Some of the most memorable trips seem to be those that
are difficult to get to our destination. I guess that is why we
appreciate the accomplishment and remember them more.
When Tracy was in the Air Force in California he came
home for a little vacation. He brought a friend with him, and wanted
to show Gil some of our beautiful mountains. We packed up the van with
all of our camp equipment and all of the family that were at home. The
group consisted of Mom and Dad, Tracy and Gil, Claudia and Anthony,
and Jenene.We went up through Pacheco and Garcia and on through the
Gavilan river at Las Amarillas. We went up over the north end of the
blues and down to the Cebadilla Sawmill. This sawmill was owned by
Emilio Burgos and it was located on his ranch just above Campo Bowman.
We arrived at the sawmill late in the afternoon and visited with
Emilio for a little while. He told us that he had opened a logging
road down the Cebadilla canyon to the Gavilan River where it was quite
open and beautiful. We decided to go down there and put up our camp.
He offered to send down the riding animals the next morning. He is a
very dear friend and a very generous and serviceable man.
It had been raining all afternoon and it was still
raining a little as we started down the Cebadilla canyon. As the
canyon narrowed the water was concentrated into a river running down
the road. Everyone was hesitant about going on down that river
especially when we encountered drop off places about ten to twelve
inches high that were hidden by the muddy water. The canyon was so
narrow that we couldn't turn around and we couldn't back up that far
so there was nothing to do but continue on down the steep narrow
canyon. The night was very dark and the rain was still falling.
Suddenly in the headlights of the van we saw a huge boulder blocking
the narrow canyon. Tracy, Gil, Jenene and I took off our boots and
rolled up our pants and waded out to see what we could do about moving
that big rock. We tried to roll it by all four of us pushing with all
our strength but is was so big and heavy that we couldn't even move it
a little. Tracy found and cut a Red Oak tree about 5 inches in
diameter at the base. He trimmed it and cut off the top giving us a
strong pole about 10ft. long. We collected some rocks to use as a
Fulcrom on which to pry up the rock. We would secure a pry and raise
the rock with three of us on the pole while Jenene would wedge a rock
under the boulder. The bottom of the road at that point was solid rock
which held the weight of the boulder so that it could not return to
its original position. Gradually we rolled it down the canyon into a
little opening on one side of the narrow canyon. We managed to squeeze
the van by and continued down our flooding river. Soon the canyon
began to open up and the water left the road and went into a creek on
one side of the canyon. We suddenly saw in the lights of the van a
beautiful camping spot among the tall Sabino trees with the dark
flooding Gavilan River in the background.
First we put up the kitchen fly lit the gas lantern and
built a fire. While the boys and Jenene and Claudia put up the Tents
Mom and I fried the Hamburgers and made the Herb tea for a hot supper.
My! How a good campfire can change the mood and brighten the whole
world. After supper we gathered around our bright, blazing fire to
visit and dry out our wet clothes.
Jenene walked over under the lantern and stepped on a
big scorpion. She cried out when it stung her on her toe. She
experienced a reaction and became short of breath and very pale. Mom
packed her toe in our green medicine, that we always take with us, and
sat her down and covered her up with a blanket. She calmed down very
soon and the pain subsided. That green medicine is made with Aloe
Vera, Plantain, Compfrey, Yellow Dock, and Marjoram. These plants are
all cut fresh and blended together into a green paste that draws out
the poison, takes away the pain and heals any kind of a wound or
poisonous bite. The next morning Jenene put on her boot and rode all
day long. Jenene complained that evening that her toe was itching so
Mom packed her toe again in green medicine and that was the end of the
That night after supper we all went to bed content for
having reached our camp and were lulled to sleep by the sound of the
flooding water. It has been my experience that if you have good food
and a good dry warm bed on camp then everything else turns out
The next morning after a breakfast of hot cakes, hash
browns and scrambled eggs, the riding animals arrived and we all
mounted up for the day's adventure. Emilio had told me about some big
cave dwellings that were up the Gavilan where the Zorillo creek comes
into the Gavilan. That was our excuse for that day's ride in that
beautiful part of the mountains. As we crossed the flooding River I
could see that Gil was terrified and clung tightly to the horn of the
saddle and tried to raise his feet to avoid the swirling brown water.
It was no use because the water got deeper and deeper until it was
high upon his legs nearly over the seat of his saddle. This was great
fun for the rest of us who were accustomed to swimming our horses in
the lake and in the rivers. Claudia and Anthony were racing each other
to see who could cross first. We all came out on the other side with
our boots and pants wet to above the knees.
We turned north up the river to seek out and explore
the big cave dwelling.
Tracy and Gil turned west to parallel us and ride the
breaks to see if they could see some Deer or Turkey for camp meat.
Jenene led out north intent on finding the Dwelling. Anthony and
Claudia continued with their games finding excuses to run among the
trees and jump every fallen log they could find. Claudia was riding a
little mule that we called Coyote. Who knows why he was named Coyote
but he could jump the logs and give Anthony and his mount plenty of
competition. Naoma and I rode along together enjoying each other and
the ride and the scenery around us. Naoma has always had an
appreciative eye for the beauties of nature. She has taught me through
the years to enjoy sunsets, sunrises, clouds, and the beautiful scenes
That was the time of year when the grass was green and
the flowers were blooming everywhere different colors of yellow, red,
blue, and different shades of purple could be seen in the waving
grass. We drank it all in.
This ride was especially interesting because in that
part of the river basin it opens up into a beautiful, protected little
valley. As we rode along we could see the remains of the ancient
terraces that were watered by the ravines that came down from the high
ridge on the west. Anciently these ravines were also terraced clear to
the top. Many of the terraces are still intact while others have been
washed away leaving only faint indications of the rock walls that were
once there. Even though the trees and bushes were growing in the
terraces we could still imagine the fields of the ancient peoples that
lived and loved and made this their home.
When we came to where the Zorillo canyon empties into
the Gavilan river we began looking for the cave full of dwellings. We
all searched the whole area wondering if we had missed the place where
it was. Finally Jenene called, "I can see it, Dad". She had ridden up
on a promontory point and was pointing to a high cliff behind us. We
found a trail leading up the steep hill leading up to the cliff. Naoma
was riding in front of me on the little blue mule. She picked her way
steadily up the steep switchback trail avoiding the tree trunks that
might bruise Naoma's knee. The trail grew
steeper as we neared the base of the cliff. Suddenly we
came to the base of the cliff right in front of the dwelling. The cave
was completely filled with two story rooms. The top story had mostly
fallen down but the bottom rooms were still nearly complete. We all
were interested in going in the doors and looking out of the windows.
As I stooped down to enter the low keyhole door I wondered if the
people made their doors so low because they were small of stature.
Then I realized that these doors and all of the keyhole doors around
the country were made for protection. I realized that an enemy could
not possibly enter if the owner of the house was inside with a good
On the way back to camp the sun got quite hot so we
decided to go for a swim. The river had gone down some and cleared up
a little so the return crossing was easier. Above our camp the river
ran swiftly around a bend and into a deep pool that was formed at the
base of a cliff of smooth rock. On our side of the pool was a nice
sandy beach making it ideal for swimming. Jenene, Tracy, Claudia and
Anthony were soon going up above the bend in the river and coming
swiftly down with the current into the pool. Gil after much urging
decided to try coming down the swift current into the pool. He waded
timidly out into the current and as it got deeper he decided to come
back but the current caught him and bore him floundering down into the
pool where Tracy jumped in and dragged him out. Tracy apologized
telling him that we didn't know he didn't know how to swim. Tiring of
walking up and swimming back down the current Anthony began diving off
the higher limbs of a big willow tree that grew at the head of the
pool. Tracy couldn't help but accept the challenge of his little
Back at camp we unsaddled the animals and hobbled all
of the horses and the blue mule because sometimes she would leave the
country when turned loose. We put bells on the horses and turned them
all down river to feed. After supper we all sat around the campfire
content with our day's experience in this beautiful part of the
Gavilan river basin.
The day to leave came all too soon and brought with it
the work of breaking camp and getting everything rolled up and loaded
into the van. That reminds me of the saying in Spanish," todo cabe en
un Jarrito sabiendolo acomodar". Translation: Everything fits in a
little Jug if you know how to fit it in.
We got it all in and left room for the people to ride
comfortably. Naoma and I were left to drive the van up to the sawmill
because all of the rest wanted to ride the animals up to the sawmill.
As we drove out of our campsite into the mouth of the Cebadilla canyon
we stopped to admire a log of a giant Sabino tree that had been too
big and heavy to load onto the trucks. That log was about 6ft. in
diameter and 20ft. long. The Sabino is a species of Cedar trees that
grow straight and tall with the limbs growing straight out all around
the trunk all the way up. The wood is beautiful and makes very good
As we drove up the Canyon we encountered the jump up
ledges of the night we came down. The water had washed the dirt away
leaving the bedrock and some shelves along the way. We did manage to
get up over them with a little run to bounce up over them. The big
boulder seemed even bigger in the light of day and our pole was still
leaning against the cliff near the rock.
At the sawmill I asked Emilio about the Sabino log and
the Sabino stumps we had seen and he said that he had been able to saw
a few loads of beautiful Sabino lumber and sell it at a good price to
a furniture company.
We thanked Emilio for a wonderful trip and loaded our
group into the van and came along home. The roads were good at that
time and we made it home in good time, about six hours.
We have never been back to that particular campsite on
the Gavilan basin and it remains a wonderful memory of one of our
family trips into our beloved Sierra Madre Mountains.
This is my version of that trip but if any of you who
were there have it a little different version please write it and send
it to me.