Day 46: Zero Day in Chama

IMG_4266.JPG

 As of about 2:00 AM, Garbelly's brother Logan and girlfriend Miranda arrived to the Chama Trails Inn amidst their long drive from Los Angeles to St Louis. While Critter was fast asleep, the rest of us stayed up for another thirty minutes and caught up on as much as we could. Inching closer to 3:00 AM, we all headed to bed with plans of waking up to get breakfast.

IMG_4264.JPG

Just as planned we woke up extremely late, missed breakfast and went to lunch around noon. Unfortunately Feliciano's Pizza was closed again, so we went to eat at the Foster Hotel Restaurant. We chose this spot because it had a nice outdoor area we could sit and eat with Miranda's two dogs. All six of us talked about how the hike was going and enjoyed delicious New Mexico food (the dogs ate some scrambled eggs).

IMG_4263.JPG

Seeing family and friends while on trail is one of the most refreshing feelings hikers can experience. Feelings of homesickness are extinguished and you are left with a strong feeling of support. Garbelly and Logan have traveled parts of the world together and plan to travel more. It was exciting to have Logan get to be a part of our big adventure even if it was not for a full 24 hours. Every person we get to see and meet on trail is so fundamental in our journey. We can not thank everyone enough for helping us out along the way. Thanks so much for an amazing day Logan and Miranda!

And a HUGE thank you to the folks at Chama Trails Inn for making our stay comfortable and enjoyable. We highly recommend staying here next time you pass through. 

And a HUGE thank you to the folks at Chama Trails Inn for making our stay comfortable and enjoyable. We highly recommend staying here next time you pass through. 

Cheers! 

Garbelly & Critter  

 

PS. Here marks the end of New Mexico. To continue following along on our adventure, go to our Colorado page! Now isnt that a good feeling?! It sure is for us! We also love receiving feedback. Let us know what you like or dislike about our page! We love criticism because it allows us the chance to learn and grow. Thank you so much following along so far. Here's to many more adventures, a new state, and new stories. 

Happy Trails! 

Day 45: 696 to 708 (Chama)

IMG_3975.JPG
IMG_3964.JPG

Today is a big day. We woke up earlier than previous mornings, to beat the softening of the snow. Marching along we made good time. We had several more feet to climb before descending down to Cumbres Pass. Seemingly aimless we climbed snowpack mounds which made us tall among the branches of the pines. We came to an exposed ridge looking out on mountains much taller than ours and their snow capped peaks. Due to the holiday weekend, we had to rearrange our packages that were sent to the post office. The post master offered to leave them at a fudge shop for us to retrieve. Fudge shop? Don't mind if we do!

IMG_3981.JPG
IMG_3974.JPG

We picked up even more speed as we headed down the other side of the mountain. Our micro-spikes were on our shoes and we were ready to move quickly over the softening snow. It was no easy task. We still slipped and slid all over the places using our poles to catch ourselves if we started to slide too far in the wrong direction.

At one point we spotted fresh bear tracks in the snow, and from the looks of it, it seemed that he, too, was struggling with the slick terrain.

We even have a couple of chances to slide down slopes of snow as if we were on sleds.

Finally, the sign that we were hiking towards appeared in front of us up a slight hill. We raced to reach it and take our first step over the border separating the Land of Enchantment from the Colorful Colorado. We made it to Colorado! We hiked through the entire state of New Mexico, and now it was time to "level up".

IMG_3990.JPG

Proudly we crossed over the border entering the Rio Grande National Forest and a new part of our adventure. We continued on through snow until we came to a ridge-line tunneled with high winds.

IMG_3982.JPG
IMG_4098.JPG

Our micro-spikes were taken off too soon as the earth once again became covered in snow. This time we had all down hill right to the pass. Sliding would be inevitable. The goal was to slide uncontrolled and out of the way of the trees below. We dreamt of skis and their ease of taking us down the hill. Instead, we slid on our sides, on the tread of our shoes. Reaching the road, Critter threw her thumb up at the first truck coming around the corner followed by a thumb from Glimmer. The driver pulled over, and we ran to jump in the truck bed. Driving down from the mountain and into the lusciously green Chama River valley was undoubtedly romantic. Picturesque views, our laughter and happiness of the day, and the collective sigh of relaxation. We were headed back into New Mexico to Chama.

IMG_4099.JPG
IMG_4012.JPG

New shoes awaited us at the Fudge Shop and our snow gear at the Chama Trail Inn, where we would stay the night. We were excited to stay at the Inn in one of its character-filled rooms decorated with neutral colors and the pop of turquoise.

We enjoyed dinner with Glimmer, Arcade, Yee-Haw, Glimmer's parents, and three women from the CDT Coalition, including the executive director. To us, we were dining with celebrities.

After dinner, we headed back to our room for a much needed sleep.

Cheers to Colorado. Until next time, New Mexico!

Garbelly & Critter

 

Over the course of this last section, we so enjoyed spending trail time with Glimmer and Arcade. We cherished getting to know them, and how quickly we began a little trail family. We laughed, some of us may have cried, we sang, and we hiked. We hope to see them up trail, maybe in Montana! Happy Trails, you two!

IMG_3980.JPG

Day 44: 676 to 696

IMG_3987.JPG
IMG_3989.JPG

Throughout the night, we kept waking up to our tent getting beaten by the most violent and persistent wind. It was hard to stay asleep when everything that surrounded us rattled and popped abruptly smacking us out of sleep. We fought our eyes shut but our ears remained alert. Somewhere around the wee hours of the morning the wind calmed to a lighter rumbled and finally we slipped into a much needed sleep. Unfortunately, it seemed as soon as we fell asleep the sun was shinning into our tent illuminating the orange panels of our rainfly. We hurried through our morning routine to get back on trail.

IMG_3952.JPG
IMG_4081.JPG

Before we knew it the wet trail turned into mounds of snow which turned back into running water and marsh. We threw on our micro-spikes for the snow, but we were out of luck when it came to crossing the boggy areas. Throughout the day we walk along ridge-lines battered by high winds and beautiful views. It felt like we were on top of the world at our mere 11,000 feet.

IMG_4037.JPG
IMG_4075.JPG

For most of the day we were exposed to the vicious wind. It took most of our strength to stay standing. The wind pushed and we pressed back. Occasionally, the wind pulled backwards throwing us off balance in the other direction. Our faces and legs were battered by the consistent gusts. Our hands strained and cramped from our grip on our trekking poles. We stopped at another campground and lake for lunch tucking ourselves back into the trees to block the wind. That night we camped in a grouping of pines surrounded by mounds of snow but finally on dry land.

IMG_3992.JPG

Cheers to tough days that are made better by dinner and the warmth of a sleeping bag.

 Garbelly & Critter

Day 43: 654 to 676

Tired is a word that described our morning. Tired and smelling of blackened pine from the fire last night. We were in valley, therefore cold would be another accurate word.

IMG_3924.JPG

 We headed down trail passing the fire ring. Picking up fish juice coated trash stored there over night as to not attach the inevitable critter to our tent. Our trash was there and we stuffed it in our packs, but the charcoal covered fish head was not.

IMG_3931.JPG

Our first challenge for the day was making an anticipated tough crossing of the Rio Vallecitos. As we got closer to the river, we could hear the might of its roar. We arrived and began to search for potential opportunities to cross upstream. With no luck, we returned to our packs sitting on the grass above the water. That is when a log was spotted laying perfectly over the river. The fallen tree reached longingly towards the opposing bank, not quite reaching it all of the way. This was the opportunity that we needed to get across safe and dry. Stepping up on the base of the trunk, we began stepping one foot in front of the other with our trekking poles out ready to catch if we were to lose balance. The tree narrowed as we hiked towards the top, when we reached the end. Now, it was up to us to figure out how to finish the act and land on the river bank. A bundle of limbs of a tree stuck out of the water creating a small, dry platform. We left the relative comfort of the sturdy log and put our trust into this bundle. Success! We reached the other side completely dry. So we hiked on joining back up with trail and following it through a mossy canyon. The trail took us into a field of aspens and sunshine yellow dandelions. Snaking us through a forest we worked our way higher into snow and wet marshlands.

IMG_4067.JPG
IMG_3994.JPG
IMG_3973.JPG

 We ate lunch at a campground where we treated ourselves to eating at a picnic bench and filling our bottles up with water from a pump. After lunch, we rounded the corner getting a great view of Hopewell Lake. The rest of the day was blanketed with snowpack. In between the mounds of snow, water flowed or collected making the snow more pleasurable walking then the latter.

IMG_3977.JPG
IMG_3942.JPG

We began to descend into a valley where we were faced with two more river crossings, much smaller than the river at the beginning of the day. However, these proved to be extremely difficult. Narrow fast moving water surrounded by many feet of deep boggy areas. Staying dry seemed to be impossible. Dark clouds covered the sun taking with its light our warmth. Getting our feet wet was not ideal. Finally making it across, Garbelly jumped , barely making it, while Critter took her shoes off and waded through the water.

IMG_3988.JPG
IMG_4062.JPG

The second crossing brought wet shoes, but by this point we were ready to find camp so we were not phased. We set up camp just in time for large hail stones to start bouncing off of our tent. We stayed in the warmth of our tent only getting out to boil water and pee. The hail ceased as the wind picked up. It would be a long night.

IMG_3947.JPG

 Cheers to good timing,

Garbelly & Critter

IMG_4057.JPG

Day 42: 628 to 654

IMG_4055.JPG

A rustle, then the sound of faint talking. Chris and Glimmer were awake. Which means that if we wanted to hike together, which we did, then we would have to start waking up. It sounds like such an easy task, but when facing the icy cold air it becomes nearly impossible.

IMG_4045.JPG

We began hiking through a large meadow at 9,500 feet. Here an old cabin sat amongst a field full of chocolate colored cattle. Just about the field we saw hints of snow, but we decided to ignore them. Descending down the meadow towards a stream, the thick green grass turned into a wet cold swamp and we tiptoed on top of the large clumps of grass as not to get our feet wet. To the west, views of the multicolored plateaus in the Chama River valley could still be seen. To the east, the Sangre de Cristo mountains seemed to stretch so high in the sky that they scraped the clouds, leaving their tops snowy white.

IMG_4047.JPG

Just as the four of us had gotten into our hiking rhythm, a young bull elk darted in front of us stopping us in our tracks. He ran away in a zig zag line as we watched him fly up the mountain we were about to ascend. As we reached the top of the climb we saw something surprising, more so than elk, snow.

IMG_4044.JPG
IMG_4054.JPG

After topping a ridge, we descended down towards an ice cold mountain stream. Filtering water, we discussed plans for the route ahead. Numerous CDT routes that had been official routes covered our maps. We decided that with the snowy areas and marshes we would hike up a previous route and get to higher ground. Climbing up a steep hillside, we slipped and slid on loose scree, losing half of a step every step we took. After thirty minutes of climbing we finally reached a relatively flat field with a small four wheeler track snaking through the middle. Following the track we passed a few CDT markers until the trail became completely covered by snow. Glimmer and Chris quickly walked ahead of us while we stopped for a bathroom break.

IMG_4046.JPG

Quickly we began hiking down the snowy slopes when Critter mentioned that she thought she had heard a car. There was no way that any vehicle could make it to drive where we were walking. Then around the corner came two men on four wheelers. They slowed to a halt and shut off their engines. Smiling they asked us where we were headed. We teased with the usual, "hopefully Canada."

They both chuckled in amazement. Garbelly asked if they were up in the mountains scouting or just on a joyride. They admitted to us that they owned some ranch below the mountains and had been up fishing.

"Would you like some fish," the younger man man asked.

We were in shock, "no we don't want to take your fish."

He kicked his right boot up and over the seat, opened up a hard container and lifted out a green sack. He pulled out a twelve inch rainbow trout and a six or seven inch brookie. They were gorgeous. We did not really have a way to cook it, but we would figure out a way to eat fresh fish on trail. We accepted the two brookies and told the men we thought two hungry hikers just up the trail would readily accept the large rainbow.

IMG_4052.JPG

Sure enough, Chris and Glimmer had accepted the gifted fish. While leaping and wading through a few streams we discussed how we would prepare it. Chef Chris talked about having butter powder and lemon powder, and Critter mentioned her Italian seasoning. Our mouths watered as we walked. Just as we were reaching six thirty, we could not find any campsites that had water or were flat. We power hiked a few minutes and found an open field near a road. Just below here, a slow moving creek passed a beautiful area bedded in pine.

Garbelly built a fire while Critter and Glimmer set up camp and Chris cleaned the fish. Within thirty minutes we were huddled around the fire eating our meals and all giddy of the fresh fish we had been given. 

We ate dinner and had trout for desert. The fire grew hotter before winding down to glowing coals. It was time for bed and to dream about the delicacy of fresh fish on trail. 

IMG_4040.JPG

Cheers to trail magic, fresh fish, and friends.

Garbelly & Critter

IMG_4050.JPG

Day 41: 613 (Ghost Ranch) to 628

IMG_3993.JPG

Today we left the coziest king-sized bed and wonderful company to head back to trail. We are growing closer to Colorado, which means closer to snow and altitude.

Somers offered to give us a ride back to Ghost Ranch. Not only was this much more efficient than taking the bus but also much more enjoyable. We took the scenic route and enjoyed the conversations that accompanied the drive. Thank you so much, Somers. You were so good to us and made out short time in Santa Fe so comfortable and wonderful.

IMG_3905.JPG

Once back at Ghost Ranch, we wandered to the visitors center once again so that Garbelly could pick up birthday cards that arrived in the mail. Then we were off. We followed the dirt road that ran straight through the facilities of Ghost Ranch to the Box Canyon trailhead. From there we followed a trail through beautifully colored canyons along a small stream, and then we climbed up and out.

IMG_4021.JPG
IMG_4024.JPG
IMG_4027.JPG
IMG_3911.JPG

The day led us to open fields painted with yellow flowers which met an ocean of blue sky. We saw elk grazing in the grass, and we heard song birds running through their repertoire. We filtered water at a crystal clear spring called Harris Bear Spring.

IMG_3972.JPG
IMG_4020.JPG

We arrived at one particular field overlooking mountains far and near and there sitting in the center row to the view was a Big Agnes tent just like our own. Out popped Glimmer and Arcade (formally known as Chris) for the tent's orange walls. We set up our tent several feet away, and we all enjoyed the dinner and sunset. Glimmer and Chris are some of our favorite people we have met on trail, and we were so excited to be able to spend time with them. Even if it was just the evening.

IMG_3976.JPG
IMG_4023.JPG
IMG_4026.JPG

Cheers to the trail, getting out of town, and trail family. It is not easy getting out of town, but being back on trail reminds us why.

Garbelly & Critter

IMG_4025.JPG
IMG_4029.JPG
IMG_4030.JPG

Day 39-40: Garbelly & Critter's Guide to Santa Fe

Since we started the trail, we have had a side trip to Santa Fe set in our minds. Upon arriving at Ghost Ranch, and with a weekend before us, it was the perfect time to leave trail for a couple days and explore the city. As soon as we arrived within the city limits of Santa Fe, we knew that two days would be no where near enough time to see everything, so we narrowed down our list to the essentials: eat good food, explore a gear shop, and find out what the hell Meow Wolf is. Even though our time in Santa Fe was brief, we had an amazing time, and we cannot wait to visit again.

 

Here our some of our favorites from our stay:

 Transportation: The Santa Fe Pick Up (Museum Shuttle)

With no car and no intention of walking more than we had to regardless of how walkable and accessible the city is, we quickly discovered Santa Fe's public transportation. The city offers a free, that is right, free, shuttle service to most of the art and history museums around town. We found a pick-up location in the center of town, waited for less than ten minutes, and then we loaded up on a shuttle. So easy and convenient especially when you want to cover a lot of ground in a day.


Coffeeshop: Iconik Coffee & Collective Works

Bookstore

IMG_4007.JPG

We really enjoyed wandering around downtown, but when the time came to sit down we were desperate for a cozy coffeeshop and cup of coffee. When we stumbled upon Iconik, we not only found a great place to spend a couple of hours but also a bookstore! We perched up at a table by a window with our coffee and breakfast and just relaxed. When we got antsy, we riffled through the book selection, and we even eavesdrop on a meeting about the area's watershed. It was a great atmosphere, quiet, with a feel of our own home coffee shop back in Nashville. Plus the coffee was delicious.

 

Treat: Root beer at Blue Corn Cafe

It is simple. Blue Corn Cafe has the best Root Beer. Made in house, their Root Beer comes in a frosty mug, has the freshest flavor and a creamy texture. After craving Root Beer for 600 miles, this was definitely a treat.

 

Saved the Day: Camera Shop

We run a constant risk of not just hurting ourselves but also breaking our gear. Gear breaks that's just what happens. During our stay in Santa Fe, our camera's lens sacrificed itself to this unfortunate reality. Fortunately, just a couple blocks away we stumbled upon a local camera shop where we found just what we needed and were greeted by really friendly staff.

 

Late Night: Del Charro Saloon

Our first night in Santa Fe led us to the Del Charro Saloon where we had dinner with a group of hikers also spending a couple of days in the city. None of us were too good with being speedy when it comes to making a decision, which left us looking for a restaurant open late. We would recommend the veggies burger and sweet potato fries!

 

Art Experience: Meow Wolf

IMG_4005.JPG

We went into Meow Wolf without any clue as to what we were about to experience. All we can say is that this is a MUST SEE if you find yourself in Santa Fe. You will not be disappointed, but allow yourself enough time to experience every bit of it. We sure did find out what Meow Wolf is, or did we?

IMG_3895.JPG

 

Local Fly Shop: High Desert Angler

IMG_3997.JPG

One of our favorite things to do when visiting a new town is find their fly shop. You can learn a lot about a town from their fly shop, especially just by whether or not they have one! As we wandered around Santa Fe, we noticed a sign reading 'High Desert Angler' and suddenly our priorities shifted bumping shower and food down the line. We ran across the street and into the shop, where we were greeted by Ed, a long time employee of the shop. We poked around at the boxes of flies, wading boots and waders, clothing, and fly materials. The selection was wonderful, our conversation with Ed was just what we needed, and the shop itself made us feel like we were back in Cumberland Transit. If you go to Santa Fe to fish, there is no better place to visit than High Desert Angler.

 

Airbnb: Stone Sculptor's Home

IMG_4010.JPG

Now, here is our favorite part. Not just were we spoiled with a hot shower, a washer and dryer to clean our clothes, and an incredibly comfy bed, but the house and it's host was amazing as well. There were beautiful views outside and gorgeous art inside. We felt like locals staying at Somers' home. He gave us a tour of his shop, and even let us make dinner for him one evening. We are so thankful for being able to spend two nights and thoroughly enjoyed being able to spend time with Somers during our stay. There is simply no better place to stay while in Santa Fe.

IMG_4008.JPG

 

Leaving Santa Fe was really tough. Without a doubt, we will return soon to visit more of the city.

 

For now, the trail calls.

 

Cheers to new towns that win over your heart.

Garbelly & Critter

Day 38: 602 to 613 (Ghost Ranch)

IMG_3878.JPG

Sleeping by the side of the road is never a recipe for a peaceful, settled night, but when you are tucked deep into a nest of Juniper trees you begin to slip away from even your own existence. Our tent fit perfectly among the branches and throughout the night passing headlights did not get the chance to flood into the silvery walls. We had ten miles into Ghost Ranch and a warm, sunny day. Following a dirt road, we listened to a new audiobook, The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery, and lost ourselves in each step and each spoken word. We dove into the lives octopuses in a captivity and their mysterious oceanic world. Questions of their consciousness and perception of life mentioned by the author trekked through our own brains as the sun grew even higher over the Rio Chama.

IMG_3853.JPG
IMG_3872.JPG
IMG_3873.JPG

A blue blaze stood out to us on a post leading to a cross country trail. Fortunately, we checked our maps and took the lightly worn path away from the road. We were headed into the heart of the acrylic canyons that appear in Georgia O'Keefe's work and in the dreams of those that yearn for the magics of the desert.

IMG_3863.JPG
IMG_3874.JPG
IMG_3868.JPG

Bushing whacking along what seemed to be a nature trail that once was, we crossed a rickety suspension bridge missing boards of wood here and there. A group of guests on horse back could be seen in the distance. We were getting close to the ranch and even closer to a big lunch. Single story adobe buildings began appearing around us and people, lots and lots of people.  Us in our packs and days of old dirt covered our clothing. Everyone else dressed for their weekend at the ranch, chatting quietly together as their name tags dangled from their necks. We ran into the Welcome Center, where we were helped out by the friendliest employee who grab us our resupply boxes. As we repacked our bags with our new supply of food and micro-spikes, we drew signs for our hitch into Santa Fe. We bought a meal ticket for the lunch buffet, and then we feasted.

IMG_3864.JPG
IMG_3866.JPG
IMG_3865.JPG
IMG_3877.JPG

It was now time to hitch to Santa Fe. The boys ahead of us had an easy hitch from an employee of the ranch and then a bus ride from Espanola into town the previous day. We started walking down the dirt rode to the main highway, without much luck at first. Throwing up our thumbs each time a car came rumbling down the drive, we slowly lowered them as the cars continued past. Finally, a car pulled over in front of us. We ran up to the car and hoped in. We were greeted by a very friendly couple who offered to drive us to the intersection of the highway. We were so lucky to receive such a wonderful hitch with lively conversing and even opportunities to take pictures of the canyons we passed. Pulling off on the side of the road, we got out continuing our conversation as they offered to take our picture in front of Abiquiu Lake. It is always such a joy to meet wonderful people on the road. Thank you so much for the ride, and for welcoming us into your car and sharing a conversation with us!

IMG_3880.JPG

Our second hitch came quickly from a man and his chihuahua. A brief ride, he dropped us off at Bode's General Store down the rode. He desperately needed gas, and as we rode with him down the highway, his jeep kept jerking forward as it ran on fumes.

IMG_3869.JPG

Our third hitch  was another wonderful ride. Carol and Darian picked us up after driving past and then eventually turning around. They were volunteers at Ghost Ranch, and they were conveniently driving into Espanola. Admittedly, we talked their ear off about our time in New Mexico and on the trail. We arrived in Espanola, expressed our gratitude and threw our thumbs and sign back up. This time showing the Santa Fe side. Almost immediately, a car honked and pulled over. We hopped in. Most hitches are insignificant experiences, ones that are appreciated and memorable but not impressionable. Some hitches are scary and you immediately regret jumping into the car with a stranger. Then, there are those hitches that are absolutely perfect.  When we sat down in the car, an older gentleman with shoulder length curly silver hair sat behind the steering wheel. Immediately, he warned us about the homeless and drug culture of Santa Fe. He noticed us on the side of the road as different from the usual hitch-hiker, someone you would not want to pick up, and decided to offer us a ride. Our gear and appearance deemed us as just the casual hippie, instead of the drug junkie. Thank goodness. Over the course of the car ride, Michael the River Guide, gave us an incredibly informative and detailed geological and cultural tour of the area. We were ecstatic and overwhelmed with his knowledge, and we clung on to every word and all of the questions that were becoming answered. He spoke of the volcanic remains, and the purpose of the ash in Pueblo pottery as well as the sad irony of these Pueblos in the modern world. Continuing on, he took us on detours to see the beauty of the architecture of the adobe homes and Shidoni, a recently closed sculpture studio and garden. Next, he drove us to Fort Marcy in order to show us the city from above, a bird's eye view. He continued our tour through the streets, pointing our new art installations, and finally, dropping us off near the city's center. We parted ways with the intention to see him again over the next two days, and he drove off, comically yelling out the window, " Dirty Hippies", as he smiled and waved. How lucky we were to receive what to us is the most appropriate and perfect hitch. Our minds were so satisfied with all this new knowledge of the area, and the land became even more alive. We were able to put reason and purpose with what we were observing like the importance of physiology to anatomy. From two dirty hippies to another, thank you so much for picking us up and making our hitch from Espanola to Santa Fe both significant and memorable.


We had arrived in  Santa Fe, a city brightened by culture and the heartbeat of people filling all of the spaces in between adobe styled buildings. Needless to say, we were overwhelmed. So we began to walk towards the Motel 6 to drop our packs and explore. As we walked down the street, we noticed a small fly shop, the High Desert Angler, and could not help for go inside. You can see where our priorities lay.


Once inside the shop, we were surrounded by familiar smells, sights, and the feeling of our own fly shop back in Nashville. We shared a wonderful conversation with Ed, who informed us about fishing in the area and life in the industry. If you ever find yourself in Santa Fe, you must check out High Desert Angler. There is just something so special about a local fly shop and the conversations that happen among the hackle and thread.

IMG_3881.JPG

With the day coming to a close and the sun beginning to set, we met up with The Boys and went to Del Charro Saloon for dinner.

We plan on spending the weekend in Santa Fe before getting back on trail and finishing up our time in New Mexico.

Cheers to riding in cars with strangers!

Garbelly & Critter

Day 37: 579.5 to 602

We woke up around 6:30 to the sound of snow hitting our tent. The temperature was low enough that every breath we had breathed throughout the night had accumulated in a thin icy frost on the ceiling of our tent. Getting ready, we took care to quickly change our clothes while inside our sleeping bags and swiftly put on our down jackets. Critter was so far burrowed inside her sleeping bag that after all of this process her face had yet to be seen. The sound of snow continued. It would be a tough morning to wake up.

IMG_2681.JPG

We finally prepared everything to the point of putting our socks and shoes on and then breaking down the tent. As we grabbed for our socks from the day before, they were solid as a rock and felt more like we were holding wool knives. We started laughing and began having a sword fight with our frozen socks. We decided that it would definitely be a new sock day. We finished packing up and set off down the trail with the snow continuing to fall on our faces.

IMG_2682.JPG

Walking down the trail we still encountered more fallen trees as we did the day before, but the forest began to open up into lush green meadows. Upon entering one particularly large meadow, we spotted a man in jeans, thick leather boots and an old external frame pack. He asked us where we were headed. Garbelly answered, "north of here," and Critter said quickly, "eventually Canada." He smiled and told us where he was from and that he was headed to the top where we had just came from. We warned him of the large icy marshes and few spots to camp, but he didn't seem to mind. Just as he was parting he let us know that, just over the hill, we would be able to see the San Juans.

We quickly climbed the aspen peppered hill and sure enough, there sat massive, completely white mountains. All of them were steep and sharp and not completely welcoming and others still hidden behind a curtain of falling snow. We were not scared of the what was to come, but we were excited to find out what the upcoming weeks had in store for us. We turned to each other wide eyed and on the same page that if this trip had not already been exciting, these mountains would be an adventure.

IMG_2676.JPG

Just a few minutes later we came up to the most powerful spring either of us had ever seen. It was shooting water six inches straight up into the air at a rate of a gallon per second and the flowing down the hill as an ice cold creek. We needed water desperately and this was gold from the mountain gods. Unfortunately it was already 10:30am and we had only done a mile and a half. With the old hiker saying "ten miles by 10am," I think we were right on track. We each drank a liter and packed up two liters for the day ahead.

Jeremy had camped just below this spring and when we looked to see if he was awake, there were no signs of life. Garbelly waited for a couple seconds and saw movement so we both continued onwards.

IMG_2674.JPG

Then, we booked it nonstop all the way to the highway. We did this with the help of warmer weather and listening to The Hidden Life of Trees. Past the highway we were faced with our only big climb of the day. We decided that climbing the entire 1,300 feet before eating lunch would be a good idea. As we climbed, the forest around us began to transfer into large bluffs with striped murals of grey, yellow, white and red in a descending order. We were somewhat unsure, but we assumed this was the result of countless lifetimes of volcanic ash and erosion. As we climbed up the mountain we were traversing displayed its age. The silty soil collapsed beneath our feet with each step until we returned to a piney canopy that covered the trail in a dense layer of needles. We sat down to eat our lunch and dry out our soaking wet rainfly and tent.

IMG_2665.JPG
IMG_3842.JPG

After a quick march across the top of this mountain, our day concluded with a steep descent into Ojitos Canyon. Here we crossed a muddy, sulphur scented stream a few dozen times and wound up in a beautiful sage brush meadow. Towering all around us, the beautiful multicolored mesas reflected their colors on the valley we were walking below. We felt like we were walking through a classic western film. A deep voice behind us greeting us with, "have you guys been running all day?" It was Jeremy. He had slept in until the sun hit his tarp around 11:30 am. We laughed at how late he had slept in and still caught us. We all three walked through the beautiful canyon, frequently stopping to take a few pictures. Even Jeremy, who had admitted to us that he had only taken six pictures since the Mexican border, stopped to capture the view.

IMG_2664.JPG
IMG_2663.JPG
IMG_2650.JPG

Just before we came to the Rio Chama we found a small cattle trough filled with crystal clear water. We quickly filtered while rain started to fall on our heads. Jeremy had enough water, so he headed across the river to find a spot to camp. A mile later we too were crossing skull bridge and the huge waters of the Chama. It was one of the largest tributaries of the Rio Grande and the largest river we had yet to see. The high waters spoke volumes of how much snow must be melting north near Colorado.

IMG_2659.JPG

As we ate our dinners, the sky lit up like fire before quickly fading to dark navy as the light drained from the land. 

Cheers to this symphony of light before the darkness of night.  

Garbelly & Critter  

Day 36: 560 to 579.5

 

Leaving the warmth of our cozy room at the Frontier Motel was tough. An exceptionally cold day was beginning, and once on trail we would spend most of it above 10,500 feet.

 

IMG_3820.JPG

As we walked the road to the Los Pinos trailhead, thick grey clouds drifted low wrapping up the mountains and hiding them from view. We walked a residential street quickly becoming aware of how many dogs lived in the area. They would bark as we passed by but most were fenced in. We arrived outside of one house and three beautiful farm dogs ran down the driveway and right at us. One dog in particular became quite fond of us and tried to follow us all the way to the trailhead. He played a pretty pitiful act when we told him to go home. Being dog people and missing our own dog, we have to admit it was borderline heartbreaking. Finally, a good two miles away from his home, the dog turned around leaving our company.

We continued on to the trailhead where we left dirt road and entered trail.

IMG_3783.JPG
IMG_3815.JPG

The trail was beautiful. Winding through large pines and aspen groves, we crossed flowing streams as we gradually climbed. Snow pack mounds started to pop up like large ant hills. The trail itself was beginning to disappear under several inches, then a few feet of snow. We stepped cautiously through the fresh snow following what was left of the dissolved shoe prints from the previous day.

IMG_3814.JPG
IMG_3793.JPG
IMG_3824.JPG

 Jeremey caught up to us during the climb, and we hiked with him to the top. As we climbed higher, more snow came into the picture, and with more snow came more water. Our warm, dry feet soon became cold, wet feet, and everyone went quiet, keeping our eyes to the trail and heads down. It was cold, really cold- the type of cold that hurts.

IMG_3807.JPG
IMG_3778.JPG

As excited as we were to make elevation, now we wanted to lose it.

IMG_3763.JPG
IMG_3792.JPG
IMG_3790.JPG

We wanted to hike faster but with numb fingers and brick-like toes we could only move so fast. We finally rounded a corner and began our descent. It was beginning to get late, and even though we were not dealing with as much snow, now the obstacle was a graveyard of fallen trees.

IMG_3830.JPG
IMG_3818.JPG

We fumbled our way down, trying to stay on trail as best we could, and we could see the sunset hitting the valley below.


A flat field was finally found, and without hesitation or discussion, we ran over to an appealing plot and set up camp. Finally, we had the warmth of our sleeping bags and a shield from the frigid air. 

IMG_3823.JPG

Cheers to warm hearts even when the toes grow cold.

 

Garbelly & Critter

Day 35: Zero Day in Cuba

IMG_2275.JPG

Today was not supposed to be a zero. We wanted to keep heading North since we are growing closer to Colorado. However, plans change. You have to be flexible.  

We woke up with the intention of hiking out of town, but Critter's migraine had other plans. After procrastinating as much as we could till check out time, she just could not manage to rally.  

Although frustrated, she finally admitted that she would be more productive staying the day rather than trying to push herself too much and hike out. A day of rest was helpful to both of us. We worked on the logistics for the trail ahead, responded to emails, and most importantly had a day of real rest. 

IMG_2277.JPG

Around dinner time, we finally left the cozy, darkness of our room at the Frontier Motel, and we headed to El Bruno's with Glimmer, Chris, and Yee-Haw. We looked forward to seeing them again as well as catching up. Always amazing company, we had an wonderful night sharing stories and just relaxing over some delicious food. 

Tomorrow we head out. We feel well rested and ready to journey onward.  

Cheers to knowing when to rest, even when you want to keep going, and cheers to wonderful company.  

Garbelly & Critter  

Day 34: 544 to 560 (Cuba)

IMG_2282.JPG

Waking up on the trail, we had 5 miles that stood in between us and a warm, town breakfast. Camp was packed up quickly, and we hit the road. Unfortunately, the road walk was not out of characteristic of other, longer road walks- it seemed to take forever to reach Cuba. However, upon arriving at the Cuban Cafe, our day was over and our nero had started. As we were finishing up breakfast, Thor, Cruise, and Scrapebook showed up and order their much anticipated breakfast. 

Ready to clean our clothes, shower, and sit our packs down, once we finished at the cafe, we headed about a mile up the street to check in at the Frontier Motel. We were greeted by Rosemary, and she took amazing care of us. We were allowed to check in early, and we even got one of the last rooms available.  

A beautifully, quaint 1950's motel highlighted by a retro sign out front, we wandered into room 3 to find not just a clean room but an incredibly cozy room. This was just what we needed. Thrilled and relieved we dropped our packs. Our stay at the Frontier was beyond a treat. If you ever find yourself passing through Cuba, NM, stay a night at the Frontier, you will not be disappointed. 

IMG_2153.JPG

For lunch, we had really exciting plans. Coming all the way up from Taos, Shawn, a part of our Cumberland Transit family in Nashville, came to spend the afternoon with us over some of the best Mexican food in New Mexico. He graciously picked us up from our room and drove us a whopping quarter of a mile to El Bruno's in the rain. 

Thunder Snow joined us at our table; there is always room at a hiker's table for more hikers. We all enjoyed delicious food and conversations that covered a range of topics.  

IMG_2150.JPG

It was such a pleasure to see the Colorado couple again, and it was amazing to see and spend time with Shawn. After Thunder Snow continued on their way up trail, we stayed seated at the table with Shawn long after the plates were removed and our cups emptied. One of our biggest privileges is our CT family. Not only the family back in Nashville but also the family that goes on loan to other parts of the country. We stick together, care about each other's adventures, lives, and seem to always find time to get together and reconnect. There is not quite anything like it, and for this family, we are so grateful. It was such a joy spending time you, Shawn, and we cannot thank you enough! We hope we see you on the river in Colorado! 

After lunch, we were dropped back off at the Frontier, and so began our errands and chores. Garbelly ran a mile down the road to wash clothes, while Critter worked on typing and other "work". 

IMG_2280.JPG

After our clothes were washed and our bodies cleaned, we headed back to El Bruno's for dinner and to try out New Mexico's best margarita. We were joined by Thor, Cruise, Scrapebook, and Ted while we enjoyed yet another delicious meal.  

Our time there was made even better by the friendliness of our waitress, Stephanie. She encouraged us to be safe on the trail and to enjoy every moment of this incredible experience. 

After closing down the restaurant, we headed back to our room and quickly fell asleep.  

IMG_2279.JPG

Cheers to these wonderful towns that have so much character and welcome us in with open arms.  

Garbelly & Critter  

Day 33: 519 to 544

IMG_2074.JPG

Our day began with somewhat of a predicament. We had a liter and a half of water each and we had to get fifteen miles to the next source. However, with an early start and small sips of water along the way, we figured it should be no problem at all. We would get to water before noon and have plenty of water for the hottest time of the day.  

After a few hours we had hiked up and down mesas and along the rim overlooking cow filled pastures below, still lingering in the early morning shadows. 

IMG_2001.JPG
IMG_2006.JPG

 As we began climbing a small hill, we were talking about a few of the lizards we had seen and the books we were reading. Out of nowhere a searing pain shot up and down Critter's left leg almost bringing her to the ground. We continued to hike, but each step let alone mile began to get tougher.

IMG_2028.JPG

 Even with dehydration, we could not help but admire the beautiful trail. We skated up and down billowing sandstone trail. Each mesa we walked on began to become more and more slanted until the angle resembled that of a popped car hood. Finally, we steeply dropped down to a canyon. Not just any canyon though, it was green and a stone homestead sat just below an ice cold spring seeping out from under a rock house.

IMG_2082.JPG

We both quickly dropped our packs to the sandy ground and filtered a liter. It was heavenly. A large steel drum had been cut in half to collect the spring water. It was overflowing with crystal clear water and in the runoff, hundreds of butterflies flew around lapping up the same water we could not stop drinking.

We sat on a sandy bank and ate our cheese and tortilla lunch. Another hiker walked up, who went by the name of Raven, and he, too, sat down enjoying lunch and the cool water. We talked to him about the upcoming snow and his previous travels before we said goodbye and headed down the trail. 

IMG_3656.JPG
IMG_3673.JPG
IMG_3648.JPG
IMG_2110.JPG

The trail continued to offer a beautifully done trail that took us through boulder fields and up steep ascents to reach the top of another mesa. The trail reminded us of the creativity of Tennessee trails such as ones found in the Big South Fork area. 

We started to be able to see the highway which in a day would take us into Cuba, and we began a descent that led us to a field with a windmill. We camped here on the edge of town. A town breakfast would be nice in the morning, and we were in the perfect position to achieve just that.  

Cheers to a section of beautifully done trail! 

Garbelly & Critter  

IMG_2053.JPG

 

 

Day 32: 497 to 519

IMG_3528.JPG

We hit 500 miles today, and honestly, we did not even noticed. Miles seem trifling when our goal is tremendous. 

 

Before we write about our day, let us first mention the morning. This morning we seemed to be in no rush. We called our moms to wish them a Happy Mother's Day and thank them for all that they have done for us, do for us, and for all of the unconditional support. While we ate our breakfast and made our phone calls, we enjoyed the view one last time. 

IMG_3746.JPG

Following the cliff line, the trail took us through Aspen fields of an old burn. The charred branches wove together forming intricate webs and against the sky, the patterns appeared permanently pressed into the deep blue.

IMG_3730.JPG
IMG_3726.JPG
IMG_3740.JPG

We began our descent down. Some parts were very steep, switching down hill. Other parts rolled over hills descending even lower on the opposite side. A pyramid shaped peaked stood before us and below it was a spring. We arrived at the spring, filled up, and had a small snack. A curious lizard, having just chowed down on a grub worm, ran right up to Critter filtering water. She offered her cap of water, but unsure about the offer, she ran over to Garbelly before running under a broken slab of stone.

IMG_3530.JPG

Once we had enough water to get us to our next source, or as much as we felt like carrying, we continued on our way. The water had a sulphuric after taste, so we added the last bits of our electrolyte drink mix to the bottles to mask the taste. 

 

Garbelly had a run in with some of the trail builders. Unfortunately, they have not been too friendly to us yet and rather skittish. Some went back to eating while we walked past, others stood there in what could only be dissatisfaction for causing them to move off of the trail. 

IMG_3748.JPG

We climbed down into a river canyon, but the river had been reduced to mud and silt. We climbed back out to follow a fence line towards towering cliffs and boulders.

Eastern Collared Lizard

Eastern Collared Lizard

This stretch of trail was fascinating and changed so many times throughout the day. First we were following a trail through a flat land surrounded by canyons, distant and close by. Then we were climbing up and down over rolling hills, before climbing up a fold in a cliff. There were so many layers to our surroundings, and there was no one in sight.

IMG_3742.JPG
IMG_3586.JPG

We ate lunch under a Juniper Tree sitting close to the trunk for shade. Looking down at where we had come from made us interested and curious in the miles to come, and the trail just got even better. 

IMG_3744.JPG

Walking on top of large sandstone boulders, we looked down at the shrinking trees and prairie as we climbed. The trail led us along intricate walls of rock and up and over as we climbed even higher into a world unknown to the dirt road below. 

IMG_3734.JPG
IMG_3738.JPG

We followed the trail into a valley where we walked along a barbed wire fence before beginning to climb again. Mesa after mesa, we walked relatively flat trail with short steep climbs and even steeper descents. The orange of the rock anchored into the vast sky through the green of the sage brush and Juniper trees that decorated the plateau. 

IMG_3733.JPG

Taken back by how beautifully simple the land was and the delicate detail that lay in the crevices and encompassed by the water worn grooves. 

IMG_3739.JPG
IMG_3741.JPG

Our day neared it's end as we began to descend down to a road. As we crossed the first dirt road when we came across a large black bull grazing in the middle of the trail. As soon as we saw him, he saw us and instead of moving out of the way, he took two steps squaring up with us. Picking his back hoof up and stomping it down, he stood there holding his ground as drool streamed from his mouth and nostrils. The angry bull always wins so we left the trail scrambling up a rock boulder to join the trail behind our new friend. Having lost interest in us, the bull began grazing again. We continued down the trail, frequently looking back over our shoulders just to make sure we were not being followed or charged. 

We crossed over paved highway to rejoin the trail on the other side. Off the trail a ways up, we came across a water cache left by the Trujillo family. We definitely needed water as our bottles were now bone dry. Thank you so much Trujillo family for helping out hikers! 

We felt good enough to get in another mile, to get away from the road, so we hiked another mile before looking for camp. That night we climbed on top of a hill, looking down at the trail. We had a perfect view of the sunset and another great camping spot.  

IMG_3727.JPG

Cheers to pushing yourself one more mile, because the trail provides.  

Garbelly & Critter  

IMG_3732.JPG

 

 

 

Day 31: 473 to 497

Today marks one month on the trail, and we have to say we are still so happy to be out here. We would not trade our trail lives for anything.

IMG_1776.JPG
IMG_2203.JPG

We woke up this morning with a goal in mind, eighteen miles to water by lunch time and then seven more to camp. To reach our first goal, we started walking a little bit after 7:00am, and we did not stop until we reached our lunch spot. We were walking more forest service roads that where laid out like ribbons through the prairie that we walked across. Mount Taylor stood with pride behind us, the snow catching the sunlight.

 

Road walking is tough on the feet and the mind, so around mile fifteen we considered stopping for lunch. However, we came up on a couple in front of us. They go by the name Thunder Snow, and immediately we started finding out how much in common we had. They were such a pleasure to talk and hike with that we felt out energy return, and we were suddenly motivated again to continue until the spring, which is where we initially planned on breaking.

 

IMG_1778.JPG

Arriving at the spring, we all sat our packs down and geared up for lunch. Today's menu included tortillas with avocado, cucumbers, cheese, and hummus.

Trail Tip: You CAN pack out fresh vegetables, hummus, and cheese. You just have to eat them within the first couple of days and be willing to carry the extra weight. Totally worth it.

 We snacked on peanut M&M's as a dessert, and continued our conversation with Thunder Snow and Jeremey, who was already at the spring when we arrived. Soon after, everyone headed out and up the trail to finish their days. We filtered some delicious spring water, and we, too, packed up and headed up the trail.

We hiked six more miles when we came upon an escarpment overlooking a gorgeous valley below. We could not pass up this camping spot, and satisfied with the day's mileage, we set up camp.

IMG_3489.JPG

 

IMG_2212.JPG

We enjoyed our dinner, stretching, and winding down on rocks near the edge of the cliff. The sun was setting to our left, but the real magic was the coloring of the valley in front of us.  As our eyes panned across the horizon, we saw beautiful silhouettes of Cerro Parido and Cerro Palon against a cool color background, which faded into the warm colors of the sunset. 

IMG_1774.JPG

What got us was the overwhelming peacefulness. Aside from the wind, there was quiet. We were even startled by the propelling *whosh whosh* of a raven's wings as it suddenly flew over our heads.

IMG_3510.JPG

 For now, this is our life. Some days seem long, others fly by, but overall, we are shocked that we are already a month into the trail. We try to live in the present as best as we can, but each moment still is fleeting. The best we can do is appreciate every bit of it along the way, and believe us we are so grateful.

IMG_3496.JPG

 Cheers to being surrounded by beauty. There is so much in this world, and cheers to the fellow venturers you meet along the way.

Garbelly & Critter

IMG_1770.JPG

Day 30: 436 to 454.5

IMG_3710.JPG

Tucked away in a dense grove of trees, our little orange home began to glow as the sunlight began to stream through the branches and the leaves. During the night, there was not threat of bears, because even they would not have been able to squeeze between the tree trunks. It was cold, but the excitement of what our day would bring us warmed us up enough to get out of our sleeping bags.

IMG_3443.JPG


After we packed up our bags, we headed up the trail to grab a few liters of water from a cow trough we had seen on the map. To our surprise, a few hundred yards before the trough, we ran into Jeremy who let us know about a snow melt stream just behind where he had camped. Next to the stream, an old pipe was shooting out ice cold water, so of course we filtered a couple liters from here instead and headed up the steep incline. A mile or so up the trail the pines turned to aspen meadows and the graded forest service road turned to lightly traveled single track trail. It was a very steep and mostly snow covered trail, but it was beautiful. After leaving the timberline and with every couple of steps, we turned to look behind us, the plateau above Grants sat thousands of feet below. 

IMG_3712.JPG
IMG_3448.JPG

The trail went straight up for about a mile, reached a false summit and wrapped around the north side. Here we found large mounds of snowpack and the trail still covered in the previous days fresh snow. Each step on this quickly melting snow would have us sliding back half a step. It was like walking in cold sand. We made progress but it was slow going.

IMG_3445.JPG
IMG_3719.JPG
IMG_3451.JPG
IMG_3707.JPG
IMG_3478.JPG

 Finally, just when we thought the mountain would never top out, we reached a barbed wire gate (must be for the alpine cattle). A few hundred yards after this gate we had finally come to the summit! Here we found a sign that read "Mt. Taylor Elevation 11,301," and not one, not two, but five other hikers at the top. It is true- other people do hike the CDT and we were pretty sure we had found all of them. 

IMG_3713.JPG

 The top of the mountain was very interesting. At the very peak, there was a four foot deep hole with a fifteen foot diameter. We all sat inside this pit to escape the wind and get a quick bite to eat.

IMG_3709.JPG

As we left the summit and headed down the north side, we were greeted by snow, more snow. 

IMG_3708.JPG
IMG_3480.JPG
IMG_3714.JPG

Just as we started to get the hang of this particular snow pack, Critter walked out on a large mound of snow. She paused for a few moments before heading down the steep decent. One step down the slope and her right leg slid waist deep into the snow and her left leg never broke the surface. We both began laughing uncontrollably. Garbelly heightening the situation by throwing a snowball while Critter was immobile. Still laughing, she pulled her leg out and we both continued down the mountain laughing the whole way. On trail, it is easy to get down about things or even mad at the trail conditions and weather. Sometimes the best medicine is to just laugh your way through the difficulties and find a positive in every situation. However, miles of this type of post holing may become less funny, but we will save that for Colorado. Good gear, strong willpower, and laughter can get you from Mexico to Canada. 

IMG_3718.JPG

 We got back on snowless trail heading down to a forest service road. We followed the road until blue blazed trees appeared in front of us diverging from the road. Following the blazes down a trail, we came to a fence housing American Spring. We filtered delicious tasting, cold water, while we enjoyed the solitude and peacefulness of the field housed in tall pines.  

IMG_3722.JPG
IMG_3725.JPG

As we left the field and the spring, Garbelly saw walking across a fallen tree laid over a part of the fence as the only way out, while Critter walked through an opening in the same fence laughing smugly at him. 

 

Tonight our home was beneath a few piñon pines and it overlooked a beautiful brown cow pond. We ate our dinners in a field with no shortage of cow patties, but that has yet to phase us. We take care not to let our food or skin touch any visible cow poop and that is about as sanitary as our eating area gets. We ate some hummus and tortillas for an appetizer and the usual mac and cheese and a Pasta Sides for dinner. We watched the sun set as dark clouds moved across the sky refracting vibrant pinks and purples. Our faces illuminated by the beautiful light, we reflected on our day as the sun set over the murkiness of the pond. 

IMG_3715.JPG

Cheers to embracing the dirt and the grime because they come along with the beauty.  

Garbelly & Critter  

Day 29: 421 (Grants) to 436

IMG_3694.JPG
IMG_3688.JPG

The day got off to a bit of a late start, like 2:00pm late. After running to Denny's for breakfast, then the post office and the public library, we were back on trail heading away from Grants. The first five miles were road, but before we knew it we had arrived at the trailhead. The most beautiful, rusty metal stile marked the beginning of the trail with the CDT logo cut out of it. 

IMG_3691.JPG
IMG_3700.JPG
IMG_3689.JPG

Behind the stile stretched trail, and a well maintained trail at that! We began our climb up to the first ridge. Everything that surrounded us was breathtaking, no matter which way you looked. We had Mt. Taylor behind us to our left, an old mine on the face of a cliff behind us to our right, and beautiful trail before us. The trail took us up gradually winding us around an overlook of Grants below us and El Malpais and Cibola in the distance. 

IMG_3701.JPG
IMG_3692.JPG

The trail was so exciting and kept changing as it took us up on to ridges then through fields then through juniper and pine forests. Each time Mt. Taylor would come into frame as we got closer and closer. We would not see the peak for a couple of miles then all of a sudden through the trees there she was.  

IMG_3687.JPG

We set up camp as the sun was setting, and we ate dinner as nighttime fell. A later night than we would have liked, but the closer we are to the summit the better.  

IMG_3695.JPG

 Cheers to the climb! 

Garbelly & Critter

Day 28: Zero Day in Grants

IMG_3682.JPG

We got to town just in time for a storm front to move in to the area, and with the summit of Mt. Taylor coming up in the next 20 miles, we figured it was best to wait for a day with better weather. Heavy winds, hail, and rain at 6436 feet, we knew what that meant was happening at 11,307 feet. We had been able to see the South side of Mt. Taylor on our hike into town, but with the thick clouds, we could no longer see what awaited us. A perfect day for a zero. Unfortunately, we still woke up ready to go at 5:30am.  Instead of rushing to hit the road, we stayed in bed. At breakfast down in the lobby, we ran into Chris and Glimmer, who had just arrived to town. Hikers started appearing all around the area, and like us, everyone seemed to be in no rush to leave. We called the Carrot Express, a local public transportation service, and got a ride to the nearest coffee shop costing fifty cents each. The Perk Ranger Coffee House was just what we needed and a hot cup of the Piñon blend. 

As we sat there enjoying our coffee and the company of Thor, Cruise, and Scrapebook, the owner's husband came in for lunch. Dressed in ranger attire, US Park Ranger Ryan serves as a ranger for El Malpais, and before moving to Grants, he was stationed in Death Valley.  

He informed us that the Zuni-Acoma trail that we had hiked was almost totally original trail that the Native Americans had used as a trade route. We had walked a trail that had been present for thousands of years and the original cairns and bridges across the deep fissures of lava field. We sat amazed thinking about this. While we complained about a few miles of walking on lava, people in yuca sandals walked this path as a part of their lives. We continued to talk about the extensive system of lava tubes in the area and the rich mining history. He mentioned that the Malpais has some of the largest and most extensive lava tube cave systems in the United States including the longest tube and an ice cave. In these tubes archeologists have found numerous artifacts from the people that lived in this area. As far as mining in the area goes, everything from copper to uranium to pumice was mined in this area. Most of which are shut down now due to lack of demand and health problems caused from mining.

Although our conversation was brief, US Park Ranger Ryan's passion about the area was apparent. 

IMG_3684.JPG

It was time to head back to the hotel, so you bet we called up the Carrot Express again for a ride! This time when the five of us loaded up on the bus we were greeted by Charlie and Hannah. A bus full of hikers! We all rode back to the hotel area, before we headed to the Asian Buffet for lunch. At the buffet, eight of us sat around two tables that became packed with plates of food. Critter was able to find some vegetarian noodles, French fries, and cantaloupe. Although, her second plate consisted entirely of cantaloupe. Garbelly had no problem finding something he could eat. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel room for a nap and to soak our feet. However, the El Malpais Vistor Center seemed very intriguing from what we had read, and with the worst part of the storm approaching we figured we could make it there and back in time. A mile away stood the visitors center, with mountains in the background and small trails winding through the land between the visitor center and the distant mountains. The building was huge, and we were delighted to find so much information about the area and even a museum inside. We grabbed some postcards, National Park Animal Crackers, and an Audubon Field Guide for the Southwest. Now all the plants and animals that we had questions about were just a couple of pages away. It is definitely worth the little bit extra weight. We even had the chance to speak with an Americorp intern from Illinois, who studied geology before moving to the area. She helped answer questions about the lava flows and other elements of the area. They were fixing to close up, so we started out the door to head back to the hotel. Since our arrival to the visitor center, huge clouds had moved in and we could see rain falling not too far away. Naturally, we chose to run back to the safety of the hotel. Just as we made it under the awning, hail started to bounce off the ground. 

IMG_3681.JPG

We headed back up to our room to order another pizza and pack for our departure the following day. 

Cheers! 

Garbelly & Critter

Day 27: 404 to 421 (Grants)

IMG_3411.JPG
IMG_3412.JPG
IMG_3407.JPG

Town Day had arrived! When we woke up, we were ready to get the seventeen miles into town out of the way. The wind was picking up and ominous thunderheads were rolling over the edges of Cibola Canyon. We were walking road but the canyon walls surrounded us extending high into the sky. Colored by an array of earth tones, strong shadows and sharp lines, the walls lead us along a winding road.

IMG_3409.JPG

After leaving the National Forest, we were walking among a residential street. We walked Route 66 into Grants stopping at El Cafecito for lunch. Next we checked into the Travelodge, dropped our bags, started our laundry, and showered. The goal was not to move for the rest of the night so we ordered pizza and watched two episodes of the X-Files and then fell asleep. Due to weather moving in and the lack of visibility of Mt. Taylor, tomorrow would be a rest day.

IMG_3410.JPG

Cheers to a king-sized bed and shelter from the wind. 

Garbelly & Critter

Day 26: 382 to 404

Waking up in a natural bowl on top of a ridge was very nice. There was no frigid wind to keep us in our sleeping bags and we got an early morning sun to warm us up. Thor and Cruise Control headed out towards La Ventanna Arch and we were close behind.

IMG_1284.JPG
IMG_1277.JPG

We walked along the Narrows Rim Trail. It followed the edge of a Zuni sandstone bluff that towered over the vast lava fields spanning far into the distance. We read that the bluffs were created long ago when massive sand dunes were covered by thick sediment. The weight of this sediment was so heavy that it transformed the dunes into rock. After about three miles of walking, we rounded a corner and were able to see both Mt. Taylor (New Mexico's largest Peak) and La Ventana arch (New Mexico's largest natural arch).

IMG_1275.JPG

After we stood for a few minutes and admired the view, we decided to keep making distance to the next water before it got too hot. The Narrows Rim trail is actually an out and back that ends at this vista point. We had two options. We could either follow a steep mountain goat path down to the road or do an extra ten miles of backtracking to avoid a dangerous hike. If you can find a thru hiker that would walk five miles in the wrong direction just to walk another five miles on the highway just to avoid scrambling down a bluff, have them email us so we can talk some sense into them. We consulted the maps again before heading down and sure enough there was a dotted line signifying the lack of trail in this area.

IMG_3255.JPG
IMG_1269.JPG

We started down the mountain carefully watching our footing with each placement. Rocks continued to slide out from under us and roll quickly towards the bottom coming to rest against scrub brush and small trees. We zigged and zagged, creating our own switchbacks to control our descent. Finally we made it down in one piece. We had arrived to a meadow just below La Ventana and placed our feet again on a smooth concrete path. The arch was astonishing. According to a kiosk, the arch began forming 140 million years ago during the Jurassic Period when the earths growing pains created cracks that allowed water to pass through. Over the years, the water caused the rock to fall away leaving only the giant arch.

IMG_3399.JPG
IMG_3394.JPG

We began walking the road again. In the middle of a field, a giant sandstone monolith stood alone. The profile of this stone was that of a woman. Locals believe that she stands in the desert watching over the land and its inhabitants. Shortly after, we came to a pullout on the side of the road that marked the start of the Zuni-Acoma Trail. At this roundabout a Grants trail angel, Carole Mumm, had cached water here for hikers. We took a liter for the next nine miles of lava field trails and began our volcanic journey.

IMG_1381.JPG
IMG_1388.JPG

At first, the lava was such a change of scenery that it was fun and exciting. Following only cairns, we climbed up and down a roller coaster of volcanic flow. Large plates of Pahoehoe, a term that describes sheets of smooth billowy lava, extended as far as we could see. As we walked up to the crest of one of these plates, a deep fissure would span in between the two sheets and we would leap over.

IMG_1397.JPG

IMG_1396.JPG

After a few miles, our shoes finally began showing small signs of the wear and tear from the razor sharp rocks and our ankles began to ache from the ever changing footpath. The rock we were walking on radiated the heat from the sun just as asphalt in the city does in the summertime. We ate a quick lunch and quickly went back to hiking to try and get across the black rock as quickly as we could. We passed the entrance to lava tube caves and walked over sinkholes and the collapsed rock of caves that once were.

IMG_3391.JPG
IMG_1379.JPG

The type of lava rock changed as we walked, seemingly signifying different eruptions. Some flows we definitely liked more than others. One In particular was made solely of baseball sized lava bombs, imperfectly shaped rocks formed from being shot from a volcano and cooling midair. This was not our favorite part.

As we came to the end of this trail and approached the highway, we had two options. We could either hitch seven miles to a visitor center and fill up from a spigot and then hitch (walk) back to trail, or we could risk it and walk six miles to an electric pump that may or may not be working. Collectively we had a half liter of water, but we believed in the trail and that we would find water along the way. Sure enough, three prairie dog hole filled miles later we came upon a beautiful windmill pumping out clear pristine water. Two other hikers, Hannah and Charlie from Lake Tahoe were here filling up as well. It would be a dry march into town the next day and we would be dry camping, so we all four filled up with five liters of water.

The temperature suddenly dropped twenty degrees as the sun hid behind dark clouds. In the distance we could see Virga clouds and their evaporating streamers of rain quickly heading our way. So we booked it three miles to camp. It seemed as if we made it in ten minutes. We had perfect timing. Just as we were staking down our rainfly, huge droplets of rain starting rattling the tent. We did not mind one bit at this point. We had hiked a beautiful day and would be filling our bellies with food from town in the morning. We fell asleep with these thoughts and did not wake up for a single, powerful gust of wind through the night. What a day.

Cheers to new frontiers!

Garbelly & Critter