After our long, relaxing picnic in a Pecos meadow, it was time to mount up and head back towards the Jacks Creek Trailhead.
I really enjoyed the diversity of the trees and plants in the Pecos.
Some of the meadows weren’t covered in grass, but dense, electric green moss-like vegetation.
Wow! Just look at the many different types of plants in just this one small section.
We only saw a handful of people all day. It was wonderful to be able to experience wilderness the way it was intended to be: un-cluttered and un-crowded.
Riding back the same way we had came, with the waning sunlight, was like riding on a brand new trail. The colors and views were all so different.
Apache surprised me by wanting to ride through the tall grass hummocks, instead of on the narrow dirt trail. It was more challenging to make our way through the lumpy grass than on the smooth trail. But she was very happy up there, so we just blazed our own trail.
I soon discovered why Apache wanted to ride up above the trail and in the tall grass. She was wanting to catch glimpses of the free-range cattle (you can see one of them just to the left of the pine tree up ahead). While riding in the Pecos, I learned something new about my mare. She seems to really like cattle and wants to get close to them.
I was excited to see the aspen groves ahead of us. But first we had to ride down into the deep meadow below….where the large herd of cattle had been grazing earlier. Apache seemed eager to get within view of the cattle so we were doing a bit of trotting by this time.
When we reached the top of the small hill, Apache stopped and just stared out over the cattle in the meadow. She nickered softly and I moved her forward. Apache was so cute when we got down to the meadow. She really wanted to go ride out into the middle of the cattle and, I’m guessing, probably join them in their grazing. Or perhaps, she wanted to go move some of them around…..I don’t know. I didn’t let her head out there because I didn’t want to get in trouble for harassing the cattle. But it sure does make me wonder if my mare is a little cowy.
The golden aspens were beckoning….
It was such an incredible feeling to ride among the aspens. It felt like riding into a sanctuary or cathedral.
We could barely speak when riding through the aspens forest, except to say things like, ‘wow!’, ‘amazing!’, ‘gorgeous!’, ‘incredible!’. But none of those words truly did any of those beautiful trees and vistas any justice.
Even my Apache mare seemed to be very happy to be traveling through the aspens. She loved looking all around and taking her time as we rode through. She would often stop just so I could take a photo or gaze upwards at the brilliant yellow above us.
I love riding with friends who don’t enjoy riding nose-to-tail. I love that my horse isn’t herd-bound and doesn’t worry if our friends and their horses end up out of sight for a while. I so appreciate having my confident horse and my good riding friends. We have the benefit of not having to ride alone, while still enjoying the peacefulness and solitude, as if we are riding alone.
Kendra and I both had the Pecos Wilderness on our bucket lists, but had no idea we’d have the opportunity to ride there this year, and during the most perfect time of year, too.
So much beauty all around us, made our hearts sing!
The ride back down obviously went a lot faster than our ride up. But we still stopped occasionally just to enjoy the views and take photos.
Right about the time we rode out of the aspen forest onto the wide, open bald of the mountain surrounded by breathtaking vistas, Apache did something odd that has happened once before…..
This past summer when I rode Apache up in the Sandia Mountains to the Sandia Peak above 10, 600ft elevation, we stopped to have a picnic beside the Kiwanis Cabin while we enjoyed the beautiful vistas out west over the city of Albuquerque and towards Mount Taylor in the distance. (visit that post: Top of the World!)
Once we were done with our picnic up there, we mounted back up and started to ride back down the hill to the main trail. But Apache didn’t want to leave!
It really surprised me, because Apache doesn’t go out of her way to argue with me and is quick to give in and do as I ask. But on that day, I had to cluck, kiss, squeeze, kick and swing my reins, and she still kept trying to turn around and head back up to the top of the mountain, even though our friends and our horses were already out of sight heading down the trail.
Personally I believe that my mare enjoys high places with beautiful views just as much as I do. And after this same scenario happened yet a second time, up in the Pecos that day, I am sure of it.
She just didn’t want to leave. (If truth be told, neither did I)
This is another location that Apache just stopped and put her brakes on, even though our friends and their horses were already out of sight down at the bottom of this trail in front of us. Apache kept trying to turn around and head back up onto that wide, open bald surrounded by aspens. I finally convinced her into continuing down the trail, but even I was a little bit sad about leaving that beautiful space up there, too.
Once we dropped down into the forest, the lighting was almost magical, because of the sun dropping down behind the mountain.
I fell in love with these rock grottoes, entertaining myself with my imagination, picturing elves and fairies living among them.
It was impossible not to feel so alive and joyful.
The horse trail down to Jacks Creek Campground is a straight, steep downhill/uphill. While the hiker trail is a series of tight switchbacks down a very steep section of the mountain.
While riding down the narrow horse trail to Jacks Creek, we encountered some hunters and their horse pack string riding up into the Pecos. I didn’t know how or if Apache would react, but she was barely even interested in them at all.
Experiencing all of these new sights and obstacles together and seeing how confident and trail savvy she is, just makes me trust and love my mare even more.
The entire ride down the horse trail was surrounded by more beautiful color and views. This made the steep downhill much more bearable for horse and human.
We let our horses tell us when they needed to rest, and we’d all stop to rest and enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of the mountains.
I fell in love with the Pecos, in it’s Autumn splendor, that day.
Even our horses, who knew we were heading back to the trailers, seemed to want to soak in every last bit of the beauty all around us.
Have I mentioned how much I love aspens?
As we entered a low meadow, there were still aspens that had not changed into their golden glory, yet. But winter comes quickly to these mountains, and just one week after we had ridden the Pecos, we were told by some friends who had ridden there, that all of the color had peaked with most of the trees left bare, after some strong winds released the leaves from their tenuous hold.
The aspens not only have fluttering, colorful leaves, they also have mysterious trunks…with eyes.
Even though my friend Kendra’s camera wasn’t working, she enjoyed using my camera to take photos, too. If it weren’t for her I would not have any photos of me and my Apache at all.
I simply adore this photo that Kendra took of my Apache mare and I stopping to enjoy the gorgeous views.
The trail travels right above Jacks Creek Horse Campground.
Ironically, Apache was in no hurry to get down to the campground and horse trailers. We just mosied on down the mountain.
Apache checking out the log, placed across the trail to keep everyone from taking the steeper shortcut down, instead of the longer trail that circles around to the bottom. (I know, we should have taken the longer route, but this way looked more fun!)
Apache and I riding past the cattle pens, Shelley and her Macho, in front of us, riding into Jacks Creek Campground.
Apache and I riding into Jacks Creek Horse Camp, checking out some mules in one of the campsites.
We got our horses untacked, brushed out, fed, watered, and then we posed for a photo. I just love my Apache mare!!!
And I’m pretty sure Kendra feels the same way about her Bailey boy!
And Shelley and Macho, too.
We did see a few deer while up on the trails, but they were mostly just a flash as they leapt up into the protection of the trees. But on the way down the mountain, we did get to see several deer crossing the road in front of us.
This sweet doe was very curious and stood behind a shrub just 10 feet away from us.
I still feel that excitement and elation when remembering our ride up there on October 4th. It feels like a dream. But a dream come true.
We are already planning a horse camping trip up there for next Summer. I can’t wait!