Friday, 31 May 2013
I convinced Dayhiker and Clutch to stay another night in Grants and we headed out to camp at the base of Mt Taylor. Clutch and I took an unintended different route to the top which primarily consisted of climbing a steep ridge through rocks and trees. The summit of Mt Taylor is 11,301, the highest point on he trail on New Mexico and the panoramic view apparently covers quarter of the state.

The trail from Mt Taylor to Cuba has been one of my favorite sections so far. We started descending and climbing along a steep volcanic ridge and eventually ended up on top of a Mesa (extensive tabletop mountain). From the top you can see country you will be walking in over the next 2 days, which is a landscape covered in canyons, mesas and volcanic plugs.

Climbing up and down canyons can be hard work with a sandy trail and the midday heat, but i was always astounded by the views from the Mesa cliffs, which seems to get better the higher we climbed. The mesas in the area are primarily sedimentary sequences of mudstone and iron cemented sandstone with some coal and paleosol layers thrown in for effect. I managed to find a few good rocks including some petrified wood and some large gypsum crystals. I have been collecting one pebble sized rock per day as a "journal" and this was definitely my best day for finding rocks.

As we head into Colorado over the next week or two, we leave behind the desert and climb into the mountains where we wl be consistently over 10,000 ft. I am sad to leave behind the barren beauty of New Mexico but excited for the next challenge of the trail.

Grants to Cuba. Day 30 - mile ~500

Posted by Dave Murphy
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Saturday, 25 May 2013
It was hard to leave Nita's Toaster House in Pie Town after days of eating pie and drinking soda, but eventually we had to. Clutch, Dayhiker and I started the road walk early evening and found a quaint spot to camp in the trees beside a dirt road. Most of the trail from Pie Town to Grants is dirt road walking with some Highway walking thrown in to keep you on your toes. Water is fairly scarce but we located a well on a ranch and a cow tank next to a solar windmill. No matter how much cow dung is in the area, you still drink as much if that water as possible. Treated of course.

The landscape on the second half of rhe section is beautiful, with large mesas on both sides of the trail (tabletop mountains) and the extensive El Malpais lava flow. From the top of one of the larger Mesas at the Narrows there is a great view of the lava to the west and the la ventana arch and mesa cliffs to the east.

I managed to pull my first 30 mile day on this stretch and enjoyed night hiking on the quiet roads. Whisps of cirrus cloud, a bright moon and shooting stars made 2 nights of road walking a surreal experience. Unfortunately I got my first blisters this year on the soles of my feet, but after a zero day in Grants they have pretty much healed up.

Next stop is Cuba, NM in 5 days time. En route we get to climb the highest peak in New Mexico - Mt Taylor (11,300). 24 days in, 400 miles down.

Grants. Mile 400.

Posted by Dave Murphy
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Saturday, 18 May 2013
Virgo and I had one of the best neros (near zero day) ever. After arriving in Lordsberg at night we immediately dumped our packs in the motel room and got a large pizza, hot wings and a 60 oz cup of fountain Gatorade.

We found 6 other hikers in Lordsberg and we all congregated at the hub of the town - McDonald's. After a quick stop into Arby's on the way out of town for another sandwich we headed back to the trail via a paved and dirt road walk. A common theme for the rest of the way to Pie Town. Just out of Lordsberg the wind began to pick up and we saw sandstorms in the distance starting to form. Inevitably one of the larger ones hit us with full force but only lasted for a few minutes - but long enough to get a mouthful of sand.

We climbed into our first real hills the next day, first passing sporadic oaks and eventually hitting mixed pine and oak forest. It was a welcome change from the shadeless desert and it was good to stretch the legs on some uphill.

The landscapes have been spectacular so far, the highlight being the Gila River. We crossed the river over 100 times over 4 days or so, walking through canyons and river flats always having fresh running water (our first time on the trail). One of the points of interest was the gila cliff dwellings, a national monument a mile or so off trail. We spent a nero soaking in the hot springs and exploring the caves. Time well spent.

The best part of the trail so far has been the people. The locals in New Mexico are some of the most generous people I have ever met and, it seems that everyone I meet wants to talk or offer me food or water. Just this morning at the pie-o-neer a truck driver called Larry brought tommy and I a piece of chocolate cream pie and a coffee each. It is seriously the best pie I have ever had. Ever.

340ish miles down. Next stop Grants.

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Sunday, 5 May 2013
The past week on the trail has been spectacular. The New Mexico desert is beautiful and I have enjoyed every part of he trail so far. The temperature has been mild during the day (high 20's - low 30's) but quite cool at night (5-8 C). It reached 39 briefly yesterday at lunch time but we created some shade with my tyvek groundsheet and had a quick siesta.

The trail for the most part has been a choose your own route adventure, where you walk from pole to pole or rock cairn to cairn working your way north - winding around mountains and through extensive desert flats. There have been sections of dirt road walking which has helped make good miles and I have reached Lordsberg at 82 miles (132km) in 3.5 days.

I have been hiking with Virgo, a good friend I met on the PCT last year. It is great to have company on the trail and it has been useful having two sets of eyes for navigation. We have only been lost once, but that had the benefit of making us go on a cross country mission across some ancient volcanoes and lava flows on a path that no one has probably ever walked on purpose before.

I am in awe of this landscape and trail, and I cannot think of any place I would rather be. Life is good.

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