5/6 21.3 miles
More gravel road walking out of Pie Town. It went fine but I’m hurting. The water sources are different than before. This used to be cattle country with wind mills or solar wells to water them. I see very little evidence of cows, other than fences—-neither hoof prints nor fresh cow patties. What’s going on? Ranchers out of business? Meat market crash? Water supply dry up? The water tank where I camped with the Ravens, Endless and Queen Bee in ‘17–derelict. The solar well where I camped with Tinman, Earl Gray Goose, OT and the other OGs in ‘21–not functioning for awhile it looks like. And both are no longer listed as a water source on the FarOut app.
On the other hand, about 16-17 miles from Toaster House, a wonderful family has the TLC Ranch and puts out water and snacks for hikers. You could camp there but it was too early in the day when I caught up to Gonzo and we sat on chairs in the shade and chatted.
I plodded on a bit after picking up 2 1/2 liters of water from TLC to get me through dinner, breakfast and to the next water tomorrow.
Right now, I’m back on “the red line,” out of Pie Town, the official CDT, but coming up are a variety of alternates. With the Ravens, I took “the brown line,” the Cebolla Alternate, but I’ll do what I did the last time, just stay on the red line, join the paved 117, link back to the red line after skipping a 20 mile chunk of red line El Malpais (which I’ve never done) and either turn west to link with “the blue line,” the Bonita-Zuni Alternate, which I’ve done twice or stay north on the red line, the pavement, which I did with the Ravens, memorably camping with 2 friendly, curious horses. Follow that? Doesn’t matter.
5/7/23 19.5 miles
Today was more gravel road, with a bit of wind starting around noon, so really comfortable temperature, although the dust sticks to my sunscreen and drips out my nose. At a new to me water source a bit off the road, I met Martini, a hiker from Slovakia, how cool is that? I got water, hiked on to the junction of red line/brown line and rested a bit. Alpaca, from Germany, stopped too, nice. She’s heading on the brown line, I’m not. After another 5-ish miles I got to pavement and walked on another 5 till I rejoined the brown line (short cutting essentially). A fair amount of traffic was going by both directions. I knew if I was running low on water, all I had to do was pause and hold up my water bottle pathetically and a car would stop. But I was fine. Within a few hundred yards of the dirt cattle pond I was going to intimidate cows to get to, a truck pulled over and asked if I needed water. It was Patricia (but with the Spanish pronunciation that I can’t channel on this blog: Pah-TREECE-e-ah), an unadvertised Trail Angel who had just given water and conversation to 3 hikers ahead of me, including the old French guy from Toaster House, whose room I got after he left. We had a lovely chat while she poured a liter into my Smart Water bottle to make 2 L I was carrying. She said she’d be driving back on the road later if I needed more. Dopamine rush, thank you!
I knew I’d need an additional 1L to camp if I stuck to the red line road walk to Grants, because the next water was at the Ranger Station tomorrow.
The water caches that have been maintained by Trail Angels since at least 2017, are no longer, I know from hiker comments in the Far Out app. That changes everything for me, hauling water at 2.2 lbs a liter is tough even when my modest consumption is 4L a day. The more weight I carry, the slower I go.
I finally stopped to rest, maybe 10 miles since the last rest. There’s no shade or place to pee when you’re on a highway with barbed wire fence on both sides and no trees to hide behind in the right-of-way. I stopped where the brown line joins the 117. There was a 5 gallon cache, empty, when suddenly, to this weary hiker, Hamish, drove off the highway, over the cattleguard and onto the dirt road where I rested against a road marker. He saw me, stopped and asked if I needed water. “Yes, can you spare 1 liter?” “As much as you want!” I grabbed my 2L platypus (not the 1L I also have) and he kept filling it—past the 2 L mark, so then I had 4L! Heavy. Great conversation even though I was not resting but standing up the whole time. He has volunteered in the area with the Albuquerque Wildlife Society for 30 years, working to restore water availability for wildlife. When I told him my observations and questions about cattle and well water for them, he appeared stunned. I quit babbling about them asking the indigenous people for their knowledge of water and wildlife pre-ranchers and why there’s so few cows the last few years and the impact on water that roads, drainage ditches and culverts have. Shut up Catwater. But I made both of us think about these water issues, I’m sure. He invited me to volunteer with his organization.
I scooted under barbed wire to make camp where the Ravens and I did. I miss you guys!
5/8 16.1 miles
I got water at the Ranger Station after ducking the closed gate. I saw 3 people including 2 rangers and a guy working on concrete. The assistant ranger saw my Alaska flag hat and told me he’d spent 3 seasons in Chicken, AK, cool! The rangers introduced me to Walter, Acoma Pueblo, artist, who was sculpting an installation. The rangers said goodbye and hopped in their truck. Then one on one Walter described how he saw a request for proposal (RFP) for a sculpture at the Ranger Station. He is so stoked to be selected. He told me about Acoma energy, his sculpture will have a lightening bolt. He’d love to see Mt Taylor erupt. I know Mt Taylor is sacred to indigenous people—let’s revert to its proper name! But I didn’t say it, because I was listening to this beautiful Acoma man with Spina Bifida, “I can only carve 3-4 hours a day.” I have to come back when the sculpture is finished.
I ducked under barbed wire again to camp but just before the Boundary sign, whatever that means. It’s all fenced. I love them, but I don’t want to wake up again to horse snouts nosing under my tent fly like it happened when I was camping with the Ravens.
5/9 13.1 miles
I’m hobbling from walking for days on pavement.
Think I saw a javelina today, my first. I’ve heard they can be aggressive, so like when I’ve seen bear, I yelled something stupid. In this case, “Hey, you all alone?” and it ran back to my side of the road and then along the fence line away from me out of sight. I tracked the little footprints till there was a big enough hole under the fence and they vanished. Sure made the New Mexico Highway 117 road walk (the official route for the CDT National Scenic Trail) a little more interesting since previously I’d been counting the number of single gloves along the side of the pavement.
Stopped at Subway about halfway to Grants and Motel 6. Yum, sandwich and lemonade, seriously. I made it to the motel by 1:30. Had a reservation but the wonderful front desk told me to cancel it and gave me the hiker discount, $20 cheaper. Which I spent on beer at Walgreens.