CDT Day 90 and 91 Ghost Ranch

Day 90 – Zero
Day 91 – 17.8 miles hiked
I’m in a glorious advil pm induced sleep when my alarm rudely interrupts a very important, but in an instant forgotten, dream. 5am. Bah.
Storms are due at 4pm so if we want to make any progress we need to get up. At 530 we give in to the inevitable and creep out of the tent, making as little noise as possible so as not to disturb the other campers.
Yesterday we had an unplanned zero as either the post office or Ghost Ranch lost my resupply package. The tracking showed it as delivered, Ghost Ranch had no knowledge or record of it, and the post office swore it had been delivered…or that they had no recollection of it. Neither they nor I know what their actual story was. I had to hitch to a gas station store 14 miles from Ghost Ranch to buy an expensive and uninspired resupply, wasting an extra $50 on food. Granola for dinner? Whatever works. By the time all that had been sorted the afternoon storms had rolled in, along with flash flood warnings. As our hike took us out through canyons and we were already well acquainted with the dangers of the mud around here, it turned into an unplanned zero.
All packed up we head to the little kitchen where I heat up some samosas I bought at the market yesterday for brekkie, and we munch on these while giving our phones every minute possible to charge.
The sky is fast getting brighteras we make our way down the road past all the Ghost Ranch buildings and finally onto the trail through the red canyon.  Towers of rock are all around us as we zig zag across the little stream flowing through the centre. We clamber up rocks and jump over puddles making our way down Box Canyon, which comes to an abrupt dead end. We realise we’ve missed our turn, but it’s totlly fine because the canyon  is gorgeous and worth the extra .3 ish miles to see it all.
The ‘trail’ is an almost vertical rock climb. I’m using my hands as well as feet to climb upwards out of the canyon and high up onto the top of the towering cliffs. Breath gone.
It’s fun though, beautiful and a little bit exciting being on trail like this. Much more of an adventure than a road walk.
Blue spray paint has been applied in little dots along the trail to keep us on track, however somehow I end up in a deep skinny wash with cactus poking me on both sides. We climb out, find the trail and hike on.
We decide to yard sale our stuff early on as there are a lot of clouds and potential rain as early as 11am. The tent gets spread out over sage brush as a small breeze blows through and we eat handfuls of things from our bags. Now it’s all dry so we head down an old jeep road with lots of mud, which leads to a really nice road without the mud. We want to stay on this road but alas we have to veer off to the side and climb a hill. We’ve entered a nice pine tree land. It’s amazing how fast the landscape changes. Not so much with distance, but small changes in altitude lead to whole new worlds of plants. The cactus are gone and we are following cairns along the pine needles, with a view off the side of this cliff to the distant town of Abiquiu and a lake below. I look up straight in front of me to see a beautiful chocolate coloured nose and big mass of cinnamon tipped hair. “Bear! Bear!” I point out excitedly to Grizzly, who looks in time to see his big fluffy chocolate and cinnamon bum bounding away. So beautiful!!!
Excited by our one wildlife sighting for a while, we walk quietly just in case he’s still around and we get to see him. We give up and decide to eat lunch while it’s still relatively dry and we have a view.
On we march through the pines, until the pines are no more and we’re in a giant field. We collect water from a trough with a pipe pumping clear water, then put on all the rain layers again to march through the muddy meadow. The rain has been sprinkling on and off for most of the day, but now the unfriendly afternoon clouds are upon us so we have to make quick miles and find somewhere flat and a little sheltered for camp. As I cross over a cattle guard I feel a sudden stabbing /  burning pain in my ankle. “Ow! Crap! Sh*t sh*t sh*t” holy poo it hurts.  I look down and realise it must have been a yellowjacket. “GO!” I yell at Grizzly who is hovering to take a look but is allergic to yellowjackets. We run down the trail a little while, with the ankle burning and hurting a LOT! I’ve never beem stung by a yellowjacket so I don’t know if I’m allergic. It hurts but it’s not swelling, and after about 10 minutes the pain fades away and it’s all fine. Such a tiny little mark left after such an amount of pain! Don’t fancy doing that again.
We’ve joined another dirt road now, that is more thick mud and puddles than road. Our shoes have turned into mud snow shoes again, my feet are saturated from slipping into one of the puddles. There is a lot of swearing and Grizzly announces he’s on the verge of a meltdown. Then he loses his phone. Oooooh shite. We drop our packs and run back down the road scanning everywhere. I really hope it’s not in the mud or a puddle. Meanwhile the clouds have gotten serious and thunder has started rumbling all around us. I hear a cooee call me back up the road. Success! It was lying on top of some leaves. So bloody lucky.
We grab the packs and hike fast. There are cows and thick bushes everywhere and nothing suitable for camping. The bushes give way to grasses in a big field on top of the hill and we find a spot that will do. Not awesome but relatively flat and the tent needs to be up if we don’t want to get soaked.
Zoom zoom! The tent is up, we pile inside and the sky is the scariest I have seen. We have service here and the radar shows a nice big blob of clouds and heavy rain coming straight for us. I don’t really need the radar though because I can see it!!!
I make a couple of little videos of the squall coming straight at us because I can’t believe how bad it looks. The wind has picked up and dark dark clouds are everywhere, making all kinds of deafening thunder to accompany the blinding lightning. Crazy crazy crazy!!! Somehow the tent flies out of the peg on one side and I get soaked reattaching it!
I hope this little tent doesn’t rip or break. There’s nothing to be done so I put my earplugs in and cross all my fingers it stands through the night.

CDT Day 89 The Muddiest Mud

23.3 miles hiked

It’s cloudy all over when I wake. Fog is draped all over the tops of the mesas around us and it looks particularly gloomy, but this means it’s nice and cool on this morning’s climb. It’s just 2.8 of steep climb, a little plateau then 10 miles down to the Ghost Ranch alternate junction. We are surrounded by thin forest of pines that gets more dense as we climb. We pop out onto a green carpeted forest up the top – a lot less harsh looking than the desert below. We take a quick break then start the descent, and stop when we realise clouds are congregating and we have a small window of sunlight to dry the tent. Early quick lunch over, we continue down – and each take about 2kg of mud on our shoes. The ground is a red and brown clay that sticks like crazy, having soaked up all the water from the past few day’s rain. It feels like I’m walking on heavy snowshoes.
Down down down and we reach the bottom where we are surrounded by towers of beautiful colourfully layered rock mesas. With the dark clouds around them they look very intimidating and impressive.
All of our water sources look like chocolate milk. The excess rain has stirred up the dirt making it un-drinkable. Well maybe not, but it will clog our filters super quick if we try, so we walk the extra few miles to the Rio Chama. Gah! This one looks like a giant rushing river of chai. I try filtering through my bandana first, but it makes little difference. We check the water report – bugger! We missed a trough a half mile back, so Grizzly graciously takes our 2L bladders and comes back a while later with crystal clear water. Yay!!!
As we are filtering water a jeep comes past on the road heading the other way. He offers us a ride on his return. “Hmm Ok thanks!” we say, ever conscious of the impending storm and our need to get to Ghost Ranch. “We’ll start hiking and you’ll see us on the road”. It’s just one long dirt road to the highway so he won’t miss us. We start hiking and it is hooooot. “It’s Africa hot” says Grizzly. I cover up with my bandana under my hat and melt along the road. The thunder is getting louder and louder “Now would be a great time for our magical ride to appear!”
The storm is chasing us, then overtakes us. It starts sprinkling then the clouds explode. I get covered in red dirt pulling my jacket and rainpants on, my pack does too as I set it down to put the cover on. We really need to sit down somewhere as there is lightning all around us, but there is only sagebrush and a few junipers with no shade.
Finally we find a suitable tree and sit under the tyvek hiding from the rain for a while. The thunder amd lightning move past quickly and we are back on the dirt road sweating in our rain gear.
We make it to the highway before our ride ever showed up – oh well we didn’t get struck by lightning and we should be walking this road anyway!  At highway we have to walk for a mile or so to the turnoff for Ghost Ranch – bitumen/ black top hiking again, I must be back in New Mexico!
It’s a very confusing turnoff for Ghost Ranch, crossing over dodgy “no trespass” signs, bushwhacking through brush and sliding down very slippery mud into washes that we then have to climb back up. We eventually spy some CDT blazes in the distance and adjust our course to follow them. It doesn’t help a whole lot because it becomes clear that we are hiking through super sticky sinky quicksand!!! We are alternating between laughing because it is so horrendously hard and impossible to move, and swearing for the same reasons.
By the time we actually enter the Ghost Ranch property our feet are completely caked in red mud.
It’s late so the office isn’t open but we are directed to the camping area, set up the tent, and head inside the tiny kichen area to cook dinner on our stove and sit on chairs. There are showers but I have no towel, so I make do with a cake of soap found in a shower and a whole bunch of paper towels. Whatever works! I contemplate entering the shower with my sneakers on to remove some of the dirt, but I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen the last of the mud yet!
The rain starts up again so it’s a dash to the tent in the dark, where we arrange all our things so the bazillions of desert rodents don’t eat them, then lie down for sleep under the towers of beautiful red rock.