Sunday, May 31, 2015

Day 33: Hail, Aspen and Mud

5/25: mile 11.8-720.4
Miles: 20.8
Total trip miles: 577.4

Back to the hiking life. We headed to breakfast (the best of the mediocre meals at Ghost Ranch). 

Then it was time to pack up, clean up and squeeze in one more shower. Plus Funsize was working with his sister getting all the last minute details sorted out. Jumping into a thruhike when everyone around you has hiked over 500 miles is a big undertaking. 

Last minute chores and a little gossip with the hikers just arriving saw us actually on the trail close to 11. A bigger group for sure with Funsize, Shannon, Mountain Spice, Bigfoot and Lionheart. We followed the Box Canyon Trail out of Ghost Ranch. What a truly pretty spot. 

We started out hiking together but soon enough spread apart. I turned to head uphill at an intersection and saw Bigfoot heading the wrong way after I had started climbing, he didn't hear me shouting so you just hope he checks his GPS sooner than later. After that it was head down time, the views were beautiful but the skies opened up and started pouring hail down. Then a bit of rain, with my umbrella up I just kept climbing. The rain didn't last for too long but it made a good chunk of the climbs slippery mess. I finally stopped at a tricky intersection and everyone reappeared (even Bigfoot). Then it was time to cross country up the ridge. Turns out both Bigfoot and I separately got nice and off track, southbound anyone? 

I managed to hook back up with Funsize, Shannon and Mountain Spice and we continued on our way. Dark clouds and cold wind followed us down the muddy road. A perfect introduction to the CDT in New Mexico for Shannon; dirt roads, cows, mud, erratic weather and at least half the group regularly losing the trail. 

During a break Bigfoot and Lionheart appeared, Lionheart had not be lost but of course Bigfoot had. Apparently I had figured out I was off trail a little quicker. After the break was another nice climb and Bigfoot and I pulled ahead of the others. A short little half mile of cross country (that I did not get lost on!) and we were up on a ridge line. Looking at snow capped Colorado, it is ridiculously close. 

This area is beautiful and so surprising. I really didn't know what to expect from this state but it's been amazing throughout. 

Across meadows along muddy dirt roads and through more stunning country. There was a nice trough/spring about 14 miles into the day. Of course right as we got there is started full on raining with pretty scary thunder not far behind. We had caught Messed Up in the climb and we all hid under a tree for a snack break. Bigfoot and I waited for a bit but no one else showed up and it was super cold. Bigfoot headed out first and I followed, and yet again we both went the wrong way. This time he heard me shout and it was a pretty nice little jaunt through some Aspen to find the trail. 

It's crazy how much water is everywhere. We keep hearing about how dry 2014 was, that is clearly not an issue for us this year. At least not in New Mexico. We continued on a bit farther, getting cranky when we yet again lost the trail. Not many signs today and apparently neither of us was paying close enough attention. 

It took awhile but we found a spot a bit off trail in some trees. Thankfully not in a mud puddle or the nearby meadow. It feels like its going to be a cold night and tomorrow we hike back over 10000 ft. I'm hoping the snow isn't to tough on us. And maybe I'll find the rest of the group. I'm guessing they are a bit behind but with the number of times we were off trail you can never be certain. Either way we'll all be in Chama soon enough.  

Day 32: and another day off?

5/24: miles 0!!

I guess hiking is overrated? Last night I was 100% sure I would be hiking out today. But then I woke up today and it was raining. A roof and a bed were a nice treat and I even slept in a whole 30 minutes and then just stayed happily wrapped in the warm blankets. The problem was the the rain, not just a drizzle but really raining. Leaving was sounding so much less fun. 

To leave or not to leave?

At breakfast it was all rain snow and upcoming doom chatter. People seemed pretty split on leaving. Even the folks who were leaving all planned on heading out late. Breakfast was thankfully tasty, lots of fruit and coffee. Overall the food has been super disappointing. Then we wandered over to the wifi, it's pretty funny walking into the cafe. All hikers taking advantage of electricity and Internet, I swear we really do like the outdoors. 

More people streamed in, even a few new hikers. Folks like Handy Andy who has been steadily hitting 35 plus mile days and then all the people who have just been a bit behind but are taking less days off. Either way I think there are some 30 odd hikers here. 

We decided what's the rush. There is a lot of snow and rain plus today's hike out would take us over 10000 ft and will undoubtedly be a mud filled mess this afternoon. So more rest and recovery we don't really need but we also found a DVD player in the library and are planning on a movie day. 

Nothing too thrilling the rest of the day. We managed to squeeze a whole mess of hikers into the library and watch Jurassic Park and Hook, complete with all of the expected heckling. And at least me and Funsize obnoxiously quoting and making dinosaur noises. 

Probably the best part of the day were the unexpected new folks. Songbird and Banana Ripper finished the PCT in 2013 with Funsize and are on a road trip camping a few miles away. They came with snacks and their beagle Henry. We don't get a whole lot of dog time out here so that was pretty great. 

And after a whole lot of planning and phone calls Funsize's sister Shannon joined us. She has a month off and is going to hike out with Funsize. So then it was way too much gear and food talk and packing and repacking of packs.  

This was a bit of a weird stop but good people so worth it, but I'm ready to start hiking!

And Funsize finally sent me this photo of my favorite friend heading out of Cuba. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Day 31: To Ghost Ranch

The Day 31

5/23: mile 3.5-11.3
Miles: 7.8
Total trip miles: 556.6

I was awake at 5 am, wide awake and ready to go. Only it was still dark and we had decided walking into town together at 6:30 would be fun. So I sat, impatiently until I heard another zipper. Turns out Funsize and Mountain Spice had been up early to, but everyone was trying to be so respectful we were just awake in our tents. Either way we peeled out a little after 6 and set off down the road. Everyone else was still asleep but we knew we'd see them later. 

It started off simple enough. Down the road, down the highway. Then we turned at this funny shut down museum. There was a walking tour and everything was mini, even a windmill and cow trough. Then it was off down a little trail and across a bouncing suspension bridge. Then we off course managed to get a little lost but with a little extra traipsing in circles we made it. 

We did get stopped on the road, a number of hikers headed up to Chama for a gateway town type celebration. I'll admit I was overwhelmed by choices and tired and since everyone was sort of halfway we voted to continue on to Ghost Ranch at least for the time being. 

Ghost Ranch is a neat place. Apparently Georgia O'Keefe did quite a bit of painting here and it's now a retreat type place. A very artsy compound full of cool buildings and a garden with lots of classes and tours. It also has some significant history and paleontology stuff so some museum related things as well. 

We did some math and realized putting 5 people in a room was about the same as camping so we decided on a room. The front desk was a disorganized disaster but we eventually got it sorted. Check in wasn't until 3pm so with lots of time on our hands we took amazingly sad showers and ate mediocre lunch. But we had great company and some hiker box snacks so it was a good time. 

So many hikers waiting for lunch 

The gift shop is full of goofy dinosaur stuff, which is pretty fantastic 

Even more hikers

I guess quite a few movies were filmed here, city slickers and young guns to name a few...

Entire artsy retreat at our fingertips, where are the hikers? Every single one in the cafe at night taking advantage of wifi

So for tonight the plan is to head out tomorrow, but who knows.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Day 30: Mist, Mesas, and the Rio Chama

Day 30

5/22: mile 665.7-3.5 (ghost ranch alternate) 
Miles: 25.7
Total trip miles: 548.8

It poured at least until midnight. At some point the rain turned to heavy thunderstorms but I was nice and warm and other than the occasional thunderclap wake up call I slept pretty well once I finally caved and went out in the rain to use the restroom (such a fancy word, bushes are the classiest of bathrooms out here although sometimes you do get some rocking views). 

At 6am my eyes popped open like usual, it looked misty but it wasn't raining and there was only a little frost on the ground so I decided to pack up. I don't have big miles planned but after yesterday I'm working in extra time for getting lost and poor trail conditions. 

I think I walk at a fairly average pace out here but by leaving just a bit earlier than everyone else I had the trail to myself the first few hours. It was a quiet wet misty world. Very peaceful and lots of time for introspection. I've been spending a lot of time with people lately and I appreciated the solo time quite a bit. I'm thinking that maybe had something to do with my grumpy fit yesterday. For me this is the beginning of the more intense snow and terrain that Colorado will be bringing to the trail and for safety I want to be in a group. Plus I really like a lot of the folks hiking around me. But at the same time I can see that I'll probably not get to hike with some of them due to various other commitments and goals. So there you go, melancholy thoughts in the morning mist. It's even got some good alliteration going on.  

As the mist started to lift just a little I finally got a few glimpses of what was coming. I had seen a little bit of Mesa the evening before through the mist and sure enough that was my morning climb. Thankfully no where near as muddy as the last Mesa climb it still had its fair share of nasty patches. But overall I just love the climbs, especially morning ones. 

About 9 miles into the morning I was pretty much done climbing and there were finally patches of regular sun. I found this odd wood CDT shelter type thing and figured it was a fine spot for a long morning break to dry my gear and let everyone else catch up. I was kind of sick of going in circles in my own head and company sounded nice. 

After the break it was a little more climbing. I thought we might get some views but right at the top it was back to the land of mist. Back down we went, eventually ending up on a road for a bit. So very muddy and slow going, at least the laughter helps make it not so bad. Luckily we headed back onto trail soon enough and I got to fly downhill happily singing away. I stopped at the water source with a lot of hesitation. I really wanted water but that was some super unpleasant water. 


Tasty yes? 

So yeah, the water on the left is straight from the creek, the right is my desperate attempt to not drink a liter of straight mud. 

We were trying to go slow, we weren't going to make it to Ghost Ranch in time for dinner and figured we would just take it easy and aim for lunch tomorrow. So lots of breaks, and lots of eating. We all seem to have packed way to much food, resupplying for only 2 days is surprisingly tricky. 

Funsize thankfully found a glorious water trough full of clear water. I haven't been that happy to see a cattle trough in awhile. 

We turned onto the Ghost Ranch alternate and started to think about camping. We passed a ho hum campground, toilets but no water. We stopped early and goofed around once we found a nice spot on the side of the road. We kept joking that today was a camping day not a thru hiking day and it was pretty fantastic. It of course started raining during dinner but at least we got a rainbow. 

Think it might rain soon?

The Rio Chama

Cookie Monster, Dayglow and Giggles all showed up. It's looking like quite the crowd will be around tomorrow. 

So I don't remember paying as much attention on the PCT but we were talking trail anniversaries yesterday and today is mine. It's been 30 days since I started this adventure and its beyond fantastic. I was just saying the other day that I loved the PCT but right now the CDT is beyond winning. I'm more comfortable with myself and my skills this time around. I have more rips in my gear than I did the entire length of the PCT, I've had more weather in 30 days than I did during my whole 4 plus months on the PCT and I've been lost more times than I can count. I'm terrified of Colorado and even nervous about the changes in the groups of hikers around me but right now I just can't get over how much I love this trail.