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.