Campfire throwing shadows across my horse. Dog rolling in the hay – dirty of course. Ever searching for that last buried bone.
It’s early morning, the sun still asleep. We sit, listening to distant sounds of highway mixed with propane flames. Coffee brewing.
Color slowly unrolls to the east as I prepare to ride and move to Black River Recreation Area.
There is water in the desert. Surrounded by the rain of Cottonwood trees. The Guadalupe Mountains flank us to the west, Black River to the east. Now we ride this old dirt road along an anomaly. Just another mystery of the land we live in.
Deadwood and brush surround, and I’m hoping the dog spooks out any game before the horse does. A deer crosses ahead. His tracks lining the center of this road like they own the place. And perhaps he does.
But this area of New Mexico has been occupied for thousands of years. Life here began early, tucked in a hidden corner of the Chihuahuan Desert. Jornada Mogollon farmers, all the way up through Mescalero Apache, and now us.
In the early 2000’s, archaeologists inventoried the area around Black River and recorded over 900 burned rock features. Some of the earliest projectile points have been found here.
A hawk watches us pass, perched on the highest and lightest of branches. Surveying his domain.
Black River is a desert in disguise. A riparian landscape, with grasses, trees, and birds abounding.
An area once overgrazed, slowly restored to its natural state by the BLM in partnership with New Mexico. Removing brush plants and allowing natural grasses to return and thrive. And bringing the animals back with them.
Our ride short, my horse isn’t quite ready yet to return. We pass the trailer and make a short turn north up the river.
Surrounded by farmland, this area breathes of a simpler time. Local boys fishing. Wind drifting through Cottonwood trees.
Boys who look too young to drive yet jump in an old pickup truck at sunset to head home down the back lane. There is peace here.
This is Black River.
For a more extensive day ride in the area, La Cueva Trail System covers approximately 2,200 acres with 15 miles of non-motorized and maintained trails. La Cueva is located about 30 miles north toward Carlsbad.