CDT Days 21 & 22: back to the road

Day 21: Pie Town to Cebolla Alternate mile 1.5, 29.3

Day 22: Cebolla Alternate mile 1.5 to Zuni-Acoma Trailhead, 23.9 miles

Total miles: 390

After pie for breakfast in Pie Town, we started back into the official CDT route which was all roads again. Our first water was 16 miles away at the Thomas Ranch, and we made it there a little after noon. It was our last water for another 24 miles, so we planned to take a break at the ranch and make our dinner which requires water. John and Angie who own the ranch. They let hikers use the water from their outdoor faucet, and allow hikers to camp on their property. They came out and introduced themselves, and we had a great chat. Eventually it was time to go, so we bid goodbye to our new friends and headed down the road again.

We walked 13 more miles, and then turned off the CDT to take another alternate, the Cebolla Route that goes through Amijo and Sand Canyons. The CDT continues further up the road, then turns northwest through the Chain of Craters. The route has little if any water over the 50 miles it spans, and includes more paved road walking, so we choose the canyon route with trails and dirt roads. We made it to the canyon trail head a little before sunset, and settled into camp.

The next day we started into Amijo Canyon. We found ourselves into a deep wash which we assumed was the trail, but when it was blocked with a wall of tumble brush we realized the trail followed the rim. We climbed out, and it was easy hiking after that. The trail traveled on top of a mesa, and then joined a forest road to hike through sand canyon. We filled up on water at a windmill, nearly 24 miles after Thomas Ranch, and had lunch under a juniper bush. If it weren’t for the juniper, we’d be toast. They offer an oasis of shade, no matter where the sun is in the sky.

Shortly afterwards it was back to paved roads on Highway 117. We could see a cliff band a few miles in the distance, and took Ley’s suggestion to detour off the road and hike the rim trail on the cliffs. We were rewarded with shade, great views, some time with a photogenic horny toad, and most importantly no roads! The rim trail doesn’t lead back to the road, so we bushwhacked down a drainage from the cliffs, and got a great view of the Ventana natural arch. A couple more miles on the road brought us to the Acoma-Zuni Trailhead, where there is a water cache for CDT hikers. We know not to rely on caches, but this one was supposed to be reliable. There were two large storage containers when we arrived, but unfortunately only about 3L of water. The next water was 12 miles away, and we were thirsty and needed to make dinner. We could have gotten by with 3L, but I followed the instructions at the cache to text if the water was low, and Carole Mumm who maintains the cache with her husband Hugo texted back, “we’ll be there in 30 minutes!” What a relief! We ate dinner, then helped the Mumms unload bottles of water into the storage containers. They are a neat couple, and do a lot of hiking. We enjoyed hearing stories and information about the area, and spoke with them until dark. As the last bit of light disappeared, that was our sign to retreat to our tent and rest up for the lava fields the next day.