Three End-of-Season Rides - Backcountry Reports from Bill Manns

- October 25, 2012

Three gorgeous vistas in northern New Mexico...

Galivan Canyon

It was a cool and windy morning as we loaded up the horses for the drive up to the Gavilan Canyon trailhead, about 20 miles west of Tres Piedras in northern New Mexico. By the time we we saddled up, it was almost 70. My long time riding buddy Linda Milanesi and I were joined for the first time by Andrew Roybal and Tony Redmond, riding the paint. Tony is an interesting Englishman who lives in Denmark. Tony fell in love with the southwest seven years ago and has made 15 trips here to ride and explore. The elevation is about 9,700 feet at the parking area. The canyon is a wonderful mix of outstanding rock formations with a grassy valley, bordered by flower covered hillside meadows with several creeks along the way. We passed a few old relic buildings from the old gold boom days. This was another great day to be horseback in the mountains of New Mexico.

Ride Difficulty: An easy ride , 3 on a 1-10 scale
Directions: Drive 55 miles north of Espanola on Route 285 to Tres Piedres / Left on Route 64 go 20 miles to Hopewell Lake / Go about 1 1/2 miles. Take the 2nd cattle guard on left and park. Follow the trail south

Jawbone Mountain

Yesterday we rode up on one of my favorite places, Jawbone Mountain in the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico. When we loaded the horses this morning it was cool and cloudy. I was sure we would be in a thunderstorm before the day was over, but to my surprise it was a beautiful ride in the high 60s and with a nice cloud cover. At one point we did hear some thunder but it moved away from us. Never saw a drop of rain.

The last time I was up here was back in May when there was still snow in places and very windy. At 11,000 feet elevation, winter gives up hard around here. I’ve ridden in here a lot over the years but every time is different depending on the weather, time of year and the folks and horses on the trail. I rode with Star York on the gray, Linda Milanesi on Lear and Ed Khmara on Jimmy D the mule.

Cody was strong cantering up some steep trails and setting a quick pace for most of the day. He walked at a fast clip and was in top form, as always I was proud of him.

Ride Difficulty: Moderate to technical and difficult riding
Directions: About 2 hours from Santa Fe, take 285N to Route 64 / Turn right on Forest Road 133, then Left on Forest Road 80

Pedernal Summit

We rode up Pedernal, a distinctive 10,000’ summit with Star York, Linda Milanesi, Nancy Parker, Clark Spencer and his buddy Randal. Artist Georgia O’Keeffe lived nearby and painted the peak many times, her ashes were spread on the peak.

From Pedernal, you can see the entire southern Sangre de Cristo Range from Colorado to the peaks above Santa Fe. This view includes Wheeler Peak—New Mexico’s highest mountain to the Truchas Peaks, and Santa Fe Baldy. To the north you can see the southern San Juans and even the La Platas above Durango, Colorado. No other summit in New Mexico offers this wide vista.

The weather was excellent, in the low 70s with a light breeze. In a few spots the trail is extremely steep and rocky but the horses made it up just fine. Cody, now 20 years old finished the ride in fine form, pissed off that other horse were in front of him a few times. He likes to walk out in the lead and usually does. Another great day horseback in some of the best riding country in the West!

Location: Pedernal is west of Abiquiu Dam.

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