Any town with a claim to fame of serving pie is bound to be a must-stop for hikers. The question was, would Pie Town live up to expectations? We would find out today.
COVID-19 and a shaky economy have severely impacted the town. There have been as many as three pie shops here, but for now, only one is open.
|Date||Sunday, May 2, 2021|
|Weather||Clear sky with temperatures from mid-30s to low-70s|
|Trail Conditions||Gravel road|
We learned that diner closes today at 4 p.m., so though Zigzag and I had less than 14 easy miles to get there, we couldn't delay. What's the point of going to Pie Town if you're not going to eat pie, right?
We left Davila Ranch at 7:20 a.m.
We continued north on the same gravel road we followed yesterday afternoon. It was well-graded with only gradual ups and downs. There were far more downs than ups.
After we walked about 90 minutes, Lone Wolf and No Keys passed us. They stopped a mile or so later to take a break, and as we passed them, No Keys said we were halfway to Pie Town. This didn't seem possible, but it was true. We were making much better time than expected.
Several sizeable ranches were located along the road, so seeing a lot of cattle was to be expected. Still, it was a bit unsettling to see a large and intimidating bull with long horns standing outside a fence and just a few feet from the road. He was trotting along the fence when he stopped to study us as we walked by.
Under a clear sky, the temperature quickly warmed. We were about to take a break when a van pulled up next to us and stopped. The driver introduced himself as John Boy and said he thru-hiked the AT last year.
He offered us beers. Though it was just 10 a.m., we could hardly pass up that kind of trail magic.
Lone Wolf and No Keys caught up to us again, and this time they were walking with Moonshine and Tex. We were now about four miles away from Pie Town, and we knew we would arrive with plenty of time to get to the pie shop. It was the only thing any of us could think about.
Soon after the others passed us, Zigzag and I found a short-horned lizard in the middle of the road. Often called a horned toad or horny toad, it doesn't really have horns. The short protrusions on the back of its head are pointed scales.
When I wrote about seeing one on the PCT, I noted that short-horned lizards use a defensive posture of standing still to avoid detection. Their camouflage helps them avoid predators.
Some horned lizards have another defense mechanism when they're threatened by larger animals. They squirt blood from their eyes as a deterrent.
Once we reached the outskirts of Pie Town, it didn't take long for us to find the Toaster House. We arrived there at 12:15 p.m.
From the outside, the place was about what I had expected after reading descriptions of it in blogs. The entry to the fenced front yard was adorned with dozens of toasters, toaster ovens, and a few other kitchen appliances. I appreciated the quirkiness.
When we went inside, we were greeted by Sunshine. He had been here since yesterday and was about to leave.
The inside is where my opinion of Toaster House quickly changed. Many hikers say they love this place, but I was having a hard time seeing what they loved. I didn't want to think, "How can people live like this?" That seemed too elitist, especially when spoken as a thru-hiker.
Still, this house was in the worst condition I've seen for a hiker stay, and I've been in a few rough ones. It was obvious Pie Town didn't have zoning or health inspection regulations.
The owner, Nita Larronde, no longer lives here. Her cousin was here. Some hikers have referred to him as Toaster House's caretaker. I only saw him briefly come out of his room once, and it wasn't clear to me what he was taking care of.
There was junk scattered everywhere. Near the front door were several feral cats, so at least there was rodent control. Hikers were mostly responsible for maintaining the inside of the house. Considering that most only stay a day or two, there isn't much continuity of care and little responsibility.
There was no WiFi. Cell service was sketchy at best. There were no towels to use when showering, and the washing machine was still broken.
Pies were beckoning us from across town, so Zigzag and I dropped our backpacks and walked the half-mile to Pie Town Pies. It had operated for many years as "The Gatherin' Place" before new owners changed the name this year.
I ordered a burger and fries. Then I realized some of the pies were already sold out. I didn't want to wait until after finishing my burger to order pie and risk missing out, so I ordered a single-serving pie.
The pie I ordered was the house specialty, a New Mexico apple pie. Green chile and pinion nuts are added to give it some regional flare. It was unique and sizeable, but I think I would have preferred something else.
Several other hikers were there, of course. One of them was Joe. We hadn't seen him since we camped with him on Day 10. He told us he now had a trail name, which was "Plant." He explained that ”older people” (his words, not mine) told him he looked like Robert Plant.
“I didn’t know who that was, so I had to look him up,” he admitted.
After returning to Toaster House, I hunted for the box Zigzag and I had shipped from Silver City. It took me several minutes to find it because there were so many boxes stacked in the living room.
When I pulled our box out from the pile, a hiker named Foxy noticed a Joan Jett and the Blackhearts sticker on the side. Just Awesome, my friend from the PCT and BMT, put the sticker on the box as a calling card. He started the CDT ten days before me.
Foxy had hiked with JA for several days and knew he worked for Joan Jett. He was with Foxy when she took her trail name. She has been staying here for several days to heal from a foot injury.
Just as we thought, DhammaBum was staying here. We were able to deliver his jacket to him. He admitted the last couple of nights had been a little chilly.
I took a shower in the only bathroom in the house. With a dozen or more people staying here each day and no one to oversee a cleaning schedule, you can imagine what that was like. To dry off, I had to use my small camp towel, which I usually use to wipe condensation from the inside of my tent.
There were no laundry facilities anywhere in town, so I washed my clothes in a bucket in the front yard with a garden hose. They didn't need much time to dry in the arid air.
Because of COVID-19 and the condition of the house, I didn't intend to sleep here. I didn't even hang around inside more than I had to. I set up my tent in the backyard.
When I finished putting up my tent, I found an unused extension cord and a working outlet near an outside refrigerator. The extension cord was long enough to run into my tent. I plugged in my phone and backup battery to charge them inside the tent. That almost felt like I was glamping.
With my chores finally done, I was able to spend some time outside with the other hikers on a deck next to the house. This was the best part of staying at Toaster House. Swapping stories with other hikers is one of the things I enjoy most about long-distance hiking.
I also got some news. I heard from Thirteen, who said she was at Davila Ranch tonight. Zigzag and I will just miss her because we plan to leave town tomorrow.
Someone told us Strange (Bird) had to get off the trail because he broke a foot. I hadn't seen him since running into him at Doc Campbell's Post and had wondered what happened to him.
Perhaps my expectations were too high today. My pie tasted good enough but was a little underwhelming. Grungy is the most charitable world I can use to describe Toaster House.
Still, this turned out to be an enjoyable day. I had time to meet new hikers and spend time with hikers I already knew. That will never be a bad day.
Besides, I'm now only three days away from a shower in a clean bathroom, laundry in a running washing machine, and sleeping in a real bed.
Raspberry, strawberry, lemon, and lime
From "Country Pie" by Bob Dylan
What do I care?
Blueberry, apple, cherry, pumpkin, and plum
Call me for dinner, honey, I'll be there
Saddle me up my big white goose
Tie me on 'er and turn her loose
Oh me, oh my
Love that country pie