We first saw the huge smoke plumes a day or two before Chama, huge, mushroom cloud-like plumes coming up over a nearby ridge. The optimist in me wanted to believe it was just a strange cloud but we both knew it was likely the fires we’d been hearing about, we simply didn’t know if they’d affect us or if we’d be able to get around them.
We rushed into Chama on Saturday morning to beat the post office hours and pick up our food. Next step was to find out about the fires. Stories were bubbling up all over the place and the town of 1500 was buzzing with a population that seemed to be triple its normal size.
The end result was we learned the fires were bad and probably getting worse. It took a day and a half to really get all the available facts and a bit longer to make some tough decisions. Our trail plans were upended and we went through the grieving process with bargaining, anger, despair, and finally acceptance. The trail was essentially closed indefinitely for nearly a 300 mile stretch, the entirety of the beautiful San Juan’s. We thought about flipping up to Canada to hike southbound, finishing in Chama where we were forced off. However, snow on the trail we want to hike in Canada is way too snowy still.
We were fortunate enough to snag a ride on Monday from Chama to Monarch Pass, just past the fire areas. This part of the story is a whole story in itself and will be shared soon, but the end result is we are back on the trail and currently out of the fires. We can only hope the fires are put out quickly, that everyone involved is safe, and that there is something left to come back to at the end of our hike so we can finish our 2013 CDT thru hike as we set out to do.