May 4:Miles hiked – 15.6
Total mileage – 341.8
Escaping the vortex of the Toaster House was not an easy task but after basically a double zero it was time to move on. I said goodbye to this magical place, adding it to the list of places like this that I’ve encountered along my journeys, and hit the trail, or rather should I say the road.
My next town is Grants, NM and the route to get there is the most confusing of them all so far. There are many many routes between Pie Town and Grants, my plan being a mix and match of them all. To begin I take the Cebolla alternate, a 50 mile walk down a dirt road which will lead me to El Malpais National Monument, a volcanic area just south of Grants. The day is hot, there’s no shade on the road, and the scenery is quite boring, flat with nothing but tiny ponderosa pine scattering the landscape. The road walking aggravated my blisters, giving me two new ones right on my middle toes. I take a few breaks in the shade before reaching my first water source fifteen miles in, a spigot at Thomas Mountain Ranch. I expect to fill my bottles and hike on but instead am greeted by a lovely old couple who offer me dinner and an rv with a mattress to sleep in tonight. How can you say no to that?!? The trail truly provides, and the CDT’s beauty goes much further than its landscapes.
High of the Day – unexpected trail angels
Low of the day – boring monotonous road walking
Miles hiked – 26.5
Total mileage – 368.3
More road walking. More spotify. I got started by seven today but within an hour it was already super warm on the road. It was supposed to be the hottest day of the year so far, and while it was hot I’m not sure it was as bad as my first few days in the boot heel. The road hurts my feet and joints, but still the miles go by quickly on it and soon I make it to a windmill 8 miles in where I get water along with a huge herd of cows. It’s here that I realize what disgusting creatures cows really are. They slurp at the water, it dropping out of their noses when they left their head and gagging as if the liquid went down the wrong pipe. I eat my daily honey bun breakfast here before continuing down the dusty road. Unexpectedly, the road comes to a dead end and for the first time in about sixty miles there is a trail to walk on! It leads me through a nice valley with cliffs on both sides, the entrance into El Malpais National Monument. I eat lunch under a big tree with a nice view of a cliff face at fifteen miles for the day. I left early so I could make some miles today so I plan for ten more miles where there should be another windmill for water. The final miles drag on as they usually do. My feet hurt worse than they have before today and I just feel tired, I haven’t been sleeping too well despite being indoors the past few nights. I think I’m at the point where I sleep better on the trail so tonight should be better. After the few miles of glorious trail I’m back on a dirt track headed through Sand Canyon. Finally I can see the windmill in the distance and make my way towards it, only to find it bone dry! Luckily there was another solar well a mile and a half ahead so I didn’t have to go too much further than planned. The water here is muck but it’s liquid, and I had a huge herd of elk come by as I was cooking dinner. As I’m typing this, I just heard the yelp of something outside my tent and have hopefully scared it off. I guess I’m not the only one who wants to take advantage of this water source!
High of the day – finally walking on trail again
Low of the day – there not being water where I was expecting there to be
Miles hiked – 19
Total miles hiked – 387.3
I woke up to the sound of coyotes right next to me and peeked my head out of my tent to see if I could get a look at them. No coyotes, but there was an excellent sunrise despite the thick cloud cover that had rolled in last night. I fill up from the solar well before hitting the road, quite literally as the trail follows paved highway 117 from here. The water looks like urine and tastes like sewage even after filtering but it’s my only option for the next ten miles so I try not to think about it as I drink.
After three miles of road walk I turn onto the Narrows Rim Trail which brings me up onto the edge of some cliffs overlooking El Malpais. The sun shines a little brighter now and being on a trail is always a morale booster! I follow the cliffs all the way to La Ventana Natural Arch, an arch formed in the sandstone by water freezing in the cracks. Pretty incredible and from the rim trail I was looking at it from the perfect spot!
The way back down to the highway was much harder than the way back up. The trail disappears and suddenly I find myself making my way slowly but surely down the face of the cliff. It takes quite a while to get down but is an adventure in itself. By the time I’m back on the highway the sky is getting black and I push on for three miles, which seemed a lot longer, to a water cache where the Zuni Acoma Trail/official CDT meet 117. I get my tent pitched up here even though it’s only noon and prepare to ride out the storms. The wind is strong and the rain comes heavy for a little while, but before long it’s moved on. I decide to stay here and just call it a short day, until for the first time in any of the trails I was kicked out by a ranger! He said I had to be .25 of a mile away from the road to camp, and I was only .19. Still he was a nice enough guy and forced me to clock some more miles for the day.
I head southbound on the CDT here to follow the Zuni Acoma Trail through El Malpais, Spanish for “The Badlands”. Unlike the PCT, where there’s a trail leading through the lava rock, it IS the trail on the CDT, which makes for very rugged hiking. The winds pick back up and rain falls every now and then. Ahead of me I can see sunshine and the peak of Mt. Taylor, the first big Mountain I’ll cross at 11000 feet, shimmering in it. After 7 miles I reach a trail into Bonita Canyon, another alternate which I take to head up to Grants, NM. Rain comes down hard as I pitch my tent but as soon as it’s up the sun comes out and I have a pretty decent sunset. Town tomorrow, where I’ll formulate a plan for tackling Mt. Taylor as it’s supposed to rain on Tuesday and Wednesday.
High of the day – I’m in love with my campsite tonight
Low of the day – sitting in my tent during super strong winds and wondering if it would hold up. I need to stop doubting my tent, it’s proven itself time and time again!
Miles hiked – 22ish
Total mileage – 409.3
A year ago I was at Casa De Luna. Today I’m waking up at 4 to a tent covered in condensation. I get started early so I can make it to Grants at a reasonable time, and I’m pretty happy with my decision. This was my first early morning hike of this trip and watching the Day light up as I hiked through Bonita Canyon was a great way to start the day. Around four miles in I reach a windmill with another water cache and tank up so I can drink fresh water all day instead of cow backwash. The miles go by fast thanks to the road walk, by noon I only have five miles into town. The dirt road becomes pavement and I want to hitch so bad but I walk on only waving at the cars that pass me by. When I make it to Grants I’m pleasantly surprised that there is a Chinese buffet here and make that my priority after setting up at the RV Park where it’s so windy I had to take my tent back down afterwards. There’s weather coming in the next few days, but I think I’ll try to forge through it and make it to Cuba where I’ll get a proper motel room. Onwards!
High of the Day – Chinese Buffet
Low of the Day – Paved road walk!