It feels strange being in New Mexico on the CDT. It’s a good strange though…I think. I hate hiking in the desert and that’s all I can see from the car window on the way to Cuba, New Mexico. I’ve been told the stretch from Cuba to Colorado is actually quite pretty and not desert. I hope this is true. My friend Ben who lives in Durango offered to give Snakebite and I a ride to Cuba. Why Cuba? Well this is as far north as Snakebite got this spring before deciding to flip to the Canadian border to hike with me. I’m gonna have a lot of fill in the blank areas to do on this trail in the future. Oh well, at least I’m hiking and not hiking alone. I’m actually excited to be back on the CDT, I want to like this trail. It just feels at times like the CDT is the cruel and difficult lonely trail you have to do to have earned the title of triple crowner. The PCT is well groomed and has amazing views. The AT has the history and amazing trail culture. The CDT has huge stretches of road walking both on paved roads and forest roads. It meanders through small western towns that lack the trail culture and feeling of the other trails. The CDT at times feels like an after thought. I want to like this trail because it was the trail I wanted to hike the most and because I don’t want to be miserable for thousands of miles. Today was a very very very short day on trail. By the time we got to Cuba and began hiking it was about 2pm. Thunderstorms were barring down on us by 5pm and we were forced to set up camp because of the sheer amount of lightning around us. Tomorrow will be a more challenging and physically difficult day, every day is mentally challenging out here.
Cows are incredibly stubborn animals. After waking up to cool and very very humid conditions this morning, we did our 8.5 mile climb. The first couple miles were uneventful and then we found the cows that were roaming around on this hill. They bellowed, they moaned, they stood firm, and they ran away. Little cows, big cows, females, and big Bulls. At times they made so much noise that you would think we were chasing them with steak sauce and a grill. The weather at times was cool and damp like coastal Washington. At other times the sun would come out and it felt like New Mexico in August. All in all it wasn’t too bad, it could be much hotter. The day went by very quickly. The scenery was mostly mixed pine forest until the end of the day when we dropped pretty low and go more into the junipers and sage brush. Honestly I could live with this scenery for alittle while, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it might be. Not much in the way of wildlife today, the cows, one mule deer, and one skunk. The day ended early again due to the monsoon storms. We’ve been lucky to get. Most of a day in so far, today we hiked till 5pm and did just under 21 miles. We have 26 miles till Ghost Ranch, were planning on being there on Thursday morning for breakfast and possibly lunch. Maybe we will shower and do laundry. Maybe we will just wait and continue the 5 days to Chama before doing any.
The morning started off like the last couple days, with the hopes of it staying dry. Hahaha yeah right. The morning hours went by and the air was incredibly heavy with humidity. Large thunderheads built around us and threatened during the late morning hours. While we were praying for dry weather and walking along a forest road we spotted a flock of about a half dozen wild turkeys running across the road ahead of us. A short time later we realized we should take advantage of the warm air and sun that was still out to dry our soggy tent. We were about to begin descending into some small canyons and arroyos near the Rio Chama. With the storms all around us it made me abit nervous to be in and near these washes during large storms that could cause a flash flood. We continued with a close eye on the sky and made it to open country again safely. We were discovering a new problem caused by the rains. All the small creeks, large creeks, streams, and even large rivers were so muddy you couldn’t easily filter the water. Time to settle for cattle trough water instead. At least this water is clear and with filtering it will be clean and clear. We made better time today then expected and decided to do the road walk to Ghost Ranch this evening rather then in the morning. During the road walk the skies absolutely opened above us. We took shelter under a small juniper tree to get away from abit of the rain and because of the massive amounts of lightning. After about a half hour of hiding we continued the road walk. I have to say that the clay like soil in New Mexico is a nightmare when it is saturated. It’s like walking on baby shit. Your shoes become caked in mud to point where your shoes have 2-3 inches of mud on all parts of them. Super helpful when hiking. We arrived at Ghost Ranch just before dark, a very nice gentlemen that worked on the grounds helped us to the campground and showed us around abit. Ghost Ranch is a retreat and non profit resort run by the Presbyterian Church. It’s a beautiful place as far as scenery but it has a strange vibe at times. Tomorrow we will get our resupply packages and head back out.
We awoke early with the hopes of getting our resupply packages from the office at ghost ranch and getting out before the daily monsoons began. Yeaaaaaah that didn’t happen. I had feared my box might not make it in time because I had forgotten to give my sister enough notice to send it out. Luckily my package did make it in time. Unfortunately they somehow lost Snakebites box. If it’s not one thing it’s another. Luckily Snakebite rolled with the punches and got a hitch to a nearby town where she was able to piece together a resupply from a gas station market. By the time she had returned the daily storms had begun. We decided to stay at Ghost Ranch even with its strange vibes and get a days rest and leave very early the next morning. We were able to get a hot meal from the cafeteria at Ghost Ranch and get to bed around 8pm. Hopefully tomorrow is a warm and dry day
5:00am the alarm begins to sound, how long can I ignore it and sleep? 5:30am I’m finally getting up, I’m not happy about it though. We’re looking for an early start but that’s even tougher to do when you have indoor plumbing near by. We break camp and leave Ghost Ranch around 6:30. The start of the day takes us through some canyons that could have been in Zion or Canyonlands National Park. Gorgeous scenery to start the day!! We hike out of the canyons quickly and to the top of the Mesa, we will now begin the forest road/ cattle road portion of the day. Ugh…I hate forest roads already. The one bright note about this morning was the spotting of a Black Bear!! First Black Bear of the trail, Snakebite spotted it. It was a beautiful cinnamon colored bear, and it did what it should do and ran away quickly. Shortly after this the rains would return. I can’t wait for the day of hiking till dusk in a dry manner. We hiked till around 5:30 and then the skies began looking very threatening again. Lucky us that we were in some rolling ranch land with no large trees for shelter. We found a flattish area in a field tucked next to some bushes and called it home. As long as we could get out of the storms and stay dry we really didn’t care. Hopefully the cows don’t get too curious of us tonight.
Mooooooooooooo!! Ah yes the sounds of cattle walking around your tent in the morning. We awoke to brilliantly blue skies and no rain, which was a blessing because between the rain soaking the outside of the tent and condensation soaking the inside of the tent we were in need of some sun to dry out. We took our time leaving camp this morning while trying to dry the tent and our sleeping bags out which I don’t mind, I’m not an early riser on trail. We left camp around 8am and continued trudging through rolling hills that resembled cow pastures. I was about at my wits end by the time we stopped for lunch. We had seen one elk this morning and about a hundred cows. My shoes were caked in mud and cow shit, and it looked like it may storm again at any time. Ahhhhh!!!!! Then we finally got into some pine forests and the scenery improved. The storms missed us and we had views of the distance San Juans to the north and the Sangre de Cristo’s to the east. Thank god, I needed this. I needed some sort of beauty and inspiration after days of rain and cows. We ended up making the most of the good weather and knocked out 24.2 miles total for the day. Not to shabby. We should be in Chama by Tuesday.
I wouldn’t say it was the start of my day but in the middle of the night one cloud decided to pass over head and rain on us. No big deal usually but we decided not to close the rain fly on the tent in hopes of having a bit more air and not as much condensation. We awoke in a panic to get the tent closed up before everything was drenched. What a fun way to wake up during the night. It was a very late start to the morning, we broke camp at around 8:15 and got water from the river near our campsite. By the time we had filtered water and actually begun hiking it was closer to 8:30. Oh well, I like late starts :). The day was fairly simple, no big climbs, no massive water carries. Just a lot of rolling terrain and blue skies for once. No exciting animal sightings, other then cows I’m not sure I saw anything larger then a squirrel. We hiked 25.9 miles today and enjoyed quite a show as from a thunderstorm near us at sunset. Absolutely beautiful colors in the sky and a ton of lightning. Hopefully no rain tonight. Tomorrow we only need to do around 20 miles, it’s 27 miles to Cumbres Pass in Colorado. This will be our gateway back down the highway to Chama New Mexico. We plan on having a very short day Tuesday and then hitch into town and resupply and relax till Wednesday. I’m looking forward to a bed and a shower.
One more longer day and then it’s a trip to town. That was the first thought on my mind as I awoke this morning. While taking our time packing up the tent it began to rain alittle. It seems like even if there is only one dark cloud above us these days it will rain. The shower quickly passed and we began to hike away. Shortly after being our morning we passed our third and fourth dead cow carcass while in New Mexico, thank god we’re not in grizzly country or these moments might be very different. Early in the day we entered the Lagunitas campground. This is the campground where our fellow hiker Otter passed away last fall after being stuck in a snow storm. It was abit of an creepy feeling being here. We moved to a remote area of the campground and dried our tent out and ate a few snacks before moving on. The day was fairly uneventful and was mostly dry till late afternoon. The skies began to darken and began to move to more forested areas. I hiked ahead of Snakebite for a little while and hiked quickly and quietly in a light rain. I emerged into a meadow and was shocked when I spooked a herd of about 30 elk. I waited for Snakebite to arrive and we started quietly moving through the timber looking for more elk. We saw a few more cows through the timber and got one good look at a bull elk as well. The scenery was getting more interesting and the wildlife more plentiful. As evening was growing close we were getting very close to the Colorado border. We were looking for somewhere to camp desperately before more storms and all of a sudden spotted another tent. Wait a tent!!! Another person!! It was Tigerlily. We met Tigerlily at Ghost Ranch a few days earlier. He was doing 500 mile sections of the CDT and has done the PCT and the PNT. It was so nice to see another hiker so we settled into a small spot near him. We ended up eating dinner and chatting for a while before settling in for the night. Tomorrow morning is a trip to Chama and our last stop in New Mexico, it’s also Snakebites birthday.
Sunny skies greeted us this town morning. We packed up camp after a pretty chilly and sleepless night. The three of us all hiked to Cumbres Pass and awaited a hitch. After about 45 minutes we were able to get to Chama. It was now time to calorie load and do chores. We decided to split a motel room to keep costs at a minimum and all began doing laundry and buying food. It was a good relaxing day in town gaining calories, watching the Olympics, and getting ready for the test of the San Juans. I can’t wait to get back on trail for the beauty of the San Juans and Colorado.