CDT Thru-Hike Week 3: El Malpais Lava

Water, Water, Beer.

After heading North out of Pie town I realized I didn’t pack out enough water. Thankfully the TLC Ranch had some water and shade for a rest stop.

Still not learning my lesson of carrying enough water, I wandered from empty solar cow tank to tank finding just dry sand. I had a liter left but worried that I wouldn’t find water until the next day. Just before sunset, a truck pulled up on the gravel road and asked if I needed anything. He had water and beer. What great magic when I needed it. The cold beer was so refreshing in the hot desert. And as I resupplied my water I noticed that it was super hot.

“Did you get this water from Doc Campbell’s?” I asked.

“How did you know?” He replied.

“Cause it’s piping hot,” I answered.

Doc Campbell’s water is from a hot spring. The toilets give your butt a steam bath.

After he left I had a good beer buzz. A thunderstorm was rolling up so I hustled into a valley with trees and set up for the night.


I was excited to check out the lava tubes of El Malpais. The black rock and different surrounds were a stimulating change from the previous landscape. Until I got off trail and lost. For three hours I roamed through the lava fields and finally made my way out to the official route.

Mesa Mesa

After punishing my legs up Mount Taylor I headed into the dry Mesas. This time I prepared with lots of water.  Most of the cow tanks were dry. One even had a dead cow by it. Not a good sign.

I didn’t see anyone for three days which was nice and peaceful. But I longed to have a conversation. I noticed that I started talking to myself out loud. Mostly about finding water.

One morning I spotted a rattlesnake coiled up on trail. It made a little mud circle to sit in. It didn’t move as I passed by except for its tongue.


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