Into the Badlands: Pie Town to Grants


5/2 20 miles

I dinged around and left about 10. There were a bunch of hungover hiker guys, and a few more nursing foot injuries and wanting another day to rest. The miles were all road walk so it went fast. About 16 miles out is TLC Ranch that has water and possible food and camping for hikers. Several people intended to stay there or at least stop. When I walked in the yard, there was nobody around, just some RVs and a 2 story tall metal building that was maybe used as a house? I wandered a bit, then found the hose and got 2 liters to camp with since the next water source (cow tank) was only 7 miles away.

The music at the neighbors’ last night was a treat. Jennifer, and Rick(?) played guitar and sang. Judging by their strong Arkansas and Oklahoma accents and cowboy get-ups, I’d anticipated fingernails-on-chalkboard country music, but he sang the most beautiful covers of Talking Heads, Jimmy Buffet, and Nirvana I’ve ever heard. These 2 people moved out to this tiny town to escape addiction and death. I think they love recruiting new people (hikers) to their mobile home and sharing, just sharing, their acoustic music and unique voices. They fed us pizza and beer and true confessions. Art.

I camped at 20 miles, blissfully alone after holding my temper and tongue at Toaster House, hidden from the road and POSTED signs. My feet, rested yesterday from road walking, hurt again from slapping on hard baked dirt.

5/3 22.5 miles

More road. Listened to audiobooks. Austin from San Antonio, cyclist I met at Toaster House, came up behind me and chatted for a bit, asking if I’d like some snacks. He’s getting into Grants today–what a difference mileage range riding gives you from hiking.

I kept thinking about this amazing wildlife encounter 2 guys had back at Snow Lake. I listened to their story several times between Davila Ranch and Toaster House and it still blows my mind. They saw 3 elk running flat out at them as they hiked the road with 3 wolves just behind them. The elk ran into the water while the wolves pulled up short at the edge of the lake and then the guys saw more wolves above on the ridge line. Cool! And then the guys hiked on.

I walked by 2 places I’d camped with the Ravens in 2017. They’re on the AT this year and I’m following their adventures.

Probably not supposed to camp where I camped, stealthily, near La Ventana Arch. It gets weird on the highway, I think I’m on public land, National Forest, but there’s barbed wire fence just outside the right-of-way that’s hard to get over or under, so when I came to the turnout for the Arch, I dashed uphill out of sight. Just a few cars went by on the highway during the night and I was comfortable. Hiking is kind of weird sometimes, not what you’d expect of a “wilderness experience.” Hah! I camped on sand and left no trace.

5/4 19.3 miles

Zuni-Acoma trailhead to Bonita-Zuni alternate. What a mixed day! Paved highway to El Malpais (the Badlands). Two years ago, the Ravens and I stayed on the official CDT (Highway 117) all the way to Grants. This time I wanted to walk the 7 mile Zuni- Acoma trail through decaying lava fields. I’ve lived on the Big Island of Hawaii and know the beauty and torture of new pahoehoe and a’a’ and have walked through the obsidian fields on the Oregon PCT. There’s not really a trail, you follow a route cairn to cairn. Hard work for ankles but a unique experience I’ve looked forward to.

Then on to a real trail for a mile before crossing another paved highway onto a well graded gravel road grinding every so gently uphill another 9 miles. Densely distributed beer cans and bottles and mini liquor bottles took the place of wildflowers for color. A small truck went slowly past me, two Anglo women with a toddler standing between them hanging into the dashboard. Later a smatter of shotgun fire from a side road. Saturday fun I guess.

When I finally quit going up, I found a flat spot away from the road and pitched my tent. No more traffic except the steady, stealthy sound of a small car heading south in the dark at 2:30 am. Wonder what that was about.

Water source


Heading to town, to Grants, and as usual I just want to be there. Dirt road to gravel where for some weird reason all the SUVs and minivans slowed down so I wouldn’t have to inhale their dust plumes and not one truck did. Despite the dust and discourtesy, the Zuni Canyon was beautiful when I looked up from all the empty booze containers. As I got into Grants I turned on to old Route 66, like Cuba, NM, buildings mostly abandoned, for sale, deteriorating. Fascinating, I like it. I’ll stay a night or two in Grants, then Greyhound to Albuquerque, fly to Seattle, meet my sister, then fly to Edinburgh. Yay, Scotland for a couple weeks!

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