Trip Report CDT: New Mexico pt3

Desert to Alpine

The crew wake early as we head for the Mount Taylor summit. Dallas gets ahead of me and ends up running into a black bear on the ascent. At the top the views are awesome in the morning light and it feels great to be at elevation. There are patches of snow on the north side of the mountain still, not a good sign.

Mount Taylor summit view Mount Taylor summit view Mount Taylor summit selfie of hikers
Dallas, Sporks, Lights Out, Me(Lucky Hat), Natty

The rest of the day in comparison is uneventful. I catch up to and pass Ping at some point.

Desert view

The first water source for the day is off trail down a canyon. Thankfully a full well is waiting for us at the bottom as Dallas and I reach it before the rest of the group. We wait a little for others to catch up but get antsy and blast off.

Desert view

The scenery is typical for New Mexico and it brings us down into a desert plain. There are punchy climbs up and down up beautiful mesas while rain clouds chase me all day. The end of the day ends with a huge water cache which we all camp at.

Desert view Clouds over desert

Similar to the day before the climbs up and over mesas continue. The clouds linger around midday and catch Natty, Dallas and I while we are collecting water. We spend half an hour hiding under a desert bush while Sporks catches us and we meet a SOBO section hiker, Big Steppa. He warns us of snow and mud on the way to Chama. We end up finding Ping again in the evening as we had been playing trail tag with him over the last few days. The group camps 5mi(8km) south of the town of Cuba.

Ping leaves before everyone as usual as, Natty and I trail behind and head for the McDonald's in town. There is a local legend by the name of Wilson that works there that we meet. He is a chatty man who is super interested in meeting all the thruhikers that come into town.

I buy a blueberry pie from a Mennonite and then the crew books a hotel together. We meet another section hiker, Einstein, while resupplying. Lunch is had at a delicious Mexican kitchen hidden in the nearby gas station. We plan on going back there for dinner but are blessed to find a Korean food truck right outside the hotel as we head out. I have a bulgogi dish and it's heavenly.

Thruhikers in motel room
Me(Lucky Hat), Natty, Dallas, Lights Out, Gaiter, Sporks
Korean food

We all wake early to catch breakfast at the gas station. I meet a hiker I'd been trailing on the Florida Trail via logbooks but never caught, Durden. A short walk out of Cuba leads us straight up into lush mountains. The environment changes quickly over a few miles and it feels like we are already in Colorado. At the top while taking a break with Dallas we get a brief half minute of snow dusting!

Desert view from mesa

The trail is indeed muddy and flooded out like Big Steppa mentioned. We are still able to make good progress and get some afternoon hail. Dallas and I do about 25mi(40km) to arrive at a good campsite and wait for the rest of the group to catch up. I build a fire ring and we spend the evening around the hearth as the temperature dips.

The morning is a descent from the mountains back into the shock of the New Mexican desert. It gets drier and drier into a canyon with amazing colourful walls. I reach the Rio Chama around midday and take a long break with Dallas in some shade. Heading out we climb straight up a massive mesa and get to look back over the trail we just came from. As the sun sets I continue walking along the mesa ridge soaking in the views and try to keep up with Dallas. He blasts off as I set up camp alone for the first time in a while.

Desert view from mesa

Hoping to catch Dallas I hike hard all day. The trail feels like all day climbing and it brings me back into the mountains. I pass huge open spaces between rounded peaks with groups of cows grazing in the distance. I catch Pizza Boy who is waiting for Sparky, they had taken the Ghost Ranch road alternate. At midday the grey clouds hanging in the sky let loose to drench the trail and I. Everything is mucky and finding a good camp spot is difficult.

Desert view from mesa

My tent and sleeping bag are covered in moisture in the morning with some frost to boot. Thankfully the hiking is pretty chill with only a bit of mud and some very small patches of snow. The sun is out strong in the morning and I'm hopeful. Of course at the highest point of my day with no tree cover a huge storm comes through. I have my head down as I get hail and lightning for an hour. The lightning gets very close but there is nothing to do as there is no where to descend nor tree cover nearby. Thankfully I find a nice little alcove of pine trees in the evening to camp. It seems like some water has seeped into my bag and my pack liner is not completely working but thankfully everything is dry enough for a warm night.

High elevation view of northern New Mexico

All my gear is moist again in the morning but I don't mind, I plan on getting into town before nightfall. I crank miles like it's my day job as I stare down peaks off in Colorado covered in snow. I pass four or five tents in the early hours as well as Einstein with his gear laid out to dry.

Alpine environment in New Mexico

I quickly run into snow on trail and it becomes a slog. There are small patches at first but then the whole trail is properly covered and it becomes cross country as following the trail is no longer possible. I have some flashbacks to my time on the PCT and decide that if it's bad here then Colorado will be impassable.

Alpine environment in New Mexico

I pass two hikers taking a break on the snow as they watch me posthole three times in a row. I catch another hiker, Silk Road, and we detour to a dirt road. Thinking it would be easier to traverse than the trail turned out to be wrong as the road was also covered in feet of snow. I leave him behind to do a series of cross country shortcuts and I reach Cumbres Pass around 1330h, having done ~29mi(47km).

At the pass there are four hikers, an elderly man, his pup and his van. Trail magic! Turns out the man, Mad Dog, is Durden's uncle and is providing him with some light support while also giving treats to others hikers. I drink some sodas, munch on Oreos and chat with Mad Dog for an hour. Eventually Einstein catches up and we hitch into town together to split a hotel room.

Cumbres Pass signage

This is the final day of my NOBO CDT hike. From Chama I'd fly back home to reassess what my next steps were. I'd eventually become a SOBO hiker, read on to find out what happens!

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