and when we returned to camp, we cut dead branches to fuel the wood stoves. Having a heated bedroom (even if you are sleeping on the floor) was great. Even better if one of your mates does all of the stoking through the night!

Heated living quarters.  Wow!

Heated living quarters. Wow!

We still had to feed and water the stock.

We had everyone (equidly speaking) high-lined –not to be confused with zip-lined–and feed bagged. (Thanks Mom and Dad for the high line kit!)

High lined and feedbagged!

High-lined and feed bagged!

Then they needed drinks.  (No beer for them, but we people did go for a little whiskey.)  To get the the whole cavalcade to the water, we kept the two lead mares (Penny and Belle) and two geldings on line and let the other eight free.  As soon as we started to the tank (about a 1/4 mile away), Cometa and Lacey broke and ran, NOT toward the water, but off into the gathering gloom.  Gathering gloom pretty much described my reaction to those shenanigans.  Fingers crossed the on-line lead mares will call them home.

The by the time we had our seven-strong homebody-herd at the tank, the five mavericks were happily finishing and Cometa and Lacey high-stepped to the tank’s berm.  Cometa was the ring leader. Messing with my head.

It was dark now and hard to see much in the moon light except shadows, but as we got close to the camp, Penny started calling and within moments I heard galloping hooves on the edge of the herd and Cometa and Lacey unmelted from the dark into their solid selves!

It is amazing that they know she is the lead mare even though at home they are never penned together or even nose to nose across a fence line.  Four hours in the trailer can be a bonding experience!.

Once we got back, and they were all hooked to the high-lines, we brushed our teeth and hit the nice warm sack to dream…yeah ok I dreamed but I also tossed and turned a lot.  I am sorry, but a thermarest is NOT as comfortable as my bed at home.


Tune in next week for the riveting conclusion to Camp Kingsbury.  Do we actually get any elk? What have bears got to do with it? Can Lacey pack meat? (if we got any elk that is) and What got into Ben?

About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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6 Responses to Camp Kingsbury

  1. Jackie Splinter says:

    Oh man…here I am, all excited to hear about the big catch (kill)…and I have to wait until next Friday?? Not fair!! We’re down in Missouri scoping out the hills for our big deer hunt in November. Too many acorns..the bucks are going to be deep in the woods! Bummer! But at least we sleep in a real bed every night! Love you!

    • Patty says:

      I know! Mean writer that I am–I ran out of space!! (and was getting late last night!) Have fun in Missouri!

  2. Marilyn says:

    Sounds like fun. Those tents look like what were called Navajo Sheepherder Tents when I was camping. (We won’t discuss how long ago that was!)

    • Patty says:

      I think the material is lighter now–and I sure hope–treated with flame retardant!

  3. Sherry Meagher says:

    So while they are riding in the trailer for four hours, I can only imagine the conversations! Bonding? Um… more like bossing?

    • Patty says:

      Yes. I think Penny was in the middle on the way up so I sure she gave them both an earful! i am the boss. u will do as i say!

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