Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Day 35: Upper Lagunitas, NM to Cumbres Pass, CO

"This is awesome!" Sierra effused. The first golden rays of sunshine gently woke the bright yellow sunflowers that lined the trail. From our vantage point on the ridge we  had a perfect view is the deep green valley below. Across the valley, a rainbow dipped from the gray clouds, touching a light green meadow lit by the sun. 

Brightly colored columbine, harebell, daisies, and other wildflowers dispelled any gloom that might otherwise have been caused by the gray, overcast day. 

And then we reached the Brazos Ridge Overlook and caught our first breathtaking glimpse of the 14,000 foot peaks ahead in Colorado and I realized this is why one hikes the desert. It is not for the rare beauty of the desert, although the desert is beautiful. It is not for the excitement of climbing out of the desert into the forest for the first time, although climbing into that first pine, fir, and aspen forest was exciting. It is for the magic of crossing the desert, catching that first glimpse of the mountains ahead, and knowing they are yours to explore. 

A lone antelope eyed us as we approached. We sat and watched each other for a few minutes before the antelope turned and bounded across the meadow and disappeared into the fir trees. 

We still marveled at the abundant water as we stopped at the East Fork of Rio Brazos for lunch. We climbed through the forest and then onto trail carpeted with snaking red trailers of strawberry plants, tiny white blossoms brightening the shaded plants, delicious tiny red berries concealed underneath the leaves in the sun. Colorful wildflowers towered over the baby fir trees lining the trail. As we dipped back into the forest, a pair of elk crashed through the woods. 

Finally, we spotted the Rio Grande National Forest sign in the distance. Colorado. Our first state when we started the CDT at Spring Creek Pass in 2014. Now our last state as we finish our final section. We crossed over the border from New Mexico to Colorado together. Enormous purple and white columbines, the Colorado state flower greeted us on the other side. 

We admired the rocky cliffs, then quickly descended to Cumbres Pass, where we were whisked into the nearest town.  Ironically, the nearest town was in New Mexico, not Colorado. Chama, New Mexico is a cute little town along the Cumbres-Toltec passenger railway, a coal train that takes passengers up to the pass or beyond to Colorado. 

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