TRAIL RIDE TO HAT CREEK HAVEN
With fond memories of our 50th anniversary celebration still aglow in our hearts and minds, the Cowboy Artists of America recently wrote another chapter in annual CA trail ride history.
This authentic cowboy adventure took place in early spring at John and Charlotte Kimberlin’s majestic Hat Creek Ranch in Angel Fire, New Mexico. High among the pine and aspen forests, the seven-day event combined fun, fresh air, fellowship, and business.
We left Taos, New Mexico, behind us and climbed to 8,500 feet. There we set up camp at a movie location made famous as the Montana ranch cabin founded, built, and filmed some 25 years ago in the now-classic Western series Lonesome Dove.
The Kimberlins, who are a longstanding oil and ranching family from Texas, generously hosted this year’s trail ride and roundup gathering at their beautiful mountain retreat. The first four days were set aside for participation in helping to round up and work their cattle. Those who came early were able to gather some 300 cows and 150 calves on horseback in the tradition of the Old West.
Scattered over approximately 10,000 acres of mountain pasture and forest, the cattle were herded to centrally located pens by three different groups of riders. There, despite spring weather conditions that ran the gamut from spitting snow, to thunderstorms, fog, and sunshine, with enough good luck and hardworking hands, the work was completed in three days.
Tradition upheld, the men camped on the ranch in tents and trailers, as well as in nearby cabins thoughtfully provided by the Kimberlins. The campsite, located on the edge of an idyllic pasture with scenic mountain views, proved comfortable due to the generous forethought of the Kimberlins. Roads covered in fresh cinder led to the camping area where electricity and water were provided. A grand fire pit with cut pine firewood became the favorite gathering place.
Bert Ancell from Wagon Mound, New Mexico, arrived with his chuck wagon and helping hands, and fed us abundantly in the cowboy camp tradition — authentic Dutch oven recipes and, of course, strong coffee. “Throw in a horseshoe; if it floats, the coffee’s ready.”
Some CAs brought their own horses, saddles, and tack, while other members were provided a horse and gear from a reliable outfitter. With the business meeting behind us, we saddled up and had a fabulous ride in some of America’s most beautiful high mountain country, enjoying a relaxing time, CA brotherhood, and precious freedom.
The Kimberlins, however, saved the best for last. When the ladies arrived in camp they were provided a guided trail ride of their own. We were then surprised by the arrival of two carriages and a wagon pulled by three draft horse teams. The entire group rode over the mountain to the completely modernized and refurbished cabins and corrals from the actual Lonesome Dove set. Libation and celebration were enjoyed by all as we were warmed by the last rays of an Angel Fire sun.
Upon returning to camp, we had a delectable cowboy steak dinner with all the trimmings. Having made another fond memory with family and new friends, we shared a toast of gratitude for the rich blessings and abundant beauty we all experienced together.
Text and Photography by R.S. Riddick