Palabras Pintorescas: The varied stories of the Pecos Wilderness

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By Editha Bartley

This happy holiday time always translates into fun ‘way out here in the mountains. My friends, many in my age group, still send hand-written messages on Christmas cards. Yes, the list gets shorter every year, sadly. Some of the old Gascon Gang have now weathered their last storm. And some even read this column on the internet. I am flattered!

I was a part of a group of friends and neighbors very recently who really should get together more often. We have so many memories and stories to tell! This time the conversation turned into the many and varied trips all of us have experienced when we visited our glorious Pecos Wilderness, just up the hill from this old ranch.

The more we compared notes the more we realized just how different each of our trips were. I must confess, I have never hiked one of the trails into the wilderness. I only ride horses on such excursions. Son John has hiked the trails here many times, once on snow shoes with our game wardens who needed to move a camp up there in the storm, cold days of winter. Another time he made it to the top of Gascon point in just two and a  half hours from here.

This is a very difficult trip because a hiker had died on the Enchanted Lake lookout and the fellow hikers needed help getting the body down the mountain.

Son Carl put a pack saddle on our gentle, large and versatile packhorse, and he met the body-bearing foot soldiers at the top of the mountain. Bill never flinched when they loaded the body onto the pack saddle and he ever so carefully brought the victim down to the coroner waiting at the start of the trail.

My friends and I agree any and everything you set out to do is difficult at 11,000 feet elevation, and the lack of oxygen can cause serious problems. We marvel at the herders of a century ago who walked hundreds of sheep into the wilderness every spring, and stayed with them until the frosts of fall brought them down. The violent summer thunderstorms alone were (and still are) difficult to survive.

My friends have visited many noted mountains through the years, in a varied set of ways from traveling by motorcycle to even hand gliding in an instance or two (Oh to be young once again!) We all agree that there are spectacular mountains and their views from the top are memorable, but none can compare to the vistas, the views from the top of Hermit’s Peak or Gascon Point.

Yes, on a clear day one can still see 100 miles of almost unspoiled New Mexico real estate. The clear, cool air, the brilliant blue skies, and the verdant green forests create a picture that our artists and photographers capture on paper.

My fun friends and I also agree that we must continue to visit about our mountain trips, but we also agree that we really don’t want to spread the word too loudly. Part of the charm of a ride or a hike into these rugged mountains is the fact that you probably won’t meet another human being along the route.

The quiet time, the peaceful forest breezes, the call of a raven or a nuthatch (or the fun camp robber jay) is a real wilderness treasure. And, we all agree that 2014 will be a super year for our mountains because we already have lots of snow piled up on every high peak.

Happy New Year, folks, and thanks for continuing to read my “Palabras Pintorescas,” my word pictures.

Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.