June 30 – July 1st
This was a 2 night, 3 day trip into the Chama Basin area just over the border from New Mexico into Colorado. It is a de-facto wilderness, which means that it is not listed as a wilderness for management purposes but nevertheless is wild, perhaps more so that those that have a label stuck on them. This was my first trip here after being invited by Tom Morrison 3 years in a row. Finally made it and it was very much worth it.
On day 1 we drove up from Santa Fe the 220 or so miles to the trailhead. It is a breeze in comparison to many other places we have hiked. Very much high value for effort. Our trailhead is at the end of Forest Road 121. The road ends early due to a massive land slide. There are a few of those so it’s wise to park well back from the first one or perhaps you’ll find yourself stuck someday. We then set off for the 5 plus mile hike to our campsite. At one point you have to leave the road and hike cross country through a beautiful aspen forest down to the Chama River Trail. From there we followed the river with a side trip to an old line cabin. Soon after that we crossed the East Fork of the Rio Chama which, in this drought, looks a lot more like a creek than a river. The crossing was easy. We set up camp is open park land. Most of the basin is made up of large parks interspersed with stands of aspen and spruce. The cliffs of volcanic rock feature water falls. Flows were somewhat anemic this year but still spectacular.
Later that evening we noticed the dogs were seriously chewing on something and no effort from Z or anyone else could get them to stop. We found out that they were chewing on the lower legs of a fresh deer kill. On further inspection, we found multiple predator feeding sites with bones spread all over the place. This makes sense. Tom had seen a mountain lion near camp the year before. Later the dogs earned their keep chasing off a heard of cows. I think they had fun on this day.
Our day 2 agenda was ambitious but not all of us could participate. Kevin had lost his phone at one of the rest stops and had to go find it. We wished him luck and started off. The plan was to hike to Chama Lake, high above us. it seemed quite doable on the map but was far more difficult on the ground. Old growth deadfall obscured the trail and made for seriously strenuous hiking. The ladies were wearing shorts and they were getting scraped up by logs and bit by deer flies. We lost our a way a couple of times but eventually found the route which once past the down fall was pretty straight forward. After getting clear of the trees and up on a high point, we conferred and determined that we did not have enough time to make it to the lake and back before pretty late. Tom and Z’s dog Luis were waiting for us farther back so we bailed. I later determined that the rest of the way to Chama Lake was about 1.40 miles and another 1100 feet of climbing. I’m glad we turned around.
The return hike was semi eventful with more route finding and bushwhacking through deadfall made more bizarre by an encounter with a guy on an ATV cutting through dead fall on the trail. We arrived back in camp after 7 hours of hiking to find Kevin with his phone. Happy Hour ensued in celebration.
Day 3 was uneventful but fine. After a short day hike around camp and making plans for next year, we headed out back to the trailhead. A nice lunch at Foster’s Hotel in Chama was on everyone’s mind.
This hike was guided by Tom Morrison, lead by SK Lund, and participated by Z, Louise with her guest Cindy, and Tom’s guest Kevin. Our mileages follow:
Day 1: 5.35 miles and 1280 feet ascent
Day 2: 8.70 miles and 1401 feet ascent
Day 3: 4.76 miles and 940 feet ascent with a day hike of 1.15 miles and 301 feet ascent.
Note: Mileages are taken from my GPS and averaged by Google Earth and Caltopo. Your may vary considerably.
Following is a map with all waypoints and tracks that are meaningful to this trip. All are downloadable.