Day 22: Are Those Clouds In The Sky?
Monday, May 16, 2022 9:45 pm
Location: TLC Ranch (349.5 miles)

I left Pie Town today, heading towards Grants, which we should reach in four days.

For breakfast, I ate the remaining three-quarters of the apple pie I got yesterday. I was hoping to have some more of the strawberry-rhubarb, but Tiempo took that and left much earlier than I did. (It’s funny; of the three parts of days I’ve spent in Pie Town, the day I spent the least time in town is the day I ate the most pie.)

We waited for Simple and Dog Bite to go to the post office and send stuff off. Once they got back, we took a group photo for the Toaster House archives, and we were on our way.

Our hike began with a gravel road walk north out of town. This road was far more busy than I’d expected it would be, with lots of trucks passing us in both directions. There was plenty of shoulder, and being a gravel road the speed limit wasn’t high, so it didn’t seem terribly dangerous. Still, it felt like this dirt road was a main road of sorts.

From our first break point, looking back towards Pie Town, we could see one of the telescopes for the VLBA (Very Long Baseline Array), which uses a set of ten radio telescopes spread across the US to perform astronomical observations.

10 am Selfie Day 22: Roadwalk
10 am Selfie Day 22: RoadwalkWith Simple.

We stopped at a shade tree at a bend and intersection in the road and had a snack. Once we continued and turned down the road, the traffic was much less for the remainder of the day.

Hikers on the Road
Hikers on the RoadPatches, Plus One, Dog Bite, Mr. Freeze

As before, we stopped roughly once an hour, each time gaining about three miles. The dirt road and lack of shade took its toll, but roads being roads, we were still making great progress.

One of the nice things today was the presence of clouds ahead of us. Even if they didn’t shade us much from the sun, because they were pretty much only in front of us, it was still a welcome change to the sky.

Clouds
Clouds

Today was a bit rough, in that the first water after leaving Pie Town and the Toaster House was after sixteen miles, at TLC Ranch, where they maintain a water cache for hikers, and allow camping near the old homestead. This meant that, in addition to our “heavy” just-out-of-town packs, we had to carry all of the water necessary to get there; there was no other opportunity along the way to get more.

We could have hiked further than TLC Ranch, but given that there was water and camping, and we were just leaving town, we felt that this was an appropriate distance to hike.

During the last stretch of dirt road to the ranch, we passed a pair of dilapidated old buildings. I wondered what they were for, but they were fenced off and there was no informative display.

Old Buildings
Old Buildings

TLC Ranch provided way more than I’d ever expected. Besides (cold!) water and camping space, the old homestead had a covered porch that had a table and chairs, and a trash can. There was also a privy (with toilet paper!) a couple minute walk from the homestead.

Tiempo was already there, and had let us know a little of what to expect. About 20 minutes after we got there, two of the ranch hands and a young girl (presumably their daughter) drove by on an ATV, and offered us beans. We said yes — what hiker says no to free food? (The food wasn’t entirely free; a donations box was attached to the homestead.)

After a little while, the ATV returned, this time just with the woman and child, with a takeout box half-filled with beans for each of us. We thanked her profusely. She apologized that she didn’t have any cornbread to give us (which would have been an amazing bonus on top of the surprise of beans), but offered cobbler if we were interested. Again, we said yes.

While this was going on, about half a dozen other hikers arrived. They also took advantage of the offer of beans, though we were a little disappointed that they couldn’t be bothered to get up from their chairs and get the beans themselves, instead making the woman carry them all the way from the ATV to the table. Most of those hikers left shortly after they’d finished eating the beans, their dinner, and the cobbler (some apple, some blueberry) once it arrived. Tiempo had already left by that point.

Later, Jabba — my shuttle driver to the terminus — arrived. I’d expected him to be pretty far ahead, and he would have been, had he not taken a week off. A man on a mission, he scarfed down his own food at a rate I’ve seldom seen. Because of the impending fire closures, he was in a hurry to get as far as he could in New Mexico, and then jump elsewhere on the trail. Having come from Toaster House today (late start), he was planning on hiking another ten or fifteen miles today, and then another 40 tomorrow! Man on a mission indeed.

As the sun dipped towards the horizon, we set up our tents. The sandy ground made it hard to get tent stakes to stay in, but also meant that we would have something soft to sleep on.