CDT Day 34 (NM – Cuba to Ghost Ranch)

Valley of Shining Stone

  • CDT Miles: 668.7-674.5 (5.8)
  • Ghost Ranch Alt. Miles: 0.0-10.9
  • Total Hiked: 593.5
  • Elevation Range: 6,320-8,000

Another early start at 5:40am. Last night I realized there was an actual trail where I was at as opposed to dirt road. I actually camped between it and the road. They were running parallel for a bit, but very soon the trail turned away and started going down. I passed a sign telling me I’d entered into the Chama River Canyon Wilderness.

The way down was pretty.

Once down, the way ahead down the valley floor was even prettier. It started out in this narrow canyon running parallel to a small creek, crossing over several times. Then, things opened up.

The colors of the canyon walls were quite stunning. Tan, yellow, pink, red, grey, purple even. It was something else. A friend of mine used to live and work at Ghost Ranch (my next resupply stop) and told me this whole valley leading to it is translated as the valley of shining stone. Easy to see why.

Before reaching the junction where the Ghost Ranch alternate cuts off from the CDT red line, I filled up water at this source. It may not look great, but pretty sure this is an artesian well that’s just pumping water freely. Maybe there was some source to power it, but I didn’t see it.

Two hikers, Whistler and Finder, caught up to me here and passed by after quickly getting water themselves. Last I saw them was when we met way back at Doc Campbell’s. I followed behind as we all reached Rio Chama…

I took the green line alternate towards Ghost Ranch where I planned to resupply. It was about 11 miles to get there, which started out walking along the beautiful river.

I went a few miles and had breakfast overlooking the river. Even saw a raft go by as I was sitting.

I don’t eat a lot of trail mix out here. I mean that’s a staple when hiking right? The thing is, most varieties have nuts. Having a tree nut allergy, that limits me. But, I can always count on the classic Kars mix straight out of Detroit, Michigan. They include peanuts, but no others. I added a little CT Crunch to this, which turned out to be quite the delicious treat.

Walking the dirt road continued after breaky. In the morning stretch, I seemed to handle my big day yesterday ok, but going forward the back of my legs started feeling tight… The lower almost outside part of my calf. It wasn’t all that bad to stop me, but something I noticed for sure.

Anyway, here’s some more shots of the river/road walk. Looking back where I’d come from…

And ahead…

The road went away from the river after this, angling to the northeast. I made it out of the Santa Fe National Forest! This was my goal having heard the forest may close tomorrow.

And then, I followed the map taking the route off the road. There wasn’t really trail at first, but I found it eventually. And then, I hiked up to a rise with views all around. Sadly, more fire smoke plumes off in the distance too…

I took these next two photos of the cliff to try and show the difference with my sunglasses on vs not (just put my sunglasses right over the camera). Not sure how accurate a representation it is, but gives you an idea how much the shades change things…

Found a new flower today too. And experimented with a slow motion video of some tiny bees…

The trail was a little tricky to follow getting into Ghost Ranch. Our app seemed wonky and there were some no trespassing signs blocking the way. Eventually, I ended up on a trail that seemed like an old nature trail of sorts with various plaques and posts where at some time in history there were points of interest described. It led right into Ghost Ranch.

I think I arrived to the Welcome Center around 1:30pm and was greeted by Checklist waving me over to an outside table. After setting down my pack, I joined her and two new hikers, Vicky and Matt. These two were getting off trail sadly because Vicky’s back was acting up in a serious way. I enjoyed chatting.

After the whole forest closure news, my new plan was to get into Ghost Ranch, get my resupply package, and move on. When I arrived and sat down though, it took me all of five minutes to decide that I was going to spend the night here and camp. My legs had gotten worse, almost as if they’d sensed there was an opportunity to rest. And so, listen to my body I must. I went inside and paid for camping and dinner and breakfast in the dining hall.

I don’t really know how to describe what Ghost Ranch is, but on a sign I think they say they are a “education and retreat” center. The place also has a connection to the famous artist, Georgia O’Keeffe. And, they have museums of anthropology and paleontology for the local area. Pretty unique place and I certainly enjoyed my stay!

A lot of movies have been filmed here and they had movie posters up for such films. The one I knew best is a bit of a family classic, or at least a Dave H and me classic…

The campground was a little ways from the main part of the ranch, but I liked it.

After laundry and showering, I headed up to dinner early.

There were a few other hikers around (Whistler, Finder, Tinman who started my same day, Com and Checklist, Mud, Vicky and Matt) but I ended up eating with a guy I met visiting the ranch named Randy. A few others joined and it was good conversation and the spaghetti and meatballs and salad were a hikers delight.

Tinker, a hiker I’d met earlier in the day joined us and told an epic tale of his attempt at hiking out today. At first, I didn’t realize he actually left and came back, and thought he was joking about how nobody can leave this place because it’s so nice. Turns out, he wasn’t sure where he went wrong, but ended up scrambling up a steep section, falling down, and at some point going knee deep in seemingly endless mud. This would be a thing a lot of us hikers would try and figure out and only when I consulted with Cheer (who had a similar story hiking out last year) did I find out there was a point where the trail cuts up a side canyon. If you keep going up the box canyon, you get to the sketchyness and mud pit.

Also at dinner, word got around to staff that a 78-year old man had called in for a rescue. He was on one of the ranch’s trails and hit his head, is the story we were told. The only reason I knew of this is that a staff member asked if anyone was wilderness first responder trained, which I was for the Utah Conservation Corps. And so, me and Henry (staff guy) were going to meet up with some others and hike out to try and find the guy. Thankfully, as we started off, the radio called that he had made it down and the ambulance folks were with him… sounded like he wasn’t going to need to leave with them either, so great news on that front.

After all that, I enjoyed sitting in the adirondack chairs overlooking the lawn and sunset and uploading photos. A few deer crusied by on the opposite side of the field.

Eventually, I moved to the 24-hour library where there was good WiFi for doing blog stuff. There were several Georgia O’Keeffe books and the giant one I paged through displayed some of her artwork. I don’t really know much about her work at all, but I liked this one the best because it was so clearly inspired by this area!

I ended up staying there past dark and only when starting my walk back did I realize that I forgot my headlight and my phone’s battery was dying. I got turned around at one point, but found my tent eventually! A lovely day hiking and hanging here at Ghost Ranch.

Album of the Day

“Stairsteps” – The Five Stairsteps

One thought on “CDT Day 34 (NM – Cuba to Ghost Ranch)

  1. Sherry Hoekwater

    I like your experiment with the sunglasses! Quite a difference. 😎
    Ghost Ranch sounds like an interesting place.


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