Continental Divide Trail – Day 22 (30 miles)
I decided last night that I will be slowing it down until I hit Colorado and the South San Juans. Even with the low snow year I am in no rush, and I got my snow fix on the AT a few months ago!
I packed up camp surrounded by the cows that would not leave me alone last night. I have spent 11 hours with this herd and have picked up a few of their character traits. I never thought I would say such a thing, especially while hiking.
I still had 4 miles to hike to reach the Rio Chama Wilderness Area in order to be out of the forest closure zone. It was 6.30am and the closure went into effect at 8am – plenty of time!
The Wilderness Area that I arrived in was based around the Rio Chama River. This is the first official river of the trail and my second as I hiked the Gila as an alternative. Not many rivers for 3 weeks of solid hiking.
Speaking of alternatives, I took another 25 mile one today as I detours to Ghost Ranch to pick up my food resupply box that I posted there. This route stays down along the river rather than climbing up the other side.
It was kind of nice to listen to running water for a change, but it was a weekend and I seemed to be walking on a major dirt road that had a lot of traffic. I walked along, dodging traffic and thinking about how nice it would be to have a packraft and float the river instead of walking the road.
I left the road and went cross country for a while towards the ranch. There was a path indicated on the map but i could not find it until I wasd within a couple of miles of the Ranch. To my surprise, Ghost Ranch is a popular tourist destination with many desert and western movies filmed there. On top of this it has a small but interesting museum with some dinosaur fossils, and multi coloured cliffs all around.
It was a nice place to hang out while my phone recharged and, in addition to exploring the area, I used the time to eat as much food as I could from the overflowing hiker box.
Eventually it was time to hike out. The path took me right up to the base of one of the rocks and with a bit of heavy breathing I climbed up out of the valley. This was a sad but exciting moment – it is the last bit of true New Mexican desert. From now on I will be slowly climbing up into the Colorado Rockies. Higher elevation, snow, running water and some of the best landscapes in the country await. Oh, and I won’t be below 7,000ft (2,100m) for over 900 miles (1,450km)!
I arrived at a water source, and to my surprise there were other hikers there!! I sat down to refill my water bottles and chatted to Bartender and Minutes. Before I noticed, the sun was setting and I set up camp just off the cow pond.