One Month, One State
Ghost ranch to Chama
May 26th 23 miles
After departing Ghost Ranch I climbed. I finished my day with 12 miles to add to the 11 from the morning. A couple friends saw a bear just a mile south of where I was camping. One friend, Walkie Talkie, joined me and set up camp nearby. Safety in numbers, right?
May 27th 30 miles
I slept poorly. Often I woke up and had zero desire to fall back asleep. So I felt as if I was just waiting for the sun to come up. Eventually it did, but I was in no hurry to get out of my sleeping bag. The cloud cover vanished at dawn which made for a chilly morning. By the time I was up and moving my buddy, Walkie Talkie was gone. The older men are better at waking up early than I am. I eventually was moving down trail by 7:30.
It seemed like a slow morning. With the chill in the air I was walking in my rain jacket and leggings. After 2 miles I stopped for water supplied by a cow trough, yum. That of course took about 15 minutes. I headed down only to stop 10 minutes later to delayer and strip to my usual hiking attire. Just before 11 o’clock I found my friends under a large tree resting in the shade. Obviously I had to join them for a lil bit. I stopped for about 15 minutes. I picked out a lunch spot on my guide and headed in that direction. It was roughly 4 miles to a stream. Streams make great lunch spots, they are even more appreciated after the desert. That 4 miles was tough as blowdowns littered the trail and it was not easy going.
I arrived at the stream at 12:30, ready for a rest and for some food. First I took care of some tasks. I filled up and treated some water then I decided to rinse myself off a little bit. A foot soaking was also in order and I was also able to rinse out my socks. All the washing was of course taken care of downstream from where other hikers would be collecting water, it’s common courtesy.
My lunch consisted of rehydrated refried beans, chips, and tortillas. Then I also enjoyed some granola mixed with sunflower butter. In addition I treated myself to some flavored water and dumped a lil powder packet into my liter bottle.
At about 2 o’clock I was packed up and left the rest of the group and tackled the afternoon solo.
I had 30 miles as a goal for the day and a stream 16 more miles away for a camping spot. The afternoon was easy walking. I only saw one older couple out on a day hike. This was odd to see, you don’t see many day hikers out on the CDT because it’s not easily accessible. The afternoon consisted of trail walking along with some dirt roads. I took a 15 minute break at one point to take in some more calories. Also at some point I hit the 600 mile mark! These milestones don’t hold much significance on this trail when compared to the AT or PCT. Because of the alternates that are available everyone is on different mileages. Currently I am at mile 612 while my guide states I’m at mile 742 of the “official” CDT route so each person’s hike varies. I am by no means trying to cut miles, it has just turned out like this.
I made it to my destination with just enough time to collect water, set up my tent and enjoy dinner. Nobody else is around, the moon is shining into my tent and it is quiet. I’m trying to a longer day tomorrow so my rest is necessary.
May 28th 35.5 miles
Wow wow what a day. I felt well rested in the morning. I was up moving at 6 and then i was hiking at 6:30. My camp was set up down in a lil valley with a creek so it was quite chilly in the morning. I had my breakfast poptarts in my hip belt pocket but I wanted to warm up first before enjoying those. A little climb in the morning helped warm me up as I chased down the sunshine. Eventually I had to stop a couple times to delayer. Down the trail I enjoyed my double poptart breakfast once the terrain mellowed out. I don’t know if you have ever tried but eating while going uphill is terrible.
It is Memorial Day so I was expecting to see lots of people at the campground down the trail. In a thru hikers mind this means a possibility for trail magic. Especially since it was Monday maybe people would like to get rid of their extra food from the long weekend. Unfortunately I came through the campground too early it seems. The place was quiet at 8am.
The best thing about today was the trail and the terrain were lovely. The trail was easy to follow and well marked. There were long sections with great tread and no trail junctions so I was able to zone out and let my legs go on autopilot for quite a while. There was another section that was an old road which made for easy walking.
I was able to get 10 miles done before 10am, always a good goal to have if you’re trying to get 30 miles done. I was looking to get 35 done.
The landscape here in northern new mexico is beautiful. It basically looks like colorado and other areas of the rocky mountains.
After 18 miles I stopped for lunch at 12:30. I chatted for a couple minutes with a fellow thru hiker. He would end up being the only other thru hiker I would see day. My lunch satisfied my hunger and after 45 stationary minutes I continued on.
The afternoon consisted of a couple decent climbs and more wonderful scenery. My body felt fantastic. Of course I had some aches here and there, I stopped to stretch those areas out occasionally. A hikers feet always gets the worst of it and mine were no different. After about 25 miles my feet were hurting a little bit. My shoes now have about 650 miles on them so they lack cushion. My goal for today was to get 35 miles but to not do it in a hurry. Generally 3 miles per hour is a casual pace for me so I tried to stay close to there and just walk for the 11 to 12 hours.
My last few miles for the day were along a clear hill ridgeline. There were some areas of trees but I had trouble finding a camping spot. Many areas weren’t protected from the wind, most areas weren’t flat, and there were lots of rocks. Eventually I found a protected little spot at about 7 and elected to set up my tent for a little more wind protection. I watched the sunset out to the west, it was magical. Once I finished my dinner I quickly jumped into my bed as the temperature was dropping quickly. There were some mountains visible to the north that were dotted with snow. It’s pretty crazy I’ll be setting of into the San Juans here in a couple days. I am looking forward to the sunlight warming up my tent in the morning.
I am just 12 miles from the Colorado border and 3 miles further I’ll be at the road junction for Chama. This will be the first hitchhike of the trip! Hopefully luck is on my side and I’ll quickly get a ride.
May 29th 15 miles
The night was peaceful and quiet. The full moon shined through my tent and I had to pull my hat over my eyes to ease the light. At one point I could hear coyotes howling miles away. I was up at 6 and decided to treat myself for my last morning in New Mexico and for my one month anniversary on trail. So I got out of my tent to relieve myself and then crawled back into my quilt. I allowed myself to enjoy one poptart in my bed before getting ready for the day. I was hiking by 6:45 with just Colorado on my mind. I was 12 miles from the border. My first few miles were along a clear ridge, I was granted wonderful views of the surrounding landscapes. For breakfast I ate two more poptarts while I was walking. I was purposefully trying to lighten my load and finish my food.
I made one stop at 10 o’clock for water. It is wonderful to not be drinking out of cow troughs anymore. These clear and cold creeks are fueled by snowmelt. I treat the water anyway to ensure they wouldn’t cause me trouble later.
At 11 o’clock I came across the state line. In an unceremonious fashion a barbed wire fence marked the boundary between national forest lands rather than the state line. If I could choose one way to leave New Mexico it would be over a barbed fence, it seems appropriate. It took a couple minutes to snap some photos and moved on. One month down and one state behind me.
From the border I could hear the train whistle blowing as it climbed over Cumbres Pass. There is a steam locomotive that operates in the area as a means of sight seeing. Cumbres Pass is the access point for Chama, New Mexico, my goal for the day. Oddly enough once you hike into Colorado you hitch south back into New Mexico to resupply. I finished the final 3 miles to the pass quickly as it was mostly downhill.
While descending I was thinking back and realized I haven’t ever hitched solo while on a thru hike. Just now while writing this I realized I have hitched solo while in Glacier National Park after a run, but still never on a thru hike. I walk up the road to scout for the most effective hitching location. There is some strategy involved. I find another hiker, DG, who I met in Pie Town already there. He tell me he has been trying for 45 minutes with no luck. Well it’s a good thing I show up cause a nice lady stops within 5 minutes of me being there.
DG tells me he believes nobody is stopping because they are just tourists travelling through and obviously assume we are axe murders. Pro tip, if you see someone hitchhiking in the mountains along a mountain pass they probably are backpackers and not murders. Besides an axe is too heavy for me to carry anyways.
We make it down into Chama and go our separate ways. I head to the post office to pick up two boxes. I have a box with new socks, microspikes, a spot device and Oreos sent by my loving support crew back home. I also ordered gaiters which I am excited to try out.
I then make contact with my awesome mother back home and thank her for sending the goodies. Chama is a little spread out so I walk 1.5 miles to the other side of town for accommodations. I end up opting for the campground, I guess I do love camping after all. I got a good amount of town errands done today. Tomorrow I am expecting my new shoes to show up which I desperately need. Then after resupplying and mailing some other things away I will head out.
I am very excited for this next section as the trail heads up into the southern San Juans. The trail will climb up to 11,000 to 12,000 feet and I will encounter some snow. I am really hoping to complete this next section in its entirety, however it is possible I will have to bail out to a lower and more safer route depending on conditions.
I will be in Pagosa Springs in 3ish days and I am looking forward to exploring all of what Colorado has to offer.
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