The CDT is marked? Day 42

Lady night I decided I only wanted to do 18 miles today, that meant I’d leave the Cumbres Pass for tomorrow morning and give myself the whole afternoon to hitch to Chama. It also meant that Nuthatch and Party saver would have more chance of catching up to me. (I don’t think they have yet, I’m camping off trail a bit tonight so hoping they don’t pass me!)

Once again the day started off beautifully, I’m living the scenery and every climb I do is rewarded with stunning views! It just gets very frustrating trying to find the path! With the snow coverage I lose the path quite a lot and really the CDT markings are so few and far between that they often are of no help! I remember coming to a few buntings that had no markings but would suddenly find a random tree with a mark on it. Very frustrating!

I only got out of bed this morning at 8:30, so only left to start my day at 9:30! That’s like a hikers midday! But as I was only going 18 miles I wasn’t too stressed about it. Turned out to be a good decision. So much for the days of 18 miles taking a whole day! Even with starting late I got to my camp spot with 2 hours of daylight to spare! Anyway I’m getting side tracked. The path had been consistently above 3000m (10 000ft) and the had been so much snow on trail. It’s so exhausting walking over the snow and my pace slows right down. 

The we sections where I could only see snow in all directions! At one point the trail was so hard to see, and I noticed a dirt road running near the trail. I hopped off the trail and decided to follow the road for about 3 miles. I’m not sure if it was a good idea or not! The road was covered in snow about half the time but at least I wasn’t walking through snowy forests looking for a trail. 

I’m now camped in a dirt road just off the trail. It’s flat and slightly sheltered by some pine trees. I’m pretty sure no one is coming up this road as most of it is snowed in anyway! Right now I’m in my tent listening to the rain and seeing the occasional flash of lightning. I’m so thankful I’m warm in my tent and sleeping bag! It’s 9pm. Hikers midnight.

Some trail photos:

Cruising! Day 41

Today I knocked out 25 miles! And it felt good! I only left camp this morning at 9am, taking my time and enjoying the peace and quiet. I knew I wanted to try do 25 miles again but today there was less altitude gain. 

The morning started out fantastic! The weather was perfect, birds everywhere and amazing scenery. I even made a video!

Last night I remember looking at that crossing and thinking thank goodness that’s tomorrow’s problem. Everything looks better in the morning. Like the hill I see I have to climb tomorrow morning! Lol.

In the afternoon the trail got a lot more snowy and once again it was a battle between flooded paths and snowed over trails! I missed a turn once and ended up doing a quarter mile extra and I definitely had to make my own path sometimes but all in all today had been far easier than yesterday.

On a side note, you find the most bizarre things along the trail. Anyone fancy some baseball at 9000ft?

I’m camped near a river and there ​is someone else camped here too (he took the good camp spot) but I haven’t met whoever it is because they haven’t emerged from their tent. Even the fire I got going did not entice them out. 

I was so cold and wet when I arrived that a fire seemed the only option. I realise in the video there​ is no circle of stones around the fire but the ground was sodden and I was around the fire the entire time so that fire was going no where. In the morning I’ll bury the ashes and no one will know it was there.

Knocked out! Day 40

Wow, today was a tough day! I did a 25 mile day because of a mix up with the route and it was over some of the toughest terrain I’ve faced yet.

This morning started off beautifully, I woke up a bit late because of the cold and wind but the morning hike was stunning! Big open fields and hundreds of Aspens. Also there​ was water everywhere so I never needed to carry more than a litre.

The afternoon was where it became rough! The hike was uphill but it didn’t look too steep so I wasn’t worried. Pretty much straight off the bat I missed a turn but according to the map there​ was a potential alternate route that way so I decided to continue. At first it was fine but when I was supposed to make a turn to rejoin the main track I was suddenly faced with steep drops, dead trees and worst of all bear prints in the mud. As I weaved my way around tree debris and cliff drops I kept singing out loud to chase off any nearby bears! Eventually I found a boundary fence that lead to a road that lead to a path! Not the best way to start an ascent.

However, after reaching the actual path, things didn’t get much better. There were so many fallen trees I was doing about a mile an hour! I felt grateful every time I saw 100m stretch with no trees across it! Eventually I emerged from this hellish forest and meet up with the snow! I’d climbed high enough that the path was still covered in snow. Thankfully it was pretty compact so there​ wasn’t much post holing.

 

This is what the path looked like for about 4 miles!

It felt like the route stayed up there far too long and was just trying to torture hikers! I also think the elevation might have taken something out of me.

At last the descent began but just before I was going to stop for the night, about 2 miles before, the signs for the CDT changed compared to the map. The signs would cut off about 4 miles from the route on the map but that would mean I miss my water source and couldn’t camp till the next one. Naturally I opted to shave off around 4 miles and hope for water along the track. Well, there was no water. My 22 mile day got extended to a 25.5 mile day. At least on this section the trail was well maintained and fairly straightforward​. It’s dark, I’m in my tent and food is calling!

The ending of the fellowship. Day 39

Today was a very sad day for us. It seems like the end of an era on the CDT. We have all gone off in different directions. Burning calves is probably in Albuquerque right now getting ready for her flight to the East Coast tomorrow.

 Nuthatch and party saver went to Santa Fe because nuthatch still doesn’t have suitable shoes for the snow and her sandals are starting to give in. They’re going to hike out either this evening or tomorrow and try catch up. AJ and I were supposed to hike out together but about a mile into the hike, he twisted his (already injured) knee and decided that he shouldn’t hike on it. He might be trying again tomorrow or else hitching to Chama to meet us there. I’m not sure what he’s​ going to decide. 

So here I am, on trail, by myself. The hike today was enjoyable, the scenery here in this area is spectacular and I’m so happy to be out of the desert. But I do miss my friends! I don’t mind being on my own and camping alone but when I have such good people I could be doing it with, being alone doesn’t seem so appealing. Hopefully nuthatch and party saver will catch up to me sooner rather than later, preferably with AJ in tow. 

Cactus butt. Day 37

Today we only had to hike 20 miles to get to ghost ranch. I love how now 20 miles doesn’t seem too tough! We only left camp at 8:30, which was a luxury! Sleeping in until 7:30.

I had a super chilled start to the morning, not feeling like I had to rush so I let the rest of the group go ahead while I stopped to filter some extra water next to a river. It was so peaceful that I stayed a bit longer and snacked on the power bars my incredible friend Ashley made for me. (They’re incredibly good Ashley so THANK YOU! so much!)

We had some incredible scenery walking through a canyon of rainbow rocks. It was incredible.

We reached the Chama river today and  walked alongside it for a while. It was tough watching all those people rafting and kayaking down the river while we had to walk alongside it! 

The guys at this point rushed off because they wanted to make the dinner at ghost ranch which starts at 17h30. Us girls took our time and got rewarded with some trail magic in the form of Lara bars from a passing motorist. We had about a 7 mile stretch of road which was incredibly laborious which is where my cactus butt title comes from.

After about 5 miles of road walking my feet were killing me and it was indescribably hot. We saw one tree off in the distance and aimed for it to take our break. As we got closer we realised it was more of a shrub than a tree and didn’t offer that much shade. After wondering around it for a bit we finally decided it was better than nothing and I promptly dropped my pack and sat down, into a huge mess of thorns. I must’ve looked like a cartoon character with the speed at which I bounced back up with a howl of agony! Nuthatch and burning calves spent about 5 minutes picking thorns out of my butt for me! What great friends I have! Now I will check the ground before I plop down!

So on a much sadder note, today was the last day we will be hiking with burning calves. Her mission on this trip us to hike the first 1000km of each of the 3 big trails. Today marks the end of her 1000km of the CDT. It has been very emotional and sad for all of us. We love hiking with her and I know I’m going to miss her a lot!

Tonight we are in Ghost Ranch campsite and have all taken showers. It feels like luxury! Tomorrow we’ll have laundry, WiFi and breakfast!

We’ll easily make it by sunset. Day 36

This morning we started nice and early because there was a big uphill to start with. The uphill actually ended up being fairly well graded and we got to the top with energy to spare. So much energy I celebrated with a head stand! 

There was lots of snow on the trail and the path was a river at some points! For once I had the best deal with my boots and was just able to charge through everything! I had a great day and almost managed to keep up with the guys!

It was so nice being out of the desert and in the forest. Parts of the trail remind me of Switzerland and the Alps. It was just such a beautiful morning!

We stopped for lunch by a river and burning calves was hilarious trying to hike in her flip flops so she didn’t get her shoes wet!

In the afternoon we descended and had to fight with the trees the whole way down! There were so many cut down trees and fallen logs that the trail became an obstacle course! On the way down I met Gary who had adopted that section of the trail, I felt so sorry for him! He was going up the road to scout what needed to be done. He definitely has his work cut out for him!

After lunch we wanted to go another 9 miles so I headed out a bit sooner than the rest to make sure I got to camp before sunset. As I was leaving party saver casually mentions of we’ll easily make it before sunset. It’s only 9 miles!

Well the gentle uphill we were supposed end the day with turned out to be this steep climb and even hiking in low range did not seem to make this uphill easier! I took so long to hike up this hill and I kept checking my watch to see if I was getting any closer to the high point. Eventually I made it and hobbled to the water source, threw my pack down and lay on the ground staring at the sky and appreciating that I just walked 24 miles, up two hills.

Litre cola. Day 35

I had my own room last night! With my own bed! We were staying at the rebels roost, a donation based house and the owner, Vince had a few share rooms so we were all able to sleep on a bed in a room to ourselves. Such heaven! It’s been amazing staying at the rebels roost and I hope it becomes a popular hiker spot.

We got a late start as none of us wanted to drag ourselves out of bed into the day but when we finally did Vince had coffee brewing and had made waffle bar so breakfast was coffee and waffles!

He then have us a ride to the library so we could use the internet. I got everything done way faster than everyone else so found the kids section and spent about an hour entertaining myself with Dr suess books! You’re never too old for the Lorax! 

Once we were done with the internet we went back to the rebels roost we people were still sorting things out. I got frustrated so I decided to leave and meet them at out camp spot. What a great decision. I had a lovely peaceful 7 mile walk and managed to find a great campsite near the water to wait for everyone to join. I managed to find time to read my book in the sun for a while and really just relax.

AJ was the first to arrive and we decided to make done tea while waiting for people to show up. Somehow it got decided to add a shot of fireball whiskey to the tea and voilà we have an incredible be creation! Definitely an option for cold nights on the rocky mountains!

When everyone else arrived we got a fire going and cooked around the camp fire. The perfect end to a lovely day.

Another zero. Day 34

Today we took another zero in town while waiting for nuthatch’s shoes to arrive. We definitely moved from the crazy lady motel to a place called Rebels Roost, an awesome donations based hiker haven. It’s owned by a guy called Vince who has a few rooms and an outside area to camp in for hikers. He encourages hikers to come stay and does an amazing job of helping us out and making sure we have everything we might need. I think he’s done about 5 trips into town shuttling us to shops, WiFi and restaurants!

Today has definitely been my favourite zero day. After we arrived, we got settled and then went back into town to pick up some food to have a BBQ. It was a very vegan looking BBQ with corn on the cob, onions, potatoes and then we left a bit of room for burgers and sausages. I think having a vegan at a BBQ definitely makes the food more interesting!


Vince is a bit of an artist and had done up the garden really nicely and we sat on the porch enjoying the sunset, watching the traffic go by and waiting about an hour for the potatoes to cook!

This day has gone down in my memories as one of the greatest chill out days I’ve had. I feel really lucky to have met and to be hiking with the incredible people in my group. The positive energy, team work and support we give each other is making this hike much less challenging than I was expecting and far more of a prolonged holiday!

Hopefully tomorrow we’ll be back on trail and heading towards ghost ranch. The flat of new Mexico is over and it’s time to test out my fitness as we climb towards Colorado and prepare to tackle the San Juan mountains. We’re all a bit antsy as to what exactly lies before us. Sunny skies and snow melt or sudden spring storms and freezing temperatures? Hopefully we’re ready for all of it!

Being sneaky doesn’t pay. Day 33

This morning we were up really early to hour the trail and get into town. We were only 10 miles out from Cuba and we wanted to get in for a late breakfast. The start of the day was lovely and easy but the final 4 miles were on road which I found really tough. My shins began to complain again but eventually the cafe was in sight and the thought of breakfast spurred us onwards. 

The first thing we did was offset a cup of coffee and the proceeded to amend the various menu options to create our own incredible breakfast. The portions were huge, the service friendly and it was the best way to come into town. 

After breakfast AJ and I walked across the road to the motel to get a room. We were hoping that if 2 of us went we’d get a cheaper rate than 5 of us! The lady at the motel was completely off her rocker! She was extremely friendly towards us and wanted to tell us about her family and all the places she’d traveled. She also threw in some shampoo for us as we were hikers and probably not carrying any ourselves.

Once we settled into our room the other 3 came over one at a time to join us. The little old lady was far more observant than we expected and at one point, when burning calves, nuthatch and party saver came back from the store, she grabbed their bags and took them away saying that we’re trying to trick her by putting more people into a room and we need to give her an extra $30. She was telling at them and threatening to call the police if we didn’t pay up. Well naturally the 3 of them were completely traumatised from her crazy over reaction. We ended up paying way too much for the room and having to have a few beers to calm down. Not the greatest experience. To top it all off, everyone was having gone getting their packages that had been sent by UPS because the post office was refusing to accept the parcels. Nuthatch is still waiting for her shoes to arrive in town so were going to take a day off tomorrow.

So far Cuba had been both amazing (incredible breakfast) and awful (the crazy lady still thinks AJ and I are great people and the other 3 are the bad influence). Let’s hope tomorrow goes a bit better.