Chama, New Mexico – CDT 2009 | Average Hiker
Chama, New Mexico
Only the thought of Chama made last night tolerable. It was 28 degrees when I woke up this morning, and had rained all night. My tarp and sleeping bag were both wet, and I was freezing. I had gotten colder and colder overnight as I went from damp to wet. The constant heavy rain had begun to mist through my saturated silnylon tarp, and that combined with splash from the dirt and rock I was camped on resulted in everything being wet and dirt splattered.
At one point I had woken up and put on all my layers, including my rain gear. This had warmed me up enough to doze on an off for a couple of hours, but as the dampness increased the cold began to creep back in again. I did not go back to sleep, and just waited for first light.
At the first hint of dawn I was up and packing quickly. I would have gotten up earlier, but had heard very little traffic up at the pass, and knew trying to hitch would be tough. I did not eat breakfast, knowing I would be in town soon, and also only having a dreaded Power Bar left in my food bag. Eating that bar would require a true emergency – like at least a week with no other food.
I was standing at the Pass with my thumb out by 6:30 AM, pacing quickly back and forth as I tried to warm up. There were very few vehicles coming through the pass, and those that drove towards me appeared to speed up as they approached. Three hours later I began walking towards town.
About two miles into my road walk a local artist named Randy picked me up. We talked about the trail and my journey. He was not familiar with the trail, and was surprised to hear of it’s existence. As we talked about the rugged CDT, it’s challenges and beauty, I could see “the gleam” in his eye. I smiled to myself as I thought about the first time I had learned of the Appalachian Trail.
Chama Station Inn
One of the first motel’s we came to was good enough for me. Betty greeted me as I inquired about a room, and I think looking like a completely bedraggled, wet rat, encouraged her to give me the suite, with a giant bathtub, for the regular room rate. Soaking for hours in a tub would be a blessing.
Betty offered me the use of her truck, but I did not accept the kind offer, mostly because after walking for weeks, I did not trust myself behind the wheel of a vehicle. I would end up using it the next day though.
I took a quick shower before heading in search of food. Some hikers make food the priority, but I always try to clean up before going into food establishments. I would certainly lose my appetite if eating next to an unwashed me. If I can’t find a shower first, then I’ll put on my mostly clean sleeping clothes, and try to clean up as best I can.
First I walked down to Laura and Josh’s studio (hiker friends), where Laura and I caught up for a bit before she gave me a ride to the grocery store. I’m sure I had to have eaten before going to the grocery store, but I just don’t recall stopping anywhere. Going shopping for food before eating is not something I ever would have done. That would have been unnecessary torture.
Heading back up the road with my grocery bags, I was immediately picked up by a local. It’s sometimes tough to get into towns, but NEVER hard to get rides once I’m in town, probably because I don’t look as dirty and scary with my giant backpack. Surprisingly, most of the town rides are also unsolicited, with people just pulling over and telling me to hop in.
Mr. K in Town
Back at the motel I grabbed my clothes and headed for the laundry mat where I found Mr. K. As always, it was great to see him! He had gotten sick and hitched into town a day earlier. We ended up hanging out and doing chores for the rest of the day before wrapping up with dinner at “The Highcountry Bar.” The meal was really good, but then ANY meal was really good at this point if it was not hiking food.
End of Day
The day ended with a long steamy bath, and I watched as the water went from clear to a murky brown. Even after the earlier shower, I still had a layer of grime that required a good soaking to remove.
Just before falling asleep, some of the guys called to say they were a day out of town. They were getting the lay of the land before heading in tomorrow. I had seen other hikers I knew today, but it was always good to see those that had started this hike with me. It would be fun to catch up with those characters.