By Patty Wilber
On Mother’s Day, Jim, Richard and me did a a little 13 mile round-trip jaunt in the Sandia Mountains, almost to South Peak, for Back Country Horsemen. We transported some of the water (there are no good water sources up there–the one spring is barely running) to be used by a Volunteers for the Outdoors crew that will be camping and working on the trails.
We started at the Canyon Estates trailhead, which has limited trailer parking and is popular with hikers, so we dropped off the equines (I stayed with them) and Jim and Richard took the trailer to the ranger station, so the trailer would not get trapped in the lot, and they came back in Jim’s Jeep.
This trail is at the southern end of the Sandia Wilderness and is just a few miles from our house, but I have rarely ridden there, and have never ridden up so far, so it was a new trail for me. Jim has hiked there. We could actually see our house from some of the view points!
We started at about 6500 feet and we stopped at about 9500 feet, so there was some serious elevation gain. The trail itself had only one short sloughy cliffside section that made me want to close my eyes. The rest felt pretty safe. Because of the 3000 feet of elevation gain, it was a pretty challenging route, especially for the pack mule that was carrying around 200 pounds of water. It was an all day trip. I rode Penny, and she was her usual no drama, rock solid trail self. Jim rode Cometa (26 years old this year). He is still up for the job. I have had to up the concentrated feed (three pounds of Nutrena Safe Choice Senior at night and two pounds of alfalfa pellets in the mornings–he shares with Penny) in his diet since his teeth are getting bad, and that has sure helped his overall fitness.
You can see that our route looped south and that we could have chosen the more direct CCC trail. However, that trail, while much shorter, is very steep and has some areas of loose shale that are not suitable for stock.
We will make another run to bring more water, some tools and some coolers of food. The trail crew will need about 60 gallons–or maybe that was 80?–of water!
On Monday, I took LT, and Mary Ann, Patty S. and I went to the Ball Ranch. This is BLM land about 20 miles from my house and the last bit is about five miles of good gravel to a locked gate, followed by two miles of less good gravel and dirt road. The Ball Ranch is not very heavily used. It is not a place to haul to when it is wet, but the forecast did not call for rain…
Our first adventure point was in a canyon that Patty S. and I had been through before. There is a spot with a narrow rock step through that was maybe eight inches wide, one and a half feet long with a downward slope and 18 inches deep. I led LT, and she went through. Bella jumped it. Rosebud said, “NO WAY.” Unfortunately, it was sort of a one way passage due to the downward slope, so Mary Ann and Rosebud climbed up out of the the canyon onto on a mesa, and Patty S. and I rode around the base. It took a good while, and some tricky terrain, before Mary Ann was able to find a good place to come down!
Once we were reunited, we returned to the big arroyo and kept going north. The colors of the rocks and the dirt in this area are astounding.
In other areas, there are green and purple deposits and in others, ribbons of purple, green and pink. Also there are LOGS of petrified wood and some areas that probably have other interesting rocks like agates or jasper. In general, rocks are collectable (for personal use only and some types have limits–like petrified wood) on BLM land, although there are some exceptions, and we did not verify if this area was open for that or not. It is spectacular, in any case.
Much of this area is off limits to motorized vehicles, too, so that is nice when on horseback! However, there are roads, so it might be fun to do a jeep day there!
We continued down the arroyo to the yellow spires and then had lunch under a nearby cottonwood.
Then, we headed back up a side canyon that I recognized (I was proud of myself). And it started to rain. We put on our rain gear, but it did not rain all that hard. We took a road back up over that mesa (which is a nice landmark, too). I had parked the truck so that it was basically invisible as we rode toward it, so I did feel a twinge of anxiety.
It was still there!
We untacked and I needed to get out of my rain gear.
Then, I took a good look at the road. Unfortunately, it had rained a lot harder at the parking area and the road was snot slick caliche mud. It was only a few inches deep, but due to its slippery nature and tendency to completely coat tires (even our brand new, plenty of tread tires) I had no confidence that I could put the loaded trailer out. Also, I am a bit of a chicken. Challenging driving conditions would be a lot more fun to play with if Matt’s Off Road Recovery team was hanging out nearby to fix any potential screw ups. (If you have not watched Matt’s YouTube videos, you are missing out. I am not even an off road aficionado and I find the rescues riveting.)
I put the truck in 4WD, and got moving. I could feel the truck slipping and I had to keep correcting our direction, without over correcting or over or under accelerating. For experienced off roaders, I am sure this was a piece of cake. For me, not as much. But, I made progress without burying the truck or getting off the two track into the soft verge. I still did not think I could manage with the loaded trailer, though. Fortunately, the distance to the good gravel road was only two miles, so Mary Ann and Patty S. retacked, and I drove off.
The caliche section ended after a quarter mile or so but I could not remember if there were other mud sections, it was starting to rain again, and I knew I had to make a 90 degree turn, drop into an a arroyo, climb out and make another 90, so I drove to that point. Turns out, the road has a harder base after that first quarter mile and we could have loaded up there. But this is a one lane pipe stem road, so there was no turning around to go back and get them, once I figured that out.
Patty and Mary Ann caught up with me pretty fast. But then we realized we had not shut the gate way back at the entrance to the BLM land! Mary Ann rode all the way back and shut it!
We had an adventure, anyway!
Cancer treatment update. I got the tooth pulled and it will not affect the radiation treatment that will begin May 23rd. Radiation will be five days a week, and not weekends or holidays. I should be done around June 16 or maybe a few days later. I think I will have 20 treatments. I am still unsure about when the maintenance chemo will begin.
I am feeing good. I am glad I am not teaching this summer and can spend time riding the three client horses and keep moving forward with Gette.
The sale of Rip fell through, so check my FB page for his new ad. He is a very cool horse!