Thursday, July 14, 2016

Day 30: Cecilia Stream to Los Viejos Mesa South Rim

Deep in a canyon, the morning dawned cold. For the first time this summer, we left camp bundled up in warm layers, gloves, and hats. Still reveling in the ready access to natural water sources, we stopped to fill up at Cecilia Stream, near our camp. 

We climbed steeply past red and gold sandstone cliffs up onto Mesa Alta. Elk galloped across the hillside and disappeared into the woods. Deep red earth marked the trail and the surrounding cliffs. 

Disaster struck in early afternoon. We missed a poorly marked junction, continuing over a mile off route before being forced to backtrack. 

We entered Rio Chama Wilderness and quickly descended into Ojitos Canyon. We looked hopefully for a promised stream, but were met instead with the  rotting swampy smell of a drying stream bed. We instead filled up a few miles down the trail at a pipe flowing into a murky cattle trough. 

We crossed Skull Bridge over the Rio Chama, the largest natural water source encountered on the CDT through New Mexico. A popular rafting site, the river roiled with dark brown silty water like frothy hot chocolate. 

We climbed steeply up to the top of the mesa before finding a bed of soft pine needles with a view of the Rio Chama and the surrounding valley and carved sandstone cliffs. Trees bent over like the Leaning Tower of Pisa from the force of winds past. We fell asleep hoping that they remained strong enough to withstand the night's gentle breezes. 

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