Pie Town to Grants, NM: Windmills, Trail Angels, and Lava Rock
The information about water in this section was clear. There were no natural sources of water except for a couple of stagnant, muddy ponds in places like Sand Canyon. It would be trail angels along the route who would make thirst quenching aqua available to CDT hikers. On the morning I left Pie Town I was walking fast on flat terrain.
I was expecting the weather to be windy with thundershowers while I set a goal for the day to hike 25 miles. Looking back throughout the morning and early afternoon I watched the approaching dark clouds getting closer and the wind getting stronger. When the rain arrived I deployed my rain cover for the first time on the hike. The rain shower was brief, the the dark clouds were still up in the sky, a safe distance away for the time being.
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas own a piece of ranch land along the county road I was walking on, and an entry on the CDTA Water Report indicated the elderly couple welcomed CDT hikers to take water from the outdoor faucet. When I entered their property and found the faucet Mr. Thomas came out to great me. He is a Korea War Veteran who, along with Mrs. Thomas, live in the sparsely populated New Mexico high desert that happened to be along the most popular route taken by CDT hikers between Pie Town and Grants. Mr. Thomas invited me into their house, a shop building that they converted into a home, complete with a huge wood stove and all the comforts any conventional house would have. Listening to the chilly wind blowing outside while feeling the warmth of the burning wood nearly convinced me to accept the Thomas’ offer to sleep in one of the RVs they let hikers to spend the night in. Talking to the couple made it obvious to me they take a very active interest in the hikers welfare, and I happily signed the book on their coffee table. It took a large amount of fortitude to extract myself from the friendly confines of the Thomas residence and face the chilly wind and dark, fast approaching clouds.
I made camp that first night out of Pie Town just before a heavy shower pelted wind-blown rain on my tent. With the purpose of ensuring the tent did not blow down in the gusts that night I made sure the guy lines were firmly planted in the ground and secured further with heavy rocks. Sleep came easy that night!
I walked the most miles per day on the trip so far on May 8 and 9. 24 miles and 26 miles meant I was more than halfway to Grants, passing through a small wilderness area in the Sand Canyon area and reaching the La Ventana Natural Arch, a unique rock formation that was formed after glacial floods swept through the area in pre-historic times.
I opted to move forward in the early morning chill of day 3 in this section, and soon discovered The Malpais, or the Badlands, an 8-mile stretch of the route that consisted of a complex gauntlet of large, sharp lava rock, 3-foot wide deep cracks, and much wider gullies. This was much different than the fast-moving trails and roads I had already covered the previous two days. The next eight miles meant I would move slowly and deliberately through the tedious land that only Native Americans had used as a route through this area hundreds of years ago. The Spanish and American explorers in previous centuries chose to go around this hardened lava. But me? I kept going while mentally adjusting my expectations and attitudes about hiking this area. Typically, I am focused on making reasonably fast progress along the way. But here is where I focused instead on the unique surroundings, enjoying cactus flowers while carefully watching for rattlesnakes. It was painful on my feet, but I knew I would eventually walk out of The Malpais and into the easy-going Bonita Canyon. Another day on the unpredictable CDT!
I was able to hike The Malpais confidently largely due to the water cache maintained by Trail Angels Carol and Hugo Mumm at The Malpais Trailhead. When Zoro, a CDT hiker from Barcelona, and I walked to the post office in Grants on May 11 Carole was there to drive two other hikers to the CDT trailhead. It was also nice to see Mr. and Mrs. Thomas again at the post office! I was standing with three of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet along the CDT! Carole invited me to join her and Hugo, along with other members of the Portland Mafia group, to dinner at the Wow Diner. What a great meal, good conversation with the Mumms, and a reunion with my friends in the Portland Mafia. I had been hiking solo nearly all the time since the Gila River.
I realized the land and the people along the Continental Divide were growing on me as much as my sore feet were swelling and inflicting pain on my toes. Carole told me of the footwear store in Grants, my next chore on this zero day, May 12.