Day 155: Once Again in Desert Dryness
Sunday, October 9, 2022 9:41 pm
Location: Ghost Ranch (2354.3 miles)

A short day today brought me to Ghost Ranch, for my first resupply in northern New Mexico.

Overnight was cool and humid. Predictably, my tent’s roof was completely soaked inside and out.

Today’s destination is Ghost Ranch, where I have a resupply box waiting. Ghost Ranch, once an exclusive dude range to the wealthy, is now a retreat and educational center, and the backdrop of a fair number of films. Numerous dinosaur bones have also been discovered in the area. It was named after the rumors of the land being haunted by evil spirits. If I’d had more time, this all would have been great to explore, but that would have to wait for another day.

Leaving my campsite, just before 9, an ATV trail lead me through a cow pasture, which took me to a more established dirt road that took me back into the forest, paralleling the top of a cliff. I followed the road a little too far, apparently missing a small trail marker where the road turned away from the cliff. Once I realized I missed my turn, I adjusted course, bushwhacking through the forest in roughly a straight line, heading back to the trail. (This was a bit easier than I expected, given how relatively flat the mountain is here, and how little forest underbrush there was.)

Back on the trail, I continued to follow above the cliff. Several cows grazed in the forest nearby, because of course, there have to be cows everywhere.

Once the trail actually came up to the edge of the cliff, the view opened up to the southwest. The Abiquiu Reservoir was partially visible, and I could see the first signs of the high desert I was hiking towards.

Southwest to Abiquiu Reservoir and what looks like the first sign of the high desert.

Dropping halfway down the height of the cliff, the trail joined a fairly wide dirt road and turned away from the cliff. This road was traveled enough, apparently, that a stop sign and sign with mileage to a few destinations was necessary.

10 am Selfie Day 155
10 am Selfie Day 155

As I continued to head southwest along the road, I passed a water pond for cattle that looked absolutely as disgusting as had been reported — which is why I got enough water yesterday to not need to fill up until I got to Ghost Ranch today.

I stopped for a break, about halfway to Ghost Ranch. A pair of ranch hands (my guess, though of whatever ranch is running in the Forest, not Ghost Ranch) drove past in a truck as I resumed hiking. When I mentioned I was going to Goat Ranch, and that it was only six miles away, they were confused; but I guess the 15 miles away they thought it was is via road, and the trail did leave the road further ahead.

A closer view of the desert ahead, as the trail leaves the road for a trail down a steep hill.

Not even a minute after noon, partway down a steep drop down a drainage, I saw my first cactus in northern New Mexico. After being in forested land since leaving New Mexico (excluding Wyoming’s Great Divide Basin), I was again back in the desert. The further I went, the drier it became, with dirt being replaced by sand, and more and more cactuses sprouted from the ground. For a little while, the trail was nearly lined by waist-high prickly bushes and smaller cactus plants near the ground, and occasionally near an eroded crevasse, so it took a bit more attention than usual to safely hike.

Desert Scrub
Desert ScrubDesert scrub takes over from forest as I descend out of the mountains.

Having already descended 2,000 feet from my campsite, the trail finished much of its remaining 500 foot descent for the day by dropping into a box canyon. Sandstone cliffs stood above the canyon, adding color and showing the power of water over time.

Crossing the creek at the bottom of the canyon a few times, I exited the mouth of the canyon, passing a few day hikers and joining a dirt road that led into Ghost Ranch. I passed several small cabins, and then a series of larger support buildings, on my way to the main visitor center.

As morning progressed, a string of clouds to the south merged into a large storm, with large, dark clouds raining down on the mountains to the south. As luck would have it, those clouds stayed over there the rest of the day, and I didn’t get rained on, but it did make for a good backdrop from the tables in front of the visitor center.

When I arrived, there were half a dozen hikers sitting in front of the visitor center — almost everyone I’ve seen so far since leaving Chama. Checking in at the front desk, I picked up my resupply box, signed up for the buffet dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow, and got a campsite to stay at overnight.

The visitor center had a small gift shop with snacks. Scatted throughout the visitor center were movie posters from some of the films partially produced at Ghost Ranch. Having already seen a few of them, it made me want to go back and re-watch at least a few to see if I could pick out the scenes filmed here.

I joined the hikers out front, repacking my food, and drying out my sleeping bag and tent by draping them over unused chairs. In the bright sun, relatively dry air, and light wind, this didn’t take long.

Most of the other hikers moved on, but I stayed and chatted with sobo couple Cool Joe and Yellow Flag until around 5, when we left to go find campsites at the campground. Most of the sites were full — there was some kind of event going on — but we both managed to find campsites near the back of the campground. They were a little quicker than me and grabbed a site that had a roof over the picnic table; I lucked out and got a site with electricity. (And, surprisingly, the Wi-Fi from the visitor center still reached the campground!)

Dinner at the ranch’s dining hall was great, and Cool Joe, Yellow Flag, and I were joined by two other women attending the event, who were intrigued by what we were doing. (And, of course, we stuck out like a sore thumb.)

Back at my campsite, after it got dark, it was refreshingly warm and dry, compared to all of the cold, damp nights in the mountains. I found some ants crawling around that needed to be evicted from my tent.

Tomorrow will begin the first day of a three day trek to Cuba, my final trail town before reaching Grants. With less than 170 miles to go, it won’t be long until I’m finally done.