5/4 Tuesday, day 22–Long water carries are not for the faint of heart! We left Pie Town with (hopefully) enough water to last 22 miles to the solar well at mile 436.1. While we were taking a siesta, we were passed by Lone Wolf, No Keys, and Dog-gone. Later, we saw Dog-gone resting in the shade and we chatted with him. He and his wife sold their home and furniture in GA, bought a teardrop trailer, and she’s running support for him and being a trail angel. He gave us her number (she goes by TaxiLady) and insisted we call her if we need a ride to Walmart when we get to Grants (or anything else). So great! We stopped for a second siesta because Kaia & Sierra are having trouble with hotspots and blisters. Kaia is breaking in a brand new pair of Vasques (new Satoru Trails) that they quickly mailed to Pie Town. I had sent an email at Doc Campbell’s saying the pair she was wearing was too small. They immediately sent a different style with a bigger toe box that we really hope works. They are lighter too, which she loved right away, but she’s got a bit of a rub in the heal. We’ve all been super impressed with Vasque so far. The shoes held up well in the river crossings, the soles are sturdier than we are used to (which Adam thinks has nearly eliminated his foot pain), and the customer service has been awesome! Sierra is trying out Kaia’s old shoes because she felt like she started with too small of a size (same with Ruby). THEN, we were just walking along, down this dirt road that is the trail for this section, when a truck pulled over to chat with us. He said his wife was just at the Toaster House telling all the hikers that they can get water and camp on their property (16 miles outside of Pie Town). He told us to look for the flagpole then drove off saying he was going to get started on making us dinner! His wife pulled up in a truck about 30 min later, so excited that she had found “the family”. She assured us that there was indeed water ahead at “the homestead”, that we had about 2 more miles to walk, and that her husband was cooking up a storm for all of us. When we arrived, a nice hiker named Castanza (as in George), said “I’m glad you made it! I saw you resting a few miles back and I was worried you would stop there to camp. I almost started walking back to let you know this was here!” So nice! Turns out, he met the Strawbridge family on this trail last year while he was hiking Mt. Taylor! We set up our tents then So Good, Cake, Tex, and Moonshine hiked in. We had an awesome spaghetti dinner feast and really enjoyed visiting together. The husband brought out some muffins and the wife said, “Hikers call him The Muffin Man because last year he’d drive this section passing out his fresh baked muffins!” The NICEST people!
The TLC Ranch is at Guthook mile 430.1, 16 miles today.
5/5 Wednesday, day 23–We rolled away from the TLC Ranch at about 8:15 and walked a long, straight dirt road ALL day. We passed a cemetery and later Moonshine told us she went in to look at the headstones. She said the majority of them seemed to be infants and children, so sad. The first water source was a solar well that was pumping cold, clear water into a stock pond. Adam encouraged Muir to go swimming to cool off and he loved it. We stopped for a 3 hour siesta to rest in the shade. Then back to the road, and the heat, and the wind. During our dinner break, a hiker named Happy walked up and visited with us for a while. We had met him our first week and haven’t seen him since. It was fun to hear about his hike thus far and his life experiences. We found a great camp, hidden from the road, with a water source that wasn’t listed on Guthook! I went to check it out and failed to bring my camera! The sunset was phenomenal so I grabbed 3 liters, rushed back to camp for my camera, but by the time I made it back the light had faded. Too bad! I did get to see a happy little bat skimming the surface of the water for a drink. Magical. 15.2 Guthook miles, my watch says 40,815 steps and 18.5 miles, camped at mile 445.3.
5/6 Thursday, day 24–After about six miles of road walking we got a delightful visit from Cheshire Cat! He jumped out of his car with a box of ice cream sandwiches, ran to deliver one to each of us, stopped to pet a barking Muir, then jumped back in his car and drove off! Just yesterday Adam and the kids were daydreaming about getting handed ice cream! About a mile after that, Tristan said to me, “I can still taste the ice cream!” This is the 4th time we’ve received trail magic from Cheshire Cat! He always insists that just because there’s six of us doesn’t mean he’s going to treat us any differently than the individual hikers. Previously he has had fresh fruit to offer and if 2 want honeydew and 3 want pineapple and 1 wants cantaloupe, he doesn’t insist that we all pick the same fruit to save cutting time! This is high on the top 10 list of things I hope my children learn from hiking this trail. We are all struggling on the trail of life and a random act of kindness is a priceless gift. We pushed until 12:40 to a picnic area with shaded picnic tables, trash cans and pit toilets. From there, we opted for the Narrows Rim Trail to avoid the road walk. It was amazing! The views were just WOW! We ended up having to follow a rough, steep trail back down to the La Ventana Arch trailhead, but it was worth it. We had dinner at that trailhead, at a picnic table again! At the table next to us was Catwater, TinMan, and Earl Grey Goose. They were staying there to stealth camp. We decided to press on another 2.5 miles to where we thought there would be water. Unfortunately we couldn’t find it in the dark, hopefully in the morning. We set up camp near the Zuni-Acoma Trailhead, Guthook mile 502.6. My watch says we covered 46,540 steps and 21.23 miles. We took an alternate to the alternate, so Guthook miles are hard to calculate…but it looks like 57.3 miles (haha, more like 17.8 miles with the road walk & Cebolla alt.).
5/7 Friday, day 25–Ruby’s little feet have been giving her trouble (totally my fault, I didn’t order her shoes a size up, but new shoes are being sent to Cuba) so she insisted she wanted to use her “hotel voucher” and hitch into Grants. We left camp around 7am and hiked along hwy 117 to our water source: a spigot at a rangers station that is closed for remodeling. For that entire 6 mile stretch, the kids tried to get a hitch with no luck. After the water break, we hiked 4 more miles before a kind couple from Colorado pulled over. It had started to rain, so we quickly threw packs in the back of their truck (and a dog and half of our group) and 3 rode in the back seat. They dropped us off at Walmart and gave us their number (they are from Durango and said if we need help when we get near there to give them a call!). We attracted a lot of attention as we sat near the Walmart entrance, surrounded by all our gear, trying to come up with a resupply plan. One man stopped to look at us and said, “You look like travelers. Do you know anyone who wants some cute puppies?” Ha! We insisted that we did not. Another older gentleman insisted on buying us Gatoraid and some desserts. So kind! While in Walmart, a woman stopped to chat with us and marveled about how many hikers she has seen walking into town recently. “There are a lot more coming, we are in a big bubble.” I warned her. She seemed delighted to hear all about the trail and walked away with a determination to open a hiker hostel in Grants. We got a quick lunch then split up to get more tasks done. While Adam, Kaia, Ruby, and Muir were walking to check into the hotel, a man pulled over and handed them $20. Kaia said he didn’t even ask if they were CDT hikers, and when Adam tried to say “naw we are good!” the man just insisted they take it and drove off. Sierra, Tristan, and I had stopped in the shade at the gas station while I called my grandpa. Another kind soul just walked right up to Sierra and handed her two bags of chips, two bags of cookies, and a gas station sandwich ! We are just blown away by people’s generosity!
5/8 Saturday, day 26– We are having trouble with three of our resupply packages. One arrived at Doc Campbell’s after we left that location, so Adam paid to have it sent to Cuba. One should have arrived in Pie Town, but it still hasn’t. And one should arrive in Grants on Monday, but by then we should be about 30 miles north. Hopefully we can get it bounced to Cuba! We got a late checkout from the hotel and spent the morning buying/organizing our resupply. We road walked out of Grants for about 7 miles before hitting the Mt. Taylor trailhead. It is so great to be back on soft trail! We knew there would be a trash can at the trailhead, so we packed out some heavier items for dinner. Adam cooked up some dehydrated refried beans, melted cheese sticks in there, added canned fajita meat, and put it on a tortilla. Delicious! We rested for about 2 hours then climbed to a view point to camp. Guthook says we did 9 official miles but my watch reads 35,784 steps, 16.10 miles.
5/9 Sunday, day 27–Mother’s Day! We left camp at 7 and started our climb to 11,300 ft to the summit of Mt. Taylor. We crossed paths with Cheshire Cat and Stella Blue at about 10:40 and visited until noon. Muir and Stella do not get along, but it is sure great to visit with Cheshire Cat (plus he gave us watermelon, pears, and pineapple!!). About a mile later there was a water cache left by Max the Knife, who we met yesterday while we were road walking. The climb up to the summit was so cold and windy, but we had a bit of cell service so we made some happy Mother’s Day calls :). The view at the top was amazing, but too windy to enjoy long. We set up camp at mile 8.9 on the Mt. Taylor Alt, which is 17.3 Guthook miles for the day. My watch says 44,757 steps and 20.5 miles.
5/10 Monday, day 28– Today was a little bit of trail, a whole lot of dirt roads, and a whole lot of wind. We left camp at 7am, filled up with water at American Canyon Spring, then again at a cow trough at noon. We had a decent siesta under some giant pine trees. During our dinner break, OT and Jacobie came along and visited for a bit. They’ve taken more zeros than we have, but they consistently crush 20 mile days! The most geologically interesting spot today was Canon Del Dado, we didn’t get water there but it sure is beautiful! Guthook miles = 20, my watch 46,747 steps and 23 miles. Camped at mile 567.2.