Monday, May 27, 2024

Pie Town to Grants

It was a bit sad leaving the restaurant where the staff had been so kind and went out of their way to make us specialty items. It’s hard to walk away from fresh food and hot water taps but we did it! The trail again started out as a road walk but very soon it was a dirt road passing ranch after ranch. We saw a black cow jump over a barbed wire fence. When we stopped for a break under a tree we saw Prime hike by and called out to him. He and Blue ended up stopping for a break too. We got up first so again they passed us but weren’t too far ahead. As we topped a hill it started to rain and I noticed the guys heading toward an old abandoned building.

 Soon we were hopping barbed wire fences and joining them. The building was filled with mouse droppings but at least we were dry. We found out later that it used to be a bank. It got windy but was raining a bit less so we put on our rain coats and headed back down the road. We ended up arriving at the TLC Ranch with Prime and Blue just in time to make dinner. The TLC Ranch is a place that had water, fruit and sometimes beer. There is a shaded area with a table and chairs, an outhouse and they let hikers camp on their property. Prime and Blue continued on and while we were finishing our dinner Eli arrived. He was planning on staying there. The owner and his daughter came out and told us that before Covid they had huge hiker feeds making dinner and breakfasts for everyone who stayed. Thank you TLC Ranch! Talking to Eli and the ranch owner we learned that there was BLM land ahead and how to add the land ownership layer to our Gaia app.  With this new info it will be easier to figure out where to camp when we are on road walks. BLM land is similar to crown land in Canada and is free to stay on. We left the ranch with a simple goal of 2 more miles but after looking at our new ownership layer on the Gaia app we decided to go at least 6 miles to get to a bigger BLM area. The sun went down and we were still walking. We got our headlamps out and just as I turned my light on I saw the golden gleam of eyes and a tan cat (bigger than my dogs) race away. I don’t know the types of cats but I later spoke to a park ranger who said that there are mountain lions in the area and I think that’s is what I saw. I looked back a couple times to make sure it didn’t turn around and start following up but by that time it was dark and harder to see. We still had a few more miles to go before we would stop for the night and sadly we missed a good water source in the dark. By the time we were on BLM land it was raining again and we had to set up with soaking wet packs. I had only kept 6 tent pegs as we had only been using 6 when we set up each night but TBD’s tent requires more for rainy conditions. We ended up using my new poles for the extra tie outs. 

The next morning we woke up early but didn’t move. We knew it was going to be wet and cold outside of the tent. When we finally got up it wasn’t as bad as we imagined. But it was cold and our gear was wet and as we walked down the road we imagined cars stopping to bring us hot coffee and breakfast. Cars did stop that morning but mostly to make sure we were ok and had water. One guy, when he found out we were Canadian told us about the time he had spent a year in Canada when he was 18. Anyway, no coffee, no stacks of pancakes…. We did end up stopping for breakfast where the road walk turned into the Cibolla alternate which starts at Armijo Canyon Trailhead in the El Malala’s Conservation Area. As we were packing up to get moving again Eli appeared and we told him about an abandoned house a few miles up that was going to be our lunch spot. He hiked with us for a bit but moved so much faster than us that he was soon out of sight. The sun came out and when we saw a nice patch of grass we decided to set out all of our wet stuff to dry. Half an hour later our gear was mostly dry and we packed up to head toward the abandoned house. 

Eli was there drying out his gear when we arrived but after looking around we decided to move on without another break. It was a pretty canyon that had cliffs on either side and the ground had several deeper crevices to avoid. We headed up over a hill (where Eli passed us) and then in the long down we found him again stretching on a patch of grass. He had decided to run down the hill and was getting again splints. I was envious of his patch of grass that wasn’t big enough for us so when we saw more grass later on we decided to stop for lunch and finish drying our gear. Our gear was dry and we could see another storm heading our way. We packed up and within minutes it was raining hard on us. And a few minutes later and it was hail! The dirt track we were on quickly turned into slippery mud that sticks to your shoes and adds about a pound per foot making the rest of the day tougher than it needed to be. We were headed towards the only water source in the area and were horrified when we saw what we would be taking. Eli was there and was struggling to filter the gross, green water that had things floating around in it. It didn’t help that the area was surrounded by mud/ cow pies so we knew the cow slobber was in that water too. We filtered a litre and a half and continued on our way leaving Eli who was filtering 4 litres as he was planning g on taking a route that required an even longer water carry. The dirt/mud track ended at a highway (the old famous Route 66) and our paved highway walk began. Our morning dreams of trail angels came true when a car stopped and passed out clementines and then later as Eli was catching up another vehicle stopped and a guy offered us water, packages of Oreos and chili. We took the water and Oreos and I told him that Eli needed lots of water as he was planning on taking a route without water for 35 miles over the lava. The trail Angel took one look at Eli’s shoes and tried to talk him out of it but I thought it was cool that Eli always chooses the more adventurous route (early on in the hike he had made a side adventure to old Hachita and found turquoise).

After thanking the trail Angel we hiked the last few miles to a picnic area where there were no camping signs posted. We decided that it wasn’t camping if we slept on the covered picnic tables. 

We thought there were just three of us but in the morning Packrunner appeared from the cliff above and told us that Free Will, Big Spoon and Slay were all camped up above us. Free Will and Packrunner were taking the same route as us to town and we talked about hanging out at the Subway that we would be hiking to later in the afternoon. Big Spoon and Slay were taking the high route up on the mesa so I knew we likely wouldn’t see them and Eli had already left for his lava adventure on an ancient native trail. I’ve never been on a trail that had so many possible routes and it’s kind of fun to see everyone’s different route choices. Anyway, we took our time packing up and eating breakfast at the picnic table before heading back to Route 66 to continue our road walk. We were rewarded with views of lava rock to the left and the cliffs to the right. We walked past a visitor area that had a cool looking  arch rock formation. We really should have stopped to explore because we found out later that we could have walked right up to that arch. Oops! As it was getting hotter a familiar car pulled up and Night Shit asked us where we were staying in town and if we wanted slack packed (he would drive our packs to town and drop them off wherever we were going to stay allowing us to hike burden free to town). We turned him down as we thought 28 miles in a day was too much. But a mile or so later we found him at the ranger station where we had planned to eat lunch and get more water. He gave TBD the perfect salad with all the fixings while I was talking to the park ranger about the cat I had seen. After eating the salad (she shared) and a hot potato meal we continued our road walk stopping to air out our gear in the hot afternoon sun along the side of the highway.

It was dinner time by the time we walked up to the interstate and to the subway/convenience store. Our feet and ankles were sore and it was hard to imagine hiking any farther. That all changed after a giant root beer a sub, some chips and some Nutter Butters. Free Will and Packrunner were nowhere to be found and I assumed that they had arrived so early that they just continued on to town. It was another 7 miles to town but we noticed the Junkyard Brewery that allows hikers to set up camp in their backyard was only 5 miles away! It was 7pm and there was still time to make it before last call! We headed out again on Route 66 making phone calls to distract us while we hiked. TBD signed up to run a marathon in October in Toronto while we hiked and later we called Michael and Sarah and she said she would sign up too. Them TBD sent Chris a message and by the time we got to the brewery he had also signed up to run. I think they are all trying to make me run a marathon after this! We walked into Junkyard Brewery expecting to see Free Will and Packrunner but instead saw Big Spoon and Slay! They were there with family and their original trail family. We sat with them and chatted away until they left us to head to the popular hotel with a pool and hot tub. We ended up just setting up the tent in the fenced in area behind the brewery. 

The next morning we packed up and hiked the last two miles into town stopping for a very good but very overpriced breakfast at El Cafecito. After breakfast we headed straight for the post office where we were expecting to pick up three or four packages but at first only received our food Mail Drop. While we were in the post office TBD received a notification on her phone that our packages from REI were being returned. The postmaster overheard her telling me and assured us that no packages had left the building today. He found the package with my new sandals and her new shoe inserts and suggested we head across the street to the UPS store for our other package. Sure enough the kit to fix my phone with the new battery was at UPS which was also a store that sold fruit smoothies. Believe it or not I was still too full from breakfast but TBD had one.  

Next stop was the walk to the hostel and on the way we saw D20 and Happy Six who were headed back to their hotel. It turns out all of the hikers we had met were staying at the hotel so when we arrived at the hostel we had the bunk house to ourselves and in the cottage next to us was Lookout who we had met on the bus trip from Tucson to Lordsberg and who had started the day before us. And Scrappy was staying in a tent on the other side of the bunkhouse and was there for a few days waiting for a new bank card to be mailed to him.

 The bunkhouse was really cute! It was maybe a 10x10 building that had a wood stove and small kitchen area and triple bunks. Attached to the bunkhouse was an enclosed area that had communal showers and a bathroom. We were happy to be here and happy for the cheap $15 stay! We were getting hungry though and still needed to buy our snacks for the next section so we decided to hitchhike across town to go to Denny’s and Walmart. We didn’t have to walk very far before a nice guy stopped and picked us up dropping us off exactly where we wanted to go. Thank you! After a vegan double burger, fries, onion rings and two root beers each we went to buy our snacks  and a pizza for later. Even though we were shopping while full we still over bought! Our packs are going to be heavy out of this town! We were just out of the Walmart parking lot when some nice ladies pulled over and drove us out of their way all the way back to the hostel! Thank you!  Back at the hostel we enjoyed our pizza and some clementines we had bought and called it a night.

Day 20   23.4 miles/35.8km

Day 21   24.3 miles/39.1km

Day 22.  26.5 miles/42.6km

Day 23.  2 miles/3.2km

402.8 miles/648.2km so far!


“Believe you can and you're halfway there."
Theodore Roosevelt

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