Cumbres Pass (Chama, NM) to Ghost Ranch NM

Wolves howling, coyotes yipping, elk screaming, owls hooting, rifle hunters shooting, a full moon, Ghost Ranch and not a single person anywhere this whole stretch, it must be Halloween and this is the CDT’s haunted house? Horse riding through Georgia O’Keeffe country. Loving the warmer temperatures in New Mexico!

Day 76

11 miles

I caught the steam-train back up to Cumbres Pass and was hiking by noon. What a great way to get back to the trail!

Leaving the pass the trail had great views of the valleys on either side, as well as back into the south San Juan mountains where i’d been before my town stop in Chama. I stopped a number of times to take in the view. I watched the ‘helper train’ making its way through the fall colors back down to Chama after having helped my train up to the pass. I also looked back at the San Juans and noticed a fresh coat of snow on its peaks, I exhaled with relief that I was walking in light rain and not headed back up into the high Colorado mountains in the snow.

After a few miles I crossed the New Mexico-Colorado state-line! A super exciting moment, but very anticlimatic as there was literally no acknowledgement of the fact. I was hoping for a sign or something, but nope, had I not been paying attention to my GPS I would have crossed into New Mexico without even realizing it. Farewell Colorado, you’ve been incredible; I look forward to coming back to finish what I didn’t hike in a future year!

The rest of the day was pretty cruisy, hiking on good trail through pine forests. Dark storm clouds brought some occasional light rain, but mostly the storms seemed to be missing me. I stocked up on water at what was the last water source for the next 12 miles and hiked on a little further in search of a good campsite. As luck would have it, right as I found a good spot a storm cloud rolled overhead and the wind picked up. I got my tent up just in time for the hail and thunder to start.

Day 77

20 miles

Ahhh! Warm toes. Warm toes! This was the first night in a long time i’ve been able to sleep through the night without waking at some point to warm my numb toes. I slept right through from about 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., and it felt great! It had rained into the evening and when I emerged from my tent there was a layer of ice on the outside of it.

Today’s hiking was really nice. The first 10 or so miles followed along the top of a mesa and had sweeping views over the rolling hills of the Carson National Forest. I ate lunch at an empty backcountry campground, Lagunitas Campground. It felt quite civilized to be at a table eating lunch. It was sunny and quite windy so I took advantage of that to dry out my wet tent while I ate.

I filled up on water at the lower Lagunitas Lake and was on my way. The afternoon brought more nice walking: a short dirt road walk and then some nice ridgeline walking.

I set up camp in a grove of the biggest Aspen trees I’ve ever seen. After settling in, I cooked dinner in the vestibule of my tent from the warmth of my sleeping bag, a practice that’s become a very pleasant habit this past month. As I ate i could hear a wolf howling in the valley to my south and elk screaming (bugling technically) in the valley to my north. I kind of felt like I was in a haunted house. Ever since I watched the movie ‘The Grey’, wolves have really scared me! Happily I haven’t heard many wolves on this trail, once near the headwaters of the Snake River south of Yellowstone in Wyoming and one just yesterday on my hike into this mountain range from Cumbres Pass.

Day 78

20 miles

I woke to lightning, a strong wind and heavy rain. It was almost dawn and I was surprised because the weather forecast called for clear skies with no chance of precipitation for the rest of the week. Just for fun I requested an updated forecast from my Delorme device, it came back and informed me that at that very instant, the skies were clear and there was still no chance of precipitation. Hmmm. I made a cup of Starbucks Pumpkin Latte and lay in my sleeping bag a little longer. Happily, the storm passed soon after dawn and enabled me to get going.

The hiking today was really varied, from expansive cow pastures to aspen groves and most of the ‘trail’ was a series of closed roads. I was interested to see a sign that indicated that the area i’d camped in was a no hunting zone and was some kind of a protection zone for animals, no wonder there were so many animals out and about. Good to see.

The hunting thing makes me a little nervous. If it’s not too hot I’ve been trying to wear my red wind jacket so that the hunters can see me better, I guess orange or red is their ‘do not shoot that’ color. I haven’t seen any hunters yet this stretch, in fact I haven’t seen a single person in days, but I have been hearing the gunshots go off occasionally in the forest and it makes me jump every time. Surely they know i’m one of maybe a dozen or so southbound CDT hikers that will be passing along this trail over the course of a six week period, right? That’s enough of a presence that they’d be worried about hitting one of us, right? The haunted house continues.

I camped by a stream at 8,800ft and for the first time in over a month it was warm enough to cook and eat my dinner sitting on a log outside my tent. Ahhh, loving New Mexico!

Day 79

17 miles

A good day of walking. Nothing eventful really other than at about lunch time my achilles tendon on both feet flared up. How odd is this body of mine! I’ve never had achilles issues and here I get it after about 1500 miles of hiking, on both feet at once. I did a lot of calf stretching and took it easy the rest of the day. When I got into camp I taped both of them with some KT tape. KT tape is great stuff, it gives the muscles/tendons etc in the affected area just enough of a break that you have a good shot at avoiding injury, especially if you combine it with stretching/elevation/ice. No ice out here, but i’m doing a lot of calf stretching and elevating my feet every time I take a break, hopefully it does the trick. Thank you body, I needed more ailments.

Day 80

19 miles

The day was pleasant walking along a series of jeep trails or rough dirt roads.

The highlight of today was definitely my campsite! Camped on a ledge four feet from the edge of a mesa overlooking the Carson National Forest and Lake Abiquiu. Great sunset and moon rise! There were owls hooting all around me too, cool!

I had some spare battery life so I watched City Slickers in my tent. I was excited to watch it as most of the movie was set at Ghost Ranch where i’ll be heading in the morning! Very cool.


Day 81

10 miles

Today was great! Beautiful sunrise from my tent, what a great camp site! My goal was to make it to Ghost Ranch in time for lunch. The trail started with 5 or so miles of dirt road walking, then descended from the mesa into a beautiful box canyon. There must have been a flood at some point because the trail had been washed out and the path down the canyon was pretty much just following along the stream, cris-crossing back and forth, all the way to the mouth. Super pretty canyon! I made it to Ghost Ranch with 15 minutes to spare and ate a delicious plate of spaghetti bolognese and an enormous pile of watermelon, yum!

Fun Day at Ghost Ranch!

I took a zero at Ghost Ranch today and loved it! The ranch was originally inhabited by witches and later some cattle rustlers, now however Ghost Ranch is a 21,000 acre retreat and education center run by the Presbyterian church.

I slept, explored the campus, iced my  achilles (which seem to be doing okay now) and went for an awesome horse ride.

The horse trail went into a restricted area of the ranch and afforded views of many of the landscapes that famous artist Georgia O’Keeffe painted. She actually owned a small parcel of land on the ranch and spent much of her time in her home here painting and exploring the land. My horse’s name was Dusty and reminded me of a big version of my childhood pony, Pony. I wanted to keep him and ride him to Mexico!

I also ran into 3 other CDT Hikers! The first since Grand Lake in Colorado! I’d gone a month without seeing another CDT hiker on the trail or in a town. It was Holden, who i’d met on the trail between Helena and Anaconda in Montana, Bubbles and Tugboat. It was great to catch up and talk trail!

Thanks for reading!


6 thoughts on “Cumbres Pass (Chama, NM) to Ghost Ranch NM”

  1. Great pictures Kate! So glad you’re in a more hospitable temperature zone 😁I hope you keep cruising cuz I love reading about it!

    1. Thanks Lorraine! Glad you’re still reading. I think my readers deserve some kind of long-distance reading medal when the adventure draws to a close. Ha

  2. Thanks Be’el. BTW, I posted a photo of a be’el back in Idaho that I think you missed. There’s a challenge for you, there’s probably only 6000 photos from Idaho to sift through.

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