Today, I returned to the trail town of Chama, in northern New Mexico.
For the second day in a row, I woke up early, though today’s 5:30 am was much better than yesterday’s awful 2:30 am.
It took a bit longer to leave the motel than I expected, and I made my way towards breakfast at McDonalds. For some reason, even though they opened at 6 am, they did not open the dining room, and I had to order food from the drive-through window.
After getting breakfast, I made my way to the bus that would take me on the first leg of the bus trip to Chama. This first leg proved to be much more difficult than expected. I happened to catch the bus at a stop near the end of its southbound run to Santa Fe from Española; the driver said she hadn’t completed the run yet, and I should go to the park-and-ride bus stands a block down the road. So I did, and got there just before the bus did. Attempting to get on, the driver said they were “going on a shuttle run” and would be back.
I should have just gotten on the bus anyway, but I figured the driver knew their route better than I did, so I waited.
Forty minutes later, another bus pulled in to the bus stand. The driver said he was done for the day, and that I’d just missed the northbound bus, on the road back where I’d initially seen the first bus.
This was really quite disappointing; it felt like the bus driver — who knew where I was trying to go — intentionally misled me to keep me off the bus. Doubly so since that was the last run of this particular bus line until late afternoon.
Fortunately, all was not lost; a different bus line (actually, the same one we’d taken when going to Chama the first time), leaving from the same set of bus stops, also went to Española, and I was able to catch that with only an hour delay from when I originally wanted to leave Santa Fe.
In retrospect, it’s even more disappointing, because I could have slept in another hour and gotten free breakfast from my motel (which didn’t start until 7).
Arriving in Española, I made my way back to the Lottaburger for brunch, only to find it closed. I found a bakery about a mile in the other direction, and got a hot chocolate and two donuts; one had cherry glazing, and was excellent.
On the way to the bakery, I crossed the RIo Grande. Far from the unassuming little creek I crossed in southern Colorado, it was now a large silty river on its way to form the border between Mexico and the US.
Returning to the Española transit center, I booked a room at the Fosters Hotel in Chama (which conveniently also has a restaurant).
Later, I met Misplaced and Race Horse, two southbounders. Race Horse, from Vermont, had previously hiked the Appalachian and Long Trails; Misplaced had previously hiked the John Muir Trail, but considered the CDT to be his first long hike.
A surprise to me, two bus lines run to Chama from Española; we took one that arrived about ten minutes before the one I’d planned to take.
On the outskirts of Chama, our bus had a twenty minute break in its schedule, and we stopped at a gas station. I took the opportunity to grab a little snack. Later, I would be glad I did.
About 12:40, I stepped off the bus in Chama. Across the street, two familiar faces called out to me: Dash and Spice Rack, southbounders I’d met in Pinedale, and who provided a lot of useful information about the Big Sky/Super Butte alternate. They were as surprised to see me as I them, and we chatted for a bit, before I left to try and get lunch (and also get out of their way of trying to hitch back to the trail).
Getting lunch proved to be much harder than expected. Fosters had apparently just taken a big phone order, and the kitchen was slammed; they wouldn’t be taking further food orders for at least an hour. Every other nearby restaurant was either closed for the day, or had just closed, because it was Tuesday, in a small town. I settled on a pre-made ice cream sundae and a soda to hold me over for a while.
While I waited, I watched storm clouds in the distance over the mountains towards Cumbres Pass. I hoped (and it looked like) the clouds would blow away from town, rather than towards it. Storm clouds were definitely not the New Mexico I remembered.
Around 2:15, I was able to check into my room at Fosters, and was told they’d re-open the kitchen around 3. I went up to my room, dropped of my pack and relaxed for a short while before returning to the bar/restaurant, ordering a burger. The bartender (and possibly the owner, I was unclear on that) was very apologetic about how long it was taking to get food service, and gave me a couple of bags of chips and a free drink to hold me over.
With nothing else to do today, I took a booth and sat in the bar for several hours, nursing a few beers and the bags of chips. My burger eventually came, and it was quite good. Around six I ordered another, for dinner. That burger also took forever to come, because there’d been confusion in the kitchen over my order. (Because, really, who orders two burgers three hours apart?) While I sat, a heavy rain fell for a while, eventually slacking off and stopping.
Later one of the regulars, admiring my beard, bought me a shot of tequila because I was hiking the CDT.
Today was a long (and surprisingly tiring) day of waiting. But I don’t have to wait for much longer. I just need to get back to the trail tomorrow morning, and I’ll be on my way…