This is my plan for sections 6-10 which ends in Chama, NM which is my last stop before I start heading into the San Juan section of my hike. Here’s how I’m planning to hike these sections:
Section 6: Reserve to Pie Town: 39 Miles
Ley Maps 28-26-Mail Drop
This section of trail is a pretty short section to go before hitting Pie town, and is not known to be that difficult. There is decent water throughout this section with many solar wells and a couple of spots where local ranchers will let you take water directly from their spiggots. Pie town is famous mostly for one thing… you guessed it, Pie! There is very little here other than the two restaurants that serve some of the best pie in the world, according to some hikers. If the Appalachian Trail (AT) has a “½ gallon challenge,” then I think that Pie Town should have a whole pie challenge.We’ll see if I actually do that when I get there. A mail drop is pretty much mandatory here because there is no real grocery store in town other than the Top of the World store, which is 3 miles west of town and has a limited resupply selection. I will be sending to, and staying at, the Toaster House which is a very friendly hostel that accepts packages (UPS only) and has cheap accomodations. You can also call head to the Grants Visitor Center to see which windmills are operational. However, this is an old note I read from 2008, so I’m not sure whether or not it’s still valid.
Section 7: Pie town – Grants: 86 miles
Ley Maps: 26-20-Local Resupply
This seems like it will be a very cool section because it takes you through a lot of canyons and Anazasi ruins. The water supply is spotty in places with some stretches of 20+ miles if the sources you do find are not suitable to drink. The area is also known for illegal drug activity – with planes dropping bales of something for pickups waiting to haul it away. I’m sure they move their smuggling spots around so I’m not too worried, but I might think about camping ‘out of sight’ in this stretch, just in case. When I hit Grants I will be happy to stop by some wonderful Trail Angels – Hugo and Carole – who run a small B&B. They are extremely welcoming and will help you with anything you need, especially water caches for the next section. They used to allow people to stay in their home but as of this year, they are no longer doing it. Apparently an extremely rude hiker trashed the couple online about the accommodations and their help. They will still help you with everything above, but you can’t sleep at their house anymore. This just shows that you need to be nice to every person that you meet along the trail.You are just a person with a pack on your back , not some rock star, so don’t expect to get special treatment. Be thankful for every bit of help you get.
Section 8: Grants – Cuba: 111 miles
Ley Maps: 20-11- Local Resupply
This section is where you start hitting more mountainous terrain, with more ups and downs, and an option to summit Mt. Taylor. Mt. Taylor is just northeast of the town of Grants and is directly on the Ley route vs. the Bear Creek maps which goes around it. The Navajo People call it Tsoodzil, the turquoise mountain. It is one of four sacred mountains that are part of the cardinal boundaries of the Dinetah, which is the traditional Navajo homeland. As a big fan of native culture(s) I am definitely planning on hiking to the summit. These places always have a unique power and feeling to them and knowing the history you can’t help but think of days gone by and the people who had been there before you. The town of Cuba is said to be a little run down but, has all the things you need. Thru hikers report having a good experience at Del Prado Motel, as the owner is very hiker friendly. It has a laundry, comfortable beds and the owner will even loan you her laptop for the night if you want to use the free wifi. The grocery store is said to be good if you’re not too picky. You also have the option of staying at Circle A Ranch which is only a little bit past Cuba. The ranch is hiker friendly and some hikers report this being their favorite hostel along the whole trail. There is not a resupply there, but they do accept packages and you can use their full kitchen to prepare meals. If you don’t want to stay in town, this might be a good option at only $60 for one night and $30 a night for two nights.
Section 9: Cuba – Ghost Ranch: 55 miles
Ley maps 11-7- Mail drop
This section of trail goes through some good canyons with reliable water sources nearby or along the trail. The real highlight of this section is getting to Ghost Ranch which is a great spot, and not to be missed. It’s a Presbyterian retreat, but is very hiker friendly with basic amenties like showers, laundry and a cafeteria that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner at a reasonable fee. They also have a library that is open 24 hours with good wifi and outgoing mail. They will also hold packages for you at no fee as long as you clearly indicate what your arrival time is and how long they should hold the package for.
Section 10: Ghost Ranch – Chama: 80 Miles
Ley maps 7-1-Local Resupply w/ equipment mail drop.
If you want to see an intimidating-looking section of maps, this is the section. There are more notes on the Ley maps here than anywhere else. Notes such as‘trust your compass’ and ‘pay attention’ are littered throughout. There are a lot of alternatives you can use here, including some old routes, the new Bear Creek route, or even road walking the entire distance between Ghost Ranch and Chama. You can take a train from Chama to Cumbres Pass. There are a lot of forest roads, side roads, bad tread and everything in between for this section. However, I’m positive my navigation skills will be good at this point, so I hope it doesn’t matter. In Chama I plan on sending the gear that I will need for the San Juans, since they start shortly north of Chama. I plan on buying my food locally, but I will have my sister mail me a box I’ll have packed up ahead of time, including warmer clothes, ice axe (if needed), microspikes for my feet and my maps for the next few sections. I might also do a zero day here to prepare me for one of the parts of the CDT I am really looking forward to (not to mention one of the most physically demanding sections as well). I don’t think that this year will be as high of a snow year as 2011 was, but low snow still means there is snow on the ground, so I’m sure postholing will be in my future.