A little impulsively, I decide to revisit a remote section of the Continental Divide Trail in northern New Mexico for an overnight hike. The weather cooperates fully, but my navigation leaves something to be desired. Slides:
To begin with I follow the new official route from Highway 84, which we didn’t take in 2004, opting for the all-you-can-eat buffet in Ghost Ranch instead. This route doesn’t offer much temptation away from that alternative. It skirts north of the most spectacular pastel rock formations, climbing the mesas via Martinez Canyon, which has more scrub oak than rock walls. It also has plenty of wildlife. I only hear most of it, but I do get clear glimpses of deer rumps and bear paws through the foliage.
As I climb toward Magote Ridge through Ponderosa Pines I look forward to rejoining our 2004 route at Rancherilla Spring, which I remember as a fount of beautiful clear water. Just before I reach it, though, I wander onto a cow path. I daydream until I’m nearly a mile from the spring. At that point I hit a road that heads back that way, but this route also veers slowly away from the spring. In the end I give up and cut back onto the CDT well beyond Rancherilla. I’d still like to go back there some day.
I manage not to miss the turn in missed in 2004 near Magote Peak. Magote Peak is obscured by the smaller Magotito during most of the approach, and before I mistook the more distant Canjilon Mountain for Magote Peak, and got off route. This time I make the right turn, feeling nostalgic.
Magote Peak is a broad, forested summit that narrows to a ridge on the north end. I find wild turkeys clucking and scuffling there. By the time I’ve walked the length of it, the sun is going down. Hoping for a good view somewhere ahead, I descend quickly. Right at sunset I wander into an open meadow with a small spring, and happily roll out my sleeping bag. As I watch the brilliant, quiet sunset, a couple of elk wander across the meadow.
In the morning I descend meadowy ridges, heading for forest roads to take me back to Canjilon Creek. This works pretty well until reach the tiny settlement of Placitas. Here Canjilon Creek is fenced off and cultivated. I poke around looking for a way through, but end up having to climb back up onto the mesas cross-country, where forest roads will take me back. I try to cut some distance off at the end, and of course pay for it with more rough cross-country hiking. I reach my car around 3:30 pm in stifling heat, with barely functioning legs.