Friday, November 21 – Playas Valley to Animas Valley, NM

The Scouts from Cotton City arrived promptly at 6:15 AM for today’s hike. After swearing them in, we drove out to the western edge of Playas Lake, hopped out and got our gear on. The leaders got out their mules and acted as scouts – the route finding kind.

The mesquite, creosote and other “prickley” kinds of plants are prolific here. The “soil” is actually dust of the finest sort being tiny clay particles washed down from the hills and collected in the lake bed which has dried out. The dust is comparable to the Loess Hills clay back in Iowa and Missouri. One can imagine lots of dust in the air as the men hiked and the draft animals pulled the wagons along.

We’ve planned a two day event here, searching for the route between the Playas and Animas valleys. There are two historical springs along the west side of the dry lake bed. The 1971 route study prefers the southern spring and the pass just north of Rough Mountain. Standing at the springs, one has to question why the original Battalion scouts would have advised to go to Rough Mountain when a much lower pass is visible just slightly north.

In fact, none of us have been hiking this side of the mountain range before. The day slips along and we find we’re not going to get through Rough Mountain pass before darkness arrives. The leaders consult the maps and our mule riders head off to see if they can find the route southward. After they leave, one of the youth mentions to me that he knows a route that leads through another canyon just north of our location.

After questioning him a little more, he tells me that his dad manages a ranch on the back side of this range and he (the youth) has been up and down the area a number of times. His description of the area coincides with the maps, so we make a quick decision to hike far enough to see check his other details against “ground truth.”

We drop off a ridge into the next hollow and sure enough, there is the windmill and tanks just as the youth described. We call on the radio over to the mule-men and decide to high-tail it along that route to camp. We arrive just as darkness falls.

The group cooks up a great dinner and we bed down fairly early. It was a long, hard day of hiking uphill almost all the way. Lots of angst also that saps your energy.

Take away lessons for the day:
1 – It’s important in life to have someone who knows the way as your guide.
2 – Youth sometimes have much to add in terms of experience and knowledge. Don’t discount them. Get them involved and listen to them – even if sometimes they’re wrong. Often though, they’re right.
3 – Follow your instincts. When the planned approach to a problem isn’t working out, isn’t meeting your needs, think it through and take the best alternative you can find.
4 – Stay together as much as possible. Do tough things together.

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