Zen On Dirt

CDT Day 20 – Up from Ghost Ranch

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It’s sort of obvious what the trail is going to do from Ghost Ranch. The ranch is surrounded on three sides by giant mesas, and looks out to the plains in the forth. We came up from the plains.

It was going to be a big day of uphill.

We’d decided the night before that there was still more to Ghost Ranch that we wanted to experience, so we decided that we’d only leave after lunch, giving us the morning to enjoy the place. We’re definitely settling into more of a traveling mode than a touring mode. There’s a lot more that we want out of this trip than long days on the bike, though we want that too!

The breakfast hall was nearly empty, no hikers to be seen. We figured most had taken off the day before, but we’d seen a few late in the evening. The relative lack of stimulation led to some excellent people watching though. The ranch is slowly bringing in their summer staff. The college kids were so bright-eyed and bushy tailed. And so young! When did that happen?


We packed up our bikes after breakfast and checked out. The next half hour was spent sewing, fixing holes in socks, gloves, and shorts. Well, I sewed, and Scott figured out where we were going.


Chores done, we headed up to the Zen garden to walk the labyrinth and ring the wind chimes. The ranch is owned by the Presbyterian Church, but they really seem to embrace all forms of religion and spirituality.

Then disaster struck: I walked into the library. Settling down with a book about the history of the place on a big old couch, I was ready to stay two more nights, at least. Soon, it was lunch time and I reluctantly left. So many books…so little time.

We met Mad Hatter over lunch. He’s section hiked the entire CDT and was back to do it in one push. While potentially a little crazy, he knew what he was doing and was one of the few people who didn’t look at us like we were crazy for not bringing a full tent.

And then we pedaled out of the back of Ghost Ranch. Adios! we said. We hope to be back someday.

The first mile of trail was rideable. The next mile, 50/50. The next five miles consisted of 10% riding, 30% pushing, 18% dragging, 7% carrying, 12% ghost steering through overgrown, narrow trail, and the remaining percent climbing over giant boulders. And to add insult to injury, it was hot out.


But, you can’t go uphill forever, and after a particularly heinous section, the earth miraculously flattened out and a road appeared. It was time to travel.

Travel we did, catching the hikers who’d left 2 hours before us at a beautiful overlook before a cross-country section. They were sprawled out, sleeping pads out, enjoying all that life had to offer.

We tackled the cross country first…and rode most of it. Things were looking up.


Our water source showed us just as we were running out of water, pumping clear, cold water out of the ground.


The fields of flowers were spectacular.

The roads were faint but followable. Some muddy, some fast. Some uphill. Some downhill. Each time it went down, it was greeted with an enthusiastic DOWNHILL! or an exuberant DOWN ZE HILL! or just an excited DOWN!


We found a perfect campspot high on a ridge. Purple flowers everywhere. Views of both sunset and sunrise. Perfect until the mosquitos swarmed us. Onwards to an even better site.

We planned on sleeping out on a giant field with huge views, and then it started raining. So now we’re back in the trees with our tarp set up for the first time. Here’s to hoping for a dry night!


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