Day 31: Whirlpool Campground along the Rio Chama to Ghost Ranch, ~9 miles, ~557 miles total
Last night we woke to a downpour of rain on our silnylon roof. Then a flash of lightning and a few seconds later the boom of thunder. Our first storm of the trail. It went on for hours, ebbing and flowing in its intensity. We’d fall back to sleep and wake up with the thunder. It was so nice to hear the rain as we stayed dry and comfortable in our tent.
By morning the storm rolled on. The sky bright blue, crisp and clear. The juniper and sagebrush looked freshly polished and the air pungent with their signature high desert fragrance. My favorite smells of the interior west. (Back home, longing for the fresh smell of sagebrush and juniper is enough a reason to drive out to central Washington.)
The mesas scrape the bottom layer of the cloud deck (~8,000 feet) while sunlight illuminates their red, ocher, buff and white sandstone walls. It is marvelous walking this morning on forest road, then cross country amid grasslands. Flowers springing up every few feet. A good morning to walk the high desert of the southern Colorado Plateau.
A number of other hikers also camped at Whirlpool Campground last night. Many of them appear to be rushing to Ghost Ranch. Maybe they want to be sure to get their for lunch? I can’t resist the desire to go slower. Stop more. Even admire the red clay mud on my shoes after the night’s good rain. Gabriel doesn’t seem to mind my lagging behind for pictures.
As we hike along the Living Museum trail to the Ranch, we both get into identifying species, reading about better range land practices (take half, leave half… at least), and vow to learn the different species of juniper that grow along the Divide. So far we can discern alligator, one-seed, and Rocky Mountain juniper.
Ghost Ranch beckons with its red and gray hills and towering yellow columns. Gabriel is particularly intrigued with the red and gray mudstone hills that are slowly melting over the years. These are the same hills that Georgia O’Keefe painted when she began coming to Ghost Ranch in the 1930s.
By 11:00 am we are in our room that looks out to Kitchen Mesa. We are close to the dinning hall, the library and other hiker conveniences. By evening, the rain has come back and is down pouring. We feel sorry for anyone out on the trail. But we are thoroughly enjoy sitting on our porch looking out at the steady down pour and dark clouds that mask the red, ocher and buff cliffs we so admire. That, and the arid lands need the precip. And maybe, just maybe, the rain is melting the snow in the San Juans.
Whatever is happening is happening. Right now, it is a good evening to be warm, dry, clean and comfortable. Tomorrow we zero at Ghost Ranch and we will learn more about this storied resort and the lands around it.