Santa Fe National Forest ~ Pecos Wilderness

Jack’s Creek Trailhead

Terrero, NM

June 22 – July 13, 2014

by Redhorse

        As most Texas equestrian vacations go these days, weather, threat of fires and other factors determine where Texans haul to.  The constant factor is always the desire to get away from the Texas summer heat; Mother Nature can sure be a hussy at times! Plans were fairly certain that the destination would again be to Battle Park in the Wyoming Big Horn Mountains.  However, the late winter snows and rains, with washed out roads, had the Texas Tornados rethinking their plans.

          In the early morning hours on June 22, the Texas Tornados and Linda Deas headed out to Tucumcari Ranch & Jack’s Creek, New Mexico.  We spent some time in Tucumcari, NM and met up with Delford Daniels from Kansas and Stan Sullivan from Georgia. They had crossed three (3) states that day and three (3) the day before.

          Stan & Cheryl Sullivan have known and shared trails with Delford for many years.  Sadly, Cheryl passed away in May and Delford headed to Georgia to offer his support to Stan.  Stan makes a point to express his gratitude to Delford for saving him from a dark place in his life.  Stan & Cheryl were married 47 years, I think. Just in the last nine (9) years, they rode their fox trotters in some spectacular locations and established good friends along their way.  Stan is truly a Gentleman’s Gentleman, makes Will Rogers look like a mime and has a sense of humor that sneaks up on you and ATTACKS!

                    Delford is the go-to man on mules and horses.  He has taken the finer points from many trainers and clinicians and put his personal twist on them.  After spending a few hours watching him and applying his methods to Miss Kitty, I found she knew many of them; her owner didn’t.  Over the next weeks, Miss Kitty and I were closing the gap in Delford’s “Mule 101”.  I figure eventually I’ll be almost as smart as my mule.  Thanks Delford, Miss Kitty and I have early morning “Delford Sessions” every day and we both enjoy it.

          Our first day on the trails, in the Pecos Wilderness, we discovered two (2) phenomenon. First, web/bag worms have moved in on the Aspens; saplings and large adult trees. They strip all the leaves and zillions of caterpillars then head up the trunks for more destruction. It was sad to see such destruction going on without any defense.  Hopefully the healthier ones will survive. Second, the Dandelions were releasing their seeds and the air and ground were saturated with them. It was so thick in areas that it appeared snow had accumulated on the ground and was still falling.

          A few days after our arrival, vandals hit several campsites and Tammy Hein, the Camp Host. They stole a saddle from Tammy that belonged to her Father along with other tack, lead ropes and halters and some manure forks.  After alerting the authorities, the main gate to the trailhead and RV camping area was locked from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.  (With great pleasure, at this writing, Tammy reports that her saddle and saddle bags were placed at the gate on July 31)!

          Delford & Stan made great scouts and we enjoyed the trails they took us on. The first day we went up the back side of camp over to Round Mountain. The wildflowers were everywhere and every color. We explored an outfitter’s camp that barely escaped the bad fires of 2013. The descent from that trail took us down some tight switchbacks to Noisy Brook.  The brook wasn’t heard over Misty’s loud threatening of Delford’s life for taking that trail! When she reached the bottom however, she replaced the threats with cheers!

          We rode Cave Creek, via Panchuela Trailhead, to the Caves one day and encountered more hikers than usual. The creek flows into the caves and disappears for a considerable distance and then resurfaces. It’s very noticeable when the sound of the creek just stops and after riding a while, the sound of the rushing creek returns.  The temperature in the caves is at least 20 degrees cooler than outside.

          Other great trails took us to Pecos Baldy Lake, Beatty’s Cabin, Misty’s Point and Iron Gate Trailhead. One day we rode the abandoned #26 Trail that few folks know where it is anymore.  Another day we rode, via Iron Gate, to Grass Mountain.  You realized how high and flat the top of Grass Mountain was when you rode out into the massive grass area and the wind hit you.

          We rode Dockweiler Trail #259 which took you to the north end of the Jack’s Creek Trailhead and another view this writer hadn’t seen before. There were some downed trees along this trail but didn’t take away from the great ride. The view really gave you a perspective of how Jack’s Creek trailhead was situated in the mountains.

          The high altitude sometimes makes people do things out of the norm; or better put, just plain hilarious!  After Stan had bombarded us with some of his zingers; like, “Peggie, I hate to ask this in front of all these people, but would you PLEASE STOP staring at my crotch”!  After everybody rolled on the ground clutching their sides from laughing, Misty came up with a ‘payback’. We gathered up a hot pink koozie with “Mule Girl” on it and a brand new; with tag still attached, black and white thong, no folks that is not a typo, and a toothbrush. (For the record, my contribution to the “She Goodies” was the koozie!) We snuck up to Stan’s trailer, when he and Delford were tending to animals, and while I stood watch, Misty was able to put the coozie of goodies in Stan’s bathroom.

          We were real close to getting caught, and as we were escaping, we decided to slip into Delford’s trailer out of sight. Well, as the minutes passed, here we are trapped in the pitch black of Delford’s window-less trailer and those minutes were at least an hour long, each!  We eventually worked ourselves into a lather worrying that Delford wasn’t even coming home that night, or that we’d give him a heart attack! Not moving and keeping quiet certainly aren’t among our talents, and just about the 3rd time we were thinking of calling it quits, THE DOOR OPENED!!!  I’m not sure who was more scared, the scarers or the scaree! Of course, now it’s getting dark out and we excused ourselves and head to our rigs; leaving Delford with this statement; “There’s more”!

          After we got to an area beside Misty’s rig, where we could watch Stan’s front door, we watched and waited for the surprise in his bathroom to be discovered.  What a social butterfly he is! He had several women going in and out to visit! We knew we were stalking him and figured in a national forest equestrian trailhead, it was almost legal.  At long last, with the interior lights on in his trailer, we saw Stan head into his bathroom.  “YAWWWWWW”! We could hear his yell a football field away! Then out the front door he storms and as he marches our way, he’s joined by Delford (who is out now from hearing Stan’s yell) and here they come!  Of course, we were going ballistic that finally our original trap worked!!!  There is no age limit on having fun!

          After a few days riding, we made a trip to Santa Fe. We found “Harry’s Roadhouse” just east of Santa Fe on the service road of I-40.  This restaurant is listed among the BEST for dining.  We arrived right at the noon hour and it is a great place and great food. Its large dining rooms spread out to a covered veranda and beyond to a beautiful garden full of flowers. As a collector of menus, I had sweet talked the floor manager out of a menu.  Eventually, thanks to Misty, Harry, the owner, gladly signed a menu sheet for me and promptly removed the menu.  Not to be “regifted” by the owner, I sweet talked the floor manager for another as we left. Life can be sooo complicated.

          Of course, we are always on the prowl for some mischief, and a short shopping stop at the Dollar Store in Pecos provided it.  What is more fun than HOOLA-HOOPS? There were hundreds of them just inside the store.  Misty and I were trying to reenact our youthful talents of rotating our hips but we just couldn’t get warmed up! The store Manager was very understanding and said there was no problem with our efforts, but we had to do it again before we could leave!

          On July 3 around noon, Delford, Stan, Misty and I were all heading out to Delford’s Point. It was a gorgeous day and suddenly turned into a challenging one.  As we were descending down a rocky trail; maybe a mile from camp, Misty’s mule bucked her off. She must have tried to break her fall with her left hand; resulting in a broken wrist. (Later, Stan tried to lighten the situation by saying luckily it was her left since she was right handed; to which she replied she was a “lefty”!) Her landing was hard, and she hit her head most likely on a sharp rock; leaving a narrow but deep gash. After getting Misty as comfortable as possible, Delford and his mule, Sister Mary Margaret, went for help. He was gone maybe 45 mins. and covered a lot of ground in that time; rode back to camp, unhooked his truck, drove to Panchuela and advised the camp host there to call it in and returned to camp and rode back to the scene of the accident.  Stan and I kept Misty talking, keeping a wet compress on her head and fanning her with my handy straw hat.

          In one and one-half hours, we had medics from Life Flight come in from the top of the trail and medics from an ambulance come up from the bottom.  (A few of them weren’t in shape for such strenuous rescue)! They were very organized and it was determined that Misty could walk down to either the helicopter, that was now about 100 yards below us or the ambulance that was 1000 yards. Even though Misty has bragged for years about the Life Flight insurance she has through Bryan’s military retirement, she walked right by the chopper to the ambulance.  She had made it clear she did not want to fly. After we made sure Misty was in good hands and headed to the hospital in Santa Fe, we rode back to camp, secured the mules and headed to Santa Fe.

          Misty already had had x-rays, was assigned Dr. Page and was feeling no pain by the time we got there an hour later. Dr. Page did a perfect job of resetting her wrist, after applying plenty of lidocaine. They later applied her fingers to what Stan called a “milking machine” that allowed gravity to make sure the bones were in place.  Then they applied a flex cast and she was discharged about 9:30 PM.

          The next week was a roller coaster ride for Misty.  Trying to stay ahead of the pain was a challenge, but we worked out an around the clock team of “nurses” and got her through it. At this writing, Misty is on her second cast since arriving home and x-rays show she had four (4) actual breaks and a bone chip.  She’s chomping at the bit to get back to her dynamite norm, but her body is the boss and Misty’s heeding its instructions!

          A side-bar to Misty’s accident is a sad story.  Two (2) of the three (3) crew members of Care Flight 5 that came for Misty on July 3, died two (2) weeks later in route to pick up someone near Tucumcari, NM.  The Pilot, David Cavigneaux and EMT Rebecca Serkey along with another crew member, ER Nurse James “Jamie” Butler truly touched the hand of God that day.

          Somewhere there is a well-stocked library of nothing but volumes of history from the Pecos Wilderness, Terrero, Cowles and the mountain ranges on both sides.  Even more real is Frank Collins that lives in his own “Man Cave” above his daughter, Patty and Steve Long’s, Wilderness Gateway Bed & Breakfast. (It’s just north of the Iron Gate road). Frank, a.k.a. the “Mountain Man”, is a walking/talking history expert on the area. While he doesn’t welcome the opportunity to write a book, he’s more than willing to offer stories and details that other historians crave.  Not only does Frank make some of the most beautiful and mystical walking canes and sticks, but he has a lovely Tree Farm. The switchback driveway to his home is lined with trees he planted during his 85 years.  When I picked my walking stick from those Frank showed us in camp, my choice was extremely lucky! Frank hadn’t signed this one yet, and he invited myself and Delford to his home for the “signing”.  As he would be reminiscing of a particular mining experience or recalling a game warden’s experience, if another segment of a story came to light, he’d pause and say, “now that’s another rabbit hole”.  It became clear to even a retired editor/publisher that should he write a book, it should be called “Another Rabbit Hole”.  Delford and I had a delightful visit with Frank and received a grand tour of his home and his collection of wood and other crafts.  The Mountain Man is as independent as the mountains he lives in and a legend in his own right.

          We all loaded up one evening and headed to Las Vegas (the New Mexico one!) for my “Whoopee, I get Medicare” Birthday; July 6.  We ate at K-Bob’s Steakhouse (we hadn’t seen one in years!) and due to Fire Marshall rules, I could only have one (1) candle. It was a great birthday with good friends. Thanks for my birthday gifts too!    

          We met some interesting trailriders as always and ran in to some we knew.  Jeanette & Roy Henderson are from Tennessee and set out in 2009 to ride in all 52 States.  At last count, they are at 48 and they plan to complete their goal this year.  They have a website at: www.equicamping.com.  Ken & Delma Simons (they rode a few years in my Big Bend & Stillwell Ranch Trailride) from Artesia, NM camped and rode a few days.

             Trailriders Karen & Sam Pallin invited us to a great oriental (not sure if it was Chinese or Japanese) supper the night before we departed Jack’s Creek. They have known Stan & Delford for years. We enjoyed appetizers of special crackers, dips and even strawberries and hot chocolate. The main course of chicken, rice and teriyaki sauce with steamed vegetables was very good and Misty enjoyed a bowl of it in her rig. The meal was topped off with fortune cookies and Delford’s was very fitting, “Good news will come in the mail.” Since that is his only media connection to the world, it was accurate!

             Ironically, the day we went to Santa Fe as tourists, Karen was driving up the mountain from Edgewood, NM to visit Stan and Delford, with a homemade meal for them.  We actually passed her and noticed her black flatbed dually truck; discussing how we all wanted one.  No one recognized it being Karen! Of course, we hadn't planned to be gone so long, and when we came back to camp there was sweet Karen with their meal! Karen and Sam are moving from New Mexico to the Waco/Temple, Texas area. We’ll offer them Texas hospitality at the Grasslands when they get settled in and cooler weather returns.

          After dinner that night, Stan and I headed to the Santa Fe Airport to pick up Bryan, Misty’s husband.  He flew in to be able to drive Misty home. We left by 9:00 the next morning thanks to Stan & Delford helping us break camp and get on the road.  We arrived at the Happy Tracks Horse Motel about 4:00 pm on Saturday.  We called it an early night, and were up and rolling about 8:00 on Sunday.  We were all back to “Home Sweet Home” about 3:00 pm.

          It was a great vacation of riding great trails with some great folks. Misty is going to be as good as new in no time. Stan stayed at Jack’s Creek another couple of weeks and had several Arizona stops with friends planned and we’re looking forward to him making a Texas stop as he works his way back to Georgia.  Delford had a few groups of friends heading to Jack’s Creek and plans to pay the Texas Tornados a visit too in early September. It was another vacation of “Happy Trails”.

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