Today, we departed Albuquerque for Chama, the northernmost trail town in New Mexico. Tomorrow, we’ll return to the trail at Cumbres Pass in Colorado, 255 trail miles north of Grants.
We all woke up very early (at least compared to when we had been for the last week), ate breakfast, packed our packs, and tidied up our Air B&B, in time to be outside for the Ubers we’d called for 6 am.
A short car ride brought us to the Los Ranchos stop of the “Rail Runner” between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and we were there with plenty of time before the train arrived.
Our train arrived uneventfully in Santa Fe, though a few minutes late, which gave us just one minute to hustle from the train station to the adjacent bus station. This was not particularly easy with full packs and stowed trekking poles, but we managed.
The bus, somewhat small, was packed nearly full. There were two or three locals, and thirteen hikers with large packs (us and six more). We might have been able to squeeze someone else on, but it would have been a tight fit.
The bus brought us to the town of Española. After we arrived, the driver asked how many of us were going on to Chama, so he could make sure they sent a bus large enough. Someone said “all of us”. A non-hiker said “not me.” After calling in the request, the driver mentioned it’d been like this all week, and asked why so many people were going to Chama. I explained to him the fire closure and snow situation on the CDT.
With our next bus to Chama an hour and a half away, Kiernan, Kyra, Mr. Freeze, and I went to the nearby Lottaburger for breakfast (or in my case, second breakfast). The restaurant was playing classical music, which I thought was odd for a burger joint, but the music was not obnoxious, and a refreshing change to the usual restaurant muzak.
As expected, all of us hikers more than filled the bus to Chama. Fortunately, the solution to that problem was that they sent two busses. (The overflow bus actually arrived first.) Patches was on my bus; everyone else from our group got on the overflow bus (which also arrived in Chama first).
As we headed north towards Chama, the landscape gradually got greener, especially once we crossed over the CDT near Ghost Ranch, a US National Natural Landmark and one-time home and studio of artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Ghost Ranch itself lies along an alternate route to the CDT, and would have been my last resupply stop in New Mexico (after Cuba).
As we got close to Chama, Dog Bite and Kiernan looked for places for us to camp, and were able to find us space at the Rio Chama RV Park.
We arrived in Chama around 12:30. I quickly stopped at the post office and picked up my microspikes, which I’m hoping I won’t actually have to use. Patches and I proceeded to walk to the wrong side of town, heading to the other RV park in town. When we figured out where we actually needed to go, we stopped at a coffee bar to get a snack. (I ate a sandwich I made from leftovers this morning, and also an apple fritter.)
While there, Patches and I noted that Chama seemed a lot more lively than we’d expected it to be. Apparently, it gets enough tourist draw due to the nearby mountains to be quite bustling.
When done, we walked to the correct RV park on the north side of town.
After making it to the Rio Chama RV Park, we dropped our packs in the shade at our very grassy campsite, and we all returned to town.
Our first stop was the post office. Dog Bite and Plus One’s package arrived earlier than expected, so we won’t have to wait for the post office to open tomorrow morning before we can leave town.
At some point, we lost Mr. Freeze. We all thought she was right behind us, but we somehow didn’t notice she wasn’t there until we got to the post office.
Dog Bite, Plus One, Patches and I waited in the shade next to the church behind the post office while Kiernan and Kyra went through their packages. once they were done, we went to a nearby pizza place, Local.
The thing I immediately noticed about Local was the bottles of water and glasses on the table. I’m having a hard time remembering when the last time I saw something like that at a restaurant. It’s a pretty rare thing nowadays to get water without having to ask.
I ordered a salad, a bit full from lunch at the coffee bar, but Dog Bite shared a piece of pizza with me since it was more than he could eat, and it was pretty good.
While there, fellow hiker Dragonsky joined us. I didn’t initially recognize her, but once she started to share her story — she was one of the very few black people who thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail last year — I remembered hearing of her, and her experiences with discrimination on the AT.
Two other locals joined our table, initially having a conversation with us, and then breaking off into their own conversation which was a bit distracting to the far more interesting conversation we were having with Dragonsky.
As we were finishing up, we learned that Mr. Freeze was at another bar just up the street, so we (including Dragonsky) walked over there.
We found Mr. Freeze, quite drunk, had been ingratiating herself with the locals, also quite drunk. (I guess 5 pm on a Friday night tends to draw that out in a small town. I’m not sure I even realized today was Friday.)
The next two and a half hours I spent talking with everyone, and watching as Dog Bite, Plus One, Patches, and Mr. Freeze got progressively more inebriated. The locals Mr. Freeze had befriended didn’t help matters, either. At some point, Dog Bite and Plus One disappeared; we later saw them walking back to the RV park. (Kyra, Kiernan, and I didn’t have that much to drink; as I’m getting older, I find that large amounts of alcohol don’t sit well with me.) Eventually, the loud environment (and the drunk locals) got to be too much, and I retreated back to Local for some peace and quiet (and a pizza).
After awhile, Kiernan joined me at Local, ordering three pizzas to make sure everyone else got something to eat tonight. We walked back to the bar after his pizzas were ready. By now, the sun had set, and since I didn’t have my headlamp with me, I’d decided that I wasn’t going to linger at the bar longer than necessary. We collected Patches, Mr. Freeze, and Kyra, and returned to the RV Park. (Fortunately, Chana’s main road has streetlights most of the way to the RV park, and there wasn’t much traffic, so it wasn’t a bad walk back.)
Dog Bite met us about halfway back, having becoming concerned after calling Mr. Freeze just before we left the bar and being able to tell how inebriated she was. He was also looking for their resupply box, which they forgot at the bar. (Dog Bite had called every bar in Chama asking them if they’d seen a box. There were probably a lot of confused bartenders.)
It was dark when we got back to our campsite. I set up my tent while the rest of the group chowed down on pizza.
Mr. Freeze had arranged from one of the locals at the bar a ride for us back to the trail at 7 am tomorrow. I set an alarm accordingly, but also figured that it was highly unlikely we’d be leaving before 8 at the earliest.
Tomorrow, finally, after a week off trail, we return to the CDT. I’m very much looking forward to it. The mountains as we arrived in Chama looked gorgeous, and I can’t wait to hike them.