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.