I had never seen so many junipers in my life. The green, bushy plants stretched for miles into the desert of New Mexico like they could go on forever.
We were far outside the city limits of Santa Fe, or any city of that matter, yet I still managed to catch glimpses of adobe casitas hidden among the terracotta landscape. They seemed so isolated out here, like specks in an inexplicable vastness, and I tried to envision what life was like for desert-dwellers.
Static crackled as Dad fiddled with the radio in search of a good song. He finally settled on the Mexican station, where the lively mariachi that played became our soundtrack. A long strip of weathered highway remained ahead of us, just as endless and void of life as its surroundings.
Today we were going to go horseback-riding in Los Cerrillos. It was the perfect way to end a father-daughter trip, or so I had managed to convince Dad. We eventually pulled into a gravel driveway, and I knew that we had arrived when I saw the horses that awaited us.
The car hadn’t even parked all the way before I was out of my seat. I was so excited! As we made our way to the registration office we were greeted by two cowboys who introduced themselves as Rod and Bentley.
“Welcome to Broken Saddle,” Bentley said. He introduced me to all of the horses, including “Jack”, the one that I would be riding for the day. Jack was a handsome black-and-white paint and I immediately fell in love with his calm temperament.
After mounting our horses we started out the tour by venturing into a valley. Jack followed the other horses with such ease that I barely had to steer him, making it obvious that he had done this numerous times before.
I breathed in the warm, dry air and allowed my gaze to wander over the sun-baked terrain. From his horse, Rod launched into the rich history of turquoise mining that Los Cerrillos was known for. He even showed us a few abandoned mines along the path, which I soon became fascinated with.
“Turquoise in Los Cerrillos was invaluable, especially to the Native Americans and the Spanish settlement back in the day,” Rod explained as our horses bumped up the pace to a smooth trot. “That’s how the Turquoise Trail got its name.”
He continued to tell us about the rest of the mining posts that were native to the area. Everything seemed to be a reminder of the past as I imagined the miners that had come to work here so long ago. Their eyes glinted turquoise and their hearts were full of the hope that the fallen sky stone brought them.
The ground was so dry that the dirt rising looked like tendrils of smoke, giving the illusion that the desert itself was on fire. I squinted against the sun that had only seemed to grow hotter as we began the ascension up a mountain, but in the end the view was beyond worth it.
It was the first time that I had ever seen the Turquoise Trail from a distance. It winded through the rolling landscape of junipers and seemed to disappear behind the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. We watched quietly between the ears of our horses and never had I experienced a sight so awe-inspiring.
According to Rod, the town of Los Cerrillos and the Turquoise Trail had stolen the hearts of every miner. And, in that moment, I knew that it had stolen mine too.
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