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Cuba to Ghost Ranch – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Cuba to Ghost Ranch Overview

After leaving Cuba, the trail heads up a dirt road into the San Pedro Parks Wilderness. This is the first time you really feel like you’re getting close to Colorado, with alpine meadows and “parks”. However, it’s short lived. Before long it’s back down into the desert again. Here, the trail crosses the Rio Chama and approaches Ghost Ranch. Most CDT hikers take the Ghost Ranch alternate route, but you can skip it by staying high on a mesa above this area. Ghost Ranch offers some beautiful scenery and is a great way to end your desert experience in New Mexico.

Thursday May 24th – CDT Day 34

Packed up and ready to hit the trail. Rebels roost has a scale on the front porch for weighing backpacks, and mine weighed in at 22lbs without food and water. 38lbs with food and 3L of water.

I stopped at Priscillianos again for breakfast. I was stuffed, and ready for the big climb up to San Pedro Parks. Started hiking around 9:30am.

The first few miles are along Los Pinos Rd. After passing all the homes, the pavement ends and becomes a dirt road. Steady climb all morning to the Los Pinos trailhead.

The landscape was a lot greener here than anywhere else in New Mexico so far. The was actual soil, not sand, providing a more “Colorado look” to it. Pine tree forests, a small creek and green grass. A pleasant change!

The trail climbs 2000ft in 3 miles. Not super steep, and the hike up wasn’t as bad as I anticipated.

After the big climb for the day, the landscape turns into rolling hills, open grassy meadows and pine forests. These are the San Pedro “parks”. Nice hiking through here. I saw my first patches of snow on the CDT here, albeit very small.

I noticed a lot of interesting rocks in this area. Not sure what they are, but some red, yellow /orange and amber colored stones that I haven’t seen before. Snagged a couple to take with.

The San Pedro peaks were marked on my map at 10, 600ft which is the high point of this wilderness area. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a big view from the “summit”, just a little higher than the surrounding meadows and trees.

North of the high point, the trail is riddled with downed trees. Still, I made good time through here.

I found camp along the trail in a small meadow. It was around 7:30 now, pretty early to be camping for me, lately. While settling up my tent, about 5 elk came crashing through the forest and through the edge of the field. Shortly after, a hiker named Charlie passed through, trying to get in a few more miles tonight.

Back to the desert later tomorrow. Once last stretch of desert to ghost ranch, then it’s mountains for a while.

Miles – 23
Total Miles – 612.6
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – elk

Friday May 25th – CDT Day 35

Heard some elk (assuming) again walking around near the edge of the meadow in the middle of the night. Around 6:30am, a couple of cows wandered into the meadow, and began to graze about 30ft from my tent.

Not long after leaving camp, I had to crap. Normally I wouldn’t write about this, but this is funny. I couldn’t find soft ground to dig a hole, then noticed a soft patch of dirt around an old tree stump. A ton of Ants started stirring as I dug my hole, apparently tight into the middle of an ant hill. Well, I gotta go now so, here’s a gift for the queen! Haha.

The trail continues downhill for a while. Occasional breaks in the trees provide decent views. I saw a couple of deer in the woods, first deer in quite a while.

I stopped at a small stream to filter water. Backflushed my water filter for only the second time since I started the CDT, and wow, what a difference. Filtering speed increased massively.

The next section of trail was an easy walk through some open pine forests. Not much to see really. I did spot another couple of deer as the landscape began to transition back to desert rather than the high alpine forests of the day prior.

After crossing hwy 96, views of mesa Alta were quick to impress. The steep rock faces were an array of colors unlike anything I’d seen on trail yet.

It was about a 1000ft climb up the top of the mesa. I knocked out a good portion of it before stopping for first lunch. Two guys passed going southbound, hiking a section of the CDT from hope wells to Cuba. I got to thinking, other than the Gila, I don’t think I’ve seen any other hikers yet who weren’t thru hiking the CDT or a section of it.

After lunch, I resumed my l climb. It was much harder after the break and really dragged on. In all fairness, it was much steeper here and it was getting really hot. Still, I was disappointed in my slow pace.

Once on top of the mesa, I hiked over to Fuentes spring. Good water here conning from a pipe feeding a trough. Then, it was another steep climb over a ridge.

Now it’s mostly downhill for the rest of the day. The trail dumps into a dirt road which I followed for a while. Then a trail splits of the road and heads downhill again, through the Rio Chama wilderness.

Lots of switchbacks heading down into canada gurule. Apparently canada means canyon in Spanish. It has that squiggly line over the n which I don’t know how to type, never had to haha. Once I reached the creek, I stopped for second lunch.

Awesome hike through canada gurule. Small stream, but very lush and scenic little canyon. Lots of great camping along the stream, but like always, I’m not ready to camp when I find a good campsite.

When the canyon opens up, there’s incredible views of colorful cliffs everywhere in the distance. I can tell this is going to be a special place. Just a few more miles to the Rio Chama.

Once at the bridge over the Rio Chama, I was immediately grateful for it. This was a serious river, not something a sane person would get in and Ford. First such river along the CDT.

Now it’s a road walk to ghost ranch. However it’s a very scenic road walk along the Rio chama, and it’s beautiful. The setting sun illuminated the river valley with a magical feel. I was not expecting this area to be as impressive at it was!

I turned the corner on the road and came across Sally and Linda at the entrance to a camping area. This was a drive in camping area, but not a designated pay campground. They asked if I was hiking the CDT, and when I said yes they offered to let me camp with them for the night. Sounds good, I’m tired!

I set up my tent among about 12 others in the area and joined their large group (20+). They were very welcoming and generous, offering water, beer and food. I happily accepted a couple of gourmet burgers, stuffed with green Chile. Yum!

Sally gave me a root that keeps snakes away, I forget the name. I couldn’t help but laugh when she said it also attracts bears!

No campfire due to the stage II fire restrictions, but a good night nonetheless. They had been camping here for many years, and will be rafting down to river tomorrow. 

Miles – 25.6
Total Miles – 638.2
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Saturday May 26th – CDT Day 36

Knowing today was a short day, I didn’t rush in the morning. I seldom do. Never was a morning person, probably never will be. It was overcast, and would be all day long.

Nobody I recognized from the night before was up and about in camp, so I left without saying goodbye. Later while road walking, Sally and Linda drove by and I could thank them again for the hospitality.

The road walk along the Rio Chama was very scenic. Sucks it was a road though, with lots of memorial day weekend traffic.

After a few miles, the road veers away from the river, but still excellent scenery. I found several interesting stones along the way. My rock collection is growing! I’m a dork, I know. Gotta do something while staring at the ground all day.

I missed a turn and had a slightly longer road walk along hwy 84, a fairly busy paved highway. No biggie. I then came across the turn for ghost ranch, which goes through an abandoned building on the guthook app. Something like a conservation center and nature walk. Hmm, abandoned building, just like back home in Detroit. I think I’ll take lunch here. Also, had 4G LTE.

After leaving conservation center thing, it’s a crawl under a barbed wire fence then following a footpath into the desert. The steep and colorful mesas provide a stunning backdrop. Later this footpath merges with the actual CDT alternate that apparently was just a couple hundred feet beyond the abandoned building. Ah well, cool lunch spot anyways.

The trail is kinda hard to follow through this section. I ended up just hiking cross country here for a while. I could see a bunch of buildings of in the distance so I just headed that way. Eventually the network of dirt roads led to the ghost ranch welcome center. Out on front on the porch was about 8 other hikers I recognized and a few more I didn’t.

I paid for a tent site, and tickets dinner & breakfast. Then I grabbed an ice cream cookie and a powerade from the snack shop, and returned to tung porch. Many of the hikers started clearing out. A haze could be seen building in the distance. I could later smell it, the distinct smell of forest fire smoke.

I set up my tent, showered and did half my laundry. Should have just done it all then but was rushing to get to dinner. It’s cafeteria style, and I heard they ran out of food last night!

As it turns out, the dining hall was dead this evening. I believe there was a wedding last night. I ate with a couple hikers outside. Very peaceful here.

I picked up my resupply box from the welcome center after dinner. Alright, new shoes! And of course, a bunch of food. I spent the rest of the evening on the porch of the welcome center, charging batteries, packaging my food, etc. The forest fire smoke from earlier had passed. The way the sunset illuminates the mesa behind the welcome center is just amazing.

After finishing my laundry, I headed to my tent. It was dark but wasn’t quiet hours yet, and some guy in a nearby campsite was taking advantage by beating a drum. Very amaturely I might add, and luckily he wasn’t at it too long.

Miles – 12.2
Total Miles – 650.4
Rain – no
Sleep – Frontcountry , tent
Animals – none

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