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Begins: Jun 15, 2014
Date: Fri, Oct 24th, 2014
Start: Ghost Ranch
End: Silver City
Entry Visits: 842
Journal Visits: 7,852
Guestbook Views: 688
Guestbook Entrys: 3
Continental Divide Trail Map
Greetings from sunny Silver City! It's been a while since I've had a full rest day, so I figured I'd take one today and explore this wonderful town. These last three weeks from Ghost Ranch have taken me through the heart of New Mexico, and there's just been incredible variety to the trail. I came into New Mexico not knowing what to expect. This was the wild card state - I know Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado quite well, but New Mexico is a different story. I must say that after traveling most of the way through it, New Mexico is a fascinating place with great people and a seemingly endless variety of landscapes. Ever since leaving Ghost Ranch, I feel like I'm on an entirely different trail, a CDT Part II if you will. Yes, New Mexico is living up to its famous moniker as a tierra de encantamiento, the "Land of Enchantment."
My first stretch out of Ghost Ranch featured some great Colorado Plateau-esque hiking, a landscape near and dear to my heart. On the advice of the cook, I took a longer route out of the ranch and hiked the Rim Vista trail before dropping into Joaquin Canyon to reach the Rio Chama. There was great trail and spectacular views of canyons and mesas to the east over these miles, and I'm glad I took this alternate as opposed to road walking along the Chama. My first night out in Ojitos Canyon I spread my sleeping bag under a juniper and had the reassuring thought that yes, I had finally made it out of the mountains. No longer would making the "gate" of getting through the San Juans before the fall snows set in be weighing on the forefront of my mind. That night was yet another turning point in the trip, and even since then I've been focused more on enjoying the trail than making miles (hence the long time it's taken me to get to Silver City).
From Ojitos Canyon I climbed into the San Pedro Peaks for a last night above 10,000 feet before dropping back down into the desert for a brief resupply in Cuba. The first two days out of Cuba featured more fantastic desert hiking along the rims of mesas and through hoodoo-filled basins. This area is under BLM jurisdiction, and the 50 miles of singletrack trail from just south of Cuba to Los Indios Spring are great. I had one of my favorite camps of the whole trip in this section, getting to sleep out on the slickrock at the rim of Rincon de los Viejos under a full moon, the last full moon of my journey. From these lowlands, I climbed for a final time over a high peak, the solitary Mt Taylor at 11,306 feet. Mt Taylor is a very prominent peak, and sacred to many of the Native American nations in the area, so it was quite an honor to traverse up and over it.
After resupplying in Grants, I got to walk across some interesting terrain in El Malpais National Monument. The route I followed took the Zuni-Acoma trail over some very young (2000 years old) lava flows for a rugged, slow going 8 miles. The Zuni-Acoma trail is nearly as old as the lava flows themselves, as it's an ancient trade route between the pueblos of Zuni to the west and Acoma to the east. It was a really cool experience following this route, following in the footsteps of people who had taken this same path (and struggled with the same jagged, uneven rock in undoubtedly less substantial footwear!) hundreds of years prior. Immediately after leaving El Malpais, I got some great sandstone canyon hiking in the Cebolla Wilderness. Highlights of this area include seeing La Ventana Arch and some cliff dwellings in the Cebolla Wilderness.
Entering Catron County, I had a quick 30 mile road walk into the famous hamlet of Pie Town. Pie Town has to be the smallest community I've been through on the CDT, yet it arguably has the most character. One reason, of course, is the pie. I made sure I stayed the few extra hours until the restaurant opened the morning I departed to try some pie. And yes, it was quite delicious. The other reason Pie Town in wonderful is the Toaster House. This is such a unique place, I won't even attempt to describe it. All I can say here is that you should hike the CDT or bike the GDR and stop in at the Toaster House in Pie Town - you'll understand what I'm talking about. The place is owned by Nita, who I unfortunately did not get to meet, but whose kindness, generosity, and hospitality I nonetheless felt permeating the walls of the house. Thank you so much Nita for opening your place up to us travelers - it really means the world to us.
From Pie Town I made my way south through some forested mountains to the Gila Wilderness to descend the Gila River for 50 miles. The Gila was without a doubt the highlight of New Mexico for me. Deep narrow canyons cut into welded tuff, idyllic hot spings, tons of river crossings, huge sycamore, maple, and oak trees turning colors - all in a glorious 4 day stretch. I took my time getting through the Gila, and am very glad I did. This is one of the places I've seen on the CDT that I know I'll be returning to in the future.
Well folks, my time on this library computer is running low. There's so much more to mention about this last section, but I'll have to catch up on that later. My journey is quickly nearing the conclusion, but I'm in no rush to finish - I love being out here. I've got 8 days until I finish up at the Mexico border, and I'm going to make the most out of each day. I'll plan a more in-depth report after I finish and get back home. But I'm not concerned about that now - I've got to go find some good green chili here in Silver City!
On to Mexico,