Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 112 - Fevered thoughts and 10/9

Over the past few weeks, in the fever dream of hiking the CDT through the rugged terrain of the San Juans, cold temperatures and snow, I've been having a lot of thoughts. Though I am feeling as physically fit as I have ever been after ~2,000mi in a thruhike, mentally, it has been a slog. I do vividly recall how crazy some of the Nobos seemed when I met them at this point in their hike in MT.

I'm in the same place, just hanging on to sanity by a thread. And in this swirly mental soup, a few thoughts in no particular order have floated to the top:

1) I want to get to Mexico, by hook or by crook, with a continuous footpath

2) I am so inexpressibly grateful to my family and friends, for their support and love

3) As my return to work looms, I really want to smell the roses for the last 4-5 weeks

Plus, my little sister Gloria is getting very big, life-changing news on October 9th between noon-5pm ET. So, I am going to do what I need to do to be in phone range on Wednesday. Today is Sunday, and Ghost Ranch is ~91mi away. I can't guarantee that we'll be there by Wednesday 10am MT. We might be close, but being late is unacceptable.

So, we've made the difficult decision to roadwalk from here to Ghost Ranch. This was very difficult, since I detest roadwalking. Being on highways feels unsafe, repetitive walking is hard on the body, and it is just nerve wracking. I'm an introvert--I like the quiet splendor of hiking trails.

But, I want to be there for my little sister. So this means we'll get to Ghost Ranch in a few parts. We have to walk from Cumbres Pass to Chama (~13mi), and from Chama to Ghost Ranch (~47mi).

We tried to do the Cumbres Pass to Chama leg yesterday, but were stymied by the lack of train tickets. The Cumbres-Toltec RR is a historic coal-powered train which offers a special rate to take hikers from Chama to Cumbres Pass. They were sold out yesterday. So we decided to walk the next leg, from Chama to as far South as we could get.

And it was really a wonderful way to see NM. We decided to treat the day like a stroll through town, instead of our usual measured, diligent miles. We started off with breakfast at the Chama Grill, which looks like a fast food place, but serves slow, diner food. Turns out, it was a DQ, but the owner wanted to serve breakfast, which is in violation of the franchise charter. He went independent, and serves whatever he pleases. This is the local hangout spot. People were greeting each other by name; the very polite teens were explaining who they were to the adults by describing their parents. "I'm Samuel Martinez, ma'am, I'm Rosa's son..." We met Mary, who was a school teacher for 31 years at the Chama HS. She was chatting with the teen boys about the Chama HS football team (Go Lobos!). After they left, she explained to us that she wasn't really interested in football, but she was really interested in the kids, and followed football as a way to connect. She was fascinated to find out we were walking from Canada and Mexico, and promised to pray for us at Adoration next Thursday. She really was the sweetest lady.

After breakfast, we kept on, and stopped by a roasted chile stand, which smelled phenomenal. The chiles drying in the sun were so pretty and incandescently red.

A few miles later, we saw a white pick-up truck with an enormous elk in the bed, pull into a nondescript building. We took a few photos, and a guy out front invited us in to see his shop. Turns out, we were outside the premier taxidermy shop in the area. They process the animals for the hunters, culling the meat and hides, and turning the antlers into trophies. He gave us a tour of the deep freezer, the bear skins curing with salt, a room full of antlers and some very well done taxidermy. It is a skill to make the animals so lifelike.

When we arrived at Tierra Amarilla, we stopped in at the local shop, Henry's. It's a combination convenience-fishing supply-liquor store. Gangles bought a pint of ice cream and a Fresca to share. I don't usually drink, so she also bought a Chelada for herself, a commercial, Budweiser branded Michelada (Mexican cocktail of beer, Clamato and spices), We sat out front, drinking beer, soda and eating ice cream and chatting with the locals. Who though we were absolutely bonkers to walk from Chama.

We eventually pressed on, hoping to get in a few more miles on the day. I saw something tawny run across the road. Gangles said it was an enormous cat, with a long tail trailing on the raid. I think we probably saw a mountain lion. EEEEEEEEE. I've seen pretty much all of the North American macrofauna on my hikes, except for a mountain lion. And I had hoped to never, ever see one. I think they're probably the most deadly of all of the animals around. Since cats play with their food, I've always imagined a mountain lion mauling to be the most excruciating of all animal encounters gone bad. Anyhow, the large, tawny cat, ran across the road, from the opposite side to our side, and disappeared into the brush. We walked on, knowing there was a mountain lion somewhere to our left, but there wasn't really anything to do about it.

Finally, around 6pm, we decided we should try and get back. Within a few minutes, we were riding with Richard, a local farmer who had spent the day baling hay. He told us his life philosophy: he worked hard and he didn't owe anyone anything. Proudly independent, he also had some real style. He had a dapper black felt hat, with a red tail hawk feather in the brim. His rearview mirror was decorated with a cross and a miniature horseshoe. And he was very big on eye contact, which I do like when chatting with people. But he was also driving a truck at 65mph down a road, so the sustained eye contact was a little terrifying. Really nice guy, though. He invited us to get a beer with him at the High Country, the local bar, and then he'd drive us back to the hotel. I thought it would be fun to go, but probably a bad idea to drive to a bar with a guy who was going to drink, and then drive back. So we passed.

Back at the lodge, we had a hilarious chat with Anita who works housekeeping and the front desk. She asked about our day, and what we were doing. I told her about the CDT and our walk today to Tierra Amarilla. She told us we were *crazy*. Then casually mentioned she had done the same walk when she was pissed at her ex-husband. She drunkenly walked from their home in TA to the lodge Chama in the pitch black on a Sunday night. That, is crazy. Then we were just joking and chatting about hunting and poaching, California, her grandkids, and the hunky local bartenders. She is a really funny, awesome lady. And she even offered to do our laundry, but we didn't want to keep her up, so we'll wait to Ghost Ranch. Thanks for everything, Anita!

Fingers crossed we can get on the train tomorrow.

Mileage: ~15mi from Chama to past Tierra Amarilla

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