Monday, July 21, 2008

Day 7 - Cuba to Ghost Ranch

This was an easy day for Matt, finally! It was mostly downhill. He paused at a campground near the Abiquiu Reservoir and thought of camping there to take a swim and whoop it up with the lake yahoos. But he decided to press on to the north when yet another storm was rolling in.

This time he was able to outrun the storm as he headed downhill in a tailwind. He ended up at the Ghost Ranch visitor center, asking about another campground nearby. But it turned out that Ghost Ranch had its own camping facilities with showers and even dinner! Matt dined on prime rib that night and said the food was great.

The Ghost Ranch was still a dude ranch in 1934 when Georgia O'Keefe first stayed there. It is now associated with the Presbyterian Church and most guests are there to attend seminars of various sorts. Matt met a couple who was there for an archeology dig -- he was actually camped in their usual site, as they come back to the Ghost Ranch yearly. They took the site next to him and didn't mind "sharing" their usual spot with him. He also met a friend of Matt & Sarah's from Tucson!

Day 7 – 67 miles, 4:48, 13.9

Don’t know where to begin. Another classic tour day!

Had a great rest last night with Oceans 12 and Girl Interrupted on TV. Left Cuba without a hitch and started out on the beautiful Hwy 96. Slowly uphill but not hard through valleys of pasture surrounded by the archetypal northern New Mexican sandstone cliffs. Going up one big hill, what do I see, not one or two touristas coming my way, but a group of 13! Too bad for the hill, they didn’t want to stop and talk. Why would they? They each had 12 other people they could talk to whenever they wanted to!

Formation outside of Gallina

Before the drop to Abiquiu

Made it to the high point in the pine forest with dark clouds closing in. Then down, down, down. Lunch in Coyote brought a cell in, so took advantage of the tailwind and the downhill to outrun the storm. This didn’t go exactly according to plan, but the rain felt good and suddenly I was at Abiquiu Lake watching vacationers boat and jet ski.

Abiquiu Lake

Another big cell came in, so I decided to move on when it turned into a monster. A loud thunder clap right near me filled me with the adrenaline I needed to make it up the hill to the turn off for Hwy 84. Again aided by tailwinds and the downhill, I quickly outran the storm.

This is where the day got very interesting. I was shooting for the Echo Amphitheater campground but wasn’t sure how far it was. So, stopped in at the Ghost Ranch visitor center where I was informed that the campground was closed due to trouble with the camphost. Great. But, they tell me, there’s a campground a mile back at the actual Ghost Ranch, which is now a large conference center. Sounded perfect to me; a chance to check out the historical site made famous by Georgia O’Keefe and get a shower!

No wonder Georgia O'Keefe loved this place, Ghost Ranch

The old dude ranch is now owned by the Presbyterian Church and many church retreats and conferences are held here (even though there is a very hippy-ish feel to the place, at least in the campground). Just so happens that a two week camp is about to begin, and I meet Brandon from Tucson who is taking part as a teacher. Oh, also there is a prime rib feast tonight. Couldn’t pass that up!

So, I go down to eat with my new church friends and find that Brandon used to live right across from Matt! and Sarah, my co-workers who are now on a world tour! Small world. I take in some sightseeing on the ranch grounds, checking out the historical buildings and looking for some new birds.

I got back to my campsite and found that I have neighbors, and they like to hang out, in my site! Oh well, this is what a tour is about, in large part, so I oblige. Turns out they’ve been coming out here for years, just like the church people, only they’re here for an archaeology dig and seminar. What an interesting place and mix of people! So, Howard, who is a cyclist of sorts and once rode from San Diego to Palo Alto, is quite the character. He tells me I have taken their campsite, the one they use every year. Anyway, his son worked at Hughes Aircraft in El Segundo, and we figure he and my dad probably know each other. We both vow to find out. Some more talk of Burning Man and bike commuting and there you have it. A classic day.

Neighbors for a night, Howard and Mazzie Schwitkis

Bush Tit - Yellow-rumped Warbler - European Starling - Lark Sparrow - Chipping Sparrow - American Coot - Mallard

The original dude ranch structure, the Ghost House

Classic southwest colors

The Ghost House

Route map for day 7:

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