I have been comparing our journey of life with the different journeys we take. It seems that every journey or trip that we take is full of different experiences. Some of these experiences are pleasant and enjoyable others are troubles and difficulties to overcome, but the whole experience works for our good and for our growth and development.

A Pack Trip With the Robinsons

My cousin Marion Robinson and his three sons came to see me. Marion explained that he had been serving on missions for the church some years and that now that he was home he was hungry to go on a good long trip horseback into the remote parts of the Sierra Madre Mountains. He wanted me to go and take them on such a trip. I told them that I would be glad to go with them and help them have a good trip. I invited them into the house to make plans for the trip.

I suggested that we leave next Monday to come back on Saturday. I told them that I had plenty of horses and mules up to the ranch in Corrales. Carl and Jay said that they wanted to take their own horses and that they would load them in their own 4 wheel drive pickups and take them up as far as the ranch. I would supply the pack mules and the rest of the riding animals for Marion, Lee and I. We sat down and made out a detailed check list giving them the list of what they were to take and I kept the list of the tents Camp equipment food and everything we would need on the camp. I reminded them to each take their own sleeping bags and personal items and the equipment for each of their own horse.

I got every thing ready on Saturday and loaded every thing but what had to go in the last minute. Monday Morning I got up early and finished packing checking everything off on the check list so as not to forget anything. It is really frustrating to get into a remote camp and find out that we had forgotten something important like matches or Toilet Paper.

When the Robinsons came in their two big pickups they had the horses loaded and the saddles tied on the sides of the railings. I said goodbye to my wife and family and we drove off. I was driving our Volkswagen Van that seemed little and inadequate by comparison. I thought however that they would realize why I used the Volkswagen Van before the trip was over.

We traveled fast until we came to the dirt road. From then on they stopped frequently to see how their horses were riding. Across the flat the grass was fresh and green and about 5 inches tall. As we climbed up the grade we saw signs of the recent rain. All the way to the ranch the streams were running clear water and everything was beautiful this time of year.

We arrived at the ranch and unloaded the horses. While Carl and Jay were rounding up the horses and mules I organized all of the stuff we were to put on the Packs. When the animals went into the corral we went to get the ones we would use. I roped a good Sorrel horse named Fito for Marion to ride and he put on his bridle and led him out of the corral. Next I chose Naoma's Overo Stallion for Lee to ride so he would be well mounted. I roped my little black mule for me to ride because I liked to ride in comfort and security. I indicated for Carl and Jay to rope two young pack mules I decided that it would be a good time to give these young mules some work. We had raised them and broke them to ride and pack. I then roped our old black faithful Pack mule that we had used for many years and knew his steady and faithful qualities.

We got all saddled up and the Aparejos on the Pack mules and cinched them down tight. The new mules each had a Tapojo (Blindfold) secured over their eyes just as a precaution. The pack boxes were balanced in pairs and we slung a pair on each mule one on each side tied with a special little rope that went over and under and around the boxes and tied on the top in a square knot. Then came a sleeping bag on top of each of four boxes and two tightly rolled rubber foam sleeping pads on the other two boxes. The tents, ground sheets, Kitchen fly and the other little bags and stuff were balanced in the middle of each pack. Each pack was covered with a heavy canvas pack cover and secured tightly with a pack rope. The pack rope was cinched down tight with a Diamond hitch. Usually we didn't have to move the pack or rope until the end of the days journey. The final touch was to slip the ax and the shovel under the rope on top of the pack with the handle pointing back so it would not catch on any limbs or brush.

We pulled the Tapojos up onto the foreheads of the new mules leaving them there for future use. They looked around with a sighing snort and we mounted up. I led off with the old pack mule and Carl was leading the big brown mule and Jay was leading the big black Macho. We went out the south gate of the pasture and climbed our way up the long ridge traveling west toward the continental divide. The animals all settled down to a steady pace and we were well on our way. We were about half way up the ridge when I heard a loud grunt and squeal and looked around to see the big black Macho bucking swiftly down our back trail. I saw the pack turn and come off scattering boxes and stuff down the trail. Marion told Jay to go get his mule that he shouldn't have let him go. Jay protested that he jerked so suddenly that he didn't know what had happened. He jumped his horse into a run taking down his rope as he ran. Jay found the mule stopped with the Aparejo under his belly sweating and breathing hard. He was glad for Jay to loosen the Aparejo and straighten it up out from under his legs.

We gathered up the boxes and stuff and found that all of the eggs were broken. We dumped them out and through away the cardboard egg cartons and wiped off the rest of the stuff as good as we could. Broken eggs can make a slimy mess. I cinched the Aparejo down tight and repacked the pack and tied it as tight as I could with the help of Carl on the other side. Carl is big heavy strong boy and that pack was tight. The Aparejo is built so that it distributes the pressure and weight around the barrel of the mules body so it is comfortable for him.

We traveled on and turned south along the Continental divide until we went through the gate to the Whetten Ranch. We took the road that goes on to the Mesilla. It was late afternoon and it began to rain a slow drizzly rain. We put on our Ponchos without stopping and road on until we came to the gate of the Mesilla. The darkness was deepening as we went through the gate and went on until we came to a little high meadow near the Gavilan river.

I announced that here was camp and we all dismounted and began to unpack I put up a kitchen fly as soon as I could and we piled all of the camp under it. While the boys were hobbling their horses I put a bell on Fito and turned all of our mules and horses loose to feed. I gave Jay a bell for his horse so he could find him easier in the morning. I went over to the base of big Pine Tree and began to dig under the trash to find some dry pine needles. I stumbled over a pitch pine log in the dark and with the ax soon had plenty of pitch pine wood and easily got the fire going brightly. I put on the Herb Tea and heated up some canned soup and beans and soon the world had changed into a nice camp and a good supper. We finished our supper sitting around the fire drinking Herb Tea and munching frosted doughnuts.

After supper I put up my little tent and made my good bed. The Robinsons stacked the saddles and the camp gear against the tree under the Kitchen fly and cleared enough space to roll out their sleeping bags They declined my offer of some tents and said that they would be fine under the fly. They all got busy blowing up their air mattresses and I could still hear them blowing after I was relaxing in my bed. We started using covered rubber foam pads to sleep on because we didn't like to have to blow the Air Mattresses up again about two in the morning. I had brought two foam pads so they would balance on the packs one on each side.

The next morning breakfast consisted of more soup and beans because we had lost all of our eggs back on the trail. By the time I got the dishes done and the Kitchen boxes repacked they were coming with the horses. I could hear Fito's bell all night so I knew that he and the stallion and the mules were near by. They found Carl's and Jay's horses back at the gate. By the time the sun began to show through the eastern trees we were riding past the Verde Ranch. The people were busy milking the cows in the corral and the cows and calves filled the air with their loud calling for their own. I love to hear the high pitched Moooooo!!!!of the cows and the answering lower pitched Maaaa!!!!! Of the calves.

We crossed the River at the Amarillas and left the large meadow of yellow flowers shining in the sun as we continued up the road past the Salmon Ranch From their the road cuts up over a hill avoiding a big bend in the river. From there on to the Colorado is a wide open river valley with Pine and Oak trees everywhere making the road a beautiful winding way among the trees as it follows the meandering of the stream. Suddenly our dreamy ride was interrupted by the pounding of hoofs and the Brown mule Carl was leading ran past me at full speed. She was holding her head to the side so as to not step on the lead rope that was dragging. Then Carl came by taking down his rope as he ran. He soon overtook the fleeing mule and roped her and pulled her to a stop. She was breathing heavily but her pack was still perfectly in place. I think she broke and ran trying to get away from the pack on her back but no matter how fast she ran the pack stayed right with her. I think she learned that it did no good to try to run away.

At the Colorado I asked them all to wait with the packs while I went over to Guero's store to buy some eggs to replace the ones we had lost. I also bought some Sardines and Soda Crackers for our lunch later in the day.

We turned west out of the Colorado and climbed up to the foot of the high fire tower on the top of Bull peak. From there we turned south into the trail the ran along the high long ridge that parallels the Chuhuichupa River Basin on the west. This is the main horse trail from Chuhuichupa to the Colorado. We traveled along this high ridge awed by the magnificent view. In every direction there were canyon after canyon and high mountain after high mountain until they disappeared into the hazy distance.

As the day turned to afternoon we came to a little narrow saddle that the trail dipped through. There on one side was a little trickle of water running from a little spring in the side hill. We all got off and gratefully drank of the cold clear water and sat down in the shade of a big tree to eat our Sardines and crackers. It is amazing how good Sardines and crackers taste in such a setting.

The sun was hanging low in the west by the time we came to the little Tobacco trail that turns down off the main trail on the ridge. We turned off and began to descend on the steep switchback trail that went down and down and back and forth providing a footing for the animals on the steep hillside. As we descended the sun sank quickly and disappeared behind the high mountain to the west. We came into view of the river and saw that it was a raging torrent flooding out of it's banks. If we continued on our trail we would have to go two miles down stream crossing and re-crossing that flooding river of swift brown water. We decided to turn and find our way along the steep side-hill and drop into the Tobacco Ranch where we wanted to camp. We turned along the side hill and soon found that it was very rough and covered with trees and brush making it difficult to find a way through for our pack mules. Slowly we picked our way along and finally we dismounted and led our animals along the treacherous slope. It was full dark when we finally came down to a beautiful level camp site that I recognized near the Tobacco Cabin.

We were all weary but very thankful as we unpacked and unsaddled our animals and prepared them to go down river to feed on the green grass. I got out some dry wood and Pitch Pine that I knew they always kept in the corner of the little cabin and soon the fire and smell of food cheered up the whole camp. I have noticed that as soon as the fire is going The camp turns into a warm friendly place. After supper I put up the kitchen fly and pitched my little tent to one side of the camp. I made my bed with both of the rubber foam pads since all of the others had their Air Mattresses. Marion and the boys cleared a place under the kitchen fly and rolled out there sleeping bags and began to blow up their Air Mattresses. Our prayers had been mostly of gratitude that night but I prayed for my wife and family whom I missed at this time of night in the distant mountains. We were lulled to sleep by the rushing sound of the river as it swirled around the bend about fifty yards from our comfortable camp.

I had slept soundly but some time after midnight I was awakened suddenly by the sound of stomping on the smooth ground. A loud cry of Mulaaaa!!! echoed into the night and as the stomping came nearer a big bottom came crashing down on my tent and sat on me pinning me to my bed. I remember that I was not at all alarmed but waited calmly until with disgusted mutterings the body got up and moved away. I realized that Lee had been sleep walking again and even though my tent pole was broken I turned over and went back to sleep.

The next morning as I was crawling out of my broken tent when Jay called out loudly, "Uncle Keith did you hear those mules that came into camp last night". "I sure did". I answered. "And one of them came and broke down my tent and sat on me. I'll bet you can't find any mule tracks here in Camp", I challenged him.

I proceeded to set up a food cupboard with the pack boxes stacked on top of the other against a tree and stored the food with a tarp over it. I set up the two aluminum grills with their removable legs driven into the ground. I leveled them up with some water on the grills. I took the shovel and put some good oak coals under them and they were ready to cook breakfast on. I stirred up some eggs with chopped ham and grated cheese and poured them on one of the hot grills. After a few moments I cut it into squares and turned them over to brown a little on the other side. I put the scrambled egg squares on a serving platter and began to cook the hot cakes.

Marion asked the blessing on the food and we all got an even start on the food for breakfast. After breakfast we decided to saddle up and ride around the country to enjoy the peace and the beauty of this place. We left the three pack mules in the little horse pasture that Yagui and Johnnie Vance had made and used when they lived here taking care of their cattle. We rode down the river trail west until we came to the bend in the river. We heard a rush of wings and looked up to see a little bunch of wild Turkey sailing from the cliff above us across the river to land at the foot of the mountain on the other side. We could hear their cackling noise as they landed and began feeding up the hill. Jay exclaimed that he would like to have his new rifle here right now.

At the bank of the river where the trail goes down into the river crossing they hesitated and waited for me to go ahead down into the river. My little mule did not hesitate but waded into the current even lowering the muzzle to drink as she walked along. I raised my feet up to keep them from getting wet as the water rose up over her belly.

As we climbed out the other side I pointed out a big rock platform that we used to leave our clothes on while we swam in the deep pool in the bend of the river. We could come out of the pool onto the rock without getting our feet dirty. There were some nice places to dive from into the pool also. Anthony always found a high place to jump from into the deep water of the pool.

We climbed up onto the ridge that separates the Toro Canyon from the river and crossed over to where we dropped down the steep Switchback trail into the Toro canyon. We went up the canyon following the road that comes down the Toro Canyon into the Chuhuichipa River below where the two streams meet. I pointed out the beautiful trout stream that runs in the Toro canyon where many explorer groups spent days fishing along it.

We rode past the big corral and up to the Toro Cabin where Tacho Flores was sitting on the shady porch of the cabin. He was a middle sized bow legged man with a shock of black wavy hair and a flowing black mustache. He called a greeting and invited us to get down and come in. I introduced Marion and his boys as my cousins. He asked us what we were doing and how we had come in. He said that he came in yesterday evening and had not seen our truck tracks any place along the road. We explained that we had come in horseback from Pacheco through the Colorado along the high ridge trail. We told him how we had encountered the river in flood and had to go along the side hill to the Tobacco where we were camped. Today we were just riding around to see the country. He nodded his head and said we were welcome and hoped we would come often. We chatted awhile and he asked about my family and some of the others of former trips. As we left he asked us to watch out for a black white faced cow with a young calf. He said that he had not seen her for a few days and wanted to find her and bring her in to protect the calf. We assured him we would tell him if we happened to see her.

We continued on to where the Toro canyon forks and where the trail climbs out to the east. We climbed steadily following the winding trail until we came up into the saddle where the road comes through from El Norte to drop into the canyon below. As we started down the other side two Does and three Fawns trotted across in front of us. The white tails were up giving us a show of five white rumps complete with the very white fan of there tails.

We descended easily following the old logging road down to the river. We came into the rather open place where the Banderas Creek runs into the Chuhuichupa River. I felt the urge to fish up the Banderas as I had done before with great success but time would not permit We turned down river following the road until it ended and turned into a trail that led up over a cliffed up stretch of river.

Soon we were back in camp. As we passed the little cabin we saw that the little white peaches on the little old peach tree in the garden were ripe and a few had already fallen from the tree. We all dismounted and went in and ate a few of the sweet tasty little peaches. After taking care of the horses for the night I took my little fishing rod and reel and with the pocket of my fish bag full of worms I went down stream to fish in some of my favorite holes and ripples. It was the right time of day and the water had not quite cleared up from the flood of Yesterday so I was soon pulling out some very nice trout. In what seemed a very short time I had over a dozen good sized trout. I measured the biggest one on the scale of my fish bag and it was a full thirteen inches long with a heavy under-slung jaw. That evening our supper menu included fresh Trout fried in butter. I had to use both grills because they would not all fit on one grill. We had enjoyed a pleasant day and I was content. I thought it best to wait until morning to plan another days ride.

The next morning we rode down river to the beautiful area where the river canyon widens out just below where the Toro canyon runs in. From this wide area we turned west and followed the trail that climbs up the long ridge to the Bald Mesa. We turned North along the high rim where we could see the whole river basin to where it turns west at the foot of the high mountain of Bull Peak. I commented to Marion and the boys that tomorrow before noon we would be riding just to the right of that far peak.

The trail that we followed down was steep and covered with beautiful young pine trees growing close together. Their long straight trunks seem to be stretching their few limbs high in the sky in competition with each other to find the light of the sun. We soon were down into the river canyon and followed the road back up river to where we took our trail to the Tobacco.

The next morning we packed up early and went up the river trail to where the trail climbs out up to the ridge. We climbed to greet the sun as it came over the high ridge. We paused at the top where we met the main trail to look back over the country where we had spent two days and three nights.

I made a mental map of where we had been complete with the beautiful scenes of the country we had ridden through. We tied the lead ropes of the pack mules to the pack ropes and let the old black mule lead out along the trail. He set a fast pace for us to follow for he was rested and eager to get back to the ranch and his home pasture. All our mounts seemed to know we were going home so we made very good time. We didn't even stop at the Colorado and Jay had to hurry to have the gate open before we arrived to let us all through. We arrived just after noon and transferred our loads to the waiting vehicles. We were soon on our way down through the country toward home. We got home just a little before dark but I just got out and closed the door of the van saying that I would unpack in the morning. The best part of any journey is coming back home safe and sound to my wife and family and yes to a good hot shower, a good supper and to stretch out in m my own bed. I believe that the best part of the journey of life will be when we come to our heavenly home to greet our family and loved ones again.

A Trip with Marion and Family

Marion and Maurine came down and talked with Naoma and me about a trip with their family. They said that most of their family were coming down for a family reunion and wanted to go to the mountains and camp in some pretty place for their reunion. Naoma and I suggested that Cave Valley would be a beautiful and interesting place to go for their camp. We suggested also that we could go with them and provide our horses and mules to take them on trail rides from our ranch down the river to Cave Valley and back again. We made plans to go with them and help them with their camp with our camping equipment for cooking etc. Jaydean one of their daughters was bringing tents for all of them since she had them from a camp that she had supervised.

Naoma and I loaded all of our equipment and made up a nice soft bed in the back of our van. I had made the seats so that they would lay down and make a flat bed area in all of the back of the van. We found it quite comfortable to sleep in when on camp. We checked everything on our check list as we loaded it and were ready to go. Monday morning early we loaded up the last minute Herbs for the Tea and the ingredients for Hot Cakes etc. as our contribution to the food of the camp.

We went up to Juarez to Marion and Maurine's home. They had bought the old Enos Wood home and fixed it up. The sky was over cast and it was beginning to sprinkle a little as they finished loading everything and everybody into the pickups.

When we drove through the lane in Cuauhtemoc there were large puddles of water along the road and the water was running down the side of the road. Naoma and I were in the lead as we crossed the flat we could hardly see where the road should be because it was a big river of water about six inches deep running down the road all the way until we crossed the wash that comes out of the Alamito Ranch It was running water but not so deep that we could not cross it.

The water had diminished to little streams as we climbed up along the grade. We traveled on the Willy road which was solid terrain most of the way so we went along crossing puddles and streams of water on the road all the way to the river. We were thankful for the new bridge across the river because the river was flooding and we could not have crossed it without the bridge.

At the clay hill at the little town of Cave Valley we went around through a man's door yard to avoid trying to get up the slippery rutted hill. We finally arrived at the special camp site on the clear stream of spring water down near where the trail goes up to the Olla Cave. It was still raining a little so we set up camp in the rain I put up a Kitchen Fly over near the protection of the overhanging cliff tying it to four trees and stretching it tight and slanting it down away from the kitchen area. I put on my poncho and began my search for dry wood or pitch pine with which to make a fire. Every thing was soggy and wet for it had been raining for a couple of days. All of the Robinson family were busy putting up their tents and trying to make them secure. Some of the children were crying and miserable having to stay in the trucks until the first tent was up.

Naoma and I parked our van on a little level place near the Kitchen and our camp bed was snug and dry inside the Van. I finally got a fire going and I put a lot of wet wood on it to dry it out so it could burn. I made a stack of wood to one side under the tarp out of the rain for future use and so that it could begin to dry out. Naoma and I got out our camp chairs and placed them under the kitchen fly in front of the fire. We were soon joined by people bringing their chairs and others standing out of the rain around the fire.

Marion and I prepared supper as best we could around the crowded fire with plenty of suggestions and comments from the daughters. I marveled at the difference in Marion's attitude toward his grandchildren as compared with his stern treatment of his boys that I had observed on camps when they were young explorers. Then they would get a good spat if they passed between him and the fire while we were sitting around the campfire.

It rained most of the night and was still overcast and threatening the next morning. Most of the tents had leaked a lot of water and most of the beds were wet. We could hear the mothers telling their children to not come back in the tent with their muddy shoes. It sounded to Naoma and me like most of them had spent a wet miserable night We had slept very well in our warm dry bed in the van and had even enjoyed the sound of the rain on the roof of the van. We could really feel empathy with our fellow campers because there is nothing quite so miserable on camp as a leaky tent and a wet bed. I put two big pots of Herb Tea on to steep and stirred up a big kettle of Hot Cake dough. JayDean was preparing scrambled eggs, bacon and ham for breakfast and soon everyone was eating stacks of Hot Cakes covered with butter and syrup and scrambled eggs with bacon and ham. JayDean opened some gallon bottles of Orange Drink and milk. The rain had stopped so we didn't have to huddle under the Kitchen fly to eat.

After a good breakfast some of the bedding was brought out to spread over the chairs to dry by the fire. It seemed that we might be able to go to the Ranch in Pacheco and ride the Horses and Mules down the river with one group and with the ones that had not ridden down we would ride back to the ranch up the river. We were about ready to start up to the ranch when it started raining again. It was a good steady rain that under other conditions would gladden the heart in our dry area. We abandoned the plan for the ride and found cover out of the rain. Marion, his boys and I sat around the fire drinking Herb Tea and munching cookies.

That evening a council was called and they all decided to pack up and go home if the rainy weather continued in the morning. The next morning the sky was very dark and even though it was not raining we knew that it soon would be. We ate a hurried breakfast and they packed the wet bedding and tents to be dried at home. It began to rain as we were driving up the pretty little canyon where we had wanted to spend a pleasant two or three days. We were in rain off and on all of the way home. When we got down onto the flat the road was very washed. The water had taken all of the dirt off leaving the rocks and deep ruts that had to be avoided. At home Naoma and I recounted our adventures to our family and realized that we had actually enjoyed our trip and seeing the wonderful rains of that particular rainy season.

In the journey of life we encounter many rainy days and many troubles and difficulties but we must realize that all things work for our good and that this world is a perfect place for our development and growth. Everything is designed to give us earthly experience and help us learn to enjoy each experience. For each of us our earthly experience is different but it is designed so that we can reach our greatest potential especially if we follow the Lord's plan of happiness and prepare our lives by keeping His commandments.