Three people striding along, hiking poles marking their yards. Two helmeted men pass on mountain bikes, as I pull Pumpkin off to the side. Greetings exchanged, I recognize one of the riders: Happy Sunday, we smile. Pumpkin insists on a bit of a gopher hunt, off in the grass. Something over there is unseen but smelled, heard; she stops on point, ears forward. C’mon, Pumpkin, here’up, pup. At the intersection of trails, here is a couple with a small canine, pick-up-able. “Which way are you going? I’ll take that way.” A jogger with her dog, on leash but curious. She pauses and the dogs’ noses touch briefly; a bit of Labrador in both, hers black, mine mahogany. Another mountain biker, slowly negotiating the narrow trail through the grasses and across the stony stream bed. Move Pumpkin into the weeds on the side and receive a grateful nod. She’s off again on a nose-hunt. Pushing through the grass, snuffling, stopping to sneeze out the dust. Through two gates and a couple of miles down the trail, we come to our turn-around point.
This old metal frame is another bit of Fort Bayard history. According to my historian friend from our Tuesday hiking group, this frame was in the service of target practice for the Buffalo Soldiers. Behind the frame is a bit of hill embedded with wooden boards that served as the backstop for the balls that pierced either the targets or with poorer aim, the metal frame itself.
On our way back to the trailhead, we are passed by yet two more bikers, these with a dog off leash, panting along in pace with them. The dog hesitates slightly at sight of Pumpkin but keeps moving in response to the demand of the bikers.
We encounter a hiker unfamiliar with this trail. Once I’ve told him where the trail goes and where it intersects with trails more familiar, we chat for several minutes. Knees, hips and legs — an organ recital typical of folks our age; a touch on politics, just enough to admit that he is Libertarian and tends to avoid political discussions (altho he brought it up) and an avowed tree-hugger (me, since he mentioned having a few as friends). Actually I just wanted to make sure he knew what specific topics to avoid as he avoided the general topic of politics. 3.7 miles later, we were back at the truck, sharing a granola bar.
It was a beautiful Sunday as so many of our days are, here in the high desert of the Southwest. It was a good day to be on a trail along a creek lined with magnificent old cottonwoods, with the Twin Sisters in the distance in one direction, and the Stars and Stripes flying over the veterans cemetery, visible just over the ridge, on the grounds of the old fort. Our public lands. We are healthier, physically, emotionally, spiritually because those lands exist, because we can hike them, hunt them, bike them, bird them. It’s a fact!