Santa Fe Trail map.

Santa Fe Trail map.
Map of the Santa Fe Trail.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Santa Fe Trail book tour begins!

Well, I have FINALLY got my novel "Into the Shadowlands" into paperback and so I feel inspired to begin some kind of Santa Fe Trail adventure. It isn't the elaborate wagon ride down the trail I had planned a few years back, but this month Fancy and I hit some Santa Fe Trail landmarks. With my horse tailer, I am taking Fancy to various Santa Fe Trail sites where we either pose for a photo or actually get to ride around in the immediate area of the wagon ruts. Which is the best! I dress in 1800s costume and use the best of my imagination to not only try to relive the experience of those long ago travelers, but also to convey what that feels like to anyone interested enough to tune into my facebook posts on the Shadowlands ranch site. We have done quite a few sites already this month, a lot are out of sequence though but I will try to stay in sequence for this blog.

I will start as if we are heading east out of Santa Fe. The first stop, once you climb through the Glorieta Pass, is Pigeon's Ranch, a stage stop and hostelry along the old Santa Fe Trail. Established by Alexander Valle in 1850, it became a strategic Civil War location during the Battle of Glorieta in 1862. During that battle, often referred to as the 'Gettysburg of the West,' the ranch headquarters alternately changed hands between the Confederate and Union forces. It served as a make-shift hospital and bodies of soldiers (from both sides) were stacked to the ceiling in one of its rooms. My characters Abby and Tate pass by here in my book "Into the Shadowlands" which is set in 1876.

Fancy and I outside what is left of Pigeon's Ranch. The road to the left was once the Santa Fe Trail.

Pigeon's Ranch in the days of the trail. The Santa Fe Trail ran right through the middle of it.

The next camping place and point of interest was the Pecos Ruins. The site of a once extensive and strategically located Indian Pueblo and Spanish Mission Church. Santa Fe Trail travelers often camped near the ruins and explored the remains of its stone and adobe structures. Many wrote about their explorations in diaries and official accounts. Much is written about these Indians, which I will not try to cover here. But to read more about the fascinating history of the Pecos Pueblo, go to this link: Pecos National Monument.  My characters Tate and Abby camp at these ruins in my novel.

Fancy and I near the Pecos Ruins.

An old sketch of the Pecos Ruins.

The next stop going east would have been Kozlowski's Ranch and Stage Station. Kozlowski's provided meals to stage passengers, including trout caught from the nearby Pecos River. Tate and Abby enjoy just such a meal in my book! In relatively recent history, Kozlowski's (and the Pecos monument) were once part of Greer Garson's (the Hollywood actress) 'Forked Lightening Ranch.' It is now part of the Pecos National Historic Park.

Outside what was once Kozlowski's, along the Santa Fe Trail.

After leaving Kozlowski's, the trail skirted the base of the massive Glorieta Mesa (now known as Rowe Mesa) on its way to San Miguel Del Vado and the Pecos River crossing. 

Fancy and I (and my dog Holly!) with the massive Glorieta Mesa behind us.

Wagon ruts heading towards San Miguel.

Long before the town of Las Vegas (NM) was founded in 1835, San Miguel (founded in the mid-1790s) was the first real settlement people traveling the trail from the east would encounter in what was then Mexican Territory. It had a plaza and a church and was also the main point of entry for eastern traders traveling to Santa Fe. It was here that customs officials inspected cargoes bound for Santa Fe and assessed their duty... to be paid once the traders reached the capital. The trail forded the river near the town's main plaza. Many travelers wrote of their experiences and impressions of San Miguel in diaries. 

Fancy and I outside the San Miguel Church, which was built (or was started!) in 1805.

Standing at what was once the ford of the Pecos River for the Santa Fe Trail at San Miguel del Vado.

The next stop going northeast, would have been Bernal. There was a nice spring here so travelers liked to 'noon it' or camp at this site. A distinctive flat-topped butte dominates the scene called Starvation Peak. According to legend, either some colonial Spanish or Santa Fe Trail travelers were attacked by Indians near this spot and fled to the summit of this peak, where they died of starvation after a long siege. 

Fancy and I with Starvation Peak (at Bernal) behind us.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Fancy and Sombra pais.

Oh boy! It is 2017! Where did the time go? I realize it has been 2 years since I wrote anything in this blog. To be fair, in the intervening time I have built an entire adobe house... mostly single-handed! I now live in my double-adobe house (meaning double walls which are almost 2 feet thick) out on the range with my herd of horses. I will do a separate blog, perhaps, with some of the construction photos, but for now, I am going to do a brief update. The house is called "Sombra Pais," which basically means Shadowland. I am glad I have experienced building a traditional adobe house but never, ever, want to do it again! There are still numerous finishing jobs to do but it is livable and I have been living in it for almost (November 30th, 2016 was when I moved in,) a year. Some of my horses are still over at the farm in Cherry Valley (where I lived before moving out to the land in June 2016, I lived in my trailer  while I was working on the house,) but most of them are here with me on our happy 1,300 acre Shadowlands Ranch.

"Sombra Pais."

The other thing that happened in 2016 is that I bought a pinto horse. It is a long story but her name is Fancy (Fantasy was the name she came with.... which she is!) and she is a sweetheart. Originally an Amish horse who pulled wagons and was used for riding too, she was sold to a broker in Missouri and I bought her, sight unseen, off the internet. Fancy was categorized as 'bomb proof,' and for the most part, so far, she is! When I first bought her, in early 2016, we went on several rides, many of them incorporating wagon ruts from the Santa Fe Trail.... what a thrill! When I started building my house in March '16 though, the riding petered out as I got somewhat single-minded about finishing it by Christmas (which I did) and my body and energy were all used up with the construction work. Last month (October 2017) however, I got back in the saddle again! Yiipppeee! And my enthusiasm to get back to the business of my books and doing some kind of Santa Fe Trail rides has been rekindled. 

Fancy and me in costume with wagon ruts behind us.

Riding Fancy in some wagon ruts!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"My keenest regret was always that I was born too late."

I've just spent 10 fun days celebrating my birthday with visiting family. We filled the days with a variety of excursions including raspberry picking at La Cueva, near Mora and attending a wonderful Jesse Cook concert in Albuquerque. We drove the gorgeous mountain scenery around Rociada and sat listening to musicians on the plaza at Santa Fe on a beautiful fall day with golden trees shimmering around us.... we also enjoyed yummy hor d'oeuvres and cocktails with old friends at the Santacafe (which plays an important role in my book "Into the Shadowlands."). On another occasion we took a side trip to Trinidad, Colorado. Trinidad is also mentioned in my book  because it was a major stop along the Santa Fe Trail. One of Trinidad's famous citizens was an artist called Arthur Roy Mitchell who painted evocative scenes from the old West. Here is me standing in the A R Mitchell museum in Trinidad with just a few of his paintings and an Oxbow yoke used by freighters crossing the trail. Years ago I bought the book "Mitch" by Dean Krakel, a fascinating biography, filled with wonderful pictures (photos and paintings) about the artist. This quote of Mitch's words struck a very deep chord (those who know my books can guess why!):
"This region, this mountain, these pinon dotted hills, are the scene of my oldest memories. Sometimes I think they have come to mean even more to me as the years add up. Maybe what I feel now is nostalgia for these other days and ways in which many of these adventurous, characterful people came back to this spot to make their home, freighters, trappers, traders, men and women of colorful pasts. It was my good fortune, so I consider, to be born in this locality prior to 1890, and to have walked around among them when I was young and they were old. I was on good terms with many of them. They were the people I most admired. The men I liked to listen to were these people of the horseback or buckskin tradition. My keenest regret was always that I was born too late. It was my own good fortune to have moved among them in other ways, often my own leg over a horse, beside them, never dreaming at that time of the day when such a privilege would be gone forever."

If you are ever in Trinidad I highly recommend you visit the A R Mitchell Museum!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"Announcing your plans...."

(Al Swearengen, photo from the TV show "Deadwood.")

Well I should have heeded Al Swearengen's (a character from the TV show "Deadwood,") words of wisdom. "Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh." Just as I was making plans and telling all who would listen that I was going to do a wagon ride/horse ride along the Santa Fe Trail this fall, a non-event riding accident has made me a bit of a cripple for the last 10 days. Needless to say, training is on hold... yet again!

I was riding Pistol out in the fields by where I live and a couple gleeful bucks (with a twist) plopped me on the ground with a very hard thump. I landed on my lower back/pelvis and I have to say I was shocked at just how hard it impacted my 50-year-old body! When I could finally breathe (it knocked the wind out of me,) I found I couldn't get up. My legs worked but I had no faith in my mid-section to support me, let alone walk back across overgrown fields holding onto a horse. Pistol didn't run off, he just stood nearby grazing. 
Thankfully, a lot of yelling got the attention of Joe and his wife Patti... the folks who own the farm where I live... and they rushed over in their truck to get me. Patti led Pistol back to his corral and Joe and their son Clay, dropped me back at my trailer.

I will not give a long winded account of injuries. Mercifully no broken bones (I don't think) but a very bruised back and pelvis and ribs on one side. A recurring hip problem I have dealt with from time to time, went into overdrive and I couldn't walk on that hip for several days, getting around slowly with a crutch. My ribs are still sore and my pelvis feels tender and 'rattly,' no other word for it. I do feel like my 'cage was rattled,' and all is undermined! I can't lift anything heavy or pull too hard (This is 10 days on from the accident.) But, each day there is some improvement although it feels so slow. I am not used to not being robust and active!

So, plans are up in the air but I still want to do a wagon ride... or several... over the next few months. Maybe a series of day rides. I will heed Al Swearengen though.... I will not announce anything from now on.... until the ride/rides are done!

Look out world, I'm in the driver's seat!

Me in the driver's seat!

I love, love, love this. What a way to see the world, clopping along the lanes, behind a sweet little horse like Sissy. Jerome has been accompanying me though as I am still not confident behind the wheel. But, I hope to soon be doing this on a regular basis, without a chaperone,  and both Sissy, Holly and I can see a lot of the Santa Fe Trail (and its landmarks) as a team from my wagon!

Sissy in training.

In mid-August I was lucky enough to have the help of Jerome (the guy who trims my horses' hooves and does fence work for me) and his family to connect Sissy to the training cart for the first time. Like I have said before, Sissy has done all this before, but I haven't. I wanted it all to be safe though and so I asked Jerome etc to act as back-up for me. Jerome and his uncle Tranquelino (Tranque) have a lot of experience driving horses and have their own team of draft horses. It all went well. A great day.... and many thanks to Jerome for bringing in the big guns (aka his family) to help! And, Sissy was a trooper. Tranque said she is a great little horse and he was very impressed.. 

Jerome and friends helping to get Sissy connected to the cart for the first time.

Tranque (driving) and Jerome with Sissy. Both of them have experience with draft horses, which I don't.

Sissy did great. Jerome's son rides out in front just incase Sissy bolts or needs the security of another horse.

Centennial Cowboy Parade.

The horse parade riding up Bridge Street in Las Vegas, New Mexico. August 1st, 2015.

Well, I didn't make it into the parade with Quick Draw and Poco.  About a week or so before the parade, my little dog Holly got trampled by two horses who were fighting in the paddock. The horses were galloping, full speed, along a fence line, one horse biting chunks out of the other as he pressured him into the fence. In the middle of that terrifying scene, I heard my dog scream, although I couldn't see her. The aggressor horse (Pistol) ran the other one, (Quick Draw,) right into the barbed wire fence at the end of the paddock. Mercifully QD mostly jumped it, although he snagged a foot on the way over and fell. He was uninjured though and got up and understandably ran off! I was so intent on catching QD and restoring safety and order to the farm herd of horses that I didn't think of Holly... at first. After I easily caught QD,  I walked him back to the paddock (I removed Pistol and put him in jail for a while!) and that is when I found my wee pup lying motionless in the grass.
      To cut a long story short, she was awake but couldn't move. I thought she had been crushed or had a broken back. I was distraught, she is my best pal and right-hand pup. When I rushed her to the vet he diagnoses a concussion and gave her meds.  She was able to walk again but was slow, quiet and subdued. After several days though, she began to return to her old tireless, effusive self. Phew!

Needless to say, training to be in the Cowboy Reunion, One-Hundreth Anniversary Parade was no longer a priority. I went to watch it though instead. It was great. About 150 horses riding through the old streets of Las Vegas!

My pup Holly, helping me with chores in the rain, much improved from her near death experience.