Ojo Caliente — Day 3

Rose before daybreak, made coffee, ate breakfast, caught up on email and news. Our friends decided to go off on their own today, so we started the day by taking Chica for a short walk. Then Mary picked a hiking route, a short loop into the mountains and back, a hike of about an hour. We left the pack behind and only took 3/4 of a bottled water which I carried in my back pocket. Mary didn’t even wear her hat.

The first leg was all uphill and wasn’t very well marked, although the trail was very wide and well-worn. First mistake: we missed the turn-off looping back to the campground. Then we saw a sign leading to a mica mine. Second mistake: we followed it. Two miles later we found the mine and several caves. The whole mountain was littered with glittering mica. It was beautiful.

When we came to a crossroads, there was a busted sign laying on the ground pointing to HW 111, a dirt, rutted road. Third mistake: we followed it after consulting maps on a cell phone, thinking it would loop back to the campground. After about a mile, all down hill, we came to a bend in the road and suddenly the wind kicked up and started blowing real hard. I turned to Mary and said “the gods are telling us not to go any farther.”

Fourth mistake: we didn’t listen to the gods. After another half mile, several crows started circling down low just above us and squawking like crazy. I turned to Mary and said ” the gods are still telling us to turn back.” Fifth mistake: we didn’t listen to the gods this time either. After about two more miles, still all downhill, we came to a wide rushing river that we couldn’t ford or follow in the direction we needed to go to get back to camp. On the other side of the river, a semi tanker trailer was backed up to the river and either dumping something in it, or sucking water out. Didn’t know if the driver was armed, and we didn’t want to find out, either.

Long story short: we backtracked and wound up hiking over 10 miles with no pack, little water, and Mary not wearing a hat. Lesson re-learned: always always prepare for the unexpected.

That evening we reconnected with our friends and drove to Chimayo, NM, and had dinner in a very good restaurant called Rancho de Chimayo. Returned to camp, had nightcaps and turned in.

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