Pie Town Day! We leapt out of bed, ready for it. 21 miles until Crusoe would meet us at the Top Of The World convenience store, which was 3 miles prior to Pie Town; we’d figure out when to do the other 3 highway miles during the next two days.
We sailed on easy trail for four miles, then veered toward a windmill spinning alone out in the void of the tawny basin plain. Oh how I would hate to be a cow in the desert, I considered as we filtered water from their big metal trough, the buzzing from the insects which swarmed the nervous, curious herd audible from 100 feet away.
We veered back to the trail just in time for it to pull one of its cute disappearing tricks. 6 more miles of hummocked, rocky cross-country to the highway, the clouds imitating lo-fi, slow-motion super novae in the sky.
The highway. I cranked up an up-tempo hula hooping mix my brother had made for me years ago, and when that ran out I had service and texted him. “Need Playlist II.”
He obliged almost immediately. Have I mentioned yet how I have the best brother in the world?
New music filling my ears and pumping my leg pistons, we closed in on Top of the World. 21 miles- woo! Finally, a 20 mile day on this trail. A sensation like short circuiting sizzled up and down my legs, and my feet felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to them. I hope I remember, in the future, that I have firmly learned getting in shape on trail, from straight off the couch, is absolutely awful.
Top of the World was closed, but they did have an awesome, deep, covered porch, with electrical outlets and rattily cushioned benches. I could so, so happily camp on this porch. A text came in from my brother- he’d be 45 minutes yet due to an accident on the interstate. “Well, should we knock out the last 3 miles or wait?” I pondered aloud. “Not that I want to do it, but it would be awesome to have it done.” “Let’s do it,” said Prana, so do it we did.
What I didn’t expect was how seized up my legs and feet had become, and how they would never unseize for the next 3 miles. Hobbling on the pavement, the impact of each step felt like a bone breaking. How could it possibly hurt so bad? It didn’t make sense! Prana walked my pace, playing the all the words that start with “e” game. Elephant, existential, egregious, estimate. Tears dripped down my face. But, I’d walked through pain like this before. Even if I couldn’t ignore it, I could compartmentalize it. It wouldn’t kill me. It wouldn’t even slow me down for that long. Tomorrow it would be gone. And plus, the sky behind us was an insane shade of deep orange as the sun sank through the clouds. Good excuse to stop, good reason to look around.
We reached the dirt road where the trail turned from the highway, and which my brother was driving down, hoping he would be there. A crushing blow, though- no van meant an extra half mile to the Pie Town Pies, our original meeting spot, where there would be a porch with benches.
The sky was giving up its last tinges of maroon as we reached the porch. Amazingly, there was a spot of service at the top of this hill; we hadn’t found any when dropping our box off and had assumed the whole town would be cell-less. A half hour ticked by, then another. I sent several texts to my brother, starting to worry. Had something happened?
“Never ever ever ever ever ever ever take this road anywhere ever”
A text suddenly arrived, followed by a Google map screenshot.
“5 miles out”
Phew! I guess he was just getting his lesson on the variability of dirt roads in the west, and the variability of what they call highways in New Mexico. Rite of passage if one is going to trundle through BLM lands.
The diesel grumbled up the road and we flagged him with our headlamps, hopped in, and directed him the few blocks to the quiet, free camping. He looked as frazzled and travel-worn as we felt, and we suckled cold beer and consumed the pizza and fried okra he’d brought for dinner as we each recounted our days. He also produced a jar of raspberry chocolate Gelato that was somehow still the consistency of a thick milkshake. The saint!
At 10:00 we pretty much just rolled out the door of the van and slept where we landed.