Cuba to Cecilia Canyon Spring: 23 miles
Cecilia Canyon Spring to Ghost Ranch Alternate mile 4.4: 24.5 miles
Total miles: 579.8
I woke up in our hotel room ready to start the day, but also feeling quite cozy in a bed. I felt like I had slept in, but when I checked the clock it said 5:50am. I am officially on my thru-hiker schedule when even a hotel bed can’t lure me back to sleep.
We got ready quickly, which is an easy feat when you only have a half dozen things to pack-up and headed to McDonalds for breakfast. While days off and half-days I like a nice big breakfast, leaving down I find its better to go with a known entity. An egg McMuffin and a hash brown fit the bill. Afterwards, we lingered a bit over our coffee talking to Mouse and Shadow.
With no more coffee left to keep us, we got back on the CDT which was the main road through town, and hiked out a mile or so before switching to quieter Los Pinos County Road for 7.5 miles to walk on dirt trail again. There was an actual creek flowing by the trail for a few miles, a novel water source compared to the cattle troughs and piped springs we’ve been drinking from all of New Mexico.
We climbed up to 10,000ft over a couple of miles, where the inclined trail finally petered it into a meadow. We felt like we had been transported to a different place, compared to the dry desert and mesas of the days preceding. There was plenty of water in the meadow, trees, and patches of snow. We finally saw our first elk of the trip. We’ve been seeing their droppings for hundreds of miles, so we were happy to finally see them- even if it was from quite a distance.
After the meadow we dropped back down, the pine-lined meadow giving way to mixed forest, and eventually patches of aspens. We camped by a creek, an actual flowing creek- a novel thing for the CDT in New Mexico.
The next day we had a few climbs, but nothing like the day before, and slowly made our descent back to dry, sandy trails. Before leaving the forest we stopped for a lunch break at a spring, where we saw two new birds to us: a Western Tanager featured below, and a Black Headed Grosbeak. Both were relatively easy to identify, there aren’t many yellow birds and grosbeaks have a very distinctive beak. Much easier to identify than the LBBs and LGBs we typically see (little brown birds and little gray birds).Despite being in dry conditions, we came to our first major water source along the CDT: the Rio Chama. There was a bridge for us to cross, thankfully, and we followed its bank for five or so miles on the Ghost Ranch Alternate. The alternate cuts off only 3 miles of the CDT, but most importantly had more water and goes by Ghost Ranch where we have a resupply package to pick-up. We made it close to the ranch, to only have a few miles to hike the next day for almost a day off the next day.