June 21-24, 651 miles hiked
We woke early in the morning at the top of the canyon a few miles outside Ghost Ranch. It was about 100 miles to Chama, our last stop in New Mexico. The trail actually crossed into Colorado before Chama, and then we would hitch back into New Mexico to get our resupply box. We hiked with Tatu-Joe most of the day, gradually ascending higher and higher to steep grass-covered plains and small green mountains. The trail followed a confusing network of dirt roads, and we kept missing turns and having to cross large cow pastures back to the trail. It was a nice distraction and change to hike with another person, especially after being virtually alone for much of New Mexico.
Late in the afternoon, Joe continued on while Phil and I relaxed by a creek. The trail followed more dirt roads and then became a trail through a damp, mosquito-infested forest. This would be the first of MANY days of mosquitoes. It started to rain, both our phones died, and before we knew it, we were lost. We continued following a trail and rock cairns that seemed right, but by the time it got dark, we really had no idea where we were. The mosquitoes swarmed around us as we frantically set up our tent on a dark hillside. In the morning, we waited until the sun was bright enough to charge our phones with the solar charger, and found that we were at the top of Mt. Canjilon, far west of the trail. This was pretty typical for the CDT. We got lost all the time, and were always dependent on our phones/GPS. It was frustrating, but just a fact of life on this trail.
We followed a dirt road that would lead us back to the trail, winding through green meadows and forest. It rained for about two hours, but then finally cleared up. We walked uphill on a dirt road and passed two mountain bike racers speeding down the road in the opposite direction. There is a self-supported race on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route called Tour Divide that had started about a week before, and we’d heard the riders pretty much didn’t sleep and rode 200 miles a day. The winner typically did the 2,745-mile route in 12-14 days. The two bikers we saw were wearing bib numbers and looked miserable enough to be competing in this race. We camped at Hopewell Lake that evening, a luxurious experience that included running water, TRASH CANS, and a picnic table!
I wish I could say we did something more interesting than hike along dirt roads the next day, but that’s exactly what we did, for 30 miles. We saw several herds of elk in the morning. The trail climbed into the forest, then along a creek, then along a ridge at 10,000 feet, where it stayed for the rest of the evening. It rained and stormed, and it was fascinating to watch the lightning flash across the sky and the clouds morph into various dark shapes. We met a sheep herder who spoke only Spanish and his three dogs, and had a conversation in our broken Spanish that both parties probably only half understood. The sky cleared as the evening wore on, becoming a beautiful sunset. Ahead, we could see the beginnings of big mountains. Colorado!
As usual, we were almost out of food the next morning as we hiked the last 15 miles to Cumbres Pass, where we would hitch to Chama. We passed through meadows with more elk, then climbed into a hilly forest. With two miles to go before the road, we passed a fallen-down sign that read “Rio Grande National Forest, Colorado.” Finally, we were officially in Colorado!
We hitched a ride to town with the usual type of person who picked us up – a middle-aged guy in a pickup truck filled with guns. We satiated our hunger with burgers, then spent the afternoon doing town errands and finally renting a room in a very strange but cheap hotel above the saloon.