A Shortcut to History on Horseback

Forest trail
Photo by Jon Cartagena on Unsplash

“Watch out,” I said as I turned behind to see the small boulders skip between the hooves of my husband’s red gelding, Hammer. The horse picked up one foot, turned his head and watched a bigger rock roll out of his path. He was unconcerned. Jim waved me on. The rocks beneath us clattered and a mini rock fall tumbled behind us.

Woody surged upward, stepping over an exposed pine root the size of my leg and down into a gully washed by spring runoff. The air here in the wash was cooler and the dirt soft and rich brown, like chocolate cake. Climbing out of the wash we were back on gravel and rock that tracked between pinyon and cedar, oak brush and ponderosa along the sides of Spruce Canyon. I had yet to recognize a spruce. Maybe higher up. Where we were going.

The climb to the first fork took twenty minutes of dodging under tortured oak branches that twisted into noose-like webs. Not exactly boogying at 1.5 miles per hour of sweat. I was glad it was horse sweat. We let the horses blow and Jim took out the GPS to check our location. The satellites said we had a ways to go.

Fred Harman III once told us a story of clinging atop a wagon loaded with logs that had a collapsed front axle and broken wheels pulled by a panicked runaway team of horses. From Echo Canyon, down Spruce Canyon to Mill Creek Road. Fastest trip to the saw mill ever reported. I suspect he’d careened down the same shortcut we had just climbed.

Two more curves and three downed trees later, we intersected a faint double track. Jim confirmed our arrival onto the historic wagon trail and we jogged on east to Echo Canyon Road. We could have driven there.



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Patty Latham

Patty Latham


Veterinarian CSU 1975. Mom. Rider of mustangs. Author of Napa Valley Vets, novel Colorado Blood, and over 20 case reports and features for EQUUS and on line..