We officially decided today that we need to ride shorter days to make this sustainable.
It was circa 7:30 in the evening, climbing up to the Mangus fire lookout, completely wasted, that I decided this. I announced the decision when we got to the top.
Now, one might ask – Y’all are touring, why are you suffering up a 1,500 foot, 4 mile climb during the last light of the day. Why didn’t you camp in the beautiful valley beforehand?
It had to do with calories. In that, we had none and needed to get within striking distance of Pie Town. Well, to be fair, we had an okay sized bag of lentils for dinner, and a small bag of oats with fixin’s for breakfast, but as far as trail food went, we were out.
So, it was best to get over the climb before night fell.
It hurt. We were hungry. So we put music in our headphones and I blasted it, hoping to drown out the grumbling noises that my stomach was making. I guess we’re still learning about the fine balance between going light and fast, and, well, having enough food for when we don’t make it as far as expected.
We started the day knowing that we were light on food, so we kept trail snacking to a minimum. We climbed the rest of the way to the top of the road and got on a lovely little piece of trail. We had high hopes…until we hit a burn area. And then it turned into quite a deal. Trail obliterated, trees everywhere, bikes were definitely a mechanical disadvantage.
The trail then pulled a Sargents Mesa, following a ridgeline climbing to the top of every little peak in the area. Hike up. Ride down. Misery. Beauty. There were some beautiful little pieces of trail, and then there was some Class A BS.
Scott put his magic map skills to work to avoid another giant burn area before we started our major cross country section of the day. Slow going up to Wagon Tongue mountain (or waggin’ tongue), but we were rewarded with a beautiful, 2,000 foot descent. Narrow, primo singletrack. A true gem that can’t be accessed in any way other than a large amount of BS.
And that’s the reason we bikepack.
Dumping out on a road, we quickly made our way to a windmill, and with the wind blowing, we had fresh water straight from the ground. Baths were taken, sun was enjoyed. Water bladders filled.
We continued on towards Mangus on a rough dirt road, stopping at the bottom to look at the fire watch tower far in the sky. It looked hopeless. But, with some music, we made it up in time for sunset. As far as romantic places to watch a sunset…this one was a win.
Trying to get down from 9,600 feet proved difficult on the rocky road. And so I said, Let’s camp. It got dark within minutes, we quickly threw together dinner, finishing it off with chocolate pudding and spoonfuls of peanut butter.
Far too long of a day, and still 25 miles out from Pie Town, we were worked.
But, man oh man, that sunset was beautiful. The descent off Wagon Tongue was beautiful. The fact that we were going to be having pie for breakfast was beautiful.
The CDT is beautiful.
I woke up being able to see my surroundings. This happens for two reasons: The sun is on its way up, or the moon is somewhere in the sky. Luckily, this time it was both. The even better part was that I wasn’t cold. Camping as high as we were, I figured we’d freeze like we did the night before. It wasn’t to be so, and for that, I was grateful.
We quickly made the last of our food: Oats with dehydrated peanut butter packets, cranberries, a little left over pudding powder, and the last of the protein powder that I’d brought from Tucson. Nutritious, delicious, and filling. We were now down to two small cookie and a Lara Bar to get us the last 25 miles.
We rolled down the hill, seemingly much less rocky that it did the night before, rejoining the Tour Divide route 18 miles from Pie Town. We could see several sets of footprints on the road, we were going to find ourselves some thru-hikers.
We caught the first pair 5 miles from town. The next pair 2.5 miles. And the last two on the outskirts of town. Bikes were definitely the correct answer for the long rolling road, and each of our downhills was greeted with an exclamation of: DOWNHILL! We were very enthusiastic.
We stopped by the Toaster House to lay our claim to a bed before heading straight to the cafe for lunch and pie.
For the first time since leaving Silver City, we were full. And that was a good feeling.
We wandered back to the Toaster House as the rest of the hikers were wandering in. Owned by a Trail Angel, Nita, the house is open to all thru-hikers and bikers and boasts a good number of beds, van seats to sit on outside, and a Sign-in book filled with years of stories from other travelers.
We spent a lazy afternoon on the porch, returning to the cafe for some more food and pie, and talking the cafe owner into making the 8 of us breakfast tomorrow morning. Pancakes and bacon it will be!
We needed an easy day and this one has proved to be perfect. New people to talk to, good food to eat, and tonight, a comfortable bed to sleep on. Trail angels are awesome.
Tomorrow, on to Grants via (hopefully) one night out, where it looks like we’ll just be beating a storm in. So we’ll hang out there until it stops raining. Life on the bike…it’s a good one.