Posted by: highmountainmuse | January 9, 2009


I spent quite a bit of time yesterday corresponding with a woman I admire very much.  She has been writing personal, sensitive and insightful articles in the top horse-interest magazines for as long as I have been reading them.  So when I needed some advice regarding an idea I had concerning horses and people, I turned to her.  I’d like to say her warm and helpful response was no surprise, as it’s just what you’d expect from reading her articles after all these years, but I was still shocked.  And extremely pleased.  One of those days that remind you that there are some really good people out there, people who truly care.


Anyway, I wrote to her with regards to a new venture we are trying to set up here at the ranch this Spring – in a nutshell, we’re putting together a couple weekend long classes or clinics, where by we hope to comfortably, safely and enjoyably share the skills necessary for taking a horse pack trip. A real relaxed, personal, hands-on, fun weekend here at the ranch and in the surrounding mountains.  Swell idea, I thought.  You see, we had this notion that the reason less and less people are taking pack trips in the Wilderness is because they don’t know how.  Silly me.  After yesterday’s correspondence and some deep insight, I see how wrong I am.  Yes, less and less people want to take horse pack trips.  But it’s not because they don’t know how to!


Turns out, when you look at the facts and figures, the number of persons using the Wilderness is dropping significantly. This comes as no surprise to us, who have seen first hand the reduction in use of the trails in the Wilderness.  Very few are going any further than their feet or horses can bring them to and back easily in one easy day. Day use, just a few hour hike or ride in and out, is the only aspect that may be relatively increasing as society is slowing inching its way closer and closer to the boundaries. But heading out there, going deep into the “wilds” for a few days at time, well… most folks just aren’t interested. 


Why?  Maybe the convenience and comfort factors the ATVs and RVs offer that out weigh the “work” involved of hiking or horseback riding, backpacking or horse packing.  Or maybe it’s the attachment so many of us have to our communications and modern technologies – we just can’t consider going where our cell phones don’t work. Or perhaps there are other aspects involved here that I don’t even know about or haven’t considered yet.


It upsets me, not only because our business of outfitting is slowly fading away, but because here I am in the most beautiful place I can possibly imagine, and people look at it  and admire it and tell me how “lucky” I am to be here… yet they do not come.  We have two winter rental guest cabins, and they are both empty! (Fortunately, we have a group of guests coming in later today who I’m pretty sure are going to give this mountain the love and respect it deserves, and have a lot of fun!).


So, yesterday, after lunch I headed out for what I call my “preventative medicine” for cabin fever (helps keep the “Shining” Syndrome away).  We try to take an average of an hour a day outside, mid day at the warmest time, to get out and get fresh air and exercise. Also a good time to think, or to clear your head. Yesterday, I headed out in a pretty melancholy mood, with the gloom and doom facts and figures of the reduced Wilderness use and reduced need for our livelihood, swimming around in my mind like a stick caught in a whirlpool.


I headed out across the frozen Rio Grande, on the south side of our property, and snowshoed across into the Wilderness (the Weminuche Wilderness boundary boarders the southern property line of our ranch).  I followed my packed trail through the snow, which was crossed only by tracks of coyote and snowshoe hare, then a bobcat, and just around the corner, tracks of a group of elk crossed my path, and then the deep and large footprint of the moose, right along the trail I have been using.


And that is just looking down.  If I look ahead and up, there are even more spectacular worlds I could share with you, but I think you get the point.  This is wild, this is wonderful, this is beautiful and serene and unlike anything most folks encounter.  The unspoiled beauty, the silence, the air, the solitude, the magnificence. And it’s right here, you can come see it, you can come be in it, you can probably get a whole new perspective on your life and on the world around you by spending some time out here…


snowshoing to the overlook into the Weminuche Wilderness

snowshoing to the overlook into the Weminuche Wilderness

But fewer and fewer come.  Fewer and fewer venture out.  And I don’t just mean here at this exact spot – I mean the Wilderness in general.


How can you give this up?



  1. I am in tears and feel a great sense of loss. I think having been to the ranch makes everything seem that much more real to me as I read your words. My mind’s eye can see the Wilderness, the River, the Ranch (only as it is in the summer, though) and my heart aches for a society, that I am very much a part of, missing out on LIVING LIFE. You keep on writing and inspiring Gin. You are making a difference!

  2. Don’t cry! Though I must say, I was in tears yesterday thinking about all this… but the beauty of the mountains pick me up. I’ll share more photos and all to help pick you up to. And there is something there, you said “society” and I’ve been thinking about “community” – something that is at a loss, missing, out of sorts… but not gone completely. I need to brew on this some more.

  3. Well, that is surprising to hear. I though that numbers were going up? Leaves more for me ;). Are numbers going down to Pagosa and surrounding area too, or just the wilderness use?

  4. So your moose is still there, even in the winter. Love to go snowshoeing with you. Maybe February with the longer days. And maybe with the economy folks will be looking to the wilderness again rather than fancy resorts. Enjoy your guests.

  5. Good! Do enjoy it, it should be enjoyed. I don’t know about numbers elsewhere, sorry. I’ve been told it’s not just a reduction here, but rather widespread, but I have only first hand knowledge to base this on, so I can’t say beyond that. I tried to find additional facts and figures on line, but no luck yet.

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