Thursday, 08 January 2015 22:49

Snowshoeing out of the Jemez

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Clear Creek culvert Clear Creek culvert

My uncle, Don Smith, known to all as Smitty, owned the old Selsor place on the Rio de las Vacas in the Jemez Mountains, not far from other relatives, the Wetherills, who lived a few miles down the road toward the Penas Negras. At about 9,000 feet, it was a plce that was wonderfully delightful in the summer, but not a pleasant place to be in the winter.  Smitty and my aunt Johnnie (who was the Sandoval County Health nurse), lived in Cuba, 20 miles away. at the County Health Clinic when not at the ranch.

In early January of 1953, Smitty drove up to the ranch with friend and neighbor, Jimmy Johnson, who lived across the road in the old Brown homestead, then owned by the Hamptons who also lived in Cuba.  Jimmy was there to spend the rest of the winter and take care of the old place.  After arriving, Smitty walked across the road to his place on the Las Vacas where he spent the night winterizing and getting prepared to hike out the next day.

The next morning, having finished his chores with the old log house, he set out down the mountain and got caught in a heavy snowstorm.  He realized that at 4:00 pm, he had only made about 4 miles and he was getting tired slogging through the snow. So he found some shelter under a log bridge/culvert near Clear Creek, took off his snowshoes, found some dry wood and built a fie for his nighttime accommodations. Food was basically the candy bars he had brought with him.

In the morning he set off early and reached Senorita Pass (9400 feet) by 9:30, and by 11:00 he was at the Eureka Lodge gate.  By 2:10 he arrived at Senorita, having made 9 miles in 7 hours  (Senorita to Senorita Pass is 6 miles of a continuous uphill grade).  He was worried the whole time that his wife would be in a panic if he wasn't there at the stated time, and she arrived at 2:30, picked him up and whisked him away to the warmth of their domicile in Cuba. 

I think of this story often when I start lamenting the snowy season (especially bad in Montana) and marvel at the gumption of these folks who thought nothing of hiking out about 12 miles in a snowstorn. This story is taken directly from one of the many stories Smitty wrote about his fascinating experiences of living at the old ranch on the Rio de las Vacas.

Tha photo attached is of the culvert he spent the night in on the hike out.


Read 2306 times Last modified on Thursday, 08 January 2015 23:26

1 comment

  • Comment Link Michael Miller Friday, 09 January 2015 18:18 posted by Michael Miller

    Good story Elizabeth. Hope to hear more about the adventures of Smitty.

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