Day 18: The Goldfish Tank
Thursday, May 12, 2022 10:03 pm
Location: Pie Town Alternate: Valle Tio Vences Campground (302.8 miles)

It was again cold overnight, but it did not seem to dip below freezing. In any case, this is really not the weather I expected to get from New Mexico in mid-May, and I’m really glad it wasn’t this cold when I was going through the Gila.

Simple and I left camp around 7:45. We very quickly ran into Wicket, who let us know that Noodle? had gotten off-trail yesterday due to some recent gastrointestinal issues and would take a few days off to rest and recover.

Longstride and Simple
Longstride and Simple

Another hour of hiking brought us through the Govina Canyon and returned us to the CDT. It was a pleasant detour, though it’ll probably take a few more years of hikers to make the trails fully distinct.

The CDT greeted us with a somewhat steep and slightly rugged climb. Most of the way towards the top, we managed to get cell reception, but service was so bad there about all I could do was check my email. Simple and Patches (“Patchwork” Pete) went ahead while I was still trying to get something useful done on the internet.

Around the top of the mountain, there was a burn area, with red flame retardant covering everything. It looked a little eerie, and (not that there were any campsites, but) I wouldn’t want to camp here for quite some time until the chemicals wash away in the rains or degrade.

Rocks Covered With Flame Retardant
Rocks Covered With Flame RetardantIn a burn area, rocks, trees, and the ground were covered in a red flame retardant.

The downhill was rather steep, and the first part ran along the mountain, with a very steep drop to one side. After descending a bit, the trail started going down the mountain, rather than along its side, making for a much safer trail. The whole time, though, the trail tread was fairly smooth and mostly free of obstacles, making for a very fast and easy hike.

I passed Simple and Patches while they were taking a break, and then stopped myself for one near the bottom of the descent. (I’d hoped to make it all the way to the bottom, but as I passed a tree that provided shade, my stomach said “feed me”.) They caught up with me just as I was finishing my break.

The trail started wandering around some low hills that passed through cow pastures. Simple and I caught up with Plus One and Dog Bite as we made our way across the countryside.

Weird Hikers
Weird HikersDog Bite, Simple, and Plus One

We reached a dirt road, and broke off the trail to follow the road to the Aragon Well, our primary water source for the day, and our mid-day break.

I picked a tree with lots of shade to sit down under, initially unaware that someone had hung two mostly-skeletal elk legs from one of the branches.

The well, solar powered, pumped water into a large metal tank. The water in the tank was bright green from algae, and the tank was stocked with goldfish (presumably to eat the algae).

Mr. Freeze, Tiempo, and Chairman had arrived earlier, and were taking a break over by another tree; they joined us because, as the sun had shifted, we now had better shade, and also the ground was better to sit on.

We took a two hour break. I cooked dinner, happily reducing the food weight in my pack for the rest of the day’s hike.

Mr. Freeze, Tiempo, and Chairman left first, and I followed along shortly after. Now after 2 pm, there was still another ten miles to go to get to our destination, the Valle Tio Vences Campground, and I wanted to make sure I got there with enough time to set up my tent before sunset.

Just before leaving, big gust of wind spiraled into little mini tornado, kicking up dust and tumbleweeds. After I left, the process repeated a couple more times to lesser effect.

I followed a couple of dirt roads from the water cache back to the CDT, and then followed the CDT for another half mile before branching off on the Pie Town Alternate.

The CDT proper heads roughly due north, mostly along trail, until it hits US 60 and follow the highway for 13 miles to Pie Town. Not really interested in a long highway walk, many hikers (including myself) opt to take the “Pie Town Alternate”, which follows a series of low-traffic rural dirt roads to Pie Town. It also has a better water situation due to water caches, a campground (our target for the evening), and a nice rest area (tomorrow’s target).

The start of the roadwalk was fine, but as the road gradually became steeper, it also got hot outside. The sun exposure made it a hot, slow hike. The rough, uneven, rocky road was also very tiring on my feet, and I had to stop several times for breaks in what little shade presented itself. At some point, I passed Mr. Freeze and Tiempo, who had laid down next to the road for a break. They had called out to me, but I didn’t hear them over the podcast I’d put on to distract from the slog. Later, when I had stopped for a break, they passed, and I was surprised that I’d passed them.

Up A Rugged, Rocky Road
Up A Rugged, Rocky Road

I later caught up with them after they took another break, and hiked with them a short while until the road became steeper, slowing me down again. I rejoined them near the top of today’s climb, while they were taking a break due to there being (limited) cell phone service.

I hiked with them the remainder of the downhill, struggling at times to keep up with their pace while having a conversation with Tiempo at the same time.

With the sun quickly on its way down, we reached the Valle Tio Vences campground about half an hour before sunset, and quickly set up our tents. A water cache on the road just ahead provided ample water; about 30 gallon bottles of water, tied together with rope (so the empties wouldn’t blow around in the wind) were provided by a local trail angel and shuttle provider.

Three other hikers (Wicket, Chairman, and Ranger) were also here, and the six of us shared a picnic table and chatted for a short while. But, with the sun set, it very quickly became cold — too cold to sit around a picnic table. I retreated to my tent.

About 20 minutes later, Simple, Dog Bite, Plus One, and Patches arrived, having night-hiked to get to the campsite.

Up until now, I’d been leaving one of the four doors on my tent open at night to allow for better ventilation. With as cold as it is, I decided it was prudent to close all the doors, which should help keep more heat in.