Day 20: pizza on the side of the road and the sawyer SipSip

May 24
Mileage 20
428.5 miles hiked from Mexico

Ye ol’ five hour hotel sleep- I mean to hike out early but Denny’s is right next door and we all tarry eating underwhelming breakfast items and drinking watery coffee; I remember in 2013 on the PCT when I was at the Dennys in Lake Tahoe with Spark, Mehap, Track Meat, NoDay and Instigate- suddenly I miss Instigate so much and we decide to all text her at once, emojis, but then we remember that she doesn’t have a smartphone. She’s probably building a cob house with her hands right now anyway, covered in mud and wearing the same sun-faded black tanktop she wore on the PCT, or riding her bike twenty miles to scout out abandoned buildings in which to build the revolution.

It’s 10 a.m. when we hit the literal road, a paved roadwalk out of town, past a couple of prisons, sad places. On impulse the boys call dominoes and order pizza and when it arrives we sit on the side of the road and eat it. It’s like cardboard- when did dominoes get this bad? Or maybe it always was.

We reach the trailhead for Mount Taylor- we’re gonna climb a mountain in the morning! We hike up and up on actual trail, into the forest of quaking aspens all shot with long yellow light. Climbing gives me endorphins, and that makes me feel great! There have been so few climbs in New Mexico- oh, how I’ve missed them.

We reach our first water since Grants after 18 miles, a bathtub-sized, spring fed cattle trough, and sit in the pine needles assembling our dinners. The temperature plummets- shit damn it’s been cold in New Mexico. With great happiness I extract my new stove and pot from my pack. Gluten-free noodles, olive oil, dried spinach and peas, salt. That’s how you make a good dinner, I tell ya. I boil the whole mess, add a packet of salmon and eat too fast, burning my tongue. I’m so happy to have a stove. So, so happy.

Two more miles up towards the bald peak above and we camp in a ponderosa forest at ten thousand feet. Summit in the morning! I heat water for peppermint tea. More happiness. The boys try to smoke a joint but succeed only in lighting their beards on fire. Topics of discussion: Track Meat’s gang of bandits, which would be called Rad Times; the Sawyer SipSip, which hangs from a tree by a wire hanger and has a little metal ball on the end that one must lick in order to get water; our “trail” trail names- Bow Hunter (Track Meat), PeckPeck (Apache), CoCo (MeHap), Heavy Flow (Spark), and Beets Steve (me).

The sky is clear and the stars are bright and so we cowboy camp, laying down our sleeping pads and sleeping bags in the soft pine needles. This feels wonderful- I love cowboy camping. The simplicity of it, just having your things all around you, being able to stare at the sky as you drift off. I’ve missed cowboy camping- I can’t remember the last time it was clear enough at night to just lay out like this. Every day for the last two weeks it’s either rained some or threatened rain. These same unseasonable storms have been dumping snow on the CDT in Colorado, where it mostly stays above ten thousand feet. This does not bode well for all of us.

As if to prove a point, we’re just drifting off in the inky blackness of the meadow when it begins to hail. I swear I could just see the moon- where did these clouds come from? After a moment of disbelief we pull ourselves from our warm bags and fumble in the icy cold for tents, stakes, stow everything away as the little ice pellets bounce off of us. At last I’m back in my bag, warmth gathering around me again, safe from the hail. I’m wearing all of my layers, even my rain jacket- it’s so freaking cold.

Photos on instagram