CDT Day 131: Grants to El Malpais – Days Inn Camp to Drops of Jupiter Camp
Miles hiked: 21.6
Total miles: 2326.6
My body was ready to get going this morning. I could feel it when I woke up at 6am. Or was it 5am? The hour had changed overnight, meaning that brighter mornings and darker afternoons were on the way. Rationally, this really shouldn’t matter to hikers who have the freedom to make our own schedules, but the change bummed me out. Our alarm was normally set for 6:30am. To stay on the same schedule with the sun, we’d need to change it to 5:30am, which was a ludicrous notion. Only old people wake up before 6am. I guess it’s time to admit it, I’m old.
We gathered the garbage piles of gear back into our backpacks while finishing off our Chinese leftovers and all the other random town food that had accumulated. I texted trail angel Mac to arrange a ride back to trail, then ran across the street to Taco Bell for one last burrito hit. One for now, two for the road. Mac was waiting when I got back so we loaded our stuff into his truck for the short ride back to where we left our footsteps on Route 66. We tagged the Pizza Hut on the corner then turned east for the walk out of Grants.
I don’t have many good things to say about that corner of the town other than that the abundance of abandoned motels was astounding. There were some interesting junkyards and some mean dogs too, but easily the best source of entertainment came from Spice trying to get Dominos to deliver a pizza to us while we walked. It took a check with the manager, then the delivery driver, but eventually the disappointing verdict was communicated. No pizza or cheesy bread for Spice. It seemed like an absurd restriction, but we had already crossed out of the 4-mile delivery radius.
However, not all was lost. At the junction with the interstate, 6 miles out of town, we found a gas station with a convenience store and Subway. I was already struggling under an overloaded pack, the result of an overenthusiastic resupply at Walmart, so I just bought a soda to go with my two burritos, but Spice came back with a gooey, buttery, garlicy mess from Subway. Some new creation to help the American public get healthy by “eating fresh”. I was super jealous. Even with Taco Bell in hand.
The pavement extended as far as I could see ahead. There was no shoulder to walk on, but the traffic was light and the drivers friendly for the most part. The sky was not clear, cloud and contrails lingered, giving depth to the sky, lowering the blue closer to the earth than it appears without the added texture, but the temperature climbed with the sun well beyond anything we’d experienced since Wyoming. It was uncomfortable. It felt good. Spice turned on a podcast about the Florida Trail (FT2021!) which took us to a land far away from our understanding. A land full of alligators, venomous snakes, swamps, and rednecks. Not sure I’m ready for that one.
We made it to the El Malpais National Monument visitor center around 4pm, the sun already far along its drop to the horizon. The spigot was on and the place was actually open. Spice left a full grocery bag of food with the friendly ranger to shed some excess weight from her pack. I should have done the same, but couldn’t let go of all these yummy things. We both packed out way too much food. I have no idea why. You think we’d be good at this by now. We found Crunchberry, Rooster, and Amanita lounging outside at a picnic table when we left. They helped eat some of the food, then we got back on the road, alarmed by just how low the sun now was.
The road felt busy in the dark and it was annoying to turn on my headlamp and step off the road for every oncoming vehicle. The moon was bright enough to walk by on the smooth road, so it wasn’t all bad. Tall cliffs of sandstone rose on our left, shadows of warmth hulking above, illuminated occasionally by a passing car. Crunch, Roost, Spice, and I sang our way the last few miles to camp at a water cache next to the road. It was still early on the clock, but we decided to stop anyway, hoping to keep our schedule consistent with the sun, not an arbitrary human interpretation of time. We set up to cowboy camp among cactus and cow poop in the sand. For the first time in millennia, I wasn’t wearing a jacket at end of the day. A treat. Peanut butter burritos for dinner. Another treat. Bright stars overhead. Too big to comprehend.