Heidenreich & Gass: CDT Thru-Hikers

Trail Dispatch: Week 6

June 1, 2000—Day 36—Chama, New Mexico —We just reached Chama, New Mexico, having walked many miles from Cuba. It has been a most interesting and trying stretch.

After finally leaving the clutches of the lovely Circle A Ranch in Cuba we made our way into the Santa Fe National Forest. It was such a pleasant surprise to find streams, thick forests, columbine, and grassy subalpine meadows. There was trail, however sporadically marked and lightly worn the tread. We were excited to be off jeep roads for a while. It rained our first two nights out; consequently we found we could not complain too much about the extra weight of our new tent on our backs.

We then headed into Ghost Ranch, where Georgia O'Keefe lived and painted for some time. The colors of the mesas and canyons were fanatastic around there—stripes of reds, oranges, yellows, and creamy whites. Out of Ghost Ranch we entered the Carson National Forest. From there until Chama we did a lot of bushwacking and navigating. The fact that we made it through at all is surprising, given that we only had a forest sevice map with no topography. We're not sure whether to be embarassed about how unprepared we were or feel proud about getting to our destination using such a poor map.

Regardless, there are worse places to get lost. We travelled through aspen and spruce stands, fields of wild iris, grassy meadows, and saw plenty of elk and deer.

On our second or third day in the Carson we saw smoke from a forest fire just to the east of us. We later learned it had been started by a carelessly built campfire which had gone on to burn anywhere from 9 to 45 acres (depending on who you talked to). Once we finally crossed the border into Colorado and left the Carson we found out that the forest had been closed due to extreme fire danger and that there was another fire that had already burned a few thousand acres. In some places it seems hard to believe there is a drought because of what seems an abundance of surface water compared to southern New Mexico. Yet in other spots it is evident how dry the forest floor is, and how the density of dead and downed wood would go up in flames in an instant.

We are excited to have reached Colorado, though we are anticipating lingering snow, steep mountains, and thin air.


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