CDT 2021: Day 21, Pie Town to Ridge above Goat Tank Canyon

I picked up my bag, I went looking for a place to hide

Walking on the road out of Pie Town

I was restless last night. My leaky sleeping pad certainly had a lot to do with that. I needed to blow air into it every hour or two and didn't fall asleep until around 2 a.m.

This would be the last night for that trouble, though. The replacement sleeping pad I ordered nine days ago at Doc Campbell's Post was waiting for me at the Pie Town Post Office.

DateMonday, May 3, 2021
WeatherMostly cloudy with temperatures from around 40 to mid-50s; brief thunderstorms with sleet, rain, and gusty winds
Trail ConditionsGravel road
Today's Miles21.2
Trip Miles330.4

The post office opened at 8 a.m. and was about five blocks away. DhammaBum, Zigzag, and I timed our walk to arrive there shortly after it opened.

The building was a new, modular structure. It looked compact and efficient, but the postal clerk wasn't happy about the layout. She told me there wasn't enough room for all of the boxes waiting to be picked up by hikers.

Besides picking up my sleeping pad, I sent home two items of cold-weather clothing. Even with the snow and cold temperatures we had, I never wore them. There was no point in still carrying them.

I also sent home my leaky sleeping pad. I never found the leak and thought maybe I could repair it when I got home.

Incidentally, Pie Town's original post office was the center of a fight to name the town. According to The Place Names of New Mexico, a gas station's side business of pie-making became so popular with ranchers and travelers in the 1920s, a sign was hung there naming it "Pie Town."

The community grew, and by 1927, citizens petitioned to open a post office. When a postal inspector recommended a more conventional name for the town, the gas station owner supposedly said, "It'll either be named Pie Town, or you can take your PO and go to hell!"

Clouds hang low ahead

Many of the hikers staying last night at Toaster House were taking a zero day today. Zigzag and I plan to take one when we get to Grants in three days, so taking another one here didn't seem necessary.

We said goodbye to everyone and then left at 9 a.m.

The road out of town started on asphalt pavement. Soon it became a gravel surface like the road we walked coming into town yesterday.

There were patches of blue between dark, low, and threatening clouds, and we expected to be walking into rain soon. That didn't happen, though.

The sky changed continuously, with those blue patches appearing and reappearing. We were often surrounded by rain clouds, yet at least for this morning, no rain fell on us.

A satellite dish stands far away

As I scanned the sky, I happened to look back and saw a large dish. I was excited to see this because I thought it was part of the Very Large Array Radio Telescope facility (VLA). Unfortunately, I realized, it was just one dish and couldn't be the VLA. It was just an ordinary satellite receiver.

The VLA was about 40 miles away, much too far away to be seen from where I was. It is a collection of 28 radio telescope dishes and is used to observe black holes and other cosmological features of the universe.

A thunderstorm cloud

The weather continued to behave strangely. A large, fierce-looking thunderstorm formed a couple of miles ahead, and now I thought for sure we would get soaked.

Still, the sky directly overhead was clear. The sun became bright enough that Zigzag pulled out his sun umbrella for shade. There was still a light breeze, though, and that kept the temperature reasonably cool.

A horned lizard

I almost stepped on a horned lizard, catching my foot in mid-step before landing on it. Its camouflaging colors were almost its undoing because it blended too well with the gravel road.

Zigzag carries his umbrella

Late in the morning, clouds began to build closer around us, and it seemed a storm was more likely. Zigzag and I decided to stop for lunch a little early because of the threatening sky. We hoped to finish our break before a storm started.

We were almost successful with that. Rain began to fall and lightning flashed nearby just as we packed away our food.

DhammaBum caught up to us while we were putting on our packs.

Zigzag and DhammaBum

He walked with us for the rest of the day.

The storm was brief, but more nasty weather returned later. We were pelted by heavy sleet and gusty wind. Once again, thankfully, the storm didn't last for more than a few minutes.

More clouds form ahead

Roads are generally my least favorite place to walk, but at least the wide range of weather added interest to the day.

We passed TLC Ranch late in the afternoon. We learned from other hikers a few days later that the owners began allowing hikers to get water and camp there. We missed that opportunity by one day.

There had been no place to get water all day after leaving Pie Town. A water cache was reported to be just up the road at a cemetery. We hoped some would still be there. If there wasn't any, we would need to walk for close to an hour more.

A water cache at a cemetery

A couple of liters were still at the cache when we found the cemetery. It was enough to share for tonight.

The next water source was at a well and cow tank, which we knew wouldn't be a good place to camp. We decided to start looking for a site before that. We could wait to get more water in the morning.

DhammaBum and Zigzag walk ahead

The wind was still gusty, so we looked for a place that was out of the wind to pitch our tents. At first, we didn't think we had any options, but we got lucky a few minutes later.

Until now, the road was lined with fences. Then at 5:30 p.m., we entered an open range. There were no fences on either side of the road. That allowed us to get away from the road and find a secluded spot.

All of the surrounding land looked like it was private property. Maybe the owners wouldn't mind if we camped here, but we were unsure. Just to play it safe, we looked for a spot hidden from the road.

There were many more trees here than we had seen all day. We wouldn't just be hidden from the road. The trees would also block some of the wind.

A campsite in trees

We ended up in a clump of trees two or three hundred yards from the road. Though it was difficult to tell from our spot, we were camped on the edge of a large canyon. It had the unusual name of Goat Tank Canyon.

For me, that conjured silly images of goats driving around in military vehicles, even though I knew around here a tank is a water storage pool or pond for livestock.

The wind died down before nightfall, which helped make our site more comfortable.


I was glad we were able to hike today with DhammaBum. My sense is he is a much faster hiker than we are. I doubt we will see much of him down the trail.

At least he has his insulated jacket now.

I picked up my bag, I went looking for a place to hide
When I saw Carmen and the devil walking side by side
I said, "Hey Carmen, come on, let's go downtown"
She said, "I got to go, but my friend can stick around"

Take a load off Fanny
Take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny
And ... you put the load right on me


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.