Life Is a Highway (And I’m Gonna Walk It All Day Long)

My body eases into being back on trail with all the grace of an elephant skateboarding. Every joint and muscle in my lower body rebels with each step– not helped by the 100 miles of dirt and paved road that stretch before me into Grants. By the end of each day, I’m grappling with boredom, sunburn, blisters, foot pain, and generic Bad Mood Syndrome.

An aerial view of just a stretch of the highway I walked along for HOURS.

However, instead of spending the next 800 words being a grouch about this section (which, I promise, would be very easy to do!), I instead want to focus on the positives.

The Highlights of Pie Town to Grants 

#1: La Ventana Natural Arch

Around 19 miles into the Cebolla Alternate (The Brown Line, for FarOut users), I reached a little picnic area with the Narrow Rim Trailhead. Grateful for any respite from the near-constant pavement pounding of the previous few days, I ended up taking the short detour up the Cretaceous-aged sandstone rampart.

We could see the young lava flow fields of El Malpais spread out below us.

Instantly, I was glad I did. It was still hot, dry, exposed, and sandy, but my knees celebrated the change of terrain and the ability to gain some elevation.

The trail ends at La Ventana Natural Arch, New Mexico’s second largest natural arch. Daily temperature swings of over 50°F on the sandstone surface caused the rock to expand and crack away from the cooler rock on the cliff. The rocks collapsed away rather symmetrically, leading to a large arch carved into the cliff face.

We saw this beauty from above, then scrambled down to see it from the ground as well.

But, really, it was just quite pretty.

The scramble down the cliff was another highlight. While I typically don’t get super excited by steep descents, it felt fantastic to somewhat use my brain and different muscles while hiking.

Of course, after the arch, I returned to more highway walking.

#2: The Company

Sappy? Sure. True? Also yes.

Nothing feels better than getting to camp in a terrible mood and hearing how much your friends’ days sucked too. The commiserating is validating.

Big Catt, Bus Driver, and Will lunching at the end of the Narrow Rim Trail.

The benefit of this section being chock full of road walking is that the miles pass quickly, and I find myself reaching camp earlier each evening than expected. This leaves lots of time for complaining.

Truly, I’m grateful to Big Catt, Bus Driver, Big Iron, and Will for putting up with my whining and making road walks tolerable with good company and good conversation.

Road walks may be boring and awful, but they’re a wonderful way to get to know a new friend. Nothing says “friendship” like shared boredom and mutual pain. 

Y’all made a 1/10 section feel like a 3/10 section. Still bad, but… better.

#2: Pie Town

I rejoined the trail about 40 miles before Pie Town, meaning I got the wonderful experience of rolling up to the town with aching feet and a terrible mood. Both were easily soothed by a shower at the Toaster House and a big pie from the Gatherin’ Place.

Pie, friends, toasters, and chairs. What else could I possibly need??

Once again, the company proved paramount as the crew loitering around the Toaster House were a joy to be around. I knew I wanted to hike out the same day to get to TLC Ranch (another 16 miles up the trail), but was having a lot of fun and spent too much time contemplating staying the night.

When I finally pulled myself away to get back on the trail, I was welcomed back with– what else– a dirt road walk to the ranch.

A little rain at the ranch led to a beautiful double rainbow!

Thank you Pie Town for the memories, the rest, and the pie.

Quite literally, that’s it. 

Okay, that’s every single positive thing I have to say about the past four days!

If you’re looking to spend time on the Continental Divide Trail and aren’t interested in thru-hiking, I cannot say I recommend this stretch.

The view for 50% of the section…

Do yourself a favor and drive it instead. Or, even better, skip it entirely. In the wise words of my friend, Skeeter, “my favorite part of this section is knowing I’ll never have to do it ever again”. 

…the view for the other 50% of the section.


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Comments 1

  • John Tercius Rutkowski : Jun 7th

    As my virtual therapist says, “Seek nectar” everyday. You have done that. Keep up that attitude


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