On the Pecos Trail, Part II

Posted by on Jul 24, 2013 in cattle drive, road trip | 2 comments

The original Goodnight-Loving Trail basically ended in Fort Sumner. There they sold a portion of the herd to the Army garrison for an extremely high price (The Army needed meat to feed the Apache and Navajo Indians who were imprisoned there). Then, while Oliver Loving continued up into Colorado with the remainder of the cattle that had already been spoken for, Charles Goodnight headed back to Texas to gather up another herd and take advantage of the price being offered before other outfits got the same idea.

But by by the fall of 1867, other outfits were also selling at Fort Sumner, Loving was dead, and Goodnight needed a new place to sell his cattle. Colorado became the new market. The first trip he followed Loving’s trail from the previous year, which continued up the Pecos to Las Vegas, NM and then crossed the mountains at Raton Pass, where ‘Uncle Dick’ Wootton had established a nice toll road, and charged a hefty price per head. Goodnight paid unwillingly, but determined to find a new pass to use next time.

The next trip north was the spring of 1868. He straightened out the trail tremendously, heading almost due north from Fort Sumner. This is where my remapping project began to hit difficulties. The only real list of landmarks I had to use came from J. Evetts Haley’s 1936 biography of Charles Goodnight and read like this (landmarks are in bold):

“The Goodnight and Loving Trail left Fort Sumner, passed Bosque Redondo about five miles above, and left the river to keep north to Alamogordo Arroyo, thence to El Cuervo, to Lagunas Coloradas, to the Canadian, and across it near the mouth of La Cinta. Ten miles up La Cinta to the north it led up the mesa–Goodnight Hill, thence north to Black Lake, Carrizo, Palo Blanco Arroyo, Malpais Arroyo, west of the Capulin Peak to the Cimarron Seco, and thence over Trinchera Pass.”

Sounded pretty straightforward, until I looked at my super-detailed atlas of New Mexico and realized very few of those names were on there. After much pouring over and digging around in my research materials, I came up with a few more place names. But now I had to make a few guesses that seemed logical. This is the list I came up with, along with some of my reasons as to why the trail should go that way:

  • Fort Sumner. Not a problem. Though the old fort is actually about 2 miles south of the present day city of Fort Sumner. Bosque Redondo is right there too.
  • Follow Alamogordo Creek to the Juan Dios. The closest I could come to that was Arroyo San Juan de Dios, so I followed that for a ways and came to
  • Cuervito Peak and Cuervo Mesa. From that general area I followed Cuervo Creek to the
  • Canadian River. I knew the crossing was about 20 miles west of old Fort Bascom. First I had to find Fort Bascom. I finally pinpointed it as north of Tucumcari. After that, I headed west on the map, and guessed at a crossing near La Cinta Mesa. The surrounding creeks were not named on my map, but I figured one of them should also be named La Cinta. (And this picture of the Canadian was taken much further east, near Logan, NM, but that was as good a pic of the river as I could get.)
    canadian near logan
  • Goodnight Hill–no map has a mesa of that name, nor anything close. It wasn’t until we actually drove from Tucumcari up Highway 39 to Mosquero and Roy that I realized this whole section was one huge mesa, something you can’t really tell from a map. We also spotted signs for a highway marker near Roy. We didn’t go gallivanting across the countryside tracking it down (this is what the countryside looked like)tableland around roy
    but I found the text online later that evening–the Goodnight-Loving Trail had indeed run nearby. So I made another guess that the trail had run up the mesa near Mosquero, and then paralleled Highway 39 north. My theory was strengthened by finding a Chicosa Lake just north of Roy. Chicosa means “black greasewood”. Sounds an awful lot like my elusive
  • Black Lake! And just north of Chicosa Lake is
  • Carrizo Creek, another landmark I’d had a hard time finding. Woohoo!
  • Palo Blanco Creek was not difficult to find, but I couldn’t find a Malpais Arroyo anywhere. However, there was a
  • Malpie Mountain in just about the right place. Malpie = Malpais? Sounded good to me. And it was right there in the line of sight for
  • Capulin Mountain. capulin from the southThe distinctive cinder cone volcano was probably one of the easiest landmarks to find and explore, since it is now a National Park. My daughter and I even hiked the rim trail. Goodnight actually overwintered his herd right down there in back of where you can see the visitor center.
    From Capulin the trail headed north to
  • Cimarron Seco. Since I’ve never studied Spanish, it took me a long while to figure out that Cimarron Seco was the Dry Cimarron, but once I did, and once we were driving through the area, it was easy to see the natural path towards
  • Trinchera Pass. area of trinchera passWe couldn’t actually go up to the pass–like many other landmarks on this trip, it was on private property. But we did get pretty close 🙂


So I feel like I’ve got a pretty strong case for my mapping of the trail from Fort Sumner to Trinchera Pass. However, from Trinchera the trail goes over the Raton Range and into Colorado, and hits the part of the trail I still haven’t quite figured out. I’ll detail those difficulties in Part III.

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  1. Nice!! Let me know if you need translations for some of that Spanish 😀

  2. I certainly will! 🙂

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