Since 1994, The Lincoln County Sheriff's Posse has hosted a trail ride over a Pony Express route between historic White Oaks and Lincoln, New Mexico. This ride is a yearly tradition for trail riders in the Southwest.
On the first full weekend in August 2009, the U.S. Mail was again carried by horseback along the Pony Express Trail Route. Organizers prepared envelopes and stationery with the unique cancellation stamp, Pony Express artwork reproduction, a flyer, and Western-themed stamps. Riders could send these letters, carried in mailbags, to friends and family.
We gathered with our horses, rigs, family, and friends in the old mining town of White Oaks. We had about 70 to 75 riders, including wranglers. We were greeted by posse member Lauri Bass and given welcome packages.
Around 6 p.m., we were served a delicious dinner at the No Scum Allowed Saloon by the famous Bowen Ranch Chuck Wagon Team. Dinner was followed by singing and dancing. The Bowen's also prepared our breakfast Friday morning.
Our ride would take us through the Lincoln County National Forest, Bureau of Land Management land, open ranches, mountains, and rangelands. Each day, the posse would move our rigs into camp, so at the day's end, we'd ride right up to our campsite.
Then & Now
The first day, we rode through rolling landscape and thick forest. Sometimes it seemed like rocks under our horse's feet would never end, only to be replaced with soft meadow a few miles later.
The weather was perfect. We needed sunscreen and hats during the day. Evenings were cool as soon as the sun went down. But we didn't have the afternoon monsoon rains typical of this time of year.
Winding through the forest, we were surprised by skeletons of unfortunate ones hanging in trees. You can imagine how torturous this ride could have been for the early riders. Places to be ambushed are possible everywhere. The hazards back then were outlaws, Apaches, and the elements. To make it, you had to be a marksman and expert rider, and have a good horse.
But these days, rides are pleasant. We kept a steady pace, rested often, and had a relaxing lunch prepared by the Posse chuck wagon team. We enjoyed the beauty of the prairies and meadows, as well as stunning sunrises and sunsets.
You better be ready to be in the saddle — we rode 18 miles the first day (40 miles over three days)! The first day, we rode over in the foothills of the El Capitan Mountains. This was the home of the little bear that survived a forest fire and was aptly named Smokey Bear. At camp, dinner was waiting for us, and were we ever hungry!
After a fine grilled meal, evenings were spent around a campfire. We were entertained by fellow riders and local musicians with song, stories, and humor.
The next day, we had a choice of taking a shorter ride or going the traditional longer route. I went with the traditional route; it's so pretty, and I love this landscape. We had another day of perfect weather. Everyone was mesmerized by the incredible beauty of the land.
We went through valleys and rode up on knolls, which provided panoramic visuals of four mountain ranges: the El Capitans, the Sierra Blanca and the Carrizozo Mountains near White Oaks, and the BLM peaks near Lincoln.
The afternoon was free for everyone to rest, get a massage, shower, or go for a short tour close by. The Posse chefs were preparing a feast for us and musicians were tuning up their guitars for some good music during dinner.
The Sheriff Posse president, David Milchen, thanked all the participants for riding in this year's ride. Then the musicians sang their hearts out. The sunset was our backdrop to a beautiful day.
Sunday morning, we began riding just at the crack of dawn. Again we had a beautiful ride. A mountain range surrounds the west side of Lincoln with a winding valley of lush, green meadows. We marveled at the high rock ledges towering above us.
I always look for mountain lions on the ledges, but one will rarely see one of these cats. If you think you see one and blink, it'll be gone.
This ride lasted about three hours. This was a nonstop ride except to water the horses. Riders also had the option of
trailering their rigs to nearby Lincoln.
Anticipation grew as everyone imagined what the little town of Lincoln would be like. We weren't disappointed. Lincoln was rapidly populating for the Annual Lincoln Days Parade and the Billy The Kid Pageant later in the afternoon.
We rode down the main street to the parade-preparation grounds. Later, the Lincoln County Sheriff's Posse was awarded first place in the parade for its equestrian riders.
For more information on the Lincoln County Sheriff's Posse Trail Ride, call (575) 354-8007, (575) 354-0196, or (575) 937-2304; or visit www.lincolncountysheriffsposse.org.