5/23 I crested the canyon I had been working my way up and was greeted by the largest meadow I had yet seen. It was so vibrant with springtime and had water running literally everywhere. The meadows were soaked with ankle to shin high snow melt water that numbed my feet as I sludged through them. It continued like this, then back down to a lower elevation with a forest of blown down trees. I made my way back up a Mesa and took a break for a while. It was hot then cold then perfect then hot again. And that's the CDT, you never know if you should have your down jacket or rain jacket or long sleeve shirt or pants on. Coming down from the Mesa was another mini Grand Canyon that had arches and millions of obvious years of erosion against layers of rock along the cliffs. When I got to the rio chama I ran into people, yes, people, not person. it was a group of four--LaLa, Day Man, Malarkey and toast. They were quite the friendly bunch so I hiked with them and camped with them too. It was then that I realized that I tend to enjoy experiences more when I am with people. Chris McCandles said before he died "happiness is only real when shared." Being alone and pushing your limits all day can take a toll on the mind. Do I enjoy this? Why am I doing this? these questions are always reassured to me either by the allure of my surroundings, but more often than not, people. People have a way of lifting the spirits and enriching any experience. People are great.
5/24 We camped about 9 miles from ghost ranch, and were awakened by a light sprinkling at about 5 am. We all put up our shelters and slept in a bit. It was a misty morning heading to Ghost Ranch. We all walked together and all trusted that someone knew where they were going so we got a little mixed up and added a mile or two. When we made it to ghost ranch we were greeted by about 15 other quiet hikers with bowed heads catching up on their social media accounts via a surprisingly fast wifi in the Internet cafe. My plan was to wait for John to get in because we wanted to hike the snow section together. La La immediately took the mother role and got us a room that we all pitched for. Within a couple hours we were all showered up and our clothes were hanging on the line outside freshly laundered. Next was lunch. We had heard bad things about the lunch, but how bad could it really be? Well. Cold beans, Fritos, mystery red sauce, and old lettuce. That was lunch. Literally all of us agreed that our trail food was better than that old lunch. The hours went by and John showed up while I was watching Hook in the lounge with all the other hikers. From there we talked about the snow situation and how it was recommended to bring snow shoes or skis and definitely an ice axe. After contemplating we settled on getting ice axes and giving the snow section in the San Juans a shot. The ice axes wouldn't arrive for a couple days so we would be doing 25s until Chama. A nice rest from the typical 35 mile day.
5/25 We rolled out with the crew I stayed in Ghost Ranch with. By now, I had gotten used to the northern Irish humor Malarkey entertained us with and the witty comments Dayman delivered all day. LaLa will hike next to you and sincerely ask about your life, wanting to get to know you better and Toast had a constant optimism and laughter that maintained the positive atmosphere. It was a great group to be with and I was glad we would be going their pace into Chama. John and I hiked on together and strategized a bit about the snow. Later in the day we all grouped up and hiked the final miles together. A sunny forecast quickly turned in to hail and high winds for a bit, but mostly threatened with dark clouds. Towards the end of the day two Latinos pulled up in a big truck that had come up to (Latino accent) "see the moisture" and were shocked that we were hiking all the way to Canada because they (Latino accent again) "like hiking, but not that much." they asked us how far we had hiked and we said 25, so Eloy turned and looked at his friend as he said, " that's pretty good," as his friend nodded with approval. They handed us too many cheap beers and I gave mine to the group who could barely get them down. We found a nice campsite just past that where we camped with the one and only Banana Pants, an Austrian with a squeaky voice that was always 20 minutes ahead. You leave at 6, he leaves at 545. You arrive where he is breaking, he packs his things and hikes on. Banana pants. Oh yeah, he wears bring yellow pants.