Saturday, July 16, 2016

Day 32: Ghost Ranch to Creek by NM 110

Loaded to capacity with water, we said farewell to the red gold sandstone cliffs of Ghost Ranch and began climbing out of the desert for the last time. The moment was bittersweet. We are ready for the higher mountains of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. We are also a little sad that this final chapter of the CDT is coming to an end. 

But there was no time for sentiment. The trail soon disappeared into a frustrating tangle of branches. Thorny wild roses scraped against bare legs. Bits of juniper clung to our hair. Thick willow and oak pressed against our arms. Ravenous and opportunistic mosquitoes and deer flies preyed on our exposed skin as we were slowed by the obstacle course of the overgrown trail. 

We climbed into lush green pastures sprinkled with colorful wildflowers and ringed with aspens and oaks. Clear spring water flowed from a rusty metal pipe into a waiting trough, and we gratefully shared the cattle's water, perhaps for the last time. We are climbing into the mountains now, and should be passing creeks and springs regularly now. 

A large herd of elk grazed in an upper meadow. A single wailing cry alerted the group as we approached, and they quickly disappeared into the aspen forest. A few miles later another herd, with several elk calves, grazed along the trail in a small grove of aspens. They waited until we were very close, then thundered away to repeated cries.  A single elk continued to bark at us from across the creek after we set up camp. 

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