Pie Town to Grants, New Mexico

5/5-8: 58 miles

A bunch of us left Toaster house in the morning, freeing up bunk space for the incoming wave. Hikers are on the trail in record numbers.

We gathered after 16 miles at the TLC Ranch where the family set up a shady area with chairs and coolers full of water. They wanted us to stay for dinner and have us camp but it was only 3:30 so we moved on.

We spent the day on gravel roads for 22.1 miles to a wonderful solar mill with clear, tasty water and many campsites protected by trees and flat once I kicked the desiccated cow pies out of the way. Lovely night camped with OT, Jacobi, Sugar Mama, No No, Gray, Tinman, and late arrivals Top O and 13.

After the first night there are optional alternates. Gray, TM and I decided to stay on the highway which is really hard on the feet and legs. There was a trail you could take up onto the cliffs for about 4 miles but as it got later and our feet hurt worse, we just continued on the highway to stealth camp at the Arch. We pitched tents after 22.2 miles then hauled our stoves and food bags to the picnic tables to cook dinner. Kidnapper’s family of 6, plus happy dog Muir, came scrambling down the cliffs from the trail we didn’t take. They were stoked about its beauty and stopped to cook dinner with us, then continued down the paved highway to a water source and hopefully a spot to camp.

Gray wants to get to Grants in time to clean up and be ready to greet the local VFW who are lined up to greet and support the Warrior Expedition hikers as they make it to towns. So he’s going to take the highway another 20-ish miles in the morning and get in a night before me and Tinman.

Day 3 Tinman and I took the Bonita-Zuni route for a few miles through lava on the ancient route between Pueblos. It connects to gravel road and a back way into Grants which does not involve walking blacktop. I’ve done the route before and prefer it to the highway the Ravens and I walked in 2017.

He hated the lava but loved the deserted gravel road through beautiful country and another perfect windmill water source for clear, cold water. In fact he told me his entire journal entry for the day, after injuring his toe and foot on the lava, was “f*ing rocks!” I moved slower through those 6 miles and didn’t fall, whew.

We camped off the bigger gravel road in a lovely canyon within earshot but not eyesight of the semi-busy road for a 22.5 mile day.

The next day was all downhill and Tinman wanted to get to the post office for Saturday hours that closed at noon which we made easily. Hikers are clustered at the numerous motels near Walmart, Walgreens and Denny’s by the freeway. I ate dinner with OT and Jacobi who got in a day earlier and so will leave the next day while I zero and decide what to do. Probably the last time I see them so we exchanged hugs and contact info.

May 9, Mother’s Day while I’m taking a zero. I don’t really care about these invented holidays. I bought resupply and then wandered back through the deserted and decrepit Route 66 through Grants just to keep in motion.

What am I going to do? I knew I’d have to get back home after a month, that’s fine. But it’s easier to leave from here, Grants, take a bus straight to Albuquerque where I have a flight booked. On the other hand, I can hike on to Cuba, another amazing 100+ mile stretch. I’d already texted a trail supporter there a week ago and he said he’d find someone to give me a ride (for Uber prices) but the time frame feels too tight for me.

I looked up the bus schedule and flight changes. I can spend a few days in Seattle with my daughter Sarah and her Sam! The bus leaves tomorrow at 6 am, ugh, and if it doesn’t run, I could hike to Cuba instead. The indecision is agonizing, so I told Tinman I’d probably decide at 5 am. Meanwhile….

Hikers gathered at Motel 6. Injured Lady Bug is here in Grants for a week to let her foot recover. She, Tinman and I went and got take out from Denny’s and went back to Motel 6. Warrior Expedition members (Earl) Gray (Goose) and Blues Brothers are rooming together, now joined by Jabberwocky, who I met night one in the Bootheel! We chatted away, I know some of their stories—the PTSD, nightmares (“I’m pointing the gun but it won’t fire.”), insomnia, survivor’s guilt. As they turned to go back to their rooms, they looked at me and Lady Bug and said, “Happy Mother’s Day, if you’re moms!”and opened their arms for big hugs. They hugged me tight, thinking about their moms, I could have cried. What if these men, in their 30’s and 40’s were my sons? I’d be proud, heartbroken, worried. Being a mom is the hardest job ever and I know that I’m a mom by proxy for some hikers on trail, but this? Heal well, all my sons. I send you onto the trail, fare well. Farewell.

You can’t Hallmark this shit. I’m so sad to leave this trail and these people. But there’s another trail soon in June. And another after that. And another.


Doc Campbell’s to Pie Town

4/27-5/3 127.2 miles total

Like this those miles: 16.2, 21.2, 21.3, 18.3, 20.2, 16.2, 14 because:

After an uncomfortable, hot night in the motel, we hit the road at 7. Those guys did the Gila Cliff Dwellings, which I’ve seen and loved. I told them to take the beautiful Little Bear Canyon route after leaving the Cliff Dwellings. I hiked alone all day, through the Gila. I love this place, this trail. I saw 11 hikers going south, short haulers and Strange Bird who was hiking out on a broken foot. I told him Tinman was behind but could help confirm the injury. Later I heard from another hiker that I had helped Strange Bird by listening and affirming. He told me a lot about himself—high functioning, 54, high pain threshold, other personal details—and I’m glad I made him feel like he was making the right decision by patiently (45 minutes standing in the trail) listening. I love that the trail makes me be a better person.

Anyway, I stopped at 3:30 to wait for TM and Gray and we all gathered to camp with Top O, OT, Jacobi, Fried Green Tomatoes (whose gaiters I found and returned at Doc’s!). Today I saw 11 hikers SOBO, 1 backtracking, 6 ducks, 4 deer, 1 snake.

Top O (background) and OT

Day 2 the crew climbed out of the Gila and camped in the campground at Snow Lake. It rained off and on all day. I weirded out over a comment I took to mean I was too slow. No worries really as I tag teamed with OT and Jacobi. Top O is now hiking with them, I should switch too, these guys are more my speed. (Now as I write at the end of the day I’m cold in my tent in the rain.)

Tinman, Gray and I stopped at noon to eat and dry out tents and bags. Nope (Deaf Hiker Go Away) stopped too. Trying to be proactive I wrote a note asking what pronouns to use. See photo of Nope’s hiking outfit. The reply was, “ I don’t care about that shit.” No help. Guess we’ll all describe Nope as we see fit. “He pees standing up,” “They are Trans,” “She’s transitioning.” I tried to be respectful.

Day 3 Cold AF last night. I hiked out cold with a headwind, uphill, by the f*ing solar pond to the f*ing plain in the headwind. Why am I doing this again? Too windy to keep earbuds in and listen to Foo Fighters and The Killers to keep me on tempo. I yelled obscenities at the wind. Yeah, that worked. I made the miles. Finally dropped into the trees on the far side at 11:15 am? Trail magic, what! Guru with soda, an orange and a protein bar, totally unexpected, and here, after a hateful morning, thank you so much!

I fell behind again in the headwind for hours and got water from a tank surrounded by calves, no cows. I did not freak them out.

Tinman has a new blister, Gray has tendinitis in his ankle so we camped a bit early. Will it slow them down tomorrow? I doubt it.

Day 4 Dirt road to Dutchman’s Spring then back on the official red line, tons of climbing. Water sources and carries tend to be a major factor in how we plan our days. At that junction, TM was ahead but Gray and I got cell signal and, along with 4 or 5 others, bogged down for quite awhile. After hiking out, I finally caught up to both at 12:30, they had waited but put their packs on as soon as they saw me and bolted after telling me what mile they’d camp. Yeah, not going that far with all this climbing, plus why? The miles would be easier to accumulate on the flats tomorrow. I said I’d Satellite text where I camped. I was happy to hike at my own pace. In fact I stuck a fist in the sky when they were gone and shouted, “Liberation!” I’ll see them in a few days, maybe. Maybe not. Camped with Top O, OT, Jacobi, and Lady Bug from Quebec in a pine needled haven.

Day 5 Not a bad day, some climbing. Camped near a water cache with a bunch at a campground. Trail Angel Cheshire Cat and dog Stella Blue was there. He’s been angelling since the boot heel—fresh fruit every couple of days for us! And I get to throw a stick for Stella. Plus, he fist bumped the dudes, but I got a hug. Oh, hiking in the time of Covid. Nobody has got it, we wear masks in town but not on trail. Most have said they’re vaxed. It’s just not even a topic of conversation among hikers.

Day 6 Felt great today. Powered up the 4 to Mangas Lookout, first one out of camp I think. At 11 trail angel John Boy screeched to a halt on the dirt road and gave me Dr Pepper and a cherry pie. Not crowded at Davila Ranch, a little oasis with a washing machine, shower, toilet and food. Many hikers walked in then out to Pie Town. Spent some time with the family of 6 I’d met near Eureka on the PNT last year. Kidnapper (the dad, what a perfect trail name!), Wildflower, Amazon , HoneyBadger and 2 more. Kids are 18, 16, 14 and turning 12. I ate eggs and potatoes they’d made and had leftover, then cooked Ramen with 3 more eggs for myself. I camped as did a bunch more.

Day 7 Into Pie Town and Toaster House, windy walking, 11 miles by 10 am. 14 by 11:30. The place is packed! There’s 8 of us sharing beds and space upstairs, so good to be indoors! Ran to the only restaurant still in business in Pie Town, there used to be 3. Gathered with more dirty hikers as they trickled in—good fun, good food!

Road to Pie Town
Tex, Jacobi, Sugar Mama in Toaster House at Pie Town
What’s going on here? Military doctoring some women hikers’ foot injuries. Uh huh.
Toaster House kitchen, hiker boxes stacked up and Little Brown
Feral kittens under the house, later 3 were rescued by a hiker couple who got off the trail to bring them home. They’d found a newborn on the walk in and were bottle feeding it around the clock already! 4 kittens saved!
Hikertrash at Toaster House—all these hikers are in my bubble, I know them!

Silver City to Doc Campbell’s

4/24-27 45.1 miles

Warrior Expedition and friends in Silver City

Headed out the Walnut Creek Rd to the Gila Alt after saying goodbye to Michele and Payton. It was a long day for few miles but I really enjoy hiking with Tinman and Gray. Funny though to watch Tinman (Chief in the Navy and Fire Chief) with his protective instincts over the both of us, a woman with 12,000+ trail miles and a 29-year-old combat vet with the PCT under his belt.

At water, we found OT ill. His hiking partner Jacobi got Tinman to check him out—they’ll overnight there, lots of 4-wheeler traffic in case it’s something serious—right now it’s nausea and weakness, hope he’s OK.

Weird encounter with with a (my perception) Trans woman in a skirt and a patch on her pack “Deaf Hiker, Go Away.” She was going the wrong way to the water and asked me where it was. I pointed and she then pointed at her patch.

We got water and hiked into beautiful rock formations which made Tinman and Gray happy too!

Day 2 we didn’t make it as far as I’ve camped the last 2 times, passing my former campsite 1 1/2 hours into the morning. Still a good day dropping into the river with Top O too who joined us at last nights campsite along with Little Brown. Season Pass from Florida joined us tonight as well. So different from the solo experience the times I’ve been here before.

And the next day, 3, a short beautiful walk to Doc Campbell’s where I’d reserved an apartment, as I’ve done in the past. I was happy to share with a couple of hikers. So many others camped behind Doc’s, love the company, such a different experience this time around.