January 29, 2014 at 11:47 AM

Cowboy Camp in Santa Fe National Forest

'Next door to La Tierra Nueva, is an access point to the Santa Fe National Forest. From here hardy souls can ride all the way to the Rio Grande, and even Soda Springs Trail...'

By Susie Morgan

Hoof Prints in Santa Fe

Susie Morgan is a lifetime lover of horses, the outdoors and lives for adventures. She lives in Las Campanas, and is reconnecting with horses after working 27 years in New York City.

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Next door to La Tierra Nueva, is an access point to the Santa Fe National Forest. From here hardy souls can ride all the way to the Rio Grande, and even Soda Springs Trail; however, that would make for a long day indeed.

But in between the hills and valleys, there is great riding in deep or wide arroyos, and up and down hills, providing you don’t mind hearing the occasional motorcycle or gun shot. As for the motorcycles, we see evidence of their tracks, but it is actually very rare that we encounter them on the trails themselves. Luckily, they are so loud, that we would have plenty of time to get out of the way.

This January Santa Fe day inspires the cowboy in all of us: The temperature is brisk, but the sun is hot, and the winds are still, so we have luck on our side. After tacking up at the trailers, eight of us head down a valley toward Old Buckman dirt road. We are a group that just loves to ride and eat (more on that later). Ages range from early 20s, to “older than dirt" ...that’s all he will say. But most of us are collecting social security checks, if that is any indication.

We realize all the cows have been moved off the grazing land for the winter. We see that the ground would provide poor feed indeed at this time of year. We miss the cows, and the teeny calves that appear each spring. Approaching Old Buckman Road, we make a left and stay on the hills running parallel. There are no trails here, so we just pick our own way causing the organization of the group to break down as each rider takes a slightly different path.

Turning back up another valley, we pick up a cow path and follow it back to the trailers. Before we reach the trailers, we need to navigate a few steep ups and downs. This is technical riding, so the riders stop their story telling and concentrate on the trail at hand.

Returning to the trailers, we open up our picnic spread and the goodies we had brought for lunch. Wrangler Marty from Las Campanas offered to build us a bonfire in the fire ring. Who could resist? It added warmth to a chilly day and protected us from the winds that were beginning to appear. We lingered longer than we normally would, enjoying the crackle, the company and the warmth from the fire.

Eventually, we each knew it was time to pack up. So we doused the fire, picked up our picnic, and headed for the trailers. There to greet us were the horses happily chewing away on their nibble nets hardly aware we had been gone for so long. After greetings, we untied and loaded the horses, packed away our picnic, and headed for the barn hoping that winter would yield many more of Santa Fe's perfect riding days.

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