After our refreshingly awesome stay in Quemado followed by our caching of water with Tom on Sunday morning we were on the trail again, except what came next was our longest road walk ever, 41 miles, primarily paved with a little bit of gravel at the beginning. We had our first water cache 18 road miles into our walk followed by the next 23 road miles later at the start of the Chain of Craters section of the trail
We didn’t come out right away and say it but doing the entire road walk at once had been on both our minds. Though we’d driven the section earlier that morning, neither of us could remember if camping along the road would be an option. Against us was that we didn’t start out until after 9 am. However, road miles tend to be quicker and we were knocking off miles at 3.5 miles per hour.
It was after the first cache that we both began to think we had a chance at 41 for the day. Plus, our final section of road, 23 miles on NM 117 had fences as far as we could see. We were also feeling good. As we did the math, we figured we could get in by 11 pm.
As it would turn out, we limped in around 12:40 am, set up our tent in some howling wind no more than 200 yards from the road and were asleep by 1:00 am. We slept so hard but were up only a few hours later with the sun around 5:30. Sleeping in felt wrong given how hot it would be soon, plus it seemed weird in the daylight to be in our tent so close to a highway. So we packed up and began our recovery days.
As many runners know, recovery days, which are supposed to be easy in order to heal from a difficult effort, often feel anything but easy. This was the case after our big 41 mile day. Not only were our feet blistered from the hot road miles, but we had sandy terrain with sections of lava rocks mixed in both upcoming sections with the Chain of Craters section as well as the El Malpais, which translates to “the bad country”.
We hobbled through these two days putting in 27 and 28 miles respectively to finish up the section before getting more roads to get to the town of Grants, NM and they felt like anything but recovery. But the blisters calmed down when back on trail, we slept more, and though the miles were slower than normal, we got them in. We saw some cool stuff where the lava formed strange caves and tubes in the ground. We were told to be on the lookout for native offerings and artifacts as it is an ancient Zuni trail; we didn’t find anything, but it was cool none the less.
After our big day and subsequent recovery days we resupplied in Grants and were back in the woods a few hours later on our next 125 mile section of trail to Cuba.