Day 18 – 23 Pie Town and Beyond
Day 18 May 19th–Damp Sleeping Bags and Pointless Walks
The highlight of the day was the pie. Two days I got to try six different kinds of pie. Coconut cream, peanut butter, New Mexican Apple (pinch of cayenne), berry blast, strawberry rhubarb lemon, and tart lemon almond. They were good. We showed up at 10:00 a.m. this morning for a restaurant that opens at 10ish, we waited around for about an hour somebody called them and they said yeah we’re really busy today and they finally let us in in about 11:15.
I was looking forward to some real food at this point but they said all they are going to serve was pie. So I settled for the strawberry rhubarb ala mode and the tart almond à la mode, with a large cup of coffee and a glass of milk. You’re going to name your town Pie Town, you better bring it. They brought it.
After lunch or I guess pie I had a 16 mile hike to get to a campground hosted by a rancher. It’s very nice little spot where they provide some water a little bit of shelter and a outhouse. There are two options for where I continue after this. One is the original CDT that kind of makes a c-shaped and takes about 4 days to complete and the other is a more direct route into Grants New Mexico.
I consider myself to be pretty solid at making decisions when I have limited amount of information they really don’t know anything about these two routes and I’ve tried to put pull some information out of people to make a better decision. But I think I’m just going to take the shorter route because I’ve heard good things about both and the traditional route requires a couple of really long water carries. I’m pretty ready for those but they can be kind of a pain in the butt. Water is heavy and if you have to carry four or even 5 liters for 10 mi that can really wear on you.
There was a about 10 people at the toaster house last night and I believe seven of them decided to skip this portion of the hike. I can’t say they missed anything. It was a 16 mile road walk that for me culminated with thunderstorms during the last 3 mi which made the road extremely slick and extremely muddy. It was kind of fun for about 15 minutes but then I got really annoying and really slow.
Should be a couple days before I’m in town again and the size of Grants it’s much larger than the last few towns. They even have a Walmart.
Day 19 May 20th It’s Not Supposed to Rain
New Mexico has a monsoon season and I believe it’s September or even October into December. It’s May. It’s rained for 5 days straight not all day but enough to where you’re going to either get muddy or your tent is going to be soaking wet.
Today it started raining about 11:30 and it quickly turned into the craziest hail storm I’ve ever been in. I was going to try to grab some lunch but then I ended up just grabbing my umbrella and folding into a little ball and trying to protect myself while it was hailing like crazy. When it was all over it looked like it had snowed there was piles of hail everywhere.
I was unscathed and about an hour later it started to clear up and became fairly nice so I decided to take a nap in the sun. Upon waking from my nap I noticed the storm clouds rolling in and a hiker that had been behind me showed up just in time for us to sneak into a abandoned old settlement house where we had shelter for about 45 minutes as the next phase of the storm passed over.
That storm left most of the trail pretty muddy not as bad as the road yesterday but still a bit slick in a lot of places.
Frankly I’m sort of over it. It’s supposed to be dry and hot, not wet. It would be one thing if it rained and then there was plenty of clean drinking water all around but that’s not the case. Sure, I could siphon some water out of a puddle or two but really there’s not much good drinking water even though it’s been raining all the time. That’s supposed to be the trade-off.
It’s a what Now?
I’ve been thinking a bit more about what this is. I know I decided a while ago to call it an adventure. But I’ve been leaning towards calling it white space. In Air Force regulations they will sometimes make a page that says this page intentionally left blank. Which is a bit silly because as soon as you put some words on it it’s no longer blank and why do we have to tell people that is there really somebody who wrote to the author and said hey why did you leave this page blank?
But I think that’s what this is it’s my page that’s intentionally left blank. It’s my space between one thing and the other. and while I would like to think that I am solving the world’s problems in my brain most of the time I’m just thinking about food or how many miles have I gone or how many miles until the next water source or how many miles until I’m going to camp. Sometimes I think about my career or job interviews but those thoughts only sneak in for a while.
But with the white space and really the lack of connectivity to the rest of the world and frankly interaction with other human beings it really feels recharging. That might be the most stereotypical introvert thing to say but I do feel refreshed. I’m not done yet by know means, but I think and I hope and I challenge you to consider doing something similar in your life.
Too often we go from one significant event to the other without any period of reflection or pause to give ourselves some room to relax and decompress. And while I know like there are financial obligations and I’m super lucky to be in this situation I’m in, I think just knowing that it would be important for you to do that and to maybe find even a day or a weekend or something like that to give you self a break from everything could be hugely beneficial.
Day 20 May 21st
The day couldn’t have started off any worse. I woke up and noticed that there was some stuffing that had come out of my sleeping bag. There was a whole about 4 in long that had been created by the zipper from my tent. Last night when I went to bed I had left the rainfly open because you know it never rains in May in New Mexico. But later that nights probably around 11:30 or so It started to sprinkle so I quickly got up and closed the rainfly and then the tent afterwards. Doing that I must have zipped in my quilt and at some point in time that night when I rolled over it pulled it out of the zipper and created a hole.
I did what anybody else would do and grab some duct tape and taped it up as best I could. I’ll be in town tomorrow and hopefully I can find a more permanent solution. Not sure duct tape is the answer, but probably some combination of duct tape sewing and maybe some sort of super glue. But I’m really over this rain.
I did a 20 mile day today in about 16 of those miles were on pavement. Not my favorite. I took a 4 mi detour to hike at trail called The narrows. 80% of the trail was awesome. Great views easy to navigate just the perfect kind of afternoon hike. But at the end I realized I had to make a really steep descent.
Now most people will probably complain about climbing up hills or mountains but that’s actually my strong suit. Going down is difficult and more painful on my joints. And my big feet tend to move boulders and slide on loose shale. I banged up my lower shins a couple of times on some boulders but I made it down there okay.
There was a really cool natural arch at the bottom and would be a great place to take the family for a hike if only an out and back and not down that steep decline.
There was some interesting lava formations on one side of the highway I was walking but really that was it. A couple of times I considered hitchhiking and even talk to one couple near the arch and ask them if they would give me a lift but they were heading the other direction. I figured I was destined to make the walk.
I ended up kind of stealth camping at a ranger station that had closed for the day. I’m going to sleep under one of the picnic pavilions and not have to set up my tent. They have a spigot for water and it works out pretty well. I’m close enough to town well I was able to call my family and chat a little bit before I called it a day.
I have about 15 miles tomorrow to get to my hotel. I wasn’t planning on taking a zero but we’ll see what time I get in and what the weather looks like the rest of the week. I’m at mile marker 509 of the Continental Divide Trail. I don’t think I’ve done anywhere near that many miles but with all the different choose your own adventure routes that’s where I’ve ended up.
That’s right at the pace I need to be able to finish the trail before the first of September. It’s not a huge priority for me but kind of an interesting thing to think about at this point.
Day 21 May 22 Road to Grants NM
Sleeping under a picnic shelter worked less effectively than I thought. I ended basically sleeping under the picnic table. And when it rained, the sound of rain drops on the aluminum roof made it louder than I could sleep through.
I got a decent start and knew the walk was all highway. The good part was there was very little traffic and there were decent views on both sides. By around 9:30 I hit the interstate and was greeted with some gas station coffee and a pastry out of a plastic bag. I hung out there for a few and then continue down into Grants.
By the time I got into Grants it was almost noon and there was a brewery on the way towards my hotel. I was pretty excited and hung out there until about 12:15 and realized they probably weren’t going to open. I know small towns are struggling with labor and all that stuff but man my patience with arbitrary hours is about gone.
So I continued to until the Motel 6. They have a super good rate for hikers and really I don’t need anything besides a shower and a bed. I grabbed some lunch from Dairy Queen. Made the trek over to Walmart to pick up some supplies for the next few days and to send myself a resupply box out of Cuba New Mexico.
What are you Doing about Colorado?
Every hiker I bump into the last couple of days all want to talk about the snow in Colorado. Some people are talking about flipping which is where you do part of the trail and then go up to another part of the trail. In this case they would leave New Mexico and go up to Montana and start heading south.
The two other options are to wait out the snow in northern New Mexico or take an alternate route that’s lower in elevation and doesn’t have snow. The alternate route is probably my option at this point. But I still have a couple of weeks before I have to make the decision.
This page intentionally left blank
Just about every Air Force instruction has a page or a bunch of pages that were intentionally left blank. I find it a little bit amusing because the moment you write page intentionally enough blank the page is no longer blank. But that’s not even close to the biggest catch 22 in the Air Force.
Peoples schedules tends to act like vacuums; if you leave empty space within the schedule it will get filled with something. But I’ve never seen anyone put time intentionally left blank on their calendar. And I’ve seen just about everything on calendars from yoga to meditation, gym, lunch, dates, volunteering. But never just nothing.
So while this adventure is a whole bunch of things one of the more important things it is, is nothing. It is time intentionally left blank. Yes I have to walk, yes there are some incredible views Yes it can be very challenging and rewarding. But it’s also nothing.
There are countless posts about reflection and self-discovery as advice to Veterans as they leave milter service. Some even offer some specific advice like hey spend an hour a day thinking about what kind of life you want to live, what you enjoyed about your military service and what you want to leave behind.
An hour a day might be enough for some people or maybe that’s all the time they could actually give. I appreciate that. But also don’t think it’s enough. Now you might not need 4 months of backpacking but I think I’m closer to the right answer then an hour a day.
I needed some time to let things go. I had a incredible Air Force career. There are so many things that I was able to do and accomplish that I would have never dreamed possible. I also feel extremely lucky to have been able to navigate from where I started to where I ended. The patience and forgiveness of advisors and commanders allowed me to make mistakes and keep going. Some of them could have been less patient, in my career would have turned out much differently. I’m not all the way there with coming to grips with it, but I’m close. And this time has been helpful.
There’s also small shred of me that wonders what did I let go by retiring when I did. Would I have made a good O6? Or the bigger question for me is would I have gotten the job I wanted if I had stuck around?
Next, there is the bigger question of what do I want to accomplish in the next 5 to 10 years? How do I balance the type of husband and father I want to be with my next career? This question also includes something that sounds maybe a bit preposterous, but it’s so legit question for me is how much money do I want to make?
The pay between somebody working for a environmental nonprofit versus working for one of the larger consulting firms is considerable. And while it could be trade-offs in terms of time in the office and work-life balance and all that those aren’t always clear at the start and my experience It says they can change quickly with the change of the supervisor.
I don’t know if the next 3 months are going to be able to answer that question for me. Frankly not sure the next 3 years will answer that question for me.
I do know that I want to raise two kids who are leaders, that are willing to cut their own path and are good people AKA not assholes.
Day 22 May 23rd
Zero day. My left ankle was a bit swollen, the room right was just right and there was enough stuff I could take care of that day to justify a zero. Walked over the post office grab some coffee tried to buy some stove fuel, had lunch at a local steak restaurant, caught up with a couple of older through hikers, and had beers and barbecue with out there and poet.
Dinner gave me a chance to tell Poet I used his poem. He told me he already knew which surprised me a bit, since I assume nobody actually through hiking his reading my blog.
Grants could be a nice town if they just decided on the five square blocks where everything should be. But instead it’s the worst. We used to be a route 66 town and all those shops are either closed or barely hanging on and highway 40 runs through the edge of town which is where they built the Walmart a handful of hotels and a couple of chain restaurants. It’s a two and a half mile walk from the Walmart to the downtown area. And not exactly a pleasant walk. American towns that design themselves around the automobile are doomed to fail. In 20 years will anyone know what route 66 was?
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When you go through Hopewell lake you can get some water from the camp host Douglas. They won’t open until mid-June but once they are open, he’s your guy. The well is not functional and many hikers need water at that point. Tell him Jodie sent you. Enjoying your blog. Safe travels!
Not sure if this is helpful or not, but at (almost) 59 I am still trying to figure out my “why”. I know I am tired of doing something for others. It’s time to do something for me.
Like you, I don’t know what that means. But my only sage advice is to take your time. Keep your eyes and thoughts open. The answer will arrive in due time
Seems like I was waiting forever for this blog this time. Good to hear you got to eat pie. We leave on the 8th. Love you, Mom
What an amazing experience!!
Enjoy every moment! Be safe!
We are thinking of you!
April, Tony, Luke, Chase & Max!
(I hope I’m commenting in the right spot!!)
With all this rain you might have been dryer doing the AT! Most years you wouldn’t have to deal with the rain until Colorado 😬
I am really enjoying reading your posts and I’m not missing any of them. You are a great writer and I’m really enjoying your perspective very much.