CDT Day 118: Conejo River to almost Cumbres Pass (Chama, NM!) – Gosh Darn Dirt is Nice Camp to Y Motel Camp
Miles hiked: 23.6
Total miles: 2049.6
We made it to New Mexico! Woooo hoooo! Alright alright, we still have about four trail miles to the actual border, but the town we hitched to at the end of the day is in the land of enchantment. Our last full day in Colorado was the coldest yet and had me dreaming of warm days in the desert. Are those really just four miles away?
Wow, by far the coldest morning of the CDT so far and hopefully I won’t need to say that again. It was 4°F (yep, four) when we started hiking at 7:20am, continuing on the dirt road along the Conejo River. There wasn’t much I could do besides hike as fast as my legs could carry me and blow hot breath into my gloved fists. Numb fingers and kneecaps.
Down at the bottom of a deep valley, the sun was a long time in reaching us. SpiceRack and I were both fighting a losing battle to stay warm in the shade so we ducked into the first building with and open sign in its window. We weren’t even sure what town we were in, but the heater was on inside. The friendly folk there running the lodge took us to their kitchen in back, offered us coffee and let us launch a counter attack on the chill next to the wood burning stove. We made it a short stop, knowing that the sun was close, but it was just what we needed. Warm fire, warm people.
The rest of the miles went smoothly after a sunscreen and delayer break. The forest warmed up and we passed the next couple of hours listening to an audiobook through Gronk Ball. Some squirrels enthusiastically tried to drown it out with insane chatter, but we made it.
We finally reached highway 17 and turned along it for the 13 miles to Cumbres Pass, where this alternate route reconnects with the CDT. It also marks the official end of the mountains and has represented safety from major snow since the very beginning of this hike. All we have to do is make it to Cumbres. We were now learning that this isn’t quite the case, but Cumbres still represented a huge achievement for us and we were super duper excited to finally reached it.
The first five miles were constant up, but not too steep. I even had to take off my fleece! There was a sad sign about the last grizzly in Colorado, which was killed in the area in 1974, but my spirits were generally high. This was a beautiful place despite the paved highway. The mountains had disappeared while we were down in the valley and it felt a little strange not having said goodbye. There were mountains, we hiked next to a river for a couple of days, and now they are gone. Just gentle hills covered in trees now. I missed the transition, but still felt good about the decision to take the low route. Being alive is a pretty good feeling.
At the top of the hill we stopped for our final lunch in Colorado in a meadow, protected from the wind by the raised highway. Then we just walked and walked for the afternoon. The usual. At around 4pm we were still four miles from Cumbres, but traffic was light and we wanted to catch a ride to Chama, NM before dark, we started poking out are thumbs for every passing car. This was our toughest hitch by far and it took us over an hour to snag a ride. We were only a little over a mile from the pass by the time we got picked up.
Chama was beautifully New Mexican. A little rundown, dusty, and cheap. We got dropped at the Y Motel, the cheapest place in town and checked into the so-called Lucy Ricardo honeymoon sweet. I have no idea what that means, but it’ll do the trick. It has the cutest little oven and nastiest smelling sponge. Spice and I picked up groceries across the road, then made it back to the room to hunker for the evening.
The heat is cranked up, spaghetti and cinnamon rolls are cooking, and the bathtub is filled. After the cold this morning, we really are in the land of enchantment.