Day 26: 382 to 404

Waking up in a natural bowl on top of a ridge was very nice. There was no frigid wind to keep us in our sleeping bags and we got an early morning sun to warm us up. Thor and Cruise Control headed out towards La Ventanna Arch and we were close behind.

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We walked along the Narrows Rim Trail. It followed the edge of a Zuni sandstone bluff that towered over the vast lava fields spanning far into the distance. We read that the bluffs were created long ago when massive sand dunes were covered by thick sediment. The weight of this sediment was so heavy that it transformed the dunes into rock. After about three miles of walking, we rounded a corner and were able to see both Mt. Taylor (New Mexico's largest Peak) and La Ventana arch (New Mexico's largest natural arch).

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After we stood for a few minutes and admired the view, we decided to keep making distance to the next water before it got too hot. The Narrows Rim trail is actually an out and back that ends at this vista point. We had two options. We could either follow a steep mountain goat path down to the road or do an extra ten miles of backtracking to avoid a dangerous hike. If you can find a thru hiker that would walk five miles in the wrong direction just to walk another five miles on the highway just to avoid scrambling down a bluff, have them email us so we can talk some sense into them. We consulted the maps again before heading down and sure enough there was a dotted line signifying the lack of trail in this area.

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We started down the mountain carefully watching our footing with each placement. Rocks continued to slide out from under us and roll quickly towards the bottom coming to rest against scrub brush and small trees. We zigged and zagged, creating our own switchbacks to control our descent. Finally we made it down in one piece. We had arrived to a meadow just below La Ventana and placed our feet again on a smooth concrete path. The arch was astonishing. According to a kiosk, the arch began forming 140 million years ago during the Jurassic Period when the earths growing pains created cracks that allowed water to pass through. Over the years, the water caused the rock to fall away leaving only the giant arch.

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We began walking the road again. In the middle of a field, a giant sandstone monolith stood alone. The profile of this stone was that of a woman. Locals believe that she stands in the desert watching over the land and its inhabitants. Shortly after, we came to a pullout on the side of the road that marked the start of the Zuni-Acoma Trail. At this roundabout a Grants trail angel, Carole Mumm, had cached water here for hikers. We took a liter for the next nine miles of lava field trails and began our volcanic journey.

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At first, the lava was such a change of scenery that it was fun and exciting. Following only cairns, we climbed up and down a roller coaster of volcanic flow. Large plates of Pahoehoe, a term that describes sheets of smooth billowy lava, extended as far as we could see. As we walked up to the crest of one of these plates, a deep fissure would span in between the two sheets and we would leap over.

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After a few miles, our shoes finally began showing small signs of the wear and tear from the razor sharp rocks and our ankles began to ache from the ever changing footpath. The rock we were walking on radiated the heat from the sun just as asphalt in the city does in the summertime. We ate a quick lunch and quickly went back to hiking to try and get across the black rock as quickly as we could. We passed the entrance to lava tube caves and walked over sinkholes and the collapsed rock of caves that once were.

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The type of lava rock changed as we walked, seemingly signifying different eruptions. Some flows we definitely liked more than others. One In particular was made solely of baseball sized lava bombs, imperfectly shaped rocks formed from being shot from a volcano and cooling midair. This was not our favorite part.

As we came to the end of this trail and approached the highway, we had two options. We could either hitch seven miles to a visitor center and fill up from a spigot and then hitch (walk) back to trail, or we could risk it and walk six miles to an electric pump that may or may not be working. Collectively we had a half liter of water, but we believed in the trail and that we would find water along the way. Sure enough, three prairie dog hole filled miles later we came upon a beautiful windmill pumping out clear pristine water. Two other hikers, Hannah and Charlie from Lake Tahoe were here filling up as well. It would be a dry march into town the next day and we would be dry camping, so we all four filled up with five liters of water.

The temperature suddenly dropped twenty degrees as the sun hid behind dark clouds. In the distance we could see Virga clouds and their evaporating streamers of rain quickly heading our way. So we booked it three miles to camp. It seemed as if we made it in ten minutes. We had perfect timing. Just as we were staking down our rainfly, huge droplets of rain starting rattling the tent. We did not mind one bit at this point. We had hiked a beautiful day and would be filling our bellies with food from town in the morning. We fell asleep with these thoughts and did not wake up for a single, powerful gust of wind through the night. What a day.

Cheers to new frontiers!

Garbelly & Critter

Day 25: 355 to 382

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Walking twenty-seven miles of road through flat New Mexico desert is a perfect time to listen to the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Like the story, our desert, too, appears old and wise. Our desert has a language of its own, one that through our journey we have begun to understand. We learn from the animals just as we learn from their absence. The wind teaches us about persistence, and the sun teaches us about impermanence. Our days are no longer linear. Here, time is circular. That wonderfully pleasant hour of crisp morning air and the energizing warmth of the waking sun do not last. Soon the sun intensifies, but as we circle back around we are once again thankful for the morning. The days allow us to meditate, and the nights allow us to drift away. We experience moments of euphoria, while other moments are weighted down with sadness. The desert cannot be experienced through a single emotion.

Life here is beautiful. The plants and the animals that commit to life in the desert are stubborn and tough. However, death is inescapable. Whether it is the hawk hunting for the prairie dog, or the gopher snake stalking the jack rabbit, or the irresistible dryness, life does not tread lightly, but instead with purpose and pride.

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Our journey began in the desert. The desert has tested us time and time again, but our dream remains here traveling along this path North.

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As we walk this road today, we have the words of Santiago, his finding true love, his personal legend, and the search for his treasure as background to our own quest and our own love. The desert is a magical place. As we hear about Santiago's signs, or omens, we experience our own. Just when the road started to discourage us, a couple from Wyoming pulled to the shoulder of the road offering us Spicy Hot V8's and an apple. The trail provides. Just as we were feeling good about the day and the remaining miles ahead, another car pulls over and the experience made us uncomfortable as all heck. We have learned that the ebb and flow of balance out here explains these good and bad moments. 

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After 26 miles of a hard road walk, we arrived at the Narrows Rim Trailhead. We left the road and climbed up a sandstone trail. The sun rested lower in the sky, and we hiked for about a mile before sitting down on top of the ridge line to make dinner. We were 500 feet above fields of lava that reached towards the horizon, and the sun was right in front us. We were eating dinner when down the trail with his spoon in his mouth walks Thor! We had stopped for dinner only a couple of yards away from camp, so we grabbed our things and scurried up the trail. We set up our tent in a depression in the rock, and we were shielded from the wind. 

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The sun began to set as we sat on the edge of the bluff. We did not move until the sun had disappeared below the horizon taking the day's light with it. It was a beautiful sunset after a tough day. 

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Cheers to balances, the good and the bad!

Garbelly & Critter

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(Attention Thru Hikers) We found great water, but it is on a ten minute timer. Don't worry if it turns off before your get water! Just wait.  This pump is about 8 miles up the road from John and Anzi's home. 

Day 24: One Last Piece of Pie

We woke up in the Toaster House just in time to catch a glimpse of red bursting from the clouds on the horizon. From the 'penthouse's' East facing window, we could see a small, but vibrant frame of the sun rise.  Laying there in our sleeping bags we wrestled with the idea of leaving Pie Town, but with weather moving in we figured it would be better to get back on trail. We packed up our bags, and we headed to have one last breakfast and one final piece of pie before hitting the road.

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For hikers, it is more like 85, if not more. 

For hikers, it is more like 85, if not more. 

Back on trail, we were walking a dirt farm road away from town. We had fifteen miles to John and Anzi's ranch where we could fill up on water and even stay the night. A couple miles in dark clouds creeped up behind us, and for the rest of the day we would experience patches of high winds, which caused the dirt and sand to kick up and blast our legs, and cold, sideways rain. However, just when the rain would pick up enough for us to finally stop and pull out our rain jackets the rain would stop and the wind would die down. Several minutes later another large cloud would move overhead and bring the same winds and rain. The land was flat so we could see miles in all directions. We could see rain about half a mile to our right, and once the weather passed over us, we could watch it for miles.

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As we got closer to the Thomas' Ranch, Cruise Control caught up to us. We walked a little with him and talked about fly fishing and hiking before he motored on past and up the road.

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We came around a curve in the road and up over a hill when we saw an American Flag waving in the wind. There was an old log cabin right off of the road and a mailbox with the name 'Thomas' written on the side. Leaving the road, we headed up their driveway. From the outside of the pole barn, we heard John's voice, and we knew we were in the right place.

Knocking on the door, we were greeted by Thor and Cruise. We sat our bags down and took a seat, as John continued his story.

 

An amazing human art is the art of storytelling. Even if the details, plot, or characters are not the most important part, the underlining theme could be what gets past on as the stories are shared. John's theme is that of connectedness. Through multiple stories in his life, this theme is commonly expressed. In complete awe of how small this big world is, he shared stories of friends, family, and people he met and how they came up in other facets of his life. Everyone is connected. Through hearing John's stories, we learned about how rich in these beautiful instances of connection his life is, and what a life he has lived so far. 

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As the stories began to settle down, they let us cook our dinners in their kitchen. That night they allowed us to stay in one of their old RV's. Before we headed to bed, we said our good-byes and profusely thanked them. 

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To John and Anzi, thank you so much for spending the time and sharing stories of your lives with us. We wish you good health and happiness, until we meet again! 

 

Cheers! 

Garbelly & Critter  

Day 19: John Kerr Fire


The cold has not decided to leave us yet. Waking up with our water filters inside our sleeping bags and frozen water bottles in the tent vestibule did not phase us at this morning.

 

We had camped in a valley next to an algae filled creek. Just a hundred feet behind us, a herd of cattle wandered around eating their breakfast (which is the same as their lunch and dinner). We packed up, put our down jackets on and started walking to get to the spring. We cherished the moments on the road where sun light leaked through providing a slight warmth to our skin. Our only clean water source for the next twenty five miles was in five miles, so we were eager to get there.  The other sources would be murky cow ponds and chewing water is never fun.

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The spring had been turned into a cattle trough with an old tire. Just behind, a large drainage pipe had been inserted vertically over the spring and was filled with clean ice cold water. We loaded up and started up a steep gravel road towards the trail. That's right, trail.

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It felt so good to be back on a single track dirt path. We did not even mind all of the fallen trees from a previous fire, or the sometimes excessive cairns and CDT signs. We had a footpath to walk. Searching for the trail for ten hours a day can be mentally exhausting. Now we could actually walk and ponder all of the things that someone ponders when they have all the time in the world. Religion, politics, or a scholarly article we once read in college? No, we had more time to think about how many snacks we had left in our backpacks and what kind of pie we thought the next town would have. The important things.

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What a treat to run into such awesome people on the trail! Best of luck on your section hike, and we hope to run into you guys again up the trail. 

What a treat to run into such awesome people on the trail! Best of luck on your section hike, and we hope to run into you guys again up the trail. 

 

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Around two in the afternoon we had covered about thirteen miles and decided to sit down and eat lunch. Earlier, we had notice small, wispy clouds rolling over John Kerr Peak. Now that we were closer and had a better view, we could tell that those clouds were part of a small forest fire that had begun. We could also tell that since we first saw the clouds, there were more, and they were denser and had a darker coloring at the forest line. After checking maps and seeing that no roads or trails led to where the fire was burning, we decided that it was strange and should be reported. We quickly ate and ran up the opposite facing mountain to try to get signal and call the forest service. Near the top, Critter got cell service and we called to let them know about the fire. A woman told us that a crew was on their way to investigate the fire and bring it under control. It was a huge relief for the rest of the day as we hiked and that night for camping. 

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We went about six more miles to a saddle in the mountains and had a beautiful view of the sunset. We set up camp under an huge alligator juniper. 

 

Today had been beautiful. Most of the day we had walked a ridge that gave us views of distant mountains intertwined with vast prairies. The land here seemed to roll on forever without any trace of houses or paved roads. It's nice to know that there are still expanses of our populated country that continue to stay wild.

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Stay wild, Friends!

Garbelly & Critter