338.5 miles from Mexico
I’m awake for much of the night, how it usually is in town. Ah, well. As soon as the birds start to sing I’m up, doing this and that, making instant oatmeal from the hikerbox, watching the other hikers stumble around the cold kitchen, woodstove just beginning to warm the air, waiting for their coffee. At eight a.m. exactly I’m in the tiny old-west post office with its wall of ancient post office boxes and the clerk shuffles around in back, hands me my package. New gaiters! My other ones were all torn from the stabby desert. Have I told y’all how much I love dirty girl gaiters? They keep the rocks out in a very luxurious way. And they come in wild patterns. My new ones have watermelon on them!
I take a shower and then join everyone for second breakfast once the single cafe opens at 10 a.m. After eating I pack up. The boys want to take a zero in Pie Town so I say my goodbyes- I’ve got to make it to Grants, 83 miles away, by noon on Saturday for their post office hours. Today is Wednesday. I’m pretty sure I’ll see these duders in Grants but still, it hurts a little to hike away, which I finally do at one p.m. What follows next is the most excruciatingly boring roadwalk I have yet to experience on the CDT- one single pale-yellow dirt road, perfectly straight and flat, going exactly forward through the desert for many many miles. I still have not found the end of it when I reach the first water source and my planned campsite fifteen miles later, a ranch to the left of the road. All the water report says is “Water 500 feet west” and I imagine that this, like all the other sources in New Mexico so far, will be a vessel of some sort for providing water to cows. Instead I see a huge metal building, like a barn or a place you’d store a tractor, and a hand pump coming out of the ground. Cool! I think. I won’t even have to filter this water! Just as I reach the water a small door at the end of the barn slams and a little old man is standing there, stooped inside his western shirt, trucker cap perched just-so on his head.
“You’re late!” he says.
“I’m sorry,” I say. A little old woman appears beside the man.
“You’d better come inside then,” says the woman.
The couple, whose names I learn are Anzie and John, lead me into the metal barn. Inside I find that all the trappings of a fancy house- beautiful old furniture, nice kitchen full of shining appliances, quilts and woven tapestries, hat racks, shelves and shelves of antiques- have been transported here and carefully arranged to fit within this cavernous space. In the center of it all is a woodstove larger than any I have ever seen, and I watch as John wrestles a huge log into its gaping maw. I sit on the couch, feeling thirsty and also as though I’ve fallen into a storybook. John begins to tell me stories about relations of his who were connected, somehow, to the civil war, speaking animatedly with his hands and wandering off on tangential threads. Now and then Anzie interjects to keep things on track. I try to follow along but it’s already my bedtime and I can barely keep my eyes open.
“Is there somewhere I can camp?” I say.
“Well,” says Anzie to John. “Should we make her camp?”
“We’ve got a trailer out back,” says Anzie to me. “We keep it up pretty good. You could stay in there if you’d like.”
Of course I want to stay in the trailer. What even is this? What children’s story have I stumbled into? I am overwhelmed with gratitude towards these kind people, out here in the middle of nowhere, who live in this enchanted barn and who are so generous.
The trailer is old and cozy and warm from the last of the sun and there is a good bed made up with quilts and I say goodnight to Anzie and John, eat my cold bean-soup dinner, brush my teeth and spit in the dirt, and collapse. As I drift off I think of the people of rural New Mexico, how kind and open and wonderful they are, here living their happy eccentric lives outside of time. The land of enchantment!
Photos on carrotquinn