A day in the land of enchantment
The land of enchantment is New Mexico, and that’s where I am with my band. Chama, to be exact. Where the hell is Chama? Chama is in the far north of the state, about 10 minutes away from the southern part of Colorado. There is not much here. Population is 1,026. Damn how did we get booked for a show in this area?
Turns out there is a veterans group that gets together and rides horses as a way to find peace. Many of these vets suffer from varying degrees of trauma due to experiencing things no one should ever have to. Eddie organizes the outings, and as a special event he hires Madison Rising to play a rock concert.
So here I am in Chama, staying at the “Chama Trails Motel.” I can tell that the owner of the place takes immense pride in keeping things inviting, clean, and presentable.
The manager at the time mentions to the band that the owner of the motel was hoping the band would sing some karaoke with him. The other guys were not up for it, but I figured it would be fun to meet someone new (who was excited to meet the band) and I did not want to let the owner down. Plus, I drove across the country to be here, better make the most of it.
I forget his name, but the owner and I have a blast. We sing some old country western tunes, some Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard…it is a beautiful moment.
The next day we hang with some of the veterans, ride some horses and have amazing green chile. (It was the real deal, with just the right amount of kick)! Eddie and I are chatting and the topic of hiking comes up. Tom and I are looking for a trail to hike the following day. Eddie says he knows a great trail. He will drop us off at one end, and pick us up at the other. The adventure continues.
Tom and I are avid hikers. We have hiking experience in many different states, but not so much in NM. The idea of hitting the trail early the next day has us amped up. The morning comes, and Eddie arrives with one of the vets in his pickup truck. Tom and I hop in the back and Eddie takes us for a wild ride. We are driving by so many dogs. They all are barking at us and chasing the vehicle. There must have been 20 dogs at one point!
We arrive at the trail, (I can’t seem to recall the name of it) and this is when the spell of enchantment enhances. Tom and I set off into the New Mexico wilderness and I feel that this is time for an edible. We picked some up a few days ago during our brief stay in Vegas. I was saving one of them for a moment like this. 6 miles of hiking through the land of enchantment, it is the right call.
Fall foliage is around us. There are at least 4 different shades of yellows and greens, even some red colors made their appearance. I feel so free as Tom and I embark on our quest. There is a river that we are following to our left, it guides us forward. The trail markers made of rock formations (cairns) are also guiding us swiftly down the path. Days like this will be remembered.
After about 5 miles we see a long suspension bridge crossing over a flowing river. We cross. I am reminded of the scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, towards the very end of the film, the final showdown. What a classic scene! Fortunately we were not nearly as high above the earth.
We continue down the trail and see a tarantula. Apparently we were very lucky to see one in the wild in this part of New Mexico. Tom has more details about the specific species of tarantula. I always enjoy hearing him drop some science knowledge!
Moving on towards the end of the trail we see a large wooden staircase that will take us to the top of the cliff. It is about 100 ft of elevation change up the stairs. As I proceed to climb up I see a wooden sign blocking off the entrance to the stairs. It says that no one should use the stairs and that they are being torn down a few days from now.
Well, this is a bit nerve wracking. I tell Tom to look at the sign and we both are running through our options. Going back the way we came does not seem like a good idea because within 2 hours it will be pitch black outside. It takes about 3 and a half hours to hike this trail. Ok, so no going back, but what about checking for another way up the side of this cliff? It’s 100 ft, maybe someone made a separate unofficial path to get to the top? We cannot find another way up. Ok, well, it seems like our best option is to try going up these stairs very carefully. I don’t see any better option, so I gather myself and prepare to ignore the sign blocking the entrance. I climb over the wooden gate, hug the left side of the structure, and go up the windy staircase to get to the top. I walk slowly at first, and then with 5 steps to go I rush to the dirt path waiting for me. Tom follows suit and we are safe, escaping a potential death. The stairs felt sturdy enough for us to make it to the end of the trail. Eddie scooped us up and the adventure for the day was complete.
This memory will always remain with me. I love that I was able to take advantage of traveling to far away places. Most days were a grind, but every now and then that day of exploration, solitude, and freedom would come together. It felt exhilarating to be the only humans on that trail, soaking up the massive energy and feeling the power of the wilderness. Chama, perhaps some day I will return.