CDT Day 83-88: Peace Out C-O, Hello New Mexico
CDT Day 83
Brr, frozen tent. I talk to the motorcyclists before I take off in the morning and find out they rode here from Canada. It took them 10 days. It took me 83. I feel dumb. I watch them drink coffee out of real cups and lounge around, waiting for the sun to hit to dry their tents out. No rush, they could wait until noon and still pass me within 30 minutes. I say bye and have a cold morning walking through the canyon. But once I climb out I start to warm up and the views are stunning.
I pass a sign that tells me about the mountains and how they get all their colors from the various metals that are eroding them. Whoops, maybe I shouldn’t have drank the water from the stream coming off it. But, I’m still alive so… oh well. The leaves just keep getting better and better.
I can’t believe I am walking through something so pretty.
Perks of walking instead of driving: I get to spend hours walking through the most divine colors I have ever seen and get dusted with leaves whenever the wind picks up. I mutter ‘wow’ to myself only about a million times today.
I’m listening to a vampire audio book which sets the perfect fall/pre-Halloween mood. I swear the air even smells like pumpkin at one point. The rain comes and goes all day. Rain jacket on, rain jacket off. The rocky canyon walls are stunning too.
As I get further into the valley the terrain becomes more high desserty. Definitely feel like I am getting closer to New Mexico. Besides still being cold. I keep expecting the amazing scenery to end, but it never does. I can’t believe people actually live here and get to look outside and see this every day… well at least until the snow hits.
A few cars stop to ask me if I need a ride or anything or just ask what I’m doing. I pass a few bike-packers too which is fun since I rarely get to see them. A couple guys give me a beer at the end of the day and another couple give me a mini pie. So thankful. And how amazing are random strangers? I pass by a heard of horses that run to me and I can’t help but hang out and pet them and long to jump on one.
But the sky is looking scary so I push on until I find a closed campground at the end of the day right as another gust of rain comes in.
The gate is locked, but that just means I have the campground all to myself. I set up in a hurry and throw on all my layers before the sun sets. It doesn’t feel quite as cold as other nights, I’m hoping the storm will keep the freezing temps away. My legs are so tight from all the flat walking so I stretch a ton. Despite it being a much easier day without insane climbing, it’s almost harder to walk on flatter ground. My hips get so tight from having the same gait for 30 miles straight. But being able to not stare at my feet for once and look around definitely is worth it. I crack my beer after I stretch and get in my sleeping bag and the aroma fills my nostrils and I know it’s gonna be a good beer.
Having worked at a brewey for 10 years, I’ve gone from someone who thought Budweiser was craft beer because it didn’t have the word Light in it, to a beer snob. And I can tell a good beer just from the smell. And one sip confirmed my suspicions. I haven’t even made it to New Mexico yet, but their beer has already won me over.
CDT Day 84
Wake up all night to the sounds of yipping coyotes and buggling elk and maybe even some mountain lion screams. Ohhh, nature is so cool. The morning is cold and I only have a half day into town so I take my time leaving camp. I have a big climb to warm up and some epic views of what looks like an amazing place that some people are lucky enough to live.
I even get to see a steam engine pass by.
I make it to the highway and quickly get a ride into Chama, the first trail town in New Mexico! Even though I just left Colorado, this town definitely feels like the desert. I run by the post office and pick up a care package from my dear friend, Janette. She sent me all the best trail snacks.
I mean, candy bars and TP, what more could a girl ask for? I am starving and find the first place I see to grab lunch. And someone even pays for my meal! New Mexico rocks! I wander down to the laundromat and find my friends, Skybird and Physics, and we wash our disgusting clothes and then get a ride from a local across town to a cheap old 70s style motel. One room with a bunk bed and a queen bed and a full kitchen! A much needed shower and a trip to the only grocery store in town which is conveniently right across the street. We devour as much food as possible, laugh our asses off trying to decipher the Spanish instructions to set up the TV, which we never figure out, and go to bed in our warm and snuggly beds.
CDT Day 85
We sleep in and enjoy a lazy morning lounging around the hotel room and then on to the coffee shop to eat the most delicious pastries ever.
Skybird has a couple errands in town so Physics and I get a hitch out to trail from a local fly fishing guide who used to be a pro dirtbike rider. We jump back on the trail with all the caffeine and town food energy and cruise through the day. The views are still great and the trail is much easier after the San Juans.
Lots of cows and cow paths that we constantly confuse with our trail. I pass through the first gate of New Mexico.
If I’ve learned anything about thru-hiking through the desert, I know there will be about a million more gates to come.
The sunset is gorgeous.
We hike until after dark and finally find an ok spot to camp. I assume the night will be warmer since the day felt warmer, but the cold sets in fast and I can tell I am going to be wrong. We watch shooting stars as we eat our tuna and ramen and rice dinners and listen to coyotes close by. The sky is epic. The stars are so bright and the Milky Way is grand. I curl up in my sleeping bag, knowing that I will sleep great in the cold once I burrow myself in for the night.
CDT Day 86
It takes a long time to warm up during the night, but I finally do. And here I thought New Mexico wouldn’t be as cold!
I can’t believe it’s already light when I finally open my eyes and crawl out of my tent. Everything is frozen of course, but luckily the sun hits me quickly since I’m not stuck in the tall mountains anymore and I warm up quickly. The trail is crazy today. A drunk person must have designed this section because it seems to meander every which way without any rhyme or reason, looping one way and then doing a 180 to turn back around multiple times. And the crisscrossing cow paths and jeep roads have me checking my phone all day to make sure I’m still on the right path. I walk through the most beautiful aspen groves.
It just gets prettier every day and feels more and more like fall. I love finding the ‘eyes’ of the aspens staring back at me.
I find a lake with some picnic tables to eat lunch at and dry my gear out at, a daily routine now.
I’m thankful for days when the sun is out to do this because setting up a wet tent and sleeping bag at night is never fun! The hiking is much easier with less elevation gain and loss compared to Colorado. It’s wonderful, but I also do miss the epic mountain views. My legs and lungs are very thankful for the change of pace though.
I hike until it gets dark and even see a few elk right before the sunset! Despite hearing them bugeling for days now, these are the first ones I’ve seen. I set up camp under a big tree since the clouds are rolling in and kick some dried cow patties out of the way to make room for my tent. Why are cows always pooping in all the water sources and the best tent sites?
CDT Day 87
I wake up and hear singing. I know it’s Skybird walking by since she’s the only one I know who starts walking hours before the sun. And then the coyotes start howling. How harmonic. I feel my tent to see if it’s wet and I am so excited to feel that it’s dry! So excited that I can’t fall back asleep. And when I crawl out of my tent it’s not freezing and I don’t even see frost! It’s a miracle! I have a pleasant morning meandering through the forests.
And yes, the leaves are still pretty.
I run into some overnight backpackers, a hiker completing his thru-hike from last year, some day hikers, some mushroom hunters, and see both Physics and Skybird! So many people… for the desert! Also all the cows. So many cows. I get rained on for about one minute and the clouds threaten more, but don’t produce luckily.
I think the real storm is hitting tomorrow. The trail gets very hard to follow and I almost get lost about a million times. Water also gets scarce and it looks like I will be drinking out of cow tanks for awhile now. I get a good view of the valley below and then drop down into it. I find a place in the trees to camp and scare the cows out of the way. The wind picks up as the sun sets, but still hoping it’s going to be a dry night!
CDT Day 88
Mmmm… another warm night. I love this. So warm, I have to shed layers in the middle of the night. I have a short morning walk into Ghost Ranch.
We pass the most beautiful views of the valley on the way.
Then dive into a neat canyon and down to the valley floor where it definitely starts to feel like we are in the desert.
We arrive at Ghost Ranch and it feels like a ghost town since it’s Sunday morning.
We find the welcome center and I pick up my care package from Tim and Donna.
So many goodies and even a couple beers from my brewery I work at back home!
Thank you guys so much! I can’t wait to try all the yummy things! We try and hitch into Santa Fe, but it’s pouring and we’re not willing to stand in a downpour on the highway so we run out to the parking lot of Ghost Ranch every time we see a car leaving to see if anyone can take us. A sweet foreign couple tells us they will take us after their hike if we are still there and sure enough we are! Physics, Skybird, and I cram into the back of their car and they drive us all the way to the hostel in Santa Fe. We have a delightful drive hearing all about their interesting professions and telling them about thru-hiking. At the hostel we first check out the kitchen which is stocked with free food that is leftover from Whole Foods… basically a hiker’s dream. We spend most of the rest of the afternoon eating and meeting other guests and relaxing. We manage to squeeze a shower in and do laundry too, which I’m sure the rest of the guests are very happy about. It dumps rain and I’m very glad to not be on the trail. We hear reports that Colorado is getting dumped on with snow and I feel bad for all the hikers behind us who are still up north. After raiding the kitchen again for dinner we enjoy a quiet evening in our private dorm room and go to bed on real mattresses!
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