May 8th, 2019
Pie Town CDT mm 424.5 – TLC Ranch mm 440.5
Distance in miles: 16
I slept amazingly well considering that there were 7 of us sleeping in the loft. No one snored and I didn’t need my earplugs. We all slept in a bit…well, it was at least sleeping in for me. I wasn’t in a hurry to leave since the weather looked absolutely crappy outside. I had also planned to wait for Relentless. He ordered a new tarp that was supposed to arrive mid-day. But then he cooked up an idea of walking to the next guest ranch, 16 miles up the road, and hitching back to get his tarp. There was a lot of uncertainty in this plan but as I didn’t have any stakes in it, I went along with it.
I was frustrated by town already, anyways. I was trying to get messages out to family but the wifi wasn’t great anywhere. And since I use an AT&T carrier==no service, like ever. Plus, I didn’t want to spend anymore money on pies.
It started to rain just as we were leaving. I had already donned all my rain gear, just for warmth, and popped the umbrella up to try to keep my core dry. Everything was working perfectly as it should but I was cold. The wind was blowing the rain sideways and just stealing any heat I generated from walking. I’ve walked in a lot of cold rain and I’ve walked in torrential downpours in sub-tropical storms, but this was memorably miserable. Relentless had even less clothing and no umbrella, so I can only imagine how he was feeling.
I thought about turning around several times. We had a warm, dry place to stay after all. Plus, there were many vehicles passing that we could have gotten a ride with. One truck stopped and it was Larry, owner of the ranch that we were heading for. Relentless asked about the possibility of getting a ride back to town in the afternoon to get his package and Larry just happened to have a trip already planned. Just like that, his problem was solved and all we had to worry about was making it the ranch. Larry of course offered to pick us up on his way back but we declined.The CDT is a beast. I already knew this from having done the Colorado Trail. It’s cold, there’s lots of rain, and even snow. And we’re still just in New Mexico! There is a penance to have to pay to this trail, so I figure if I can pay some of it while on an easy dirt road walk, so be it. Besides, I don’t think it’s appropriate to be hitching to these places that share their amenities with hikers. They are catering to the weary and cold/hot traveler that has walked many miles to get there. Someone riding in a car can go anywhere to stay…as in a hotel.
I am surprised to have met so many thus far that are hitching every dirt road walk or even skipping large segments of the trail just to be able to keep up with friends that are ahead. This was the predominate case on the TA and is totally fine as a strategy. But many of these people are taking advantage of the generous offerings of the Davila Ranch, Toaster House, TCL ranch, etc. Donna Saufley, Trail Angel extraordinaire of Hiker Heaven on the PCT, actually had to put out a post stating that if you arrive Agua Dulce by car, you are not welcome to stay at Hiker Heaven. I guess it’s become that much of a problem on the PCT as well.
Anyways, soapbox over, we persevered and eventually the rain stopped. There were even brief moments when the sun came out and it got warm. I played some John Denver songs on my phone and they brightened our mood considerably. I marveled at the many purple rocks cemented in the road and how green the scrub-land suddenly appeared. There were even some cool old stone structures to ponder.We arrived at the TLC ranch by 2 pm and were quickly invited inside by Larry. The house is a giant metal barn. It used to belong to John and Anzie but as they were getting quite old, they had to sell the place last year. Carrot Quinn provides a great description of her experience there in CDT blog post day 16.The new owners, Larry and Charity, have been sprucing up the place to add an upstairs bedroom, a laundry room, and fully insulate the structure against the cold. There’s a giant wood stove for heating and man was it cozy inside with that thing going. Larry provided us with coffee and suddenly all that road walking was worth the effort.
Along with the new house, they inherited us hikers too. Boy have they embraced it. Hikers are welcome to camp around the property and they usually put on a communal dinner to boot. Topo and Grasshopper were there as well and helped with the meal contributions and preparation.
I found a sheltered spot from the wind behind some juniper trees, played with the ranch chicks and horses, then had an amazing dinner with about 10 other hikers. Open was there, along with the brother-sister duo of Doubledown and Smackdown, whose company I have enjoyed for the past few nights. Relentless got his tarp (remind me to tell the story of why he needed a tarp) and it was just in time since it rained overnight. He has been without a shelter ever since I met up with him in the Gila. It was a very memorable night and I am grateful for the incredible hospitality.