Well I think I’ve walked nearly 400 miles. It feels like I just started yesterday. This latest section was filled with road walking, cool open-range scenery, and long water hauls.
After taking an awesome zero in Pie Town at the Toaster House, a hostel run by Nita, we walked northwards on a dirt highway following the “Ley red route”. Ley maps are the maps that most people use, and they don’t always follow the official CDT National Scenic Trail route. This particular alternate took us slightly to the east along dirt and jeep roads, through some canyons, over a cool rim, across a lava field (El Malpais), and through two more beautiful canyons to Grants. It was a four day, 80ish mile journey.
Our first day we left Pie Town after I had a slice of pecan pie and ice cream at 8am. We walked 17 miles without any water sources to a trail angel’s property, the Thomas Mountain Ranch. They had signs on their fence telling hikers to come in and grab water, even if they weren’t there. Anzie and John had a cool tin building with a wood stove heater and lots of couches and chairs to sit and talk. It was hard to leave! After that, I walked about 6 or 7 more miles on my own, jamming out to my music library in alphabetical order (I’m now on the L’s). I came to a windmill-solarpanel-tank structure and waited there for Cloud, RightOn, Tink, and Uberdude. I cranked through some pages of Moby Dick. Learning a lot about whaling.
Speaking of Tink, he caught up to us in Pie Town and, after a debaucherous night of socializing in the Toaster House, now goes by the name “Cowboy Stripper”. It just sorta stuck. He is also now hiking in a pair of jorts (ow). He intends to cut one inch off of these jorts each town stop. It should be fun.
Anyways, we camped at that tank for the night. We cooked dinner in a dry cow trough to shield the wind. We were surrounded by rolling hills speckled with sage brush, cacti, and small juniper trees. I was waiting for a herd of elk or wild horses to come running by. Apparently they have reintroduced Mexican wolves in this area too. I ate my Knorr’s cheddar broccoli rice supplemented with ramen and tuna in silence with the others as the sun sank below the horizon. The crescent moon popped up above us as dusk grew darker.
I cowboy camped that night and woke up to frost and condensation on my sleeping bag. Not a big deal. It’s becoming a pretty regular thing at this point. I just have to air out my bag , pad, and groundsheet at some point during the day. We hauled water for about 18 miles that day to the next windmill. We cut through a cool canyon that had petroglyphs on some of the rocks. Lots of other hikers we met from the Toaster House were hiking near us or with us every now and then throughout the day. The windmill was spinning hard, and we got fresh water from the well to drink from. No need to bleach that stuff. Next up was a road walk along a paved highway for 6ish miles until we hiked up onto a rim for the evening. This rim overlooked El Malpais, a huge lava field that we would cross the next day. RightOn suggested that we push ourselves to get on top of the rim, and our work paid off. We had an amazing sunset and a pretty cool camp spot. Probably one of the most scenic evenings of the trail so far. There were a few mountains in the distance where the sun was setting. For a second I thought one was Mt. Taylor, the 11K peak we climb right out of Grants, but I was wrong. They were the canyons that we would be heading through by the end of the next day.
The next morning we woke up pretty late. After eating my oatmeal while still in bed, we hiked along the rim for a few miles and then had to find a cross-country route to scramble down what was pretty much a cliff. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, just took some time, and we also had a great view of La Ventana Arch, a natural arch on the cliff across from us. Pretty neat stuff. We came back down to the highway for a few more miles until we cut across the lava field for 8-10 miles. Those were hard miles, and the sun was beating down pretty hard. My reflective umbrella dolphinetly came in handy. After the lava crossing, we hiked up into Bonita Canyon for our last water source. The windmill was not pumping, so I had to take water from the nasty cow trough. I bleached it, but it still had an awful after taste and was oddly foamy. A little bit of drink powder mix helped a bit. It was our last water source until Grants, too. About 22 miles away.
We knocked out about 7 more miles and slept under some tall pine trees. The next morning we woke up to a 6am alarm and RightOn screamed “superbuffet!”. Apparently, there was a glorious Asian superbuffet in Grants across from the Motel 6 where we were staying. One could say we walked swiftly into Grants and immediately crushed the superbuffet until we could not move.
We are taking another zero today in hopes to prolong our arrival in Colorado in hopes that some snow will melt. It’s looking pretty hairy up there in the San Juans. Should be fun, but I won’t be there until the last few days of May/early June.
I’m feeling great and starting to get the hang of things. Of course, good company has added to my trail happiness, but I’ve found that I get pretty darn stoked about the act of hiking through beautiful places. This trail is amazing, and I can’t imagine how much better it will become as I continue northwards. On to Cuba!