I am feeling wonderful physically and mentally. Both Paperweight and Night Watch are having constant foot pain. I have been fortunate to only have minor pains and most of them were on the AT. We all enjoyed our zero day, but it is time to get out of Pie Town before I blow all my money on food specifically delicious pie. We packed up and headed to the Cafe for breakfast one last time along with Hob and Chocolate Chipmunk. We slowly made our way out of the Cafe and back to the trail where we will be spending a few days walking a road. It is not a paved road, but at times gravel usually sand and dirt. Most of the vehicles driving by are covered in dust as they wave at us. A few stop to say hello as well. Nightwatch and I walked the first three together as I learned more about what it was like growing up in South Africa and how he got involved in thru hiking in the states. The three of us have a good thing going and who knows we might stick together all the way. We took a quick snack break in the shade. Hiker hunger has hit! Send food! The three of us then walked the next 13 miles together chatting and listening to music on my speaker that I’ve convinced Paperweight to carry. We made it to the Thomas Ranch owned by John and Angie. They are generous and welcome hikers to fill up on water. They invited us into their home which is a metal pole barn filled with antiques and trinkets. He is a Korean War Veteran and retired pastor. I loved their young couple photo as she told me she married him at 14. Lots of chatting and good company! We decided to camp in their yard after he told us it’s private property for five more miles and it was almost 6:00. We were surprised when he brought us to a 1989 Allegro RV on his property. The three of us would each get a nice bed to sleep on and Father Time (as John Thomas called Hob) got his own spot in a Winnebago. The four of us hung out in the Allegro eating dinner and simply talking. These are the moments that make the hike! Generous and unexpected kindness. Halfmile and Afloat were camping in another RV a little ways away, but they joined us for a bit as well. I slept wonderfully on a twin bed in the back of the RV after enjoying dinner in the copilot chair. I want an RV, but for now my pack will do.
On the road again! We walked and walked past No Trespassing, barbed wire fences, and ranch signs for miles. The road walks are bearable thanks to the views. Lots of land for sale and the log homes John Thomas told us about was gorgeous. I wonder why it’s sold three times this year maybe the distance from everything. One couple asked why anyone would live so far from everything… I can think of many reasons. We finally turned off the same road to the right on a less traveled road. We then found the sign for Cebolla wilderness finally finding a trail to walk. Usually the three of us walk next to each other on the road chatting away. I would be pretty lonely without their company. The trail was nice around arroyos and in a canyon. We stumbled on an abandoned home with a new tin roof where Hob and I did a little rock climbing exploring the area without our packs on looking for Pueblo homes finding possible locations. The four of us took a nice break before walking off. The trail was fun to hike as it curved around and up giving us a better perspective before joining a dirt road again. Maybe 2.5 miles of trail today. We were surrounded by mesas as the four of us chatted about tv shows and western movies passing the hours. We did about 22 miles and my feet were done at mile 20. Hob continued on as us three called it. He may be 63, but he’s a stronger hiker than all of us at the moment. My shoes are showing lots of wear on the bottom and my thoughts of using only the 3 pairs I’ve already purchased has changed. If you are looking for a good pair of hiking shoes, I recommend Salomon Trail Runners. They are light, dry quickly, and work well on trail. We found a campsite 3 miles before the windmill where we called it a night. It’s warm tonight so we were able to sit outside and chat for a while enjoying dinner and the stunning canyon walls! I’m still enchanted by you New Mexico!
The sun was shining early this morning as we were all rolling around in our tents by 5:45. It took us all until 7:15 to be back on the trail which is still a dirt road. The three of walked together toward the windmill to fill up our bottles. Without ranchers we would have no water! I’m looking forward to streams, lakes, and rivers farther up trail. We took too long of a break as usual before hiking the sandy road till we hit the pavement that would led directly into Grants. Around 4.4 miles of paved road had me craving a trail to walk again. We made it to a parking lot pleased to find trash cans, a privy, and picnic tables with a pavilion over it. The sky looked eerie. Thunder roared nearby as we took another hour break with Halfmile and Afloat joining us. Instead of continuing the road we choose to hike the Narrows Rim Trail. The trail is about 500 feet above the lava fields of El Malpais. We began the hike upward enjoying the views and rock formations as cars zipped by on the highway below. Maybe two miles in the rain began as we moved quicker. Suddenly the lightning and thunder was above! Too close for comfort as I let out a scream and the five of us headed down off the rim trail and into the trees. We waited and wandered downward for a bit as you should do in a storm. We decided to head back up once it let down a bit to enjoy maybe ten more minutes of the trail before the thunder and lightning came again. We began dipping down towards the craziest downhill of my life! The Rim Trail turns around and goes back to the parking lot, but our maps shows the option to go down towards La Ventana Arch so we did it. I hated this choice suddenly on slippery rocks on a steep downhill. Paperweight helped me on one of the first parts as I pleaded for him to stay close by. Nightwatch was moving quickly down. I have never been so scared as I made small steps trying to cling onto anything I could. Got poked multiple times by various cactus plants as my heart raced. He kept me calm and was reassuring. It took a while, but the view of the arch was stunning. I made it safely to the ground. I don’t know if I’d do that again! Stunning views and it seemed unbelievable to know I just climbed down that! We took a few pictures before heading back to the highway. 2.6 more miles on the paved road after that steep downhill had me feeling safe again even though cars were flying by over the 55 mph speed limit. We made it to the water cache around 5:30 where I drank an entire liter very quickly before filling up for the upcoming section. Shout out to the Mumm’s family for supplying us with water. We then entered the Badlands finding lava rock quickly as my mind was transported back to Oregon on the PCT. We did not want to go too far and not find a campsite so after half a mile we found a nice tucked in spot blocking some of the wind. We quickly set up and ate knowing it was going to rain soon. Within an hour everything was done and we were inside our tents. Within 5 minutes the rain began! Bravo! I still haven’t decided if I like my Six Moon Design Skyscape Trekker tent as I needed to rig two safety pins to keep the netting from touching the walls and dripping on me all night. I’m giving it some more time, but I secretly miss my cheap LLBean Tent I’ve used on the past two thru hikes. Sweet dreams as rain drops fall!
Before the scary downhill
The Natural Arch!
It rained on and off all night. It was raining when we woke up making it the first time on trail packing up in the rain. Yuck! It took a little bit of time, but we were on trail a bit before 8. Paperweight left first without an umbrella as Nightwatch was a gentleman holding my umbrella above me as I packed my last few things up. The two of us headed out with our umbrellas in hand into the La Malpais, meaning the Badlands, as it rained. You can see for miles out here as we wondered when and if the rain would stop. The trail is marked by cairns built with lava rock and often a large stick is in the middle of it. It was fun walking and exciting. Very careful steps as I’m lucky to have strong ankles twisting them slightly quite a few times. A few of the cracks were packed full of lava rocks so you didn’t have to jump across. I’m told I have a body for walking and I believe it’s very true. The two of us took lots of pictures peeking into the splits and looking for caves. The rain let up for five minutes then poured down again. We had about 7 miles of this section to hike wandering up and down over a lava field in the cold rain. I’d highly recommend this hike!! I’d love to do it again maybe not in the rain, but I still enjoyed every moment because who knows I may never be back again. We had a nice break at a picnic table with a privy and trash cans. The simple things! Back to the trail we went crossing the road back onto a muddy sandy trail. A little ways down the road Nightwatch spotted an unopened Budweiser beer. So he opened it and the two boys shared most of it as we trudged through the wet sand. I decided to have the last swig and fully enjoyed it. We hoped more were left along the trail, but we found none. We packed out the can while walking past over a hundred empties along the trail. We made it to the windmill and the sun was shining! Pack explosions as we hung out our tents to dry. Halfmile and Afloat joined us as well. I feasted as things dried out including my wet, slimy, off colored feet did as well. Suddenly, Paperweight looked behind us and noticed a huge dark cloud coming then the drops began. I haven’t moved this fast in a while as we jammed things into our packs and got back on the trail. It let up and we walked fast for a little over an hour as thunder boomed nearby. We made it an hour before the rain hit us. Thankful for my umbrella. I think it is a new necessity for any long distance hike. I’ve never walked so many miles without hiking poles before and we will see how my legs feel in the morning. It rained hard and for miles before it finally let up. Besides a wet pack from my Osprey cover that doesn’t do its jobs and never has the only part of me that was wet was the bottom back of my pant legs. Not bad at all! We took a quick break looking at how close we were to town before moving along. We then turned right onto a gravel auto tour road as cars zipped by kicking up dust. Epic views of mesas on both sides and blue skies! We decided to call it a day around 6:30 as we jumped off the gravel auto tour road and dipped into the trees. We found lots of lava rock at first, but quickly found of field of rough grass to set up on. Only 8 more miles of this gravel road to pavement leading into the town of Grants. We enjoyed a nice dinner as the sun set over the canyon and the almost full more rose. Another stunning campsite before crawling into the warmth of my tent.
It is much easier to get started knowing town is nearby. We were chilly this morning as the sun was still hidden by the mesas. The road is a gravel trail labeled an auto road as many cars passed by kicking up dirt. The gravel walking had my feet aching on the way in, but the sun came up warming us. We came across the one large group of cows that walked ahead of us trying to get away as we continued on the road all the way to the cattle guard so they crossed the road into a field to graze. Silly cows! After the cattle guard, we hit a town road passing many houses along the way. Dogs barking, county political signs, horses, and many homes as the sound of the traffic and highway got closer. This trail always has a taunting road walk into and out of town. I have never noticed the smell of burning oil and exhaust so much. I’m just so used to the smell of pine trees and blooming flowers. I like towns since it allows you to refuel and rest, but I detest the noise pollution, sounds, and garage everywhere. We curved around finding ourself walking on a main road quickly then over the railroad tracks with the smallest guard rail. There were no safe spots to cross the main road so we made a run for the median before leaping the last two lanes to the parking lot of McDonalds. The boys ordered breakfast, but I waited until 10:30 to get a double cheeseburger and fries of course with a hash brown as well. We were there for almost three hours using their wifi, eating, and resting our aching feet. My feet are so sore after the long gravel road and it’s time to get new shoes soon. We slowly walked towards downtown on historic Route 66. First stop was the post office where I picked up a small box of necessities from mom. Thank you! Mail drops make town shopping easier and allows things to get split into various boxes. Paperweight mailed home a little over 3 pounds of weight which will hopefully help his feet. We had three more long town miles to the hotels near Walmart. I enjoyed walking past the parks and the older buildings. Most are for sale or deserted. We had booked a room at the Motel 6, but they told us we had to pay over $3 a piece a day for wifi and that there was no heat. So after the long walk we headed to the TravelLodge to look in the hiker box since we got a message from Hob. The woman behind the desk was able to get us a great hiker deal making the cost only $5 meaning it was cheaper than the Motel 6 including a hot tub and continental breakfast for two mornings! Score! Also, we found 7 beers in the hiker bin and other great snacks. I won the prize of showering first and as quickly as I turned on the water I was slipping. I grabbed onto the shower curtain ripping it down as I fell out of the tub onto the floor banging my elbow. I quickly jumped up as Paperweight ran in asking if I was okay. Luckily, I was not injured just some bad bruising to come…. Non trail injuries are the worse. It was a shaky shower as I held onto the railing. So lucky! They must of done a good job cleaning before we came since the other two didn’t slip. We had a relaxed evening of a few town chores, snacks from Walmart for dinner, and a few beers a piece. Looking forward to a zero tomorrow we all stayed up too late water Adam Sandler movies.
Zero day in Grants! We got a bunch to eat at the continental breakfast while discussing the snow ahead in Colorado and the options. It was then shopping time! Dollar Tree and Walmart were close by and made it easy. As we were coming out, we saw Hob and the four of us headed over to the Chinese Food Buffet! Finally, I am ready to devour a buffet. We had two plates each as a couple that looked like hikers came in. We met Monty the 3rd and FixIt who is a 76 year thru hiker. Wonderful couple as we ended up spending over two hours at the restaurant chatting. Oh zero days! Back to the hotel to sort through our food and relax some more. I got to catch up with two of my great friends as well. The time flies by! We ended up just snacking for dinner and listening to music. Tough day for sure! Bedtime came quickly and another zero day done until Cuba! 😉Sass