Zen On Dirt

CDT Day 18 – Having an “adventure”

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I’m sitting here on the porch of the Ghost Ranch Retreat watching it rain and enjoying the highest speed internet that I’ve had access to since leaving Tucson and laughing. Laughing because we’ve gotten so ridiculously lucky with weather on this trip.

We just watched the entire San Pedro mountain range get swallowed by a giant wall of water. Visibility to the south is down to sub-5 miles. Had we been camping tonight, we’d be sitting under our tarp probably feeling not entirely too stoked on life. But right now, we’re currently fat, dumb, and happy, giggling at the thunder and lighting that’s surrounding us.

After today, I sort of feel like we deserve this luxury.

I woke up at 5, which is the time that the sky first starts to get lights around here. I always do this, but normally I roll back over and sleep until Scott wakes up, but I was starving. So I made enough noise to wake Scott up. “It’s 5:30!” he informed me.

“I know! But I’m hungry!”

We made oats swiped from the Super 8 in Grants for breakfast and were pedaling before 7, quite possibly a new record for us. Turns out, this would be good later on in the day.

It took us 40 minutes to rejoin our route after leaving it for the hot springs detour. Totally worth every pedal stroke, and the hour we spent futzing around trying to find the trail down.

From there it was a series of steep climbs and descents back onto the Tour Divide route.

“Fat bike track!” Scott was the first to see signs of Rick, but I was the first to see him packing up camp under a tree a half mile down the road. It’s been good fun leapfrogging, it’s always fun sharing trail stories with someone who gets bikes. Alas, I think that that may have been our last meeting as our routes diverge from here.

We left him to finish packing as we went to finish the climb.

The plan was to take a National Recreation Trail instead of the normal Tour Divide route. Why? Because we like to do things differently. The ranger in Cuba warned us of deadfall…but it couldn’t be worse than Dixie…right?


The fact that we couldn’t find any sort of sign or trailhead for it should have been a dead giveaway, but we found the trail and started down. You could tell that in a life past, it had been beautifully constructed. We dumped out into a meadow where we were promptly chased by an angry cow and we rejoined the trail, following Canones Creek through more cow pastures.


The trail was a beautiful black ribbon of dirt through dandelions and bright green grass. We were currently winning at life.


Then the cows stopped. And the downed trees started. And when there weren’t downed trees, there were giant piles of rocks. And then there were some more trees. And some more rocks. A 100-foot rally was considered successful. Generally, 50 feet was the max. On again. Off again. Fight through some trees. On again. Fight some more. Continue for the next 4 miles of trail.

BUT – it followed a beautiful little stream down, was completely deserted (for obvious reasons), and had some sections of trail that I would definitely write home about. Unfortunately, they were only 25 feet long.


And like all thing, even the most tedious trail must end. We found our way out of the drainage on a set of beautifully constructed switchbacks. Go figure.

From there, it was a race against the storm. Our early start paid off as we dropped 1,900 feet in 6 miles, looking back frequently to see our canyon getting hammered by rain.


The plan was to go to Abiquiu (7 miles out of the way (one-way)) to get a Bode’s Burrito and food for the trek to Chama, and then head to Ghost Ranch. Feeling pretty worked from our little adventure, we opted to skip Abiquiu, but did stop at the Abiquiu Lake recreation area to learn that they had mountain bike trails there. We figured that if we couldn’t figure out a ride to Bode’s from Ghost Ranch the next day, we’d just ride unloaded bikes, ride some trail, and then go get groceries.

So we pedaled the 7 miles to Ghost Ranch, a stopover for most CDT hikers. We immediately found a group sitting in front of the main office.

“There’s ice cream for CDT hikers if you want some,” was one of the first greetings.

“Yes, please!”

There seem to be 6-8 thru hikers hanging out here, some taking off tomorrow, some who’d just arrived this morning. Sailor’s been living on a sailboat for 20 years and had to fly halfway across the world to start this hike. She and her partner were debating between touring the GDMBR on bikes or hiking the trail…they chose the hike.

Dinner was an all-you-can-eat affair. It was good to see that thru-hikers can shovel down amazing amounts of food too when they first get to town.

Ghost Ranch seems to be a neat little place. Surrounded by giant cliffs, it’s a retreat with limited (but fast) internet, no phone service, and no TV. There are nature walks, a Zen Garden, and all-you-can-eat breakfast and lunch options as well.

We’re laying over two nights here because we’re ahead of schedule to get to Chama and part of the stated reason for this trip is to spend time in cool places. Tomorrow will either be spent riding trails during a grocery run, or hanging out in the Zen garden and seeing if there are any short hikes that our tired legs can do.


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