Just a pleasant day

Day 35: Hopewell Lake Campground to meadow along Osier Fork Rio Brazos, ~23 miles, ~625 miles total

We woke around 6:00 am to sunshine filling our tent. Here’s to the longer days of late spring. While packing up chipmunks scurry about, bolder than the chipmunks on trail they don’t shy away when we near and are preoccupied with scavenging for campground morsels. Lucy is not yet out of the Marshmallow, so the chipmunks are safe for now.

Goodbyes said to Groceries and Cake Walk, we all marvel at the clear bluebird morning. Then Gabriel and I are off.

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Hopewell Lake, this maybe the first natural lake we have seen in New Mexico.

A beautiful sunny day. Green meadows, broad trail, we contemplate detouring from the trail to breakfast on one of Jawbone Mountain’s three summits. So tempting, but the true summit is a ways off and there will be more peaks to enjoy in Colorado.

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The meadow is the trail.

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Emerging false hellebore and friends.

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Contemplating Jawbone Mountain for breakfast.

With all the lush green growth and patches of snow it is hard to believe we are still in New Mexico. Walking through wide gentle valleys and over  rolling hills feels like we are back on the Continental Divide. We stop every so often to watch elk graze, inspect prairie dog colonies, and admire mountain blue birds along the fence posts. The fence posts are confirmation that we still in New Mexico, that the barbed wire is on the ground means we are in Northern New Mexico where snow can stretch the barbed wire. Easier to take down the fence for winter then make repairs. That it isn’t up yet tells us it is still early season.

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First golden mantle ground squirrel of the trail!

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Wide open valleys.

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Another hiker?

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Prairie dog!

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Gabriel often stops to make minor repairs to the trail such as fixing markers or removing down limbs. He's such a great person!

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A flower to identify. It has been abundant in the recently melted out grass lands and parklands.

Over and over we marvel to ourselves that this is such a pleasant day. We are enjoy it so much, the irritation of losing the unmarked, treadless trail for a ways, doesn’t mar the afternoon. Just reminds us that the CDT has many personalities. Soon enough we are uo on an unnamed ridge looking down at the valley where Rio San Antonto flows full of snow melt. Hiking along above 10,000 feet we see our first limber pine of the hike (~mile 615)!

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Valley of the Rio San Antonto

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Who are you lovely little flower?

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The first chipmunk that stayed still long enough for me to take a picture. Here you go Dalton and Wyatt!

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We cross streams as the trail rolls along gentle hills and valleys.

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The largest herd of elk for the day, at least 16.

Such a pleasant afternoon. We made it to Lagunitas Campground around 5:00 and stop at the upper lake to watch the fish jump and take pleasure in a stop, just because.

Too early to camp, up the trail we go. Reports from other hikers suggested the last 20 miles to Cumbres Pass could be challenging. Not knowing what to expect, we braced ourselves as we entered dense spruce forest covered in snow.

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Snow and trees equals postholing. Hikers go one way, elk another.

It wasn’t so bad. I’d even call it “cute postholing”. Tracks mostly going along route, interspersed with dry ground, and the forest filled with woodpeckers working their way up the spruce. Lasted no more than an hour. The relative ease had us cautiously optimistic for the remaining miles to Cumbres Pass.

Gaining Brazos Ridge, above 10,800 feet, we had our first sweeping views of snow covered peaks to the north, in Colorado(!), and east to the Jemez Mountains. Amazing! Had it not been for the dark clouds and rain in the distance, we would have camped along the ridge.

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The view looking west to north to northeast.

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Where will these clouds go with their thunder and lightning?

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Cloud admiring.

Down the ridge we went in search of a snow free, mostly level camp spot. Hard to find in these parts. We walked longer than normal (after 8:00). Our reward was enjoying golden light as the sun dipped below the clouds.

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Nice light on the spruce.

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Hiking along.

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A little sunset color.

Around 8:15 we had the choice of camping on the road or in a meadow. Beautiful meadow. But likely cold and wet in the morning. Oh well, we told ourselves. Tomorrow night we’ll be in town where wet tents dry out without inconvenience. Time to stop for the night and finally eat dinner.

Sitting on semi damp grass amid old cow pies, we chose to admire the last light on the clouds. Watch an owl perched on top of a nearby spruce, then flap away silently in search of its breakfast.

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Owl and spruce.

A beautiful and pleasant last full day in the New Mexico CDT. Before going to sleep we listened to coyotes howl in the distance.

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