Trail ride fulfills dream and renews family’s faith in humanity

The Baca family riding into Magdalena Photo by Jacky Barrington
The Baca family riding into Magdalena Photo by Jacky Barrington

It was Cruz Baca’s dream. Having grown up in the Riley area, then living around the high country, he wanted to ride the Rio Salado from its beginning all the way to Riley. Coming into Magdalena, New Mexico on horseback in time for the Old Timers’ Reunion was an added incentive.

“We tried it last year but just couldn’t get it together.” Baca said. This year the family started planning earlier, and Baca’s daughter, Tammy Atteberry, and her daughter, Kendi, (6 years old) from Fallbrook, California were able to join the trip.

Tammy, who hasn’t had much opportunity to ride lately, admitted the hardest part of the trip for her was speculating. “It was harder in my mind than it turned out to be.” The family laughed as they recalled Tammy showing up with three big bags and one box. They spent a day repacking Tammy and Kendi and had them down to “one small backpack each.”

Tammy had brought along Kendi’s riding helmet and actually got her to wear it one day, but then it strayed into a big pack and wasn’t seen again. Kendi takes western riding lessons at home and was very comfortable on her horse.

Altogether the crew included 60 year old Cruz Baca, Tammy (38) and her daughter Kendi (6), Baca’s younger daughters Megan (16) and Kayla (11), and 18 year old Cecil Rosales, a friend from Socorro. Each had their own horse; there were two pack horses; and Kayla had her blue heeler Phoebe.

The first day was the hardest according to Megan. “We didn’t pack right and we were each trying to carry stuff and it kept falling off.”

Kayla added, “And Phoebe wouldn’t follow. We had to pack her the first day. I had worried it was so dry. I didn’t want to have to pack water.”

Cruz said he was also concerned about heat and dust making the trip unpleasant. However, it started raining the day they headed out from the Quin Sabe along the Alamocita. It was a long day with a lot of stops to pick up fallen packs and tie them back on the horses. By evening they were at the old Martin corrals on the Salado and stopped there for the night. They had packed a tent for the girls which was quickly set up. Everyone helped gather firewood. Cruz proved the best at getting the fire going quickly, and he and Cecil did most of the cooking.

“We ate lots of tortillas,” Megan said. The girls took on the “washing up” responsibility.

Phoebe proved her worth that first night when a herd of cows headed straight for the tent in their rush to reach some salt licks. Phoebe turned them from the tent and sent them around her little group of travelers. The next day Phoebe seemed to have gotten the idea of the trail ride and that her part was to tag along. They did not have to pack her again.

After filling up their canteens and watering the horses at Red Lake, the group headed on and soon reached the Alamo reservation. They met James Guerro and asked if there was any place they might be able to stay and put up their horses. James suggested his brother Domingo might have space.

Domingo Guerro was very welcoming and fed them and their horses. They were even able to spend the night indoors in a house Domingo is remodeling. “No indoor toilet but the outhouse was a lot nicer than the bushes,” one of the girls noted. They strung some bedding so the girls could have some privacy.

“We rode through some very pretty country. Lots of people don’t know how pretty that reservation is.” Cruz said. Megan added that though they saw few people, “the ones we did meet were very nice.”

The next day Domingo rode with the group as far as the reservation fence. The group headed on down the Salado and by evening were at Riley.

They crossed the Salado to Lawrence Aragon’s home but found he was gone.

In the middle of recrossing the river to get to Richard Spears’, it “really started to rain.” Not only did it rain but there was thunder and lightning, which scared Kayla and she admitted, “I was crying for my Momma.”

Probably no one was able to hear her as they scrambled up the bank. Cruz said they were up at the Spears place when he looked back and the Salado was suddenly bank to bank with rushing water. It was a scary moment but they were safe.

They attempted building a fire under a tree in the rain but even Cruz couldn’t get a fire going. Then he found one of Spears’ butane burners and used that to heat some stew. With Spears still not home the group finally went into the barn and bedded down for the night, as they were wet and tired.

When the Spears family returned about 9:30 p.m. they tried to talk Cruz into moving everyone into an empty house, but most were settled. Cruz knew he didn’t dare take the bed Spears offered “They’d kill me if I did that.” He did accept a cup of coffee.

Thursday morning the group got up and rode out early, traveling about eight miles before they stopped for a breakfast of potted meat on blueberry bagels. They were sitting in the middle of the Riley Road when Martha Spears caught up with them to say, “You guys, I was going to feed you!” They went along with Martha’s suggestion that she might call Cruz’s wife Lorraine (staying with family in Magdalena) to see if she would be willing to bring hamburgers to them on the road.

So, it was a happy bunch we caught up with Thursday afternoon. Stopped by the side of the road, watching the dump trucks go by hauling sand for the arena, they were chatting away and eating Mom’s hamburgers. Not that Cruz and Cecil didn’t turn out decent meals - but they weren’t quite the same.

Summing up the trip, Cruz said, “It was lots of fun. The best thing you can do with a family.”

Megan admitted, “We laughed the whole way.”

Tammy added, “It is very nice to know that there are so many nice people. They went out of their way to make our trail ride memorable. We have renewed our faith in humanity to know that people will not have a fear to take you in for the night and invite you into their homes.”

The family wants to send special thanks to Mike McWhorter for the horses and getting them started; James Guerro for going out of his way to find his brother Domingo; Domingo Guerro and his family for putting them up for the night, taking their horses in and feeding them; Al Grieves for giving directions and input on short cuts; Richard Spears for letting them put their horses in the corrals and sleep in his barn; and Carra Clark for lending Cruz a horse to finish the ride. (Cruz’ horse came down sick the last morning.) A special thank you to the Rosales family for lending Cecil - he was a big help to Cruz and the crew.

Will they do it again? “God willing!” Cruz stated.

The family rode in the Old Timers’ 27th Reunion Parade on Saturday, July 11th. Perhaps next year even a larger group will ride through the beautiful high country and in to Magdalena for the 28th Reunion.