While Chama is a CDT “gateway community”, and it’s “historic district” is quaint, it still appears to be a town on “life support”. In all, it is a 2.6 square mile Village. We walked most of its entirety. From what we could see, there is not much reason or draw to Chama, unless you are a steam-driven narrow gauge heritage railway train buff, a thru-hiker, an elk hunter, or fisherman. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad is the only “living” remnant of an economy that once thrived on lumbering.
Al Unser Jr. lives nearby and built a magnificent candy shop for his wife to run, and a new restaurant/bar for him to frequent, but the Village of Chama still appears struggling to survive. No doubt, it’s inhabitants are hearty and our encounters with the locals found them to be extremely kind. Covid, I’m told, was the final nail in the coffin for a good number of the small businesses and restaurants that were already on the “ropes”. For us, this meant there were limited places to find and consume fresh food, as well as affordable places to stay. As far as “fresh” food consumption, the Chama Grill and Fiona’s were our go to places. The Chama Grill was open toward the late afternoon/evening with tasty burgers and tamales. Fiona’s had (and has) the BEST breakfast burritos and giant calorie dense cinnamon rolls. She obviously knows what hikers crave!
When we walked into The Hotel Shops for a room for the night, they were full up. They did however, call and find us a room at the Cumbres Suites, that was “just a couple blocks down the road”. It was a MILE. It was well worth the mile walk. The place was just what we needed. Terri and Kip are great people. She did our laundry and their continental breakfast was available all day. WiFi was fast and they had a covered patio to hang out at. They even gave us a ride back to the trail, when The Hotel Shops ride fell through.
Two other sets of CDT SOBO hikers were also staying at the hotel. Pete’s Dragon, Bags, Rooster and Woodchuck. I later discovered that Rooster was being a “Trail Correspondent” for The Trek’s Backpacker Radio. We talked at length with Rooster and Woodchuck, a young husband and wife team. Turns out that they had camped just above us, under the dead trees, at Blue Lake. We shared stories and compared “notes” on the trail. While they are younger and can stomp out more daily miles, our observations, “wow” moments, and “annoyances” about the CDT/trail were quite similar.
Chama not only provided us with rest for our weary feet and bodies, but it also allowed us to finally check one of our desired wildlife sightings. It was while standing in the drive-thru lane with Rooster and Woodchuck, at the Chama Grill, that we saw our first, and only, bull elk. In fact behind the restaurant, in a field by the private property stream, there was and entire herd of them. Go figure.
After a full days rest and a run to the Post Office to mail a resupply to Ghost Ranch, it was time to get back on trail and FULLY out of Colorado. While we zero’d and resupplied in Chama NM, we still had 3 more miles before the actual Colorado/New Mexico border…on trail.