TRAIL ANGELS

Grants, NM to Mount Taylor
MILES 400-420

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The first big climb since leaving the border.

I left Grants with a bit of a pep in my step. I had just spent the night with Hugo and Carol Mumm, trail angels who thoughtfully maintain a water cache beside the dry and rugged Malpais, but trail angels who’d also hosted me, and several others that night, five years ago. They are a kind and energetic duo, and I was so fortunate that they were eager to host me for the night.

They encouraged me to slackpack through town, in addition to several miles the following day, and I was happy to relieve my body of my pack’s weight, which although light heading into town, is still noticeable. Weightless, I felt joyful and free. And eager for a beer! Hugo and Carol were excited to buy me my beverage of choice, and once at their home, Hugo suggested I have one before getting down to the nitty gritty. Shower, laundry, resupply, etc.

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Hugo and Carol recommended I take a couple small bottles for the trek.

That night we went to a nearby diner called WOW. I ordered the same dish as Hugo, a baked trout with cauliflower, baked potatoe and side salad. I cleaned the plate clear of every crumb, and Hugo laughed thinking that I might eat the plate.

By morning, I said goodbye to Hugo and Carol knowing that I’d always have a place to stay if I passed through again. Although I don’t intend to do another thru-hike of the CDT anytime soon, the area to the north is one of my favorites on the whole of the CDT, and I certainly would be tempted to return.

From Grants, the trail heads east toward Mount Taylor. I stood on the 11,301-foot summit just before 4pm, a stark difference to five years ago, when three other hikers and I camped on top. Soon after, my feet hit snow for a short moment, and the ascent down Mount Taylor served as a good experience because it helped me realize exactly what gear I’d need in preparation for Colorado, and it also solidified, right then and there, that I would be hiking the Creede Route. I will not be hiking the long, horseshoe route along the official Continental Divide as I had done in 2011. Nope. Not me. I’ve had enough snow this year already. I’ll take the shortcut.

Which, brings me to a topic that Hugo brought up. They wondered why I didn’t hike the highway into Grants. Apparently the official trail walks the highway, then the Malpais, and then does this long, circuitous route afterward (if you’re a southbound hiker). I cut through the middle hiking the Malpais, then the dirt and gravel roads through Bonita and Zuni Canyons. Apparently if I’d hiked the road, instead of the above route, I’d have saved 20 miles. Although tempted to shave miles, I don’t enjoy hiking pavement. After hiking heaps of miles along pavement in New Zealand’s north island, and after having hiked the Anaconda Route on the CDT in 2011, I won’t be siding in favor of pavement unless it’s to avoid fire or a particularly intimidating blizzard.

And on a different note, another topic Hugo spurred, I’ve been crusing along at a pretty fast pace. My goal is to reach Cumbres Pass (CO/NM border) roughly by the week’s end, which will amount to an overall average of nearly 27 miles per day, including town stops. I’ve set a personal goal for myself, and let me tell you, the zero day that sits in my future is sure gonna feel good.

Off to the Cibola National Forest!
Thanks for reading,
Speedstick

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