Picnic Area off of Highway 117(506.6) to Sure Stay Hotel Grants, NM(534.1) 27.5 Miles Total: 401.9
This is the first time I have ever experienced an entire day spent hiking on a paved road. This stretch between Pie Town and Grants, NM was very anticlimactic, only 4 miles of trail. Everything else was dirt or paved roads. Today I spent 27.5 miles hiking on Highway 117, a paved semi busy road. Mangus, Turtle, and I decided to stick together for the entire hike. Safety in numbers. Plus we motivated each other. I can honestly say that without them, today would have been pure misery. We made the decision to hike straight into town because there was just no other option. Nobody liked the idea of camping on the outskirts of town. We would have ended up too close to I-40. We also knew there was a brewery close to the hotel we had chosen to stay at, and the brewery was on trail. There is nothing like having beer, food, showers, and laundry to motivate tired thruhikers.
We ignored the posted signs and camped here anyway
Turtle and I left camp together knowing that Mangus would catch us eventually. When we left camp we went the wrong direction thinking that the road wrapped back around to the highway. Turtle decided to bushwhack back to the road and I decided to backtrack since it wasn’t very far. Thus we started the day spread out from each other. Turtle was just ahead of me so I figured cars would see him first and be wary of other pedestrians on the road. I was very concerned about how my ankle would feel after so many miles on the pavement. It really only acts up when I hike on hard packed surfaces.
Early morning on The Road
Within 20 minutes I had to stop to take off my many layers of clothes. New Mexico has been ridiculously cold at night. I think these have been some of the coldest nights I have ever experienced on trail and that is saying something. Eventually I caught up to Turtle when he stopped to take his layers off. I passed by and we made plans to meet up at the water cache a little farther down the road. I hadn’t been hiking very long when I looked up to see a truck speeding my way. The driver started hiking and flashing their lights at me. I was a little concerned by this. Then they slowed down and started veering off the road right at me. At the last minute I saw a window roll down and heard someone call out my name. I thought, “Well, I’ll be damned”! It was my AT hiking buddies 2 Bad Dogz. They were in the area finishing up missing miles from New Mexico and drove out to find me. I was absolutely thrilled to see them. Art and Lynn are 2 of my favorite people from the AT. They were also a huge help with my PCT planning. They even came bearing gifts in the form of a breakfast burrito and orange juice. For the time being life was good. They gave me some good trail info on the next section, Grants to Cuba, NM. We hung out on the side of the road and chatted for awhile. Eventually Mangus and Turtle caught up and they were quickly given a burrito and OJ as well. Thanks 2 Bad Dogz.! There is a good chance we will see each other farther down the trail as they have more miles to complete for their CDT hike.
Art and Lynn aka 2 Bad Dogz
Eventually we had to say our goodbyes. As the saying goes, “these miles won’t hike themselves”. I started back on the road with a pep in my step. For the rest of the day Mangus, Turtle, and I stayed together. The day really began to warm up and we walked on the road until cars would approach, then we would jump off onto the shoulder. It was a very tedious day. The miles went by with very little effort, but the pavement just hurts the joints and muscles. We took a short break at the Mumm water cache. Residents of Grants, NM Carole and Hugo Mumm maintain a water cache for thirsty hikers. This day would have been much worse without their water. The only thing worse than road walking is road walking with a pack laden with water.
Thanks Hugo and Carole
Our next water source was a measly 6 miles down the road. The time once again went by quickly. Turtle, Mangus, and I have developed a good pace and we have great conversations that cover numerous and random topics. We all seem to have a love of history so random historical stories come up often. The next water source was a ranger station that is no longer open due to staffing issues. There has been some confusion as to whether there is water or not. I had some inside info so my group was confident we could get water there. Airlock has a friend that lived in the area and contacted her to offer me info and help. Hannah was able to confirm that we could get water there. Thanks Hannah! We had a nice relaxing break in the shade of a giant pine tree. I even took of my shoes to give my feet a rest. I never do that during the day. We ran into Dixie, Aaron, and Perc as well. It was nice to swap stories with them and hopefully we will see each other in town.
Heading to town
I can’t really say much more about the hike. It was hot, it hurt, and it was very dull. As far as roadwalks go this could have been way worse. The scenery was beautiful. We hiked in an area known as the Narrows. The sandstone was carved away due to volcanic activity 1,500 years ago. You could clearly see the lava flow on the left side of the road for the entire hike. My ankle was absolutely screaming, so I broke down and took a Vicodin. I don’t condone casual use of narcotic pain killers, but sometimes you just have to do what needs to be done.
There were a lot of interesting cliffs and huge boulders.
Sandstone carved from the lava
Can you see the face, I’m calling this The Pharaoh
Looks like the Sphinx next to The Pharaoh
I had cell service for the entire day. I was texting back and forth with Shiloh, who was already in town trying to get help with a bad tooth. I was able to help him with logistics and I was happy to help. We were with 5 miles of our goal, beer at the brewery when he texted with some very disturbing news. The brewery went out of business last month. We were all devistated. There is a song in Les Miserables, where Fantine sings of dreaming a dream. She ends by saying, “Now life has killed the dream I dreamed”. That is exactly how I felt. The last 5 miles really dragged after that. We got to the hotel around 7pm, after about 12 hours of hiking. We were all starving and exhausted. Grants is very spread out so we decided to order pizza into the room instead of venturing out. Turtle and Mangus went to Walmart for beer and I stayed in to call home. I had inadvertently worried my family last night. I always use my inReach to send out an all is well message as soon as I get to camp. I thought I sent it out, but I didn’t. I pushed the button and waited and I heard the chirp indicating the message went out and turned it off. Well, Turtle also carries an inReach and it was his message that went out not mine. Sorry family for any strain this put on you. I’ll try not to mess up again.
Tomorrow will be my first zero day and I’m super stoked to have a day to just relax.
Oh yeah, I hit 400 miles today
“He who knows no hardships will know no hardihood. He who faces no calamity will need no courage. Mysterious though it is, the characteristics in human nature which we love best grow in a soil with a strong mixture of troubles.”
- Harry Emerson Fosdick