CDT 2021: Day 22, Ridge above Goat Tank Canyon to Narrows Rim Trail

I walk the line

A white line along New Mexico Highway 117

I had no problem falling asleep and slept well through the night. After nearly two weeks of sleeping on a leaky inflatable pad, I finally didn't need to re-inflate it every hour or two.

DateTuesday, May 4, 2021
WeatherClear sky with temperatures from low-30s to low-70s
Trail ConditionsGravel and asphalt roads
Today's Miles21.1
Trip Miles351.5

When I awoke in the morning, I found frost on the inside of my tent. It didn't take long to melt, and soon my tent and quilt were damp.

Zigzag and DhammaBum had the same problem. Instead of leaving our campsite right away, we decided to lay our quilts and tents in the sun to dry while we finished packing our other items.

I usually prefer to wait until later, often at lunchtime, to dry my gear when it's wet. Now seemed like a better time because we had juniper trees to drape our items on.

Zigzag walks on a gravel road

Zigzag and I finished packing before DhammaBum, and we began walking at 8:30 a.m.

Compared to the rough weather we saw yesterday, today's weather was much more pleasant. The sky was bright and sunny, and the temperature rose quickly.

A cow pond at a well

A short walk of about a mile and a half took us to a solar-powered well. We hoped to find the pump was running, but it wasn't.

We had no other choice but to collect water from a nearby muddy pond. Its chocolate milk color wasn't all that was unappealing about this water. Cattle frequently visit this pond. Though none were around now, their recent presence was unmistakable.

A solar well

After we both filtered a couple liters of water, Zigzag and I prepared to resume walking. On our way back the trail, though, we discovered the sun had reached high enough in the sky for the solar panel to restart the well's pump. Clear water began trickling from a break in a pipe leading to the pond.

We dumped the water we had just filtered and collected more from the pipe. It was much cleaner, but we didn't trust it was pure. It still had to be filtered.

A sign warns of cattle in the area

I was amused to see a road sign warning about cattle in the area. It seemed impossible that any driver would be surprised to find them on the road. In fact, I'm beginning to think there are more cattle than people in New Mexico.

Cheshire Cat

When Zigzag and I looked back to see if DhammaBum was catching up to us, we saw he had stopped to talk to the driver of a car. Then we realized the driver was Cheshire Cat.

After leaving DhammaBum, Cheshire Cat drove up to us and gave us carrots. He said his car's radiator was fixed, but now he was on his way to Grants because the radio needed to be repaired.

Later, a bicyclist riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route pulled up next to us and chatted for several minutes.

Taking a lunch break with DhammaBum

DhammaBum finally caught up to us when we stopped for lunch. As I mentioned yesterday, he is a fast hiker, and I was surprised it took him so long to reach us.

He had a cringe-worthy explanation for the delay, however. He told us he slipped and fell on a large pile of cow manure and needed time to clean himself up.

A long, gravel road

We couldn't find any shade for our lunch stop. There wasn't a tree or shrub tall enough to make shade within several miles of where we walked.

When we resumed our hike after lunch, I tried to use my sun umbrella again. I didn't have much success with it in the few previous times I tried to use it. This time, I was able to attach it more securely to my pack and ended up using it for about three hours.

Zigzag checks the water cache

DhammaBum pointed out during our lunch break an alternate route ahead that wasn't marked in the Guthook app. Instead of turning where the Cebolla Alternate started, he said we could continue up the gravel road, then turn at State Route 117. The official CDT route turned left there, and DhammaBum's alternate turned right.

The Cebolla Alternate mostly followed the same road. His suggestion only trimmed a short section of the trail. Both routes were entirely exposed, so from that standpoint, it didn't seem to matter which way we went. We elected to take DhammaBum's alternate because the shorter distance would reduce the time we spent exposed to the sun.

An unexpected bonus of following his suggestion appeared when we reached the highway intersection. We found someone had left a water cache there. The extra water allowed us to top off our bottles.

NM 117

We soon discovered there was also a downside to following this route. NM 117 had almost no shoulder to walk on. We had to hike the rest of the way along the white line at the edge of the asphalt.

At least we began to see a few trees again. At around 3 p.m., we found enough shade to take a 20-minute break.

An elk crossing sign on NM 117

When I saw a yellow warning sign ahead, I thought it was another unnecessary cattle crossing sign. Then I got closer and realized it was a warning for elk. I didn't see any elk and wasn't hopeful for the chance. This didn't seem like an inviting place for any large animal.

There wasn't a lot of traffic on the highway, which was a good thing considering there was no place to walk except on the pavement.

We followed the highway for 5.6 miles before the Cebolla Alternate joined with it.

Rocks in the Zuni-Bandera volcanic field

I was beginning to see large volcanic boulders near the road. They were part of the Zuni-Bandera volcanic field, which also included El Malpaís National Monument. This area was an active zone of cinder cones and lava flows for about 1.5 million years. The most recent activity happened about 3,000 years ago.

Many people think of this as a wasteland. Malpaís is a Spanish word for badlands. I thought the field of dark rocks was fascinating. It reminded me of volcanic areas on the Pacific Crest Trail.

When U.S. scientists were looking for a spot to test the first atomic bomb assembled during the Manhattan Project, they considered dropping it here.

Our alternate route put us close to the lava flow area for several miles without traversing directly over the most rugged sections.

A maintenance crew works on solar panels of a well

A couple of solar wells were located about a quarter-mile from the highway. They were our last opportunity to get water until tomorrow.

A maintenance crew was working on the solar panels of the first one, so we continued to the second one, hoping that it was working. The water was running when we got there, and we were able to filter and refill our bottles.

A trail sign at South Narrows Picnic Area

We didn't want to camp in an open field near the highway, so we had to continue walking until we reached South Narrows Picnic Area. We arrived there at 6:40 p.m.

This was a day-use area, but some comments in the Guthook app said we could find places to camp if we followed a trail up to a ledge above the picnic area. I was so worn out by this time I could barely climb the rocks to reach the open space.

I felt a little braindead as wandered around to find a place to pitch my tent. Finding a spot was difficult because the ground was mostly large slabs of rock. There were a few juniper and piñon trees here, so I looked for a spot where they would protect me from the wind.

While looking around, I found DhammaBum was camped here but no one else.

Without many opportunities to take a break in shade, today had been a tiring day. Tomorrow was going to be about the same, I figured, but with one big difference. We would arrive in Grants at the end of the day. When we got there, we could check into a motel for a shower, laundry, and a real bed. Knowing that will make any day bearable.

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine
I walk the line


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