Days 17-20: The Ley Route to Grants

There are many route options between Pie Town and Grants. Each of them includes a little trail and a little road. The official CDT follows the Rim of Craters trail before joining a highway for 20 miles into Grants. We opted instead to follow what is called the Ley Route. Jonathan Ley recommends an alternate into the Cebolla Wilderness, which then joins another trail along the rim of a mesa. The trail ends at the top, so it’s a scramble back down and a short road walk to get back on trail through the El Malpais Badlands, then another dirt road through a canyon into Grants. The mesa and the Badlands were both really cool and scenic options, despite being a little difficult at times. We had a lot of fun.

Day 17: 25 Miles

It was nice to have a half day yesterday, to sleep in a bed, and also to sleep in a little this morning. We ate and had coffee before leaving the Toaster House around 8am. Our entire route out of town today was along a road. About 16 miles in we stopped for water and got some company. John and Anzie Thomas invite CDT hikers to get water from their faucet not far off the road. They have set up chairs in the shade and sit outside to talk to the hikers. They’ve been married 67 years and had plenty of stories to tell. One of the best things about hiking is all the people you get to meet and learning about so many different lives. We continued down the road to the next water source, a solar well with a tank, and found a spot to camp in a wash away from the wind.

Day 18: 30 Miles

Today was an adventurous day. We finally got to hike on some trail instead of roads when we went into the Cebolla Wilderness. We eventually got back on dirt road and had to bypass one of our main water sources as it was surrounded by bulls. Fortunately there was a solar well just a mile ahead on BLM land, so we stopped there for lunch.

We walked a few miles along a paved highway before heading up The Narrows Rim Trail, up along the edge of a mesa. From the top, we had great views to the lava fields to the West, known as the Badlands. Eventually we had to scramble down the mesa, which was a little challenging, but also kind of fun. We ended our day at a water cache at the edge of the Badlands.

Day 19: 28 Miles

Today started with 7 miles across a landscape of lava flows. Natives built cairn trails across the landscape, but European settlers were unable to navigate the area on horseback, so these Badlands were mostly avoided.

The going was slow but the scenery was really cool. Eventually we turned onto a dirt road following Zuni-Bonita Canyon. At the junction some tourists offered us water and beer. Later in the canyon, as we were preparing to get water from a trough, some Forest Service employees pulled up and offered us water, chips and salsa, and a sopapilla! This water got us through the rest of the day. We are camped just outside Grants, ready for a rest day tomorrow.

Day 20: 5 Miles

We got up early this morning and headed into Grants, probably waking up many residents along the way as their dogs barked at us. We stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast then headed over to the Sands Motel, an old Route 66 motel. They let us check in at 10am! Our first hotel of the trail, and we are going to enjoy it to the fullest by laying in bed and watching television!