Trip Report CDT: New Mexico pt2

Fun with Others

We both sleep in since the Gila dwellings don't open until 0900h. Arriving just at opening and without having to carry our packs, we end up doing the whole dwellings circuit in under half an hour.

Gila cliff dwelling Gila cliff dwelling

Back into the Gila the trail brings us into narrow canyons as we cross the river every handful of minutes back and forth. This side of the Gila is much easier to follow and the crossings seem to be shallower, we make good progress. There is quite a bit of traffic on this side of the trail as well as day hikers going the opposite way pass us.

Hiker Ping

Ping and I finish the final miles of the Gila in the morning. We manage to catch up to some of the hikers I saw at Doc Campbell's. Natty, Sporks and Gaiter had taken the high route and avoided all the water. I hang out with them as Ping pushes ahead for water.

Hoodoos along the Gila river

The rest of the day is along a hard-packed dirt road. There are long stretches between water sources and time passes slowly. Going to bed, my feet are really sore.

Natty leaves camp super early to try to do a 30mi(48km) day. I hike out with Sporks and for some reason decide not to fill up on water. The first source we reach is dry. There are a fair amount of natural tanks we pass full of water. Cows can easily walk into them(and they do) making the water foul. I hold out and we find a small spring around midday.

Sporks hiking in the distance

There are some short climbs during the day with tree cover but the push to the next "good" water source drains our morale. In the late evening we reach a large water well. The water is tinged green but still it's leagues better than anything else we saw prior.

Sporks and I hike a few more miles in the evening to alleviate the miles that we need to do tomorrow in the sun. We hear a strange sound in the forest and eventually camp along side a road for the night having done ~32mi(52km).

The plan was to leave with Sporks in the morning but she sleeps in. I push ahead to make it to water. There is an amazing water cache left behind by a trail angel a few miles into the day. The next water was a spigot some 20mi(32km) away. I managed to catch up to Natty and he said that we passed him yesterday. The strange noise we had heard was him trying to shout us down and then he passed us again in the early morning.

New Mexico

The day only got better as around noon we reached a waypoint called Davilla Ranch. A few shipping containers alongside the road retrofitted with wifi, gas stoves, laundry and showers for hikers! The fridge is full of potatoes, eggs, and onions that are free to use. I spend the afternoon doing chores and hard-boiling over a dozen eggs. Hikers pile in as the day goes by with Tsvi, Shortcut and Kiwi Legs showing up and Sporks, Gaiter and Ping catching up as well. Sporks and Ping whip up a huge dinner for all of us in the evening. Fried rice, potatoes, eggs and cheese. I fall asleep with a full belly.

I wake up early and rush off to Pie Town to grab my resupply box from the post office as soon as it opens. Next I head to the famous pie restaurant on the edge of town. It's 0900h and it should open at 1000h. It ends up opening at 1100h and they do not honour first come first serve as the other patrons all jump in front of me to order. The pie is really underwhelming and extremely expensive. 2/5.

The plan is to hike right out of town since there is some ~30mi(48km) of road walking that needs to happen. Instead all the hikers I've been seeing the last few days have piled into town and convinced me to stay the night. There is a place called the Toaster House which allows hikers to sleep inside, do laundry, and generally use as a temporary home for free!

I spend the day hanging out with Natty, Sporks, Ping, Gaiter, Lights Out, and Slim Shady. Slim is a CDT hiker staying at the Toaster House as a caretaker to earn some money for the rest of his hike. Lights Out and I play a few games of chess, he's clearly better than me. For dinner Sporks makes an amazing tomato sauce and with Ping makes us all a spaghetti dinner with garlic bread. I spend the night inside sleeping on a couch.

I plan on following the longer but official route to the next town of Grants but I know the rest of the hikers are taking a cutoff and/or hitching along the roads. For this reason I leave before everyone so I can make up the difference in miles and still catch up to them. There is ~30mi(48km) of dead straight dirt roads that lead north of Pie Town. On either side is private property and there are two spots where you can grab water.

I catch up to Shortcut some ~5mi(8km) into the road walk. She's ending in Grants. We spend a lot of our conversation complaining about road walks. About ~1mi(0.6km) away from the first water source we try to hitch and a local with a trailer hitch picks us up. We fill up water at TLC Ranch and start walking again. I decide I want to hitch again and just get to the trail proper. Another local woman on her way to do groceries in Grants picks us up. I want to get dropped right at the trailhead despite her offers to take me the whole way.

Skipping some ~14mi(23km) I get dropped at the highway intersection where the CDT trail starts again. The trail brings me across cool lava fields that are well marked with cairns and along ancient cinder cones in El Malpais. There are little water caches sprinkled along the trail but each one I find is dry. I grab water near the end of the day from an overflowing tire well, stepping into a pool of cow shit mixed mud to fill my bottles as cows stare me down

I blast off in the morning hoping to do big miles, closing the gap between me and my friends who are doing a shorter route. The track is pretty flowy as I approach the Bandera volcano cone. Some comments on FarOut encourage me to do some cross country(XC) to the top of the cone, so I find a hole in a fence and climb up and have lunch.

Coming down the volcano the trail leads onto a paved road walk. Someone stops to offer me a ride but I refuse and keep going to reach a closed fire ranger station. There is another hiker hiding in the shade as I arrive, Ric Flair. He had done the AT previously and may be one of the few CDT hikers this year that didn't do the Gila river alternate! There is a massive wheelchair accessible porta-potty in the parking lot that I use. It's amazing, fully stocked with a working foot pump sink including soap and paper towels!

I continue on and the trail begins to disappear. The lava fields I'm led through are very rough and the cairns marking the way blend into the background. I constantly scream out in frustration as I wobble on my ankles and kicks rocks for a few hours. Finally I reach the trailhead and start going down the Bonita-Zuni alternate. Walking down a beautiful wide valley I get to a large windmill-powered water well and take a long later afternoon break.

I keep hiking into the evening down the winding valley as it begins to slowly constrict. I put off setting up camp as I pass many good spots and stop only as the sun has left the sky behind.

It's a little chilly in the morning as I head out into Zuni canyon proper. It's gorgeous as the sun begins to rise and light its steep walls. The canyon reminds me of a tiny version of the Grand Canyon with it stratified layers of rocks. The whole walk into Grants is on road but the Zuni views distract me enough not to care too much.

Reaching Grants, I head to McDonalds just off trail to get food and wifi. I message my friends and it seems like they are still in town having arrived yesterday. I check snow condition in the San Juan mountains and order my snow gear that I'll need, sending it to be picked up in Chama.

I head into Grants proper which is right along the famous route 66. Sadly with the new interstate no one drives through Grants anymore and it's run down from its glory days. I go the Lava Flow hostel where the rest of the crew is at. Natty, Sporks, Dallas, Tsvi, Pizza Boy, Sparky, Dan, Dragon Sky, and some cycle tourists are hanging out. Tsvi is stuck in town cause he had his entire pack stolen, Dan is fighting with shin splints, and Pizza Boy and Sparky leave to continue hiking. We have a great pizza lunch at a local place then hang around the hostel all evening. I talk bikes with the cyclists and sleep in a bunk bed for the night.

The day passes lazily as I don't want to leave town alone and everyone is hanging around waiting for Gaiter and Lights Out to catch up.

Mount Taylor in the distance

Eventually they do and the big group of leave the hostel around 1600h. The plan is to do 15mi(24km) to get started on the Mount Taylor alternate and camp at a spot where there is water and maybe some trail magic. We road walk out of Grants past a correctional facility and see a local firing his pistol on the side of the road into barren New Mexican hills. The sun has already set as we all reach the camp spot. We find sodas and beers left behind for hikers at the water source!

Mesa overlook of setting sun
Me(Lucky Hat), Natty

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