CDT Day 129: Mount Taylor to Grants, NM – Soft As Pine Camp to Days Inn Camp
Miles hiked: 20.3
Total miles: 2305
The great Taco Bell. It is astounding how overpowering the desire for cheap burritos can become. The closer they get, the more desperate the hunger. 20 miles has never seemed so far, and every single step forward today was made for one purpose. As it turned out though, other gastronomic wizardry got it the way of my wild fantasy and I ended the day cursing pancakes and myself for eating them. Other things happened today too, and I’ll tell you about them, but until I get another crack at doing Taco Bell right tomorrow, there is little else on my mind.
The day started with just a touch of uphill in a super pleasant forest. Again it was a cold morning, but much much warmer than yesterday. It seemed like the weather had definitely shifted for the better. Calm, clear, and warm. In lieu of mountains on the horizon, alpenglow painted the air itself, blending pastel colors, pink to orange to blue, through the trees. When the sun finally did rise above the tree tops, SpiceRack and I were making good time on a gradual downhill on Mount Taylor’s outer slopes. The jumbly lava rock on the trail made careful stepping a necessity, but we still managed to move quickly, knowing that it was on us to decide when we would get town food. There were plenty of bars of decent yumminess within reach, but I was saving my hunger, letting it build for the lucky businesses of Grants, NM.
The day turned into a gorgeous one as Spice and I hiked fast with few breaks. We got a little bit lost after missing a turn off of our dirt road, and then lost each other for a few minutes after bushwhacking back to trail. Yeeeeeehawww!!! Yehaw!?! yehaw? Our calls for one another were drowned out by the wind in the pine trees. I banged my pot with my trekking pole, but then found Spice perhaps 100 yards down the trail, making a ruckus of her own. Amazing how easy it is to get separated, even while sharing a trail. The trees opened up into a meadow of brown grass, Mount Taylor far behind us now. A bell hung from a wooden post at a cliff’s edge boasting a complete view of Grants, then we turned sharply right for a long descent to the highway.
We reached the road at around 1pm. Nine miles to town. The pavement was tough on our bodies. Whether it was the hard surface, worn-out shoes, or the monotonous repetition of walking on a smooth surface, my feet, knees, and hips ached before long. A cinnamon lollypop could only distract me so much from this discomfort and my grumbling stomach. Scenic as ever, this portion of the CDT steered us next to a state prison before we reached the outskirts of town. The welcome party was actually extremely friendly though. We had heard that the residents of Grants treat us hikers right, but we were still surprised when a pickup pulled up next to us to say hello. This freaking guy is gonna run us over! Mac made our acquaintance and offered to help us in any way he could, making sure that we knew about the route choices ahead and best food in town. Suspiciously, he didn’t mention Taco Bell.
First stop in town was the Smith’s grocery store. I needed some chips and booch badly, and it turns out that Spice needed a weeks supply of macaroni salad. I found her sitting outside behind the grocery carts, shoeless and halfway through a 3lb tub of the stuff. She was now trying in vain to give it away to anybody grabbing a cart, regretting her decision. I didn’t blame the people of Grants for not accepting her offering, but someone did eventually take it off of her hands.
Next stop was the post office, over a mile away. I demolished my chips as we walked, theorizing about what the heck happened in this town to make it so depressing. Grants may have been something at its peak, but it was a long way from that now. There are dying towns all over America, and the CDT sees its fair share, but this one in particular made us question a few things. We turned onto the famous Route 66, then finished our walk along the busy road to the PO. New shoes, vegan parmesan, and cookies awaited us there.
We gave Mac a call for a ride to the motel district, which also happened to be the Taco Bell, asian buffet and Walmart district. We had booked a room at the Comfort Inn specifically for its proximity to these three establishments. He was there in a jiffy, but instead of taking us to our ultimate, our highly anticipated destination, he insisted on treating us to a late lunch at the local diner. Knowing that it was very unlikely that there would be anything for us to eat at such a place, we refused politely, but Mac would not be denied.
Two horrendously large pancakes later, I almost passed out and had to lie on the bathroom floor. By the time we had been dropped at the motel, showered, and resupplied at Walmart, I was in no shape to visit Taco Bell. I gave it my best shot anyway, and made it halfway through a burrito before calling it quits. God damn pancakes. Spice did better and I vowed to return in the morning to do the damage to my gut that my legs had earned. It was all I could do to stumble back to our room, chug some water, and curl into the fetal position on the bed. And of course the room was already too hot, with too many blinking lights, and too much road noise. Town can be so brutal sometimes. Careful what you wish for.