This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
Pie Town is full of characters. We’re sitting on the porch of the Toaster House drinking beer when a man stops by. He tells us his wife is cooking stir fry and we should come over. Ten people have trickled into town by now, and we round them up and head over. Jeremy and Jennifer cook us dinner and play guitar and sing for us. Nita, the Toaster House owner stops by and says hello. For some reason, trail angel interactions on the CDT feel much more genuine. Maybe they are less burned out by the sheer number of hikers.
In the morning, I head out for breakfast before anyone else. I need to slow down my pace - I have the latest start date of anyone at the Toaster House, but I also don’t want to be in the same place for too long. Treeman and Nita join me at breakfast, and I get sucked into staying a few hours longer than planned. I head out, warning Treeman he may find me napping under a tree five miles down the road. I’m very bad on out of town days- sluggish from too much food and caffeine. True to form, he finds me under a tree a few hours later, sleepy and bored from the road walk. He tells me he lost his headphones in town and is trying to hitch back to get them. Do I want anything? A soda, I tell him, half joking. A car drives by and he bursts from the bushes, instantly getting a ride. It’s getting dusky when he catches me later. He hands me a soda, shocking me, and proceeded to tease me for doing nineteen miles when I’m supposed to be slowing down. “You must be running with those short legs,” he says. We camp together, the first time I’ve camped with anyone apart from Shake’nBake on the entire trail. In the morning, he packs up and leaves while I “take it slow”. Too restless to sit still for long, I leave ten minutes behind him and instantly bump into Chardonnay and Kelsey. I pass them as we leave the trees and enter the plains again. Distant crags rise: ghost ships on a desert sea. The sun is already relentless. I stop for water at a cow pond, but it is surrounded by cows. I wait for Kelsey and Chardonnay and we form our own little herd. The cows back down. I scoop my slimey water as one of the braver ones slurps from the opposite side. It gets hot just as I find a shade tree. I try and siesta but I’m restless, so I pick my way up the canyon, the heat making me sluggish. I stop at an abandoned house, intending to check it out since I’m taking it slow. But the wind lifts up a portion of metal roof and it clangs angrily at me. Creeped out, I climb over into Sand Canyon. The heat has made me slow and my bag is heavy with cloudy cow water that I don’t want to drink. I stop early, just as the trees begin to fade out into plain again, hoping the pine I chose will shelter me from the wind and dew. In the morning, a reminder of how bad the water on this section is. My first source is bone dry, despite being listed as reliable on my maps and water reports. A few miles down the road I find a tank, as brown and nasty as the litre of cow pond water I’m hoping not to drink. Oh well. I have a litre of clean, a litre of cow spit and a litre of dark, cloudy “water”. It’s fifteen miles to my next source, which might not even be there with the way my day has been going. I guess my maps did warn me that my best option for water was to beg from cars. A few do stop and make sure I’m ok. “I’m great!” I tell them. I wonder what they think of me, in their air conditioned cars, surrounded by hot coffee and cool clean water and fresh food and all of the other things I voluntarily deny myself. I hope they can see how big my smile is, even on this hot, dry road walk. A few miles down the road, a green truck pulls over a quarter mile ahead of me. I see a man hop out, run across the road, back again, and then with a squeal of tires, drive off. When I get there, I find a litre of water sweating on the asphalt. Elated, I dump my cow water and continue on. I make a few detours on my roadwalk. I hop up and eat lunch on the edge of a sandstone ridge, looking out over El Malpais. And then, La Ventana arch, where I sit in the shade and contemplate. But I’m getting thirsty and my water is running low. The source I’d been hoping for isn’t there, but a man on a motorbike stops to tell me there’s a spigot on at the ranger station, six miles further. I make it there by six, feet aching from the pavement and chug almost a whole litre. I camp by the station, hidden in the bushes. The morning roadwalk is uneventful. There are the normal crowds of cars, pulling over to make sure I’m ok. One car even stops to make sure the car in front wasn’t bothering me. I make it to Grant’s as the clouds build, sliding into town just as the first wave of thunderstorms hits.