CDT Day 32: CDT Mile 679.4 – 695.9 + Ghost Ranch Alternative Mile 13.5 ( 20 miles – 32 km)

Saturday May 18, 2019

The birds were chirping at the moon as we left our campsite this morning. They were extra chirpy. How can we not be? The beautiful clear blue of the predawn sky was illuminated by the almost full moon. We’ve been on trail now for a full month. The last full moon we saw was in the southern desert just before Lordsburgh.

An hour after leaving our campsite we descended down to a small creek at the top of Chama River canyon. Hammer stopped to filter some water, which is always a painfully slow process. It was made more so this morning as we couldn’t do anything else at the same time. The canyon walls were fairly close and it was freezing cold standing around.

Filtering done it was time to move to warm up. It was so cold my teeth hurt. We crossed the creek a few times and the canyon started to open up a little letting in more light. Soon it opened up into a huge canyon with beautiful multicolored walls. It was pretty stunning, especially set against the crispy blue sky. As we progressed through it just got even more beautiful as viewing angles changed.

Healthy green sagebrush carpeted the canyon floor. Even though we were in Chama Canyon, the Chama River was a bit further downstream. It was hard to see what river might have carved such a huge canyon. Its hard to believe that the small, shallow creek we crossed earlier in the morning could ever have responsible for shaping this landscape. The creek flows into the Rio Chama and at some stage it must have been a much bigger waterway.

A few miles further we crossed the mighty Rio Chama which flows into the Rio Grande. The river was muddy coloured and was moving fast.

From the river crossing we took the Ghost Ranch Alternative to the CDT. We walked along a dirt road which follows the river downstream. It was quite pleasant to wind our way along the river for about 4 miles, passing a couple of campgrounds. I have to admit to feeling a little envious of the people who were car or caravan camping at this beautiful location. The canyon walls along the Rio Chama were just as majestic as the earlier canyon we walked through. It was just a much wider canyon.

By lunchtime we made it to Ghost Ranch. A location I knew about because of its association with Georgia O’Keeffe. She lived and painted at the ranch and the local landscapes were the subject of many of her paintings. The setting for the Ranch is absolutely amazing. A backdrop of huge eroded canyon walls and a long view out towards an emerald green valley. We picked up our resupply package from the Welcome Centre and spent the afternoon catching up with other hikers and also on news from the outside world.

A bit depressing or maybe shocking news from home took a bit of shine off from the afternoon. Australia has just held a federal election. I wished that Hammer had not looked up the results. The conversation with other hikers was all about plans for Colorado which is still covered in mountains of snow and more on the way. By this stage most hikers plans are sort of fixed. We just want to get this last section of New Mexico done. We decided not to stay for dinner at the ranch and headed out just after 5pm.

About 3 miles along we found a great campsite above the valley with views back towards the ranch.