Day 26: May 19, 2019
Destination: TLC Ranch, CDT Mile 440.5
Today’s Miles: 15.9
Start Location: Pie Town, CDT Mile 424.6
Trip Miles: 364.8
When my first glimpse of the morning revealed grey skies. I checked the blister on my left heel.
It was red and still sore, but dry. Today was the day; it was time to leave Pie Town. Much like Damascus on the AT, I wasn’t sure if I should wait another day, but sitting in town for too long is pretty bad for me. I get to a point where I start losing my mojo, my drive. On a hike like this, the mental aspects are always more challenging than the physical demands for me. Too much town time makes me start to doubt myself, to question why I’m out here, doing this with my time rather than the million other things I could do that would hurt less, be easier, and less lonely.
Today was the day to leave because I needed to leave. I needed the momentum. I could have waited until my heel was no longer sore and eaten pie for 4 more days, but mentally I needed to get moving.
I got my gear ready and walked up to the Pie Town Cafe for one last good breakfast. On the way, I heard a THUNK in the bushes and Fleopatra appeared. She was hopping around and flung something towards me. It was the limp body of a fairly fat vole. As quickly as she flung it at me, she charged over and grabbed it, flinging it into the drainage ditch. She then leaped into the ditch and continued to play with the carcass, quite pleased with herself. I’m assuming it was her breakfast. I don’t actually think I’ve ever seen a human or a creature of any kind have so much fun with a meal before. She cuddled it, flung it, bunny kicked it, chewed on it a bit. She was into it! I felt like her flinging it at me was a sign: time to go.
I had a breakfast burrito and it was so big I didn’t have room for one last piece of pie, a minor tragedy. I said goodbye to the cafe owners and walked back to the Toaster House, where I proceeded to tape up my feet. I used New Skin (second skin), then moleskin, then Leuko tape to hold the moleskin down, and then moleskin again. I tried to take care to wrap everything in a way that would minimize any friction.
The weather was weird. It was chilly and getting windy, overcast but not like it was about to rain. The forecast called for a 40% chance of rain tomorrow, but no rain today. I hoped that maybe it would just rain overnight when I was already in my tent.
I planned to hike only 16 miles to TLC Ranch. It’s in Guthook as a place where hikers can get water and camp overnight. The trail there is all dirt roads, which I figured would be pretty easy on my blisters.
As I shouldered my pack and left the Toaster House, everything felt odd. A week of walking around in flip flops and no hiking had left me kind of weak, and I was favoring my left heel and walking more on the ball of my foot, at least at first. I would get in a rhythm soon enough.
I felt a little lonely heading down the dirt road. All of the people I started the trail with and hiked the Gila with were a week ahead now. I like the solitude, but sometimes it’s nice to a least have people you know around you. I started missing my wife and getting in my own head a bit. As much fun as a grand adventure like this is, it does come with its sacrifices. To get out of my funk, I pulled out my headphones and decided to listen to a podcast. That helped a lot, and helped the road walk to go more quickly!
I enjoyed the walking. On both sides of the road were large tracts of ranch land. The area looked desolate, like the high desert that it is.
I arrived at the TLC ranch and followed the signs to the back where there were a few packs laying around, but no hikers to be seen. I heard voices coming from inside a metal building. I slowly peeked my head in, and there were a bunch of people inside. The family welcomed me in, and I saw hikers Cat Lady, her boyfriend (Ocitello?), Girly Girl, and Masshole sitting at a table. They were about to leave, but it was five o’clock and I planned to camp there.
I asked the family how the camping worked. They told me I could pitch my tent outside, but said that the weather was supposed to be bad overnight and suggested I sleep in their RV out back behind the house. What??? Amazing! I happily took them up on this offer, and the man, Larry, took me out back to the RV. I threw my pack inside, out on my flip flops and asked him where was ok for me to use my camp stove to cook some food. He laughed and said that I didn’t need to do that because they were making tortillas for dinner. What??!! This was getting more incredible by the minute.
I went back to the main house and signed their guestbook and chatted. A guy from Alaska named Backtrack showed up. He said he was going to keep hiking, but news of the weather and if dinner persuaded him to stay there.
It was a super fun and wonderful evening talking with Larry, his wife Charity, and their family. I was also glad to have a fellow hiker there with me as well. We helped cook. I chopped veggies and jalapeños. They made their own tortillas, which were delicious. The meal was really a fantastic surprise and I really felt like the name of their ranch was perfect: TLC. I was feeling a bit out of sorts today, but the TLC I got from Larry and Charity really picked my spirits up. We had great conversation and learned about their lives, and eventually watched a little bit of The Voice with them and their son Tim before retiring to the RV. It was one of those trail experiences that I will never forget. I love getting to know people along the way - getting a glimpse of people’s lives along the trail in the middle of the Wild West. Larry is a teacher (grades 7-12). He does a lot of other things as well though. They both have a great vision for TLC Ranch and the trail community is a big part of that. They have owned the ranch for 7 months and are working on building out facilities for hikers. It’s really quite a special place!
I need to get some sleep! It’s almost 11, well after hiker midnight. I’m so grateful to have a roof over my head tonight, and for the amazing hospitality of Larry, Charity and their family. There are supposed to be some severe storms tonight and tomorrow, though I’m really hoping all of the rain happens overnight so I don’t need to have wet feet tomorrow, if not just for my blisters’ sake. Tomorrow is another day, and I won’t wake up in Pie Town!
(sorry this one is short on pictures! it Was being finicky)