Day 36-38 I’m in Colorado Now
Day 36 June 6th: Zero Day in Chama
I’m guessing you probably never heard of Chama, New Mexico unless you’re really into trains. It’s just south of the Colorado border, so once you hike across the border, you hitch back into town. There is a train that runs from Chama to somewhere else that is a tourist attraction. I’m going to take it tomorrow back to the trailhead and head north.
I spent the day working out the logistics of my next week or so. So as I mentioned a few times there’s quite a bit of snow still on the San Juan mountain range which makes it very difficult to pass as a hiker. It’s not impossible. I know some people are doing it but it does make it more difficult. Quite a few people are either skipping that section by taking an alternate or flipping, some going further north and then heading south.
What I’ve decided to do is take the standard route north about 50 miles and then take the alternate the rest of the way into Salida, Colorado. This does a couple of things; first, it gives me the opportunity to stay on the true CDT and experience how difficult it is. Next, it allows me to get to Salida and then rent a car from there to get to Colorado Springs and hang out with my family for Father’s Day weekend.
In order to do that safely and maybe most quickly, I picked up some shoe spikes called micro spikes and an ice ax. It’s possible I don’t use either, but better safe than sorry. I can always throw them on eBay after I’m done.
Otherwise my zero was pretty normal. I did my resupply shopping, talked to the wife, bumped into some other hikers, and ate a ton of food. I noticed I’ve lost some weight, which was expected, but maybe a little more rapid than I expected. I already say that the best diet plans are the ones you stick with. This current diet and exercise plan is not something I will spend the rest of my life doing.
Day 37 June 7th: Leaving Chama
I left Chama on a train. I’m a sucker for a good tourist trap. Chama has a train line That runs from there to somewhere else. They’re nice enough to offer the ride to CDT hikers from Chama back up to Cumbres Pass for 25 bucks. Hitching probably would have been faster and I could have got going earlier but I said who cares let’s give it a shot.
I’ve done the train ride from Bryson City to Fontana Dam, and I think this one might be better. We had a special guide in Bryson City but it was so hard to see anything because there was so much tree coverage. Where with this there were some trees but you really had a great view of the mountains, of the melting snow, all the cool stuff. So if you’re into trains or whatever, check it out sometime.
Overall I thought Chama was a pretty nice town. My hotel was a bit on the pricey side but it was very nice and the management did everything to make my stay very comfortable. The coffee they provided in the room was probably the best coffee I’ve had on the trail. And when I asked for more they were gracious enough to give me more than enough so I got my fill of coffee while I was in town.
Fina’s diner had the largest breakfast burrito I’ve ever seen let alone imagined. I gave it my best effort but I couldn’t get through it. While the town wasn’t completely walkable It wasn’t as bad as Grants.
But when I got up this morning I sure was ready to get on it back in the trail. I had originally planned to only do four or five miles because hiking in the snow is a bit harder and I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like with a little bit higher elevation. But I pushed it a little bit and ended up doing nine but still wrapped it up by about 4:45. Just in time to beat the thunderstorm.
This next 7 days are going to feel like a time crunch even though I probably don’t have much to worry about. I have a car rental reserved in Salida so I need to be there on the 15th in order to pick it up and then head to the airport to pick up the family the next day.
I’ll probably end up hitching a bit as I get closer to Salida. But I’d like to try to walk most of it. I’ll see how it’s going and how fast I’m moving.
Day 38 June 8th: Hardest Day Yet
I think I’ve already said this but hiking in the snow is difficult. I got a pretty early this morning around 4:00 and was on the trail by 4:20. I had to make a pretty steep assent right away and there was a few up and downs throughout the morning. I stopped around 8:00 a.m. when there was some good sun and had some coffee and breakfast. I was doing okay but it’s still slower than normal. Not sure it was the ice or just the early morning for me.
But as the sun got higher and the day got warmer it got more and more challenging. Started by just a little bit of indentation every time I walked. And then after lunch there was the occasional post hole. And then by 2:00 there was lots of post holes and just really treacherous routes. I planned for the section to be 15 miles a day and so far that’s what I’m heading. Yesterday I did 10 after getting off the train and today I did 15.
Tomorrow the alarm clock’s going to go off at 3:00 a.m. to see if that allows me to move a little quicker on the frozen snow. I’ll still try to end my day after 12 hours just because it’s pretty taxing on me to walk in this stuff and while I’m in okay shape I’m definitely not a superstar out here.
I bought two pieces of gear in Chama to help me on this route. Microspikes for my shoes and an ice ax. I used neither of them today. I do wish I had purchased snowshoes instead of the microspikes. Seems like they would help with avoiding post-holing and would allow me to skip some of the more treacherous rocks. Because even if there is a melted area it tends to be where there’s lots of lava rocks which are about as crappy a thing to walk on as anything. At least you don’t post hole, but they still are awkward and slow.
I have about 25 miles left of this type of terrain before I get onto a road which I assume is pretty much snow-free but I don’t know. I have plenty of food and have to remind myself to remain patient.
This was the type of challenge I was looking for and so far I’ve been up to it. I tend to forget that I’m at 11,000 ft and burning 400 to 500 calories an hour. If this was easy there’d be a Ripley’s Believe It or Not close by.
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