Finally, after spending 4 days on the road to get to the Continental Divide we pulled into AP’s ranch 25 miles from the border. Not knowing if we were going on the correct road even after traveling miles we arrived at the working cattle ranch. It was hard to believe that cattle could even exist in such a desolate and forbidding place. The ranch has miles of Mexican border frontage and the Continental Divide Trail goes right through it. We settled right in with AP’s mom greeting us. K his wife arrived later and we planned the trip for tomorrow.
Driving to the border was a real experience with Kay using their worry free rig which had seen many hard miles of these back roads.
We snapped a few photos and left the border as quickly as possible since area was known for drug crime.
Saddling up a half mile back we started our 783. mile journey with both horses fresh and acting like they were half broke.
Heading toward the Big Hatchet Mountains we followed K’s advice and went cross country bushwhacking our way towards Mengus Well which K told us was dry but I used it as a landmark to head towards Newe Well which was our first water stop about 6 or 7 miles from the border. There were a few cattle resting around and not much else. The horses drank and we pushed on to our 3rd well: High Lonesome which was perfect for a lunch break. 20.40 miles got us to the ranch wind and sun burned with the dry desert sand blowing at 40 or better miles an hour for the last 5 miles.
Check out our Google earth location: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=31.49458,-108.21057&ll=31.49458,-108.21057&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1
K and AP trailered us to Hachita Peak Road so we could avoid the F/S horse gates which were left with sharp edges and no way for a horse to pass safely without cutting his legs. Our first stop was to be Howell Spring at the recommendation of the rancher who leased the surrounding area. After 8 dry miles the horses needed some water since the wind blew dry and constant. We pulled off trail 1½ miles to find it dry but only 3 miles further was a private water tank with water flowing right from the pump into a pond. The horses each drank fresh water and I was able to fill up my canteen. Just as we finished the pump turned off and if we had arrived any later we would have had to have the horses drink out of a much fouled pond.
At 19.75 miles we arrived at our rigs left there by K and AP.
With just 13.2 miles to do from Hwy 9 to Hwy 113 we allowed ourselves a late start. This turned out to be a mistake since the first water source was dry but we left the trail for 1.75 miles to get to H. Spring which was dry and had been for a good bit. The location of the spring was scenic along a creek and someone had built a stone enclosure to hold the water but today it held nothing but dried mud. Getting back on the CDT we went another 3 miles to the first good water source and arrived while the pump was still pumping which allowed us to get fresh, clean water for both horses as well as ourselves. The scenery was strangely beautiful but the sun and wind worked havoc on our skin. We rode on for many miles until we got to a fence with no sign of a gate. I rode towards a water tank which appeared to be a couple of miles away and Sandy rode off in the other direction. Luckily, the tank had access from all the surrounding pastures and we were able to get through after struggling with the gates. Just as we were about to head to the trailer Sandy said she left her keys back at my truck some 19 miles earlier! The unforeseen bends and turns of our trip were just beginning and within a moment a police car drove up and slowed down.
The officer said he rarely was on this remote road but we were delighted he had time to help. He opened the back door of the police car and I shouted that he should hand cuff Sandy but he declined even though I had my camera all ready! We were so fortunate that when Sandy found she didn’t have a spare key, Officer Gonzales put “me” in the back seat and drove me all the way back to my truck. For anyone who has never sat in the back seat of a squad car it was very claustrophobic and small. If we had a wreck the person in the back seat would just suffocate since there wasn’t any way to get out and no windows open. I imagined lots of frightening scenarios as Officer Gonzales sped to my truck.
Hwy 113 to Animas Road, May 3
This next section haunted me and I am sure Sandy felt my apprehension as we walked in relative silence for a half mile or so. The rancher whose property we were crossing was kind enough to mark the gates which crossed her huge ranch but with over 19 miles of unknowns including water we walked uneasy. Just as we entered an arroyo we heard hoots and ya’s and barreling up the mountain immediately towards us was a large heard of cattle driven by 6 or 7 riders. We were right in the way and if we hesitated even a second we could have gotten trampled. We didn’t even have time to mount up so we ran like you know what and scurried over the edge just as the cattle passed. The horsemen had to form a “horse fence to keep the cattle from following us off the mountain. Well, with our hearts pumping we realized we had witnessed a true cattle drive and only regretted that we didn’t have time to take any pictures! We moved on through the sandy, dry pastures opening gate after gate and hoping we were heading the correct way. At one fence the Continental Divide Trail sign was on one side of the tight strung 5 wire barrier and another sign was on the other side. I couldn’t imagine that even hikers could get through this fence without tearing their clothing or packs. But we followed the fence north and then northwest and were lucky enough to find a catch pen/ watering area with gates to all the pastures. Crossing this ranch was only 13.5 miles but it felt like 50 for all the stress. The very last gate we had on Mayfield’s ranch was east of the trail and just off from a creek bed. We opened the gate and I instantly felt a sign of relief since we were now on a ranch owned by the fellow who was hosting us for a few days.
Ed Kerr had marked his CDT section with fences, gates and suggestions. He suggested we follow a cattle trail around Cedar Mountain and on to his Cedar Well. “Just follow the cow trail” was his simple advice! Okay, Sandy took the job to heart and followed a two step trail through rocks, creeks and led us right along side of Cedar Mountain to the well which had catch pens and then a great view of Pyramid Mountain. see Google earth:http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=32.20356,-108.66028&ll=32.20356,-108.66028&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1
The scenery was astounding and nothing was wasted by detouring around Cedar Mountain. We enjoyed the ride passing water source after water source with cattle at most just relaxing around the corrals.
Ed Kerr of Kerr Ranch had agreed to shuttle us back to his ranch from Animas Road and since we had traveled over 24 miles we were sure glad. Kerr Ranch was a perfect layover stop with Ed and his wife being gracious hosts. see www.kerrranchtours.com.