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CDT: Santa Fe National Forest (Ghost Ranch to Cuba)

September 30

Although Ghost Ranch had a worship service Sunday morning, I skipped it in lieu of my own quite time, since from what I gathered the odds of my hearing orthodox Christian doctrine seemed pretty low.

I had a very lazy day leaving Ghost Ranch. My next town, Cuba, was fifty miles away, the imperfect distance when I just wanted to pass through town and not overnight. I could either hike very hard and save a day, or very easy taking an extra day. For once I chose the easy road. I ate and relaxed, and eventually got on my way after noon.

I bumbled around looking for the trail out of Ghost Ranch, eventually found it, and hiked the couple of needed hours before camping near the Rio Chama River. For the first time in a long while I walked in just a t-shirt, which was a liberating experience. I also encountered those flying, buzzing things — flies and mosquitoes. There were no swarms, but I had not seen the pests at all since northern Colorado. The drought and then cold weather kept the armies at bay.

The Rio Chama River at Big Eddy
The sun setting in the desert

October 1 — Time to Wake Up

A morning walk along the Rio Chama led to a stroll up Ojitos Canyon and crossing the river at its bottom about twenty times. A long climb out of it to atop a mesa just led to a descent down the other side, before I stopped a little past Highway 96. Today was very leisurely, since I did not need to reach Cuba till Wednesday morning. I took lots of breaks and enjoyed the day — still easing back into things after my stay at Ghost Ranch, and a nice change of my pace from my long marches in southern Colorado.

Panoramic view of the desert floor with mountains in the distance
Bluffs hanging high on the landscape

October 2

The trail climbed up, returning to the elevation where trees change color, and up further still above 10,000 ft (I think for the last time [Ed note: or not]) and climbed up San Pedro Peaks. These tops were unfortunately rounded and covered with trees, so they did not provide any good views from up high.

For all that climbing in the morning, I lost all the elevation and then some in the afternoon, this time finishing through a magnificent valley. Although another shorter day mileage wise, I hiked to near dark to reach where I needed due to my numerous breaks throughout the day. I had to get this far though because as seems to happen more often than not, I was once again out of food and wanted to reach Cuba early to grab breakfast. Second, I hope to put a lot of miles on after Cuba tomorrow, to hopefully reach Grants by Sunday morning so I could attend Divine Service at the LCMS church there.

Another beautiful autumn forest
Clearings near San Pedro Peaks

October 3 — Cuba

An early morning star lit walk (I saw one shooting star) led me into Cuba for a great gas station breakfast burrito as morning sustenance. I completed the rest of my town chores before grabbing lunch and heading back on the trail. A several mile paved road walk led to dirt roads, which eventually led to a great walk atop a mesa, next to its shear cliff with great views of the valley and other mountains.

I had to start managing water better now, and was very glad for the improved springs in Jones Canyon late in the day. I camped a little beyond on a bed of soft sand.

Cuba, NM
The small shrubs that struggle to survive in the desert