Wednesday, August 22, 2007

New Sponsor - for the next trip?

Ardith Zwiener, Austin, TX $200. Thanks Grandmother

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The End of the Trail . . ?

This is Erin here, actually doing her own blog entry for once :) I have made the decision to end my adventure. Yoakum suddenly developed some swelling in his back. It was bad enough that he was limping with just the saddle on. It may come down somewhat in the next few days, but not enough that I'd feel comfortable taking him into the wilderness in Wyoming. Yoakum has also been becoming more and more reluctant to be on the trail, and I think he's just tired, sore, and ready to be done. I am not willing to take the risk of ruining him.

Luckily, when Yoakum's swelling showed up we were only about four miles from a highway. I walked the two of them out with Kershaw carrying the pack saddle and loads, walked back in with him unloaded, picked up the riding saddle and headed back out. Cindy and Duke Wilson who had arranged my resupply in the area picked me up at Willow Creek Pass right on the divide. Between them and the Bennetts, the couple whose place I was to stay at, my mules were taken care of, and I was fed and stuck on a shuttle to Denver. There I caught a plane to Albuquerque, picked up my truck and trailer, and started heading north. Liz and Goat from Wolf Creek Ranch were kind enough to put me up last night. I'll be picking the boys up later today and heading home.

I'm disappointed that we didn't make it to Canada and even more disappointed that an injury stopped us instead of weather. However, I figure doing only half of the insanely difficult crazy goal I set for myself isn't toooooo bad ;) On the up side, I never had to worry about grizzlies. There's always the next trip . . .

I am so proud of Yoakum and Kershaw. They carried my gear and me through country that most pack mules only have nightmares about. I told my father at the beginning of this trip that there were two possibilities for Yoakum after the trip was over. He could be for sale the day I finsihed or be family forever. He's family.

This whole adventure has been an amazing experience. I have learned so much about the backcountry, packing, my own abilities, and the kindness of strangers. This is an experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. I think it's safe to say I won't need to have a midlife crisis in 20 or so years ;) Got it out of my system now.

I am so grateful and flattered at how many people have followed this expedition. It's been very humbling to see how much this trip has meant to so many different people. I've been astonished again and again by the people who have heard of my crazy journey and have cared so much about it.

I'd like to thank all of my sponsors. Your support did so much to help defray the costs of this trip. Thank you also to everyone who's helped me along the way. I never managed to stop anywhere for long without being "adopted" by someone. I'm very grateful to all the people who made my trip easier along the way.

So . . . . . I realized about a week ago that I was really and truly, completely and entirely, bonkers. I started planning the next trip. All of the so-called friends who I made promise to talk me out of ever doing anything like this again are being disloyal and telling me to go for it. I guess the lure of the trail isn't ready to let me go yet.

A dream of mine since I was a little girl is to write for National Geographic. They offer Expedition Grants with a special category for Young Explorers under 25. I applied for one for this expedition and made it through the first round of selection, but not the second. I intend to have a National Geographic Grant for my next adventure. I think I just need to work on my budgeting skills ;)

I'd like to do a historical re-enactment trip of some type. My best idea so far is to follow the route of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce during their attempt to escape to Canada. I'm also doing research into other potential native american routes and travels of the early mountain men and scouts. If anyone has any good ideas, please contact me!

As for this blog, I'll be filling in some of the holes along the journey with more information about what it was like to be there on the ground and making a few corrections where wires got crossed. There is certainly more to come! I hope y'all keep track of me. I promise to give y'all something interesting in the future! Thanks again

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Another Sponsor

Jeff and Kristy Roberts, Eau Claire, WI $200. Wow and thanks!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Rocky Mountain National Park

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK. August 1, 2007. Erin rode through the western edge of RMNP. Due to grazing restrictions it was impractical to ride through the middle of the park. Instead she passed through Grand Lake and stayed with the good people of Winding River Resort ( This is a beautiful place to stay. While there Yoakum got new shoes. Without sedation he was a wild man and ended up kicking the farrier in the jaw. The farrier understandably left. Erin and a friend completed the job themselves. The next day she rode through the Bowen Gulch Protection Area into the Never Summer Wilderness following the CDT. She camped at Trout Creek about 4 miles east of Willow Creek Pass and Colorado Highway 125. She has seen no humans in this Wilderness. There were however frogs, deer and a porcupine (cool).

Just received these pictures from a hiker (Emily Ewert) Erin encountered July 19 along the Alpine Tunnel trail.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sponsor acknowledgement

Deana Guy, Tomball, TX $25. Terrific, thanks.

Ken Shirley, Kingwood, TX $50. Thank you very much.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Erin in the news

Click on link and read the 2 paragraphs about two thirds of the way through the article.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

James Peak

JAMES PEAK, JAMES PEAK WILDERNESS July 29, 2007. Erin and the team continued north through the James Peak Wilderness summitting James Peak (ele 13294 ft). there she saw a lone coyote 100 ft below the summit. She rode through stands of Limber and Bristlecone Pine. The bristlecone pines can reach an age far greater than that of any other single living organism known, almost5,000 years. They continued north along the CDT through Devil's Thumb Pass and riding the border of Indian Peaks Wilderness. They had another very bad weather day with hard rain and lightening. Spent a lot of time hunkered down below the tree line to avoid exposure. Yoakum started acting up; he refused for over an hour to ford a silly little stream. Later he "rubbed" Erin off on a tree. Erin tied him to that tree and walked away with Kershaw camping out of sight; no grain and no social exposure for that bad boy overnight.

The next day she entered the Arapaho National Recreation Area. There she met up with her college buddies, Andrea ("The Senator") and Nick. They spent some time in Grand Lake. There Erin encountered an inebriated cowboy who offered to buy her a drink. He asked, "So, you from around here?" Erin replied, "No, just riding through". He slurred, "ridin what?". The answer, "a mule." "Where you coming from?" Answer, "Mexico." He exclaimed, "Holy sh@#t!" and walked away shaking his head very confused.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Berthoud Pass

BERTHOUD PASS, ARAPAHO-ROOSEVELT NATIONAL FOREST. July 27, 2007. The crew rejoined the desiginated trail at Jones Pass (ele 12451) and following the divide and passed along and within the border of Vasquez Peak Wilderness. They experienced a very bad thunderstorm on Stanley Mountain. She had to descend rapidly below the tree line to wait it out. Erin was very suprised by the storm; Erin didn't see it coming since she was riding through fog (clouds) when the storm developed in the very clouds she was riding through.

The next day the trail crossed Colorado Highway 40 at Berthoud Pass; this photo was taken by hiker, Katelin Yates whom met Erin met along the trail. At the pass, there is a highway pullout and scenic overlook. As Erin descended the high and very steep switchbacks a crowd of tourists developed to watch the approaching mountain man riding and leading a mule, only to discover as they neared that it was a woman, and a young woman at that. The amazed crowd gathered around for conversation and pictures with the kids. Tom of Pennsylvania who was out scouting for fall hunting sights took her into Grand Lake to pick up her cache at the post office. He took her to lunch and dinner, and then dropped her off back at the pass. Erin rode 8 more miles and camped at Bill Moore Lake.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness

Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness. July 25, 2007. Today Erin emerged from the Eagles Nest Wilderness to meet with a family friend, Carolyn K, in Silverthorne. Carolyn, who is a producer, provided her with a video camera to record some of her travels and travails with the hope that she might be able to make a documentary of Erin's trip. Carolyn also fed her well and reported back to Mom that Erin and crew were whole and doing great.

After their meeting, she headed into the Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness, through Ptarmigan Pass (elev 11,777) to the South Fork of Williams Fork. Erin would like me to report that Wendy's will serve you on a mule in the drive through, while McDonalds (Cuba, NM) refused her drive through service.

Eagles Nest Wilderness

EAGLES NEST WILDERNESS. July 24, 2007. Erin travelled through the Eagles Nest Wilderness along the Gore Trail. She went through Copper Mountain Ski Resort and made a stop at the local Starbucks. She was sipping a frappacino as she and the boys crossed over I70. She also passed though Mt. Hale where the 10th Mountain Division trained. Soldiers were training and Yoakum was spooked by their helmets lying in the middle of the trail and the camo netting they were hanging.

Erin saw a Western Tanager and after hearing their squeaks for weeks, she finally spotted a pica.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Mount Elbert

MOUNT ELBERT, HIGHEST POINT IN COLORADO. July 23, 2007. Erin rode along the eastern edge of Mount Elbert (ele 14433) , passed through Mount Massive Wilderness (ele 14421), and then through a corner of the Holy Cross Wilderness (the 11th and 12 th Wilderness Areas of the trip). They walked over the shallow headwaters of the Arkansas River before crossing over to the western side of The Divide and entering the White River National Forest. They set up camp close to where highway 24 goes through Tennessee Pass which is about 20 miles south of Vail. Rode 36 miles.

Another Sponsor

Brian and Kate Buck, Austin, TX $100. Erin says thank you very much.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Twin Lakes, Colorado

TWIN LAKES, COLORADO. July 22, 2007. Erin rode from Lake Ann to Twin Lakes. She emerged from the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, went over Hope Pass (straight up and staight down) just to the east of Mt Hope (ele 13933) and rode into the little town of Twin Lakes. There she stopped at a local lodge and asked for food to go. They ended up inviting her to stay and "oh, sure put the mules out back." So she got a real room, with a real shower and real hot water.

LaDeux update. The wonder dog was sent home a few weeks ago. There was never a loss of will but the feet gave out. Paw pad toughner and doggy shoes were not enough. When he is not reading this blog he lays by the door dreaming of the mountains and waiting for Erin to come for him.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

LAKE ANN, COLLEGIATE PEAKS WILDERNESS, PIKE-SAN ISABEL NATIONAL FOREST, COLORADO. July 21, 2007. From Monarch Pass Erin travelled generally north along the CDT paralleling the divide eventually passing from east to west through Tincup Pass (elevation 12154). Along the way there was a torrential hail storm and a scary lightening storm. She spent a lot of time hunkered down off the ridges. She spent 2 nights near the junction of the CDT and Cottonwood Pass road. There she found the prearranged grain delivery "up the hill, behind the big log, wrapped in a blue tarp." (Thank you Martin Feed). Later she caught a ride into Buena Vista where she did her laundry, did some shopping and caught up with friends and family via cell phone. The next day she entered the spectacularly rugged Collegiate Peaks Wilderness again crossing the divide and camping near Lake Ann to the Southwest of Huron Peak (14003 ft) and on the slopes of The Three Apostles (see photo). The unnamed pass over the divide to Lake Ann seemed higher than the surrounding ridges; was very rough with much talus (a sloping mass of rock debris at the base of a cliff) and 2 foot steps on the switchbacks. Despite not being recommended for stock "The Boys" handled it with minimal difficulty. Each day brings more beautiful and wondrous sights. "It just can't get any more beautiful than this."

The Collegiate Peaks Wilderness may possess the highest average elevation of any wilderness area in the contiguous 48 states. Eight peaks exceeding 14,000 feet are found here, including the state's third and fifth highest summits, Mount Harvard and La Plata Peak. In addition, another half-dozen peaks soar over 13,800 feet. More than 40 miles of the Continental Divide follow the crest of the Sawatch Range in what is arguably the pinnacle of the North American continent, for the divide never reaches a higher point between the Isthmus of Panama and the Arctic Circle than it does in the Sawatch Range.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Still More Sponsors

Tom Lyon, New Era, MI - $30. Thank you.

Michelle Newlin, Houston, TX $50. Terrific and thanks

Renee and Howard Norris, Spring, TX $50. Thanks.

Barbara Bergin, Austin, TX - $100. Thank you so much.

Jones & Zwiener, Houston, TX - $250. Thanks Uncle Bill.

This goes a long way to defray the costs of this trip. Erin appreciates your help and your interest.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Monarch Pass

NORTH OF MONARCH PASS, PIKE-SAN ISABEL NATIONAL FOREST. July 18, 2007. Big day yesterday, Erin and the boys rode 36 miles crossing over Monarch Pass (ele 11312) at Highway 50. Challenges included trying to figure how to get a grain delivery in the next few days. Lots of Marmots on the trail. Talked to a few mountain bikers.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

And More Sponsors

Gila Rangers - Cowboy Action Club, Silver City, NM $25

Jim L. Jones, Silver City, NM $25

Frank and Linda Ferrara, Silver City, NM $50

Not only did they rescue LeDoux the wonder dog but now they have become sponsors. Thank you. Erin very much appreciates it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Moose in the beaver pond

GRAND MESA-UNCOMPAHGRE-GUNNISON NATIONAL FOREST. July 16, 2007. Erin and the gang have travelled 40 miles in the last 2 days. They departed Spring Creek Pass and road the combination Continental Divide and Colorado Trail due east to the foot of San Luis Peak (elevation 14014) in the La Garita Wilderness (her 9th Wilderness area). The next day she bisected the La Garita travelling south to north. The real excitement came along Cochetopa Creek when the mules signalled alarm as they approached a beaver pond. There munching on willows was a young bull moose. Erin pulled up to watch and take pictures. The moose became inpatient and took a few steps in there direction which convinced Erin it was time to go. The mules apparently agreed. A mile or so later another moose was encountered along the trail walking through a stand of Aspen. All in all 3 moose were seen today. She camped along Los Creek which is just to the north of Texas Creek and only about 4 miles south of the junction of highway 114 and The Divide. She saw 27 people today, all backpackers. Enjoyed conversation and compared notes with most. Many of these hikers are on a quest to complete the 400 mile Colorado Trail which for the time being follows the Continental Divide Trail.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Spring Creek Pass

-SPRING CREEK PASS. July 14, 2007. On Friday Erin rode through the day and into the night to arrive at the Spring Creek Pass Campground at the junction of the Continental Divide and State Highway 149. The mules were secured tight on a high line. The next morning she was picked up by the family of Philip, Carolyn and Dasha. They provided a place to shower, to do laundry and the "Best Hamburger in all of Lake City". There is nothing like washing away the smell of wet mule accumulated over a week. She picked up her pre-mailed cache of supplies at the post office, her pre-delivered cache of grain at the Sheriff's office, and went shopping. The hero family dropped her off Saturday afternoon to prepare for setting off through the La Garita Wilderness. The weather is supposed to be better.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Headwaters Rio Grande River

HEADWATERS RIO GRANDE RIVER. July 13, 2007. Erin has had 2 pretty tough days. Thunderstorms intermittently. Another mule mutiny - dang mules walked off when given a little freedom to graze prior to loading up yesteday morning. Then a big thunderstorm with lightening causing Erin to seek shelter. When it was over, no @#$% mules in sight. Tracked them back up towards the divide, then another storm and Erin had to descend again to the tent and shelter. The next morning they came wandering innocently back asking for grain.

Because of ongoing storms and very muddy and dangerous trail Erin chose to descend Squaw Creek trail eventually walking the team over the headwaters of the Rio Grande River, leaving the wilderness and camping north of Rio Grande Reservoir on Rio Grande National Forest land. Tomorrow she plans to reascend to the divide and resume the CDT trail.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Squaw Pass

SQUAW PASS, CDT TRAIL, WEMINUCHE WILDERNESS. July 10, 2007. Erin and the crew rode 21 miles today much of it directly on the continental divide. In some areas the trail passes down the middle of wide floating runways. In other places it becomes very narrow such that during a rain storm Erin contemplated that the drops rolling down her left leg were headed for the Pacific and those rolling down the right were headed for the Atlantic Ocean. DEEP. They passed safely through the infamous 'Knifes Edge' where Weminuche lore notes that a string of horses fell to their deaths a few years back. Erin looked over the edge and saw no skeletal remains. There was snow here - so as not to take any chances she pulled out her trusty shovel and spent 45 minutes digging a trench down the middle of the narrow trail before passing safely through the knife. Later, on a wide and flat section Yoakum caught a back leg in boggy ground and went down backwards and sideways throwing Erin to the ground. The saddle iron provided a bruise but no serious damage done to mule or rider. Most of the ride was above tree line. At dusk they descended down to the tree line and camped along Squaw Creek below Chief Mountain (ele 13014). While unpacking Erin was pulling hard on a pack rope, her hand slipped and she ended up socking herself in the face.

The scenery is amazingly beautiful, the weather given the location so far relatively mild.

More Sponsors!

Susan Peters of Monument, CO $30! Thanks

Anonymous Mangas Mountain Rancher, NM $200! Wow and Thanks

For sponsoring info click

Monday, July 9, 2007

Headwaters of the San Juan River

ONE MILE EAST OF PIEDRA PASS, HEADWATERS W FORK SAN JUAN RIVER, WEMINUCHE WILDERNESS. July 9, 2007. Erin travelled 28 miles today with the CDT closely approximating the continental divide. "It is so beautiful it hurts". No matter which way she looks the Rockies are in full splender - snow capped peaks, green flowered meadows, and the beginnings of clear flowing springs. The trail is generally clear of snow, although it did snow/sleet briefly early in the day. She passed the beginnings of dozens of streams; those on the right or north side of the trail flow to the Rio Grande and those on the left or south side flow to the San Juan. That night she camped in close proximity to what is designated as the headwaters of the West Fork of the San Juan River - just a stream formed by snow melt. Her camp elevation was 12,300 feet. There are Colorado Columbines in abundance. She saw a Ptarmigan today as well as several herds of Elk grazing the high pastures. Given the popularity of this segment she actually saw 16 other humans/backpackers (like the mall on Saturday) including one couple (Carol and ?) who are through-hikers having started at the same place Erin did (Columbus, New Mexico).

Weminuche Wilderness

WEMINUCHE WILDERNESS, COLORADO. July 9, 2007. Erin is back on the trail after a reprovisioning and rest stop at the Wolf Creek Ranch near Wolf Creek Pass. Yoakum (the riding mule) was reshod and Kershaw (the 15 year old pack mule) got shoes for the first time in his life. While there Erin was put to work helping to set up for a local wedding. She braided the manes and tails of the carriage horses and did other odd jobs. She was provided with a moose-leather shirt to wear to make her presentable to the guests. For several days she was the guest of Liz and her husband "Goat". Very wonderful people who were very helpful.

Erin is in the Weminuche Wilderness Colorado's largest at more than half a million acres. The Continental Divide Trail runs through the heart of the area for approximately 80 miles. Initially the trail and Divide bear due west, eventually making a great arch before heading back due east to "get around" the headwaters of the Rio Grande River. This is a very popular part of the CDT. Erin will see occassional hikers along the way.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Wolf Creek Ranch

WOLF CREEK RANCH, COLORADO. July 3, 2007. For the last few days Erin has enjoyed some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. The CDT and the continental divide are in close proximity; the trail passed by Blue Lake (ele 11463) and Lake Ann (ele 11920 ft) and around peaks such as Summit Peak (13300 ft) and Montezuma Peak (ele 13150 ft). There were multiple passes including Gunsight Pass, Elwood Pass, Bonito Pass, Silver Pass, and Railroad Pass. The trail criss-crossed the divide alternating between the eastern and western drainages. She emerged from the the Wilderness and crossed over Highway 160 at Wolf Creek Pass. Erin is the quest of "Goat" and Liz at Wolf Creek Ranch. There she found very kind and like-minded people, a warm shower, a laundry, and a clean bed. She will take time to rest and reshod the animals, reprovision and plan for the next segment.
Liz and Goat (see photo) have offered to help other CDT through-hikers/riders. They are "happy to give a hand to anyone that might be doing the trail." The website is and their email -
Erin has ridden 700 miles, has passed through 7 wilderness areas (Aldo Leopold, Gila, Cebolla, San Pedro Parks, Chama Canyon River, Cruces Basin and South San Juan) and 7 national forests (Gila, Apache, Cibola, Santa Fe, Carson, Rio Grande and San Juan).

Sunday, July 1, 2007

South San Juan Wilderness

SOUTH SAN JUAN WILDERNESS, COLORADO. July 1, 2007. "The beauty is breathtaking." Erin rode over a ridge to see Blue Lake with the sun shining perfectly so as to create a perfect reflection of the snow capped peaks beyond the lake. She saw 2 bull elk (a 5 and a 6 pointer), lots of marmots, Forget me nots, and a horned lark. She is on the official CDT trail with occassional reassuring markers. Traveled 23 miles today. Was slowed down some by snow banks covering the trail. Actually got snow in her boots and she was riding Yoakum. The soggy patches where the snow has melted are also difficult for the animals. She is expecting it to freeze tonight. Elevations are in excess of 10,000 ft.
Many call the South San Juan Wilderness Colorado's wildest corner. The landscape of volcanic peaks and cliffs poses a formidable barrier to travel. Of all the places in Colorado likely to still harbor North America's most fearsome creature, the rugged and remote southern San Juan Mountains seem best suited. A great bear was killed here in 1979, the last known Colorado grizzly.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Cumbres Pass, Colorado

CUMBRES PASS, RIO GRANDE NATIONAL FOREST, COLORADO. June 30, 2007. Erin has left New Mexico behind and has entered Colorado. The Carson National Forest segment over the last 3 days was much more difficult than anticipated with disappearing trail and horse impassable sections. At one narrow section of trail - low overhang on the right and sharp drop off on the left she unloaded Kershaw and walked him through. She reloaded the animals only to find the trail a mile later to be completely and impossibly impassable for animals. She had to turn around, unload, walk the animals back through, slog the packs herself and reload yet again. At another point she actually walked over 10 miles leading the animals because the trail was so bad. Along the way she ran into 3 fisherman on horseback. They provided dinner (lamb) and breakfast as well as suggestions for the next days route. For a while she road along side the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. Once in Colorado the official National Divide Trail became better marked and better maintained - that is until she came to 1/2 mile of blown down trees; this area took 2 hours to pick her way through. The trail now is never below 10,000 feet. The terrain is alpine; riding in a out of the tree line. The nights very chilly. She saw a baby newborn elk today. She camped below Jarosa Peak (ele 11,766 ft). "One state down, 4 to go."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ghost Ranch

Ghost Ranch, Carson National Forest. June 25, 2007. Erin spent the night at this conference center then took off north through the Carson National Forest. Yoakum lost 2 shoes on the first day out of Ghost Ranch. So far the trails are dirt with little rock and the absence of foot wear does not seem to be bothering him. A farrier has been arranged for the next stop. She sees elk most days and saw her first snow of the trip.
Check out her progress (the red line); almost out of New Mexico.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

San Pedro Parks Wilderness

San Pedro Parks Wilderness. June 24, 2007. After leaving her new friends in Cuba, Erin entered the San Pedro Parks Wilderness. For part of the way she was accompanied by a "through hiker", Rhodes. The elevations average 10,000 feet in San Pedro Parks Wilderness without the peaks and cliffs. Instead, there are high, moist, rolling mountaintops with numerous meadows and large grassy "parks" with lots of trees and trout filled streams. The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail crosses through the Wilderness from Cuba, NM to the Carson National Forest.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Cuba, New Mexico

Erin is staying at the Circle A Ranch Hostel and reprovisioning in Cuba. The elevation is higher, the temperatures are cooler, the streams have water, and the Ponderosa pines are back. She has completed the technically toughest part of the trip so far. After crossing many miles of dry canyon and mesa land she encountered the last barrier along this segment of the CDT; a large mesa with a steep approach. She decided to give it a try. At 30 feet up the steep incline, Kershaw fell, first sliding down with all four legs splayed then rolling over coming to rest against a larger bolder. He then recovered his feet and gained a flat spot. Injuries were minor, scraps and cuts. He is OK. Lesson there are some places even mules can't go.

Erin then planned an alternate route eastward around the mesa toward the highway leading into Cuba. There she inadvertantly crossed onto private property, had a discussion with the landowner where she ardently apologized and reaffirmed her belief in property rights, the American Dream, gun rights, the right to privacy, and free speech. In Cuba she met with a local physician who is also a supporter and organizer the CDT through this area. He was very interested in her experiences and troubles with hiker's gates and the lack of consideration given to riders. A local couple took her out for Mexican food and provided a place for the mules. The next day she met with a forest service official who was also very interested in her experiences.

In the news

June 23,2007. Erin is in the paper.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Sponsorship announcement

Pie Town, New Mexico. June 22, 2007. Larry Moss of Hitching Post Land Company ( claims the honor of first donor ($25) to Thank you.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Snakes, gates, and summer bakes

NORTHWEST NEW MEXICO. June 20, 2007. Erin, Yoakum and Kershaw ascended the trail over Mt Taylor and camped at American Canyon. Since then they have left the national forest lands and entered BLM land following the cairned trail with occassional but very reassuring CDT emblems on the very occassional juniper tree. The temperature is hot and water is scarce. A particularly loud cicada turned out to be a rather large rattlesnake. Erin's heart quickened but the mules just walked around it. The land is dry, cut by numerous arroyos and canyons, and topped by mesas. Erin has been careful to carry extra water for herself and to plan the days rides to provide water for the animals; there are occassional springs, stock tanks and windmills. Some days there have been few grazing opportunities so the mules are depending on the feed that Kershaw is packing. Challenges and frustrations for the week have been a series of zigzag "hiker's gates" along the trail which allow a hiker to pass a fence line but prevent the passage of horses or mules. Erin has had to improvise - often times riding way out the way to get around. She finds herself dreaming of the open mountain pack trails, running streams, and cooler temperatures just ahead.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mt. Taylor

MOUNT TAYLOR, June 15, 2007.
Erin camped at the Lobo Canyon campground at the southwestern base of Mount Taylor (named for President Zachary Taylor). To get there she had a long ride up highway 117 to Grants, New Mexico where she crossed over IH 40. On the way through Grants they rode right by 2 prisons complete with guard towers, razor wire and detainees pumping iron in the yard. She entered Cibola National Forest getting off the highway and back on "real trail".

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Cebolla Wilderness

CEBOLLA WILDERNESS, NORTH PASTURE. June 13, 2007. After Pie Town, Erin, Yoakum, Kershaw and LeDoux headed north down a county road through a stretch of private land eventually entering BLM land adjacent to the Cebolla Wilderness. There was a brief personality conflict between the 2 mules - a bit of kicking and biting- getting to know each other. The next day the team entered and passed thru the wilderness travelling 30 miles; they exited at a beautiful expansive lowland call North Pasture camping below some cliffs at its northern edge. In North Pasture a black calf who was separated from his mother adopted Kershaw (a black mule) as his mother, following him along the trail for over a mile; Kershaw refused the deal slinging a hind foot towards the calf repeatedly. The calf eventually accepted rejection and headed back up the valley. Erin in a blatant attempt to get a corporate sponsor quenched her thirst in a commercial pose for Gatorade. The place is adjacent to the El Malpais (bad land) National Monument, an enormous stretch of porous lava rock that is not negotiable by horse or even mules.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Back on the trail

CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL, CENTRAL NEW MEXCO, JUNE 12, 2007. Erin is back on the trail. Thanks to Steve Benson and Theresa Carr of Mimbres an appropriate replacement for Rua was found. Yoakum has been promoted to a riding mule; he likes his new position in the lead. The new guy is Kershaw (another country western star) nicknamed 'Lil Mule'. He is 15 year mule originally obtained at a BLM auction as a young colt - occassionally wild donkeys and horses get together. Kershaw has a very cool BLM freeze brand on his neck. The folks at Pie Town Cafe were glad to see Erin - they were kind enough to buy her breakfast and provided a free Pie Town bumper sticker. Developing.............

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Time out

June 6, 2007. Erin has spent the last several days considering her options. Rua will not be able to continue; she will be OK but her front leg is not sound enough for a long ride. An appropriate replacement has been located. Erin expects to be back in the saddle in a few days.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

LeDoux takes a side trip to Silver City

--PIE TOWN, NEW MEXICO. May 30, 2007. Day 24. A joyful reunion with LeDoux. He and Erin became separated in the dark almost 2 weeks ago while coming down McKnight Canyon to Mimbres. She with the help of the Sova's spent the weekend looking for him. The following is the account of his rescue as submitted by Frank Ferrera of Silver City New Mexico.

Found Wednesday morning, May 23rd (5 days after he was lost), relaxing on the porch of the backwoods clubhouse of the Gila Rangers Cowboy Action Shooting Club of Silver City. The range is located in Water Canyon on the Fowler ranch in the Mimbres Valley about 35 miles north of Silver City. A work party of Gila Rangers arrived that day to do some rebuilding of the shooting facilities where they hold monthly Cowboy Action Shooting matches. This range was also the venue of the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) 2003, 4, and 5 New Mexico State Championship for Cowboy Action Shooting. ( LeDoux looked a bit undernourished from his 5 day ordeal, still wearing his makeshift booties to protect his feet from the long journey. Frank Ferrara, a local retiree, Gila Ranger officer, volunteer Fireman and Search and Rescue member, 'rescued' the K-9 and returned to Silver City, before contacting LeDoux's 'grandparents'. Frank's dogs Cisco and Cody, are quite interested in the new house guest. A quick bath and some dinner will hold LeDoux until reunion arrangements can be made.

Frank and his good friend and companion, Jim Jones drove 400 miles round trip today effecting the happy reunion. Jim has the saddle experience on similar rides and wanted to meet the Traveler.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mangas Mountains

NORTH OF LITTLE ALEGRES MTN IN THE MANGAS MOUNTAINS. May 29, 2007. Day 23. Erin rode out of the Apache National Forest onto county roads through of a stretch of private land. Rua came up lame after only 10 miles. Erin is camped as a guest of Jim S. on his Ranch just north of Mangas Mountain on the road to Pie Town. The best assessment is that Rua has a slightly infected cut which should heal rapidly. Jim and his family have invited Erin to dinner (you guessed it, steak). Tomorrow if necessary they will call for the vet. Jim told Erin "you are more trouble than a lady with a flat tire."

Apache National Forest

APACHE NATIONAL FOREST. May 28, 2007. Day 22. Erin and the crew left the Gila National Forest and crossed SH 12 entering Apache National Forest. Had cell phone service while riding up Forest Service Road with plans to camp at Mangas Mountain (elevation 9691). Saw a small bull elk today.

Monday, May 28, 2007

John Kerr Peak


Erin and the gang made 23 spectacular miles plus a few extra for an unintended side trip when the rock cairns marking the trail were misleading. For most of the day she did "Ride The Great Divide"; for this segment, the trail and the ridge that is The Divide are almost the same. They rode through ancient juniper forest, then Ponderosa and Douglas Fir forest, then upland oak savanah. The animal for the day was the Hooded Oriole. So far no wolves. At dark they turned off the trail to find water at a tank at the southern foot of John Kerr Peak (elevation 8868 ft). Yoakum behaved today.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Snow Lake


Erin rode 23 miles continuing up the Middle Fork of the Gila and emerging from the wilderness at Snow Lake in the Gila National Forest. A beautiful place. Several humans camped around the lake. North of there she met 3 families camping together with kids. She stopped for a while and you guessed it, she got fed - ham and turkey sandwich, ice cream drumstick and a Margarita Cooler. They gave her Oryx Jerkey for the road. She continued on up forest service road 28 past the Negrito work center eventually camping about a mile south of Eckleberger Hill (elevation 8454 ft). She saw numerous Blue Grosbeaks today; a new bird for her. Surroundings are that of a Ponderosa parkland. Animals cooperating.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Middle Fork Gila River

MIDDLE FORK GILA RIVER, GILA WILDERNESS. May 24th and 25th, 2007. Days 18 and 19.
On day 18 Erin reluctantly left Jordan Hot Springs behind and continued upstream along the Middle Fork of the Gila River camping a few miles south of Snow Lake and the wilderness area boundary. That night the dang mule "broke into" the grain stores; seeing no reason to hang around camp he took a sight seeing trip up and out of the canyon. Erin awoke to the absence of animals. She tracked them down; they were not impressed by her offers of grain so capture was delayed for hours. She camped at the same spot. Given the mule's (Yoakum) repeated transgressions and his role as ring-leader he will no longer be out of a halter and at night will always be hobbled or on a high line. He cannot be trusted to graze close by. Bad mule.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Jordan Hot Springs

Erin and the team followed Spring Canyon to the west until reaching the middle fork of the Gila then followed the trail upstream to Jordan Hot Springs. She camped on the high ground across the river from the springs. Although this tends to be a popular spot with hikers she had it all to herself. The river is perhaps 30 yards wide and at most waist deep with many more shallower fords. Trout are easily visible from the bank. The middle fork canyon is 'ridiculously beautiful.' Erin spent the evening writing in her journal. No human contact today.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

East Fork Gila River

GILA WILDERNESS AREA. May 22, 2007, Day 16. Erin rode into the Gila Wilderness Area today and camped on the East Fork of the Gila River just south of Spring Canyon. The river is modest perhaps a 50 ft wide and shallow with many spots to ford. She saw more Elk.

She got there by travelling north on 150 for about 2 miles, then taking the second trail, Tom Moore trail to the west then zigzagging to the SW to the river.

She ran into a pair of outfitters and their 2 quests. Becky and Daniella are with Gila Hotsprings Outfitters. Erin was invited into their outfitter's cabin (a backcountry private land enclave) and had Beef Stroganoff for dinner.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Over The Great Divide

ALDO LEOPOLD WILDERNESS AREA, May 21, 2007. Day 15. Erin rode 22 miles today -on and over the Continental Divide.

She said goodbye to Fred and Shirley Sova riding northwesterly up the Mimbres River Canyon. After entering the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Area she turned north up Corral Canyon, then to the west up Cooney Canyon and up over the ridge line onto the Continental Divide itself. She rode The Continental National Scenic Trail north northeast over Signboard Saddle (elevation 8500 ft). She veared North northwest onto the Aspen Canyon trail leaving the wilderness area and merging with Black Canyon and eventually camping at the Lower Black Canyon Campground just to the south of Forest Service Rd 150.

There were juniper woodlands, Ponderosa Pine, and Cottonwoods. She saw a small herd of elk and bear tracks. All the streams are flowing; water is plentiful. Temperatures are 40s at night and "pretty hot" during the day.

Layover in Mimbres

MIMBRES, NM. May 19 and 20th, days 13 and 14.


Fred and Shirley Sova are wonderful people. On Saturday Shirley took Erin shopping in Silver City. They went to the feed store, Walmart for a camera media card, and then picked up a new pair of chaps and a shovel (required to carry by law) to replace those lost in Pine Flat Canyon. Also picked up a fleece lined saddle pad for Yoakum. That night these amazing and awesome people fed her again; pork chops and the favorite peach pie. On Sunday rested again (horsewoman and animals). Did some saddle modifications and mapped out the upcoming route for the 2nd leg of the expedition over the Continental Divide and through the Aldo Leopold and Gila Wilderness Areas.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Mimbres, New Mexico

SOVA RANCH, MIMBRES, NM. May 18, 2007, day 12.

Erin reached her first layover/resupply point last evening. She rode 33 miles; the last few in the dark.

Today she went through Emory Pass (elevation 8228 ft) at Highway 152. She did not tarry long, rapidly seeking lower ground to avoid a spectacular electrical storm. The hail came down rapidly piling up ankle deep; it look like snow covering the ground. She moved north along the border of the Aldo Leopold Wilderness; there were Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir, and Aspen. She saw her first Stellar Jay. She bypassed East Canyon to avoid a large tree fall and took the alternate route curling back to the southwest following McKnight Canyon down to highway 35 on the way to Mimbres (pronounced Mimbreeze). There she is the guest of Fred and Shirley Sova at the Sova Ranch north of Mimbres.

Her horses had a corral. Erin had steak for dinner, a hot shower, and a bed to sleep in!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sawyers Peak

NEAR SAWYERS PEAK, GILA NATIONAL FOREST, NM. May 17, 2007, Day 11. Rode 17 miles. Erin headed north this AM and noted that the geography did not match where she thought she was. The very recognizable landmark of Thompson Cone was on the west of the trail; it was supposed to be on the east. She determined that she had turned up Pine Flat Canyon instead of continuing up Berrenda Canyon. The trails are often difficult to distinguish. Instead of doubling back, she bushwacked north (very rough going). She found a lucky horse shoe which encouraged her to push on until she intersected Forest Service Rd 886 and turned west until she intersected the main trail. She was reassured by a carved inscription on a post "CDT" (continental divide trail) and some pink marking tape. Back on the main trail she travelled north (towards Canada) along the high ridge of the Mimbres Mountains to the east of Sawyers Mountain (elevation 9600 ft) eventually camping at 9100 ft along the trail.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Berrenda Creek Trail

BERRENDA CREEK CANYON. May 16, Day 10. After riding 20 miles, Erin is in the mountains; pine and juniper forest. She is on Berrenda Creek Trail due west of Pine Flat Mountain (ele 7822 ft) halfway between Pine Flat Canyon and Berrenda Springs. Challenges for the day were that the county road was frequently gated, often times locked with "posted no trespassing signs" across this county road through national forest land. At one point had to unpack the animals and go backward through a catch corral. Much uncertainty and stress trying to get around gates and fences that were not supposed to be there. Should be straight horsepacking trails for the next 2 to 3 days ride into Mimbres.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Macho Canyon Ranch

MACHO CANYON RANCH. May 14th and 15th. Days 8 and 9. Erin had 2 frustrating days. Yesterday had animal-reluctance-to-cooperate issues (minor revolt, something about wanting a union) and ended up camping at the same spot. They absolutely refused to be caught. Erin followed them for miles, got a little tired and dehydrated. Actually drank from a stock tank and rested under a juniper, the only tree in sight. Realized she shared the tree with 2 sleepy barn owls. She eventually enticed Rua and Yoakum into the bridle with grain.

Today had to double back and pick up some equipment that escaped packing and got left beside a tank. Rode 11 miles (net). Stopped and asked for directions and advice at a ranch house and ended up staying the night in a barn (5 stars) as a quest of Macho Canyon Ranch, and Hank and Phil Burris (father and son) on the Macho Canyon Rd. The animals had hay.

Tomorrow should cross over to Berrenda Rd and move northwesterly into the Mimbres Mountains.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mule Springs Creek

Erin passed through the ruins of Fort Cummings. The trail and guidebook were unclear and she ended up having to backtrack about 3 miles. Passed along the Butterfield Stage Coach Route on her way to a very dry Mule Springs Creek. The windmill there provide ample water for Rua and Yoakum so Erin was glad to share with about 50 head of cattle. The terrain is somewhat less dry - transition from scrub dessert to arid grasslands with the occassional Cottonwood Tree in the dry creek beds.

LeDeux still having foot trouble. He actually rode on Rua with Erin today.

Tomorrow will head northeasterly to intersect Macho Canyon. Will head up this canyon to the northwest to intersect a cross trail to Berrenda Canyon. Will then head up this Canyon and begin some serious horsepacking heading up and over the "high" Mimbres Mountains.

Onward to Mimbres

Spoke with Erin yesterday. She has made good headway to the north of Deming. To leave town she (horse, mule, and dog) took an overpass over IH 10! No big deal. Set out across the desert (temperature in the 90s) on a jeep trail. Along the way a small rattlesnake made his presence known in the standard fashion. LeDeux stayed away; the dog has a lot of sense.

This is a picture of Erin, Rua, and Yoakum outside of Columbus. Credit goes to Kelvin E.Hargrove a professional photographer who took interest, stopped and took this picture.
developed very sore feet; he "lost his boots." Yesterday he managed quite well with impromptu boots made with socks, canvas and duct tape. This will have to do until those soles toughen up.

Camped at a detention damn to the west of Massacre Peak (El. 5667); no water to detain but the local windmill provided plenty of water for the animals. There was 1 tree for shade. She met a husband and wife rancher couple who brought her a roast beef sandwich and provided company.

The country gets progressively more rugged. She will follow the Butterfield Stage Rt, turning north into the Gila National Forest and ride the border of the Aldo Leopold Wilderness. She will gain elevation and the temperature will be cooler. Should take 4 maybe 5 days to reach her next resupply point of Mimbres.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Deming, New Mexico

DEMING, NEW MEXICO. May 9th and 10th, Day 3 and 4. Erin and the crew arrived at the stock yards in Deming, New Mexico this evening after riding 24 miles. Yesterday was not such a good day. Let's just say that Rua and Yoakum got in very big trouble. They worked it all out and had very good day today. When I spoke with her she was heading off for barbecue; no corn beef hash tonight! Ledeux is sound asleep. His feet are getting sore; he now prefers his doggy boots. Will rest in Deming a day then move on.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Erin is underway

COLUMBUS,NEW MEXICO. May 7th and 8th. Days 1 and2. The journey has begun. Yesterday May 7 after pictures at the border near Columbus, New Mexico Erin departed for parts northward. The horse saddled, the mule packed, and the dog mounted with red backpack they set off. Perhaps they were a bit anxious to get started given that Yoakum rolled his pack saddle in the first 5 minutes in full view of several curious onlookers. Very embarrassing. After repacking they set off again only to have Yoakum roll over on his back, requiring another repacking. Later the team got 'pulled over' by the border patrol in the first mile. The exchange was cordial and went something like this. "Little lady where are you headed?" they inquired. "To Canada," she replied. "How far have you come?". "Oh about a mile," she said. "Well have a good trip."

They rode along highway 11 through Columbus where interestingly Erin met the famous teamster mule that starred in Dances with Wolves. Once through Columbus they set off cross country along a jeep trail and camped at the foot of the Tres Hermanas Mountains. Ledoux went right to sleep; he was very tired.

Today they got into a rhythm; travelling north then crossing over Highway 11 to the base of Florida Mountain. Towards late afternoon "the hail from hell" hit. There were very high winds with hail going almost horizontal; with no cover the team "put there butts to the wind and hunkered down. The hail was followed by torrents of rain; so much for the desert. It did solve the days water problems though. Erin did have to rescue Ledoux when he got caught under a gate; he is not used to his back pack yet.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Hittin' The Trail

Zero days until hitting the trail!!!!!!!!!!

All right, so I'm absolutely awful about updating my blog while I'm getting ready for a trip. Let's see how I am once I'm on it ;)

I'm in Las Cruces, New Mexico right now, just about ready to drive to Hachita where a very kind man (the high school boyfriend of one my Montana neighbors), John Robbins, is going to store my trailer and give me a ride the the Mexican border south of Columbus, NM. I'm so excited, I can barely keep from yelling "Yahooooooooooo" at any given point in time.

Wish me luck y'all, and tell the rattlesnakes to keep their distance. I d0n't want LeDoux trying to eat one.

The Crazy Cowgirl

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Urgh computers

42 days till hittin' the trail . . .

So I thought I had the hang of this whole technology thing back when I was 11 or 12. Turns out it keeps changin' or something, and I'm hopelessly inept. Just spent a couple of hours updating my webpage and then in one itsy-bitsy mouse click undid everything I'd done. I guess that's just how it goes.

I had a great ride with Rua, Yoakum, and one of my landlords' horses the other day. My roommate's friend, Tim, rode my landlords' horse. Meagan, my roommate, became the 4th person to ever ride Rua, and I rode Yoakum. Rua and Yoakum were both amazingly well behaved. No bucks this time :D

I rode Rua before we all went out to take the edge off her for Meagan, and we made the very unpleasant discovery of a large spool of wire. Of course my mare found all this with her hind legs, every horse lovers nightmare. I told her to whoa, and she stood stock still while I dismounted and untangled her. I'm so glad we have that trust. I'm sure we'll be in close corners with wire more than once over the summer.

So . . . sponsorship plans. I'm going decorated. Spots for endorsements are available on my chaps, vest, saddle and saddlepad for $100 per 2 square inches. Let me know if you're interested. The hat's also up for grabs, but that's extra :) JD from Shodown gave me this idea and generously offered to be the first sponsor. Yay, there's a start :)

Have a good one,

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Workin' . . .

50 days till hittin' the trail . . .

I'm at work right now sellin' rhinestone belts and grass seed. When the customers disappear I go fold Carhartt sweatshirts, read a book on packin', or search the Western Horseman for potential sponsors. I wish I didn't have to work so much, so I could focus on trip preparation. However, money talks, and I gotta buy gas. I get tomorrow off though for school work and trip prep.

I rode Yoakum and Rua yesterday. Rua was awesome. We galloped about three quarters of a mile and walked another mile or so. She's in real good shape for just coming out of winter. Yoakum was feelin' a wee bit frisky and threw a few good bucks in after running down a bank. I was glad I put a saddle on him. It's a good thing I'm ridin' my horse for 3100 miles. If I rode Yoakum the mule the whole way, no one would be able to put up with me afterwards. I'd be a little too . . . inflexible for most people.

So, bad news. I heard back from National Geographic. The back story is I applied for a Young Explorers Grant from their Expeditions Council. They approved my preapplication, and I submitted the full application. They just denied it with a very polite form letter. I'm now actively seeking sponsorship from private sources. If anyone has any leads, please let me know. I'm lookin' for equipment, supplies, and/or cash. Pretty much I'll take what I can get. I'm of course more than willing to cooperate with marketing departments. Did I mention my mare's gorgeous? I'm not half bad myself either ;)

Have a good one,

Howdy Y'all

Well, here I am at 3:00 in the morning . . . finally making a blog. I think I've been planning to do this for at least 5 months. For some reason I prefer playing with my horses to messing around with computers. It's a lot more fun, and my horses' brains make much more sense to me than the inner workings of this computer. I'm gonna end up one of the those old ladies who can't stand technology and harps on and on about "the good ol' days".

53 days till hittin' the trail and about 100 days worth of work left to do. Working 30 hours a week, going to school full time so I can graduate, AND planning this adventure keeps me pretty busy. I'm startin' to think I'll sleep more on the trail than I do at home. I'll keep this blog updated with new developments, so y'all can keep up with me. While I'm on the trail my father will periodically update it when he hears from me. Today's big accomplishment . . . tarping my hay before it rains tonight and actually getting the webpage up. Hopefully tomorrow will be a little more productive.


p.s. This is actually blog attempt #2. The first two posts were origninally published on another site that refused to link properly from my webpage.