Continued from Part I
The fuzz ball that shot past me, and disappeared underneath the scrub oak was in fact, a shaggy Chihuahua! She belonged to Erick, and her name was Garapata; in English, Tick.
Erick told us she traveled everywhere with him. She loved to run along side his horse just like the other dogs, and judging from her endless energy which sprung forth with incessant leaps, and bounds; going the distance for Tick, was not a problem.
During our descent into Canyon Hondo, on the outskirts of Real Del Castillo, little did Tick know, she not only entertained everyone, but she also brought welcomed relief from the tension of our descent.
I smiled, when I saw her tiny, body dart under the bushes, and come out the other side like a bullet aimed straight for its target. Sometimes she stood on a large boulder next to the trail, and watched us as we rode by. I had a feeling she was counting heads because once all the riders passed, and all were accounted for, off she raced again to meet us again further down the trail.
Finally, we reached a flat area where we stopped to rest the horses. I heard Erick, and Raul talking again in Spanish about an Indian head. As they continued to talk, Raul, his voice raised with emotion, excitedly pointed towards the mountains in the distance. When my eyes reached the destination of Raul’s enthusiasm, suddenly I understood why.
At the top of another huge mountain directly across from the one we were on, there was a rock formation which looked exactly like the profile of a proud Indian Chief. His noble face peered up at the bright, sunlit sky. I wondered if he were able to speak, what stories would he tell?
Once we reached the bottom of Canyon Hondo the group released their silence with hearty laughter, jokes, and some teasing too. Everyone cheered, and all agreed it was time to celebrate our arrival at Real Del Castillo.
One rider said she couldn’t possibly remember all the fifty promises she made to God if only he would get us down the mountain safely. That comment brought on more nervous laughter from the group who offered her a sip of tequila just it to take the edge off.
We were now in Real Del Castillo! Raul and Erick led us along the green forested, river banks, and soon we saw the stone ruins of the miner’s houses which were built during the gold rush between 1850 and 1880.
After gold was discovered in 1870 by Manuel del Castillo, a mining boom was set off creating a bustling settlement of about 1,500 people. Within two years, it became so important that by 1872 it had replaced Santo Tomás as the capital of the Baja California Norte district, and remained so until 1882 when the capital was removed to Ensenada.
The old road through Real Del Castillo which ran along the hillsides was slightly hidden from view due to overgrown vegetation, but still clearly visible once we were riding directly on its path. Along the road’s edge, many years ago, rocks were stacked by hand for miles which provided a barrier of sorts to hold the mountainside together, and the road intact.
We followed the winding, road along the hillside, and down into another canyon which was our destined campsite. Erick told us there was a mine nearby which we could visit on foot tomorrow.
There was also an old adobe house, built in the late 1800’s by an American man, and his Mexican wife who lived there for many years. This man’s wife was known to have cooked daily for all the miners working in their area. So after a long day working in the mines, they knew where they could rest, and get a warm meal.
Our camp site was near the old, abandoned house, and I was able to walk inside. I stood in the middle of what was probably the kitchen, by the looks of an old, broken down, wood burning stove which sat on its side, in a far corner of the room; rusted, tired, and dusty. Again my imagination took over, as I wondered about the people who used to live there, and what life was like for them way back then.
Upon leaving the stove alone again, I wandered outside, and looked up at the sky. A vision of the Indian Head came to mind who I suspected was no longer visible due to the setting sun. Night would soon be upon us. I noticed Raul, and Erick on the other side of the ravine while tending to the horses, then I glanced over at our guests who weren’t far away, but busy putting up tents, and preparing for a good nights rest.
Everyone was happy, tired, and no doubt very hungry. With dusk rapidly approaching, it was time to hurry up, and make dinner. My mouth watered at the thought of dutch oven beef stew, and sweet corn bread right off the coals!
To be continued…….