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Follow Joe into Apache Country
Joe Saenz calls himself a wilderness guide, but he’s being modest. Saenz is a new breed of Native American guide, eager to share his culture with outsiders but fiercely protective of his Apache traditions. He also happens to be a walking repository of the history, geology, and ecology of southwestern New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness. "Joe really is a wonderful teacher—not just about riding and horses but about how to be in the wilderness," says Pam Smith, a New Jersey doctor who rides with Saenz every year. A Warm Springs Apache, Saenz is soft-spoken and welcoming, but sign up for one of his horsepacking trips into the Gila and you’ll get a master’s class in wilderness ed ($160 a day; Saenz tailors each trip to groups of no more than five, so each can choose its curriculum. New horsepackers learn packing techniques, map orienteering, and wilderness hoof care. History buffs take in Saenz’s stories about the Buffalo Soldiers, miners, and Pueblo Indians who frequented these remote woods in centuries past. But everyone learns about the regional Native American heritage and local wilderness know-how that Saenz is uniquely equipped to share.

Next: Hike the New Roads to Ruins

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