Pie Town to Grants
After eating more than enough pie for the rest of the year we left early morning and started our biggest road walk yet. After a rather boring and super long day we finished our biggest day yet: 34 miles, all of it on road. We also had our worst tasting water on the trail yet. It literally tasted like the water ran down a cow’s ass and then was collected again.
The next day though we started hiking on the Chain of Craters, one of the more beautiful parts of the trail so far. We started out with a short 2 mile sections on the lava fields of the Malpais National Monument. While looking super cool it was brutal hiking (especially with my 700+mile shoes) and we were all happy to get off of it again. After that we followed several hills (the craters) mainly staying in a beautiful pine forest.
We finished this section with a long 35 mile day getting into town late at around 7:45.
Grants to Cuba
We enjoyed a well deserved zero in Grants, staying all day at the Motel 6, mainly drinking beer (calories!) and eating pizza. I finally picked up new shoes, wich changed everything. My old ones had probably 800+ miles on them and it more or less felt like I was walking barefoot.
We decided to only do a short 16 miles day out of town wich would put us at the foot of Mount Taylor, the highest mountain in New Mexico. The weather report looked bad for the next week but we still were in good spirits, especially Poles though: The huge Liverpool fan was delighted about their win and advance to the Champions League Final. As we were hiking, the weather turned bad though and as we were climbing, the rain turned into snow. When we got to our designated camp spot there was already about 1/2 an inch of snow (1 cm) on the ground. We nevertheless made camp and prepared for a cold night.
The following morning we woke up to around 2 inches of snow (5cm) (still snowing as well) but we started hiking undeterred. It was only about 3 miles to the top but it took us close to two hours to get to the top. Once we got there we weren’t even rewarded with a view. The mountain was firmly in the clouds. But it still felt great reaching the top. We just had climbed the highest mountain by far so far and despite all the terrible weather we still were successful.
The downhill was just as hard. We postholed for about a mile before descending to some dirt roads. We first were glad as we thought we had some easier hiking in front of us but we couldn’t have been more wrong. The roads had all turned into mud. I felt like I was just slipping around with a shoe that weighed over 5 pounds.
After being rained, snowed and hailed on for most of the afternoon we camped after having just done 23 miles. Despite one of our shortest days on trail we were completely exhausted.
The next the day was comparatively easy, the trail was still muddy but it wasn’t storming anymore. While it did start drizzling every now and then we were dry for most of the day. We hiked along a beautiful ridge line before descending into a beautiful canyon area.
We managed to hike around 33 miles putting us 34 miles out of Cuba. We therefore started earlier the next day to be able to get to town. It had rained throughout the night and everything was super muddy. It probably ended up being one of my hardest days on trail ever. We had everything from super steep muddy uphills to unmarked rivers flowing severals yards wide. After getting rained (and partly snowed) on for most of the day and a literal battle with the mud we all arrived exhausted in Cuba, ready for a couple of days of rest.