CDT Pie Town to Grants

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

Martini and Catwater

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!

Are you kidding me? Yes, I’m watching for water. Please.

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

View from my campsite

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.

Might be related to 2017 horses

CDT 2023 Reserve to Pie Town

At the Pie-O-Neer in Pie Town, upper right by the fireplace around the table clockwise: Container, Eager Beaver, Brittany, ?, Falcon, El Chapo, ?

I forgot to talk about the elevation in New Mexico. When I flew into Silver City , I was at 6000’. The day I hiked out towards Gila Hot Springs I topped out at 7200’. This last stretch I slept in Reserve at 5800’ after climbing to 9000’ the day before. The shuttle from Reserve dropped me at the trailhead at 7300’ and that day I climbed over Mangas Mountain at 9600’ before pitching my tent on the downside at 8300’. It doesn’t look like I’m at elevation, it looks like flat to hilly desert.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail north last year, I went up and down stunning mountain ranges, some of the oldest mountains I’ve ever been in, but their elevation is comparatively low. The Whites in New Hampshire have a calling to peak baggers—summit all 48 4000footers (4000’). That’s in contrast to Colorado’s challenge—bag all 58 14ers (14,000’). And I’ve spent quite a bit of time in California’s Sierra, including hiking Mt Whitney a few times, the highest peak in the Lower 48 at 14,505’.

5/1/23 zero

I’m still exhausted, even after a night in a quiet, comfy room—dammit!

Twigs and Foghorn took a zero yesterday and were going to hike out today but Twigs has a swollen, sore Achilles so she and Foghorn are going to rest up another day—the only hikers here until suddenly in the afternoon, they were swarming like flies. Or, you know, maybe flies were swarming stinky hiker trash.

Thor is camping behind the laundry room, then Auzzie and pup Waydoe (yes!). Falcon and his just trail named companion, Roadside Poopah (or just Roadside because the diarrhea next to the trail doesn’t need to be thought about every time you hear his name). Roadside has 2 sore Achilles and is going to get a ride ahead to Toaster House in Pie Town. Falcon will take a zero in Reserve.

We all went to the only place open for food, Bill’s Bar. I shot pool for the first time since Crystal Palace and Saloon in Juneau in the 70’s I think. I even made a few shots—me and Falcon vs Twigs and Foghorn. More hikers rolled in for food and beer—Tucker and Ian, Dr Doolittle and Sherpa (met at Doc’s). Fun!

Cats in Reserve

5/2/23 16.3 miles

So I got the shuttle (thanks again Darryl!), hiked a shortish day and am now drinking the Sante Fe 7K IPA I carried out of Reserve. I’m purposely doing 2 nights so I can hike into Toaster House on morning 3 in the hopes that hikers have cleared out and I can get a bunk inside. I’ve done it before and the plan has worked. The latest info is that new caretaker Dana is cleaning things up, and sticking to quiet hour and good behavior rules. If it’s overrun like in 2021, I can grab my resupply box and hitch to Quemado where there is a motel. Why do I stress about this?

1st snow I’ve seen, Mangas Mountain
Water source for the day

5/3/23 15.4 miles

An uneventful day of gravel road walking. I stopped at Davila Ranch at about noon and owner John was there. I met him way back when and I’d heard he’d had some health issues since. But he looked good and it was fun talking to him. Since I told him I’d been there before, he asked if I knew DogMa. Of course! She’d been at Davila just a week or so before, for the second time (the 1st was in 2019 when she and I met on the porch of Toaster House with her dog with the sprained tail from swimming the Gila River). John said he didn’t recognize DogMa but described her, not present this year, dog to perfection. Kinda like me, I’ll get the dog’s name and forget the hiker’s name. John dug a 500’ well so he could provide this hiker oasis. There’s a covered area with a refrigerator stocked with eggs and potatoes, 2 washers and dryers, a kitchen area, a wash station, flush toilet and shower complete with towels and loaner clothes. All for donation. What kindness!

I hung out an hour and a half, first with Forest Jill, and older hiker couple Home and Eric, and then with Twigs and Foghorn. I carried enough water to camp and went another 6 miles, ducking under a barbed wire fence and stealth camping in wind and clouds, hidden from the road, leaving no trace and perfectly comfortable.

Good morning sun!

5/4/23 8 miles

Cats in Pie Town

Made it to Toaster House by 10 am. Got my bunk on the ledge upstairs. No problems. Not wall to wall mattresses like in 2021, whew. The washer works again in the single bathroom with shower. Towels and sheets are clean. I did another load and hung them to dry outside in the wind—bone dry towels within an hour. Dana, the caretaker, is trying, stressing to make it a great hiker stop again, and we got along great. She’s only been here a week and is trying to get things straightened up as the hiker bubble keeps rolling in. Most want to zero, staying is by donation. Twigs and Foghorn went to eat at the cafe with me and then moved on, either hiking a ways or hitching to Grants I think. I’ll miss them.

5/5/23 zero

Hikers in the piano room at the Pie-O-Neer. Playing is Lamb, behind Container and El Chapo

Falcon arrived. There are lots of Germans here too. El Chapo and wife Brittany, physios from Toronto, awesome people! More food at the Pie-O-Neer with hikers including Lamb (Liam sounds like Lamb with his Aussie accent), Canister (German from Hamburg), sweet Eager Beaver, Falcon, El Chapo and Brittany. And more!

Somehow, the single bedroom I stayed in years ago was vacated by an old French guy and I got it. I saw it was empty and asked Dana if she was saving it for someone. She said I could have it because she knew I wouldn’t mess with the stuff stored there (paper towels, cleaning products, nothing a hiker would take, I was kinda confused). Bliss! Privacy (with my earplugs in). I found out AFTER, the next day when I was on trail and talked with Gonzo, that she’d told others to get out of the room. I feel kind of bad because as I was hiking out, an innocent hiker guy asked if I had a bunk and I told him about the single room. I wonder if Dana kicked him out?

Gonzo and Catwater hiking out from Toaster House

CDT New Mexico 2023 Silver City to Reserve

I flew to Albuquerque on Alaska Air, overnighted, then got a little 8 seat Advanced Air flight on a King Air 350 to Silver City. I spent 2 nights in the lovely old Murray Hotel downtown so I could listen in on some CDTC Trail Days talks on Friday, April 21 before heading northbound (NOBO).

4/22/23 16-ish miles

What a hella painful day, I’m in terrible shape and everything hurt. How can my pack weigh so much with just 3 days of food? It got hot and it was so much going up—at least 10 miles! But, I’m so glad to be here. The Gila River Alternate that I’ve hiked 3 times I think starting in 2017 has too much water for safety supposedly. I walked out of Silver City up Little Walnut Road and joined the red line, the official CDT, heading on trail to where it crosses the highway. I guess I’ll try something new. Since I was planning on 2 nights to Doc Campbell’s, I’m going to have to road walk 30 miles of Hwy 15 starting tomorrow. I’m going to stress over water sources, although there’s more water than I’ve ever seen. I guess if all else fails, or just an ankle or knee, I can hitch the highway.

4/23 19 miles

Beautiful day. I met Braveheart on the road. She was leaning against the ditch on the side of the two-lane, bundled in her puffy, napping. She left Silver City at 4 am, walking up Hwy 15, no messing around. She said the Trail Days chatter yesterday (while I was already hiking) confirmed “Don’t do the Gila River Alt” and “everybody” was going to do the 15 to Doc’s—39 miles Silver City to Doc’s.

Anyway the ups were slow and the downs hurt my feet, the usual little toes blackened, left instep activating the callous. At least I didn’t feel like a freak on the road walk and even got trail angel-ed, twice, with water bottle refills. I found a place to camp away from the low traffic highway that dead ends at my destination, Gila Hot Springs.

Pretty little dead bird

4/24 12 miles

Maybe because I’d reserved 2 nights at Gila Hot Springs RV Park and was going to zero, I let the pain rule me. My feet killed me, on the 7 mile steep downhill on pavement, I could barely slap my feet down. It got hot but with sparse vegetation, there was no place to change out of my tights and into shorts without risking a public indecency situation. When did I get so PC? (As it turned out, a driver who went by in my direction and camped at the RV Park, apparently mentioned to the camp host all the hikers on the road, including the lady with the long gray braids. I have to get some kind of disguise. Good thing I wasn’t also pantsless.)

I had a lovely encounter at a viewpoint with 2 camouflaged turkey hunters and hiker Serena. It always makes me smile when some random car camper is impressed by us long distance hikers.

Doc’s is wonderful, got my box, bought $72 of food, finally got to sit around and talk hiker talk with other hiker trash.

4/25 Zero miles

Mostly hung around in the back of Doc’s with Fire, Falcon, Snazzy Cat, Aussie and his new pup Waydoe (not spelled right, but it’s another word for gringo), Shit Storm and Ungerwear and going in to buy more snacks off and on. Many did the river (hey Braveheart, “everybody” did not do the road walk). I think I’ll take the High Route to the top of a junction that goes to the bottom (river) where I’ve camped 3 times. I’ve never done the High Route, but my buddies the Ravens took it in 2017 with no reported problems. Then maybe I’ll go down the connecting trail and walk to the river to where it pops out at Snow Lake.

Waydoe snoozing on Aussie’s pack straps
Doc’s trail register, 2021, just below me are Jibz and Crocs who I hung out with on the AT south of Harper’s Ferry

4/26 17 miles

Well just a trail, the High Route. Horseshit, yay! Which meant the blowdowns were cleared. There was one view down into the Gila River canyon to where I camped the last 2 times here. Weird. I don’t miss the water walking but I miss the beauty of the rock walls rising above me.

4/27 15.6 miles

Froze last night! Ice crusted on my tent, a frozen water bottle. I kept waking up cold and adding layers.

I did walk down to the river from the High Route, thinking maybe I’d just cross and walk up to Aeroplane Mesa on the High Route, but I’m tired and coughing and didn’t want to go straight up carrying 2 L of water, so I turned left at the junction. As usual, I hoped to camp before I actually found a flat place. I made it to the campground at Snow Lake where a bunch of us were in ‘21, but nobody else was here. Water taps still off due to freezing temperatures, but TP in the outhouses and garbage bins were available.

I had a peaceful night, no ice either.

4/28 15.3 miles

Turkey vulture?

The headwind today was relentless and cold till 2 pm. I walked up and up, then across a mesa with no trees to break the wind. I needed to eat but couldn’t stop, too cold. I camped early in a nice spot near the dirt road that had only old cow poop. One lonesome cow mooed off and on in the distance as I lay in my tent, trying to find her herd I think.

4/29 16.4 miles

More gravel road walking for 12 miles. Then a cell signal and rocky trail till I camped near a tiny trickle. A few cars, a ranch for sale, and later, a single hiker passed me. Eager Beaver. Warmest day yet, I like it.

4/30 16.9 miles

I took another route I haven’t done before, the Govina Canyon Alternate. I liked it, I saw 3 cow calves, twins and a single, 2 mama cows, and a mellow little bull. I got a cell signal at about 11:30, got a reservation at the Frisco Inn in Reserve, and scheduled a shuttle pickup from Hwy 12 to Reserve—wow, that’s different than before! You’ve always had the very uncertain hitch—took me a really long time in 2017 in a rain storm. Getting this set up made my anxiety over trying to hitch into a town with no idea if there’d be a room, vanish. The next 5 hours of hiking were so much more positive, I need a rest badly. There’s a couple stops ahead that have been there in the past with a shower and laundry but they’re very uncertain this season so far—Davila Ranch and Toaster House. I just want to do laundry in a washing machine for the first time since getting on a plane April 19. Isn’t that weird?

Umm, anybody?