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CDT NM 6th Section Off-trail

Days 161-163: Santa Fe, FS 151

Day 161: Santa Fe

So I said I had a plan to get out of the snow and cold. Consultation of weather reports showed that temperatures on trail in Colorado were bound to be in the teens every night for the foreseeable future. My equipment isn’t even suited to keep me comfortable at those temperatures as evidenced by recent experience on the trail.

Besides which, I’m tired of all the extra hassle engendered by the cold and snow, some of which I have not described and will be the subject of a future post most likely.

Anyway, I only have a couple more weeks of time I can spend hiking this year, so I might as well do it on a section of trail that isn’t quite so cold. Checking the weather for New Mexico showed that nightly temperatures there would be at least five degrees warmer at similar elevations, and more than that lower down, which, on average, I would be. In particular, I could do a section north of where I had left off in June that would still shave off a bit of trail left to do next year and also be under 12000 feet the whole way, not to mention be largely snow-free.

After Six made us eggs for breakfast, I got everything packed for air transport, and we took some final photos, Mama started driving us to the airport around 9:30 to get her rental car dropped off about 10:30. That all went just fine, even with the wrong turn and the refueling stop.

From there, we took the bus to the terminal, checked bags, went through security, and headed to the Delta Sky Club to await our flights. We both boarded in the 1pm hours, so we had several hours to enjoy the buffet and open bar.

The rest of the day included two short hop flights with limited service (with a short layover in SLC) and a long, expensive Lyft ride from Albuquerque to Santa Fe right to my hotel. I had originally planned to take the train, but the train I had thought would be running was no longer listed by Google Maps by the time I arrived. So I did arrive sooner than planned but spent a lot more money.

As soon as I dropped my stuff in my room, I walked over to the nearby Walmart and got food for dinner and breakfast for two nights and mornings. I spent the rest of the night just watching TV and eating until sleep.

Day 162: Santa Fe

I had plenty of food in the fridge from my Walmart visit to do breakfast, so I had no reason to leave my room until 10am when REI opened.

I was nowhere near REI, but it turned out there was a bus stop right in front of my hotel that would take me out to the area where the REI was for only a dollar and it left every half hour.

So I got to REI in the 12 o’clock hour and returned my backpack and boots. (I accidentally gave them my head net because I forgot to remove it from the pocket, but I also accidentally kept the day pack that comes with the backpack, so I guess I came out ahead.) I got a different pack, a Deuter, that had far fewer pockets and would be a little bit more difficult to pack in an organized way. Moreover, it didn’t even have a bottle holster, but I hoped that it would not break on me the same way the Baltoro always did. The boots I got were Merrell snow boots that should be able to not tear up when caked with snow. I also wanted to do a Darn Tough sock exchange, but neither the REI nor any other Darn Tough retailer in the city did that. I got a new can of stove fuel, some hand warmers, and some gear tape, then went to lunch.

The Second Street Brewery was right around the corner and had a great chile stew and an “alien burger” that also featured chiles. I caught the bus back to my hotel just before 3.

After dropping my purchases in my room, I left to walk to the day’s main event. I had a ticket for an interactive art exhibit just around the corner called Meow Wolf: House of Eternal Return.

I can’t really explain what an incredible experience this was, but I’ll give the encyclopedia definition that won’t capture the half of it: It’s an art exhibition in a repurposed bowling alley, but it’s not like a museum. Or rather, it is to art what interactive science museums for kids are to science/technology. It’s an intricate two-level maze of a space, all dark except for the light generated by the pieces themselves. Sometimes a wall or a nook is dedicated to a specific collection, sometimes an entire room is a single installation. Maybe a floor to ceiling mural, maybe a set of puzzles to be solved by guests, maybe a guest-controlled dance party. Maybe even just the architecture and furniture of the room itself is the art. And all of this is tied back to a central hub, the titular house, and the narrative and lore presented within it and throughout the other spaces. I spent at least two of the four hours there just reading or watching videos of the lore, and there is much more online I could go back to to dive in even further. But I did manage to visit every space and see almost every artwork and audiovisual presentation throughout. It will surely stick with me for a while.

Anyway, after hours in the dark squeezing past strangers, it was strange to see that it was still light out when I finished, though it was dusk and the sun was nearly gone. I walked back to the hotel, getting accosted by a homeless man trying to sell me Bluetooth headphones on the way. I just dropped in to check what I should buy for my resupply, and it turned out it was only a handful of things, as what I had brought with me from Colorado was almost all I needed to get me the few days from Ghost Ranch to Cuba.

Since I was there, I decided to just go ahead and eat supper. Hot Pockets again, only now I opened the beer I had taken from the Delta lounge. I didn’t have a bottle opener (the downside of no longer having the knife I lost in Steamboat), so I just broke the top of the bottle off trying to remove it on the edge of the granite counter around the bathroom sink.

I went back out to Walmart in the last hour before it closed. It took less than 15 minutes to get in and out with the five or so items I needed. I went back to my room, too tired to do the blog work I was behind on, and immediately got ready for bed. This time I slept without even bothering to close the blackout curtains.

Day 163: FS 151 near Rio Chama

The schedule for the 190 bus to Chama showed that it ran at 11:20am from Espanola Transit Center, but Google didn’t seem to think it ran until 5:50pm. (It turned out that midday service had been suspended until that very day.)

The matter was moot though. After a nice relaxing bath, breakfast, two cups of coffee, and other self-care, and then spending an hour figuring out how to pack all my stuff in the new pack, it was already past 10am, and there was no way I could get to Espanola in time.

I took the one dollar bus up to the government district of Santa Fe, a spartan sort of area south of the cool part of town. I found my way to the transit hub there and saw that I had three hours to waste until the next free bus to Espanola.

I spent that time at a very European style southwestern cafe called Cafecito. They were very inviting and told me I could sit there on the patio all day without ordering anything else (after I had finished my empanadas and salad) if I wanted. I ordered some banana bread anyway. With only thirty minutes until my bus, I walked back over to the transit center.

There were a couple of people there waiting for the same bus. One very talkative and opinionated Latino guy wanted to try on my pack and take pictures with it, which was fine. When we all got to Espanola an hour later, I ended up taking his recommendation for where to go for dinner.

I had another 3 hours until the free bus toward Chama left, you see, so I might as well spend it eating a good hearty supper too. Espanola seemed like kind of a sketchy wasteland, where all the businesses were surrounded by high fences topped by razor wire that they could close up at night. But La Cucina was actually an incredible Mexican restaurant. I got seated next to a power outlet so I could work on the blog and get my phone fully charged while I ate. The free chips and salsa were both some of the best I’ve ever gotten at a restaurant, and they served me a steak practically drowned in beans and chiles and cheese and corn. It was the pure New Mexican Cuisine experience. And then they also just threw in a sopaipilla for free. I can’t recommend going to that town unless you happen to be connecting busses there like me, but if you ever find yourself there, I do recommend that restaurant.

Anyway, the Chama bus came pretty late, like 6pm, but it made the trip faster than scheduled. I got the driver to save me thirty minutes of walking down the highway by dropping me across from FS 151 instead of the official stop at the Ghost Ranch turnoff. In the last half-hour of the ride, I went ahead and got out my headlamp because the sun would be set by the time I got started hiking, but my Steelstik repair job broke on me. So I had to spend that time getting out the putty and fashioning and new repair and then repacking everything before we got there.

Anyway, I stepped off the bus at 7pm, watched it drive away, crossed the highway, and set off down the forest service road. Right away, I saw a van parked in an area to the left and someone tending a small campfire and was slowly tempted to join him. But I had decided I would get in some reasonable amount of hiking and would not stop until 8pm.

When the road came near the Rio Chama and turned to follow it, winding up into Obama Canyon, I turned off into a little side road cul de sac that was flat and had two well-used fire pits right next to each other. Clearly a popular campsite. Even though the ground was so hard I had to pound my stakes in with a rock and bent one doing so.

I did a bit of blogging and then watched the first episode of Squid Game. I had downloaded it for one of the flights down and they had been so short I hadn’t gotten around to it. I got to sleep by 11 or so and slept very well. A long day of doing very little besides spending money, but at least it was on food and not a two hour Lyft ride.

Trail miles: 3.6, I guess.

Distance to Cuba: 49.3 miles

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