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Southwest  Pack Trips

Gila Wilderness

Customer review from Kathy Marie of Johnson, Texas
The Gila Wilderness is so magnificent, I just want to go right back. It is an artists' dream world. The scenery was spectacular and around each bend the beauty increased as the canyon walls rose higher. We ultimately camped on Canyon Creek then rode the Middle Fork every day. It was lush, cool, green, beautiful, magnificent, far better than I imagined. Peppermint grew lavishly along the creek and wildflowers were blooming all over. The rich, red amber bark of the Ponderosa pine trees would glow as the light reached that magic time late in the day. The soil is deep, rich, black and luscious. It was perfect sleeping weather, never too cold or too hot. In the mornings the cliffs were shrouded in mist and the trees on the top of the canyon would slowly appear out of the fog as the sun banished it for the day. We could never get enough of that ethereal blue mist as it mingled with the sun's first golden rays, nor could we capture it in photos. Perhaps a painter could come close. Birds were plentiful and I saw new ones for me including a bright-faced little Verdin. On one ride we surprised a Zone-tailed Hawk with its youngster.
We saw a bear one day while riding which was exciting. Jim has dogs that he takes with him on these trips. They are part of his family just as the horses are. Wolves are also in that area and he has encountered them before. There are mountain lions too but they are not so bold and tend to keep away from people. One day he took us to an ancient cliff dwelling that he discovered and very few people have seen.
We rode about 10 miles a day -- the horses were amazing athletes and conducted us safely. My mount was Cowboy and it turned out he was very fond of dried kiwi, as was Mr. Black, Sue's horse, so I will take more next time. One day we rode up to the canyon rim and looked down into the awesome beauty of our temporary home. What glorious sculpture! This canyon, so incomparable, alluring and grand, it even seems to create its own weather.
On each ride we went to a different part of the canyon and got to see some of its secrets. Riding out from camp the trail quickly became familiar, like an old friend. Trees, cliff faces, rock formations, river crossings and meadows that we traveled through coming and going were like family and home. Then all of a sudden we would be on a new trail and a whole new land of discovery would open up.
When we finally had to say goodbye to the canyon and head out it was with sadness. None of us wanted to leave. We climbed out of the canyon and landed on top, then made our way out through the high country. The best part about that was at one point, being able to look back and see the grin of this massive, awesome canyon far in the distance that we had just called home. No matter how far away, its beauty is not diminished. I couldn't take my eyes off of it.
We made it back to the trailhead safe and sound and then came the awful business of saying goodbye, packing the car and leaving it all behind.

Cowboy Cathedral, by Kathleen Marie
I have some good pictures, however, the truth is that pictures do little justice to the majesty of this area and they can't capture the admirable nature of the people I was with or express the beauty of the connection made with people and place on such a grand adventure. They can't show the vastness, depth and purity of the canyon or the smell of the air when the rain starts to fall on alluvial soil and pine duff. They can't convey the essence of the mint as the horses step on it and release it's magic scent. They don't show the time and hard work that Jim must spend to prepare for a trip like this, and the definitely cannot capture the heart and soul of the animals; the horses, mules, birds, bears, dogs, lizards, insects, that make it all so beautiful, so real, they make you think deeper and purer than you are use to. 
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Southwest Pack Trips
Tour Code: RTNM01
5 days / 4 nights ~$1,325.00
Dates: March to Oct

Trip Rating :
Difficulty : Riding Level (Click for legend) Lodging: Standard
Day to Day Itinerary
Rates | Dates
Blue Wilderness
Gila Wilderness
Tack: Western
Horses: Quarter horses, Mustangs and Appaloosa...
Pace: Slow - 4-6 hours in the saddle per ri...

Airport: Albuquerque or Santa Fe
Location on Google Map
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Customer Trip Rating
What To Bring
Travel Stories

Riding Level Explained
A Beginner
Beginner A rider who has limited experience, is unable to post the trot and does not canter.
B Novice
Novice A rider who is capable of mounting and dismounting unassisted, capable of applying basic aids, comfortable and in control at the walk, moderate length posting trots, and short canters.
C Intermediate
Intermediate A rider who has a firm seat, is confident and in control at all paces (including posting trots, two point canters and gallops), but does not ride regularly.
D Strong Intermediate
Strong Intermediate An intermediate rider who is currently riding regularly and is comfortable in the saddle for at least 6 hours per day.
E Advanced
All of the above, plus an independent seat, soft hands, and capable of handling a spirited horse in open country.
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