On the road again! Well, it's been just about a year since we were heading out on a new round of adventure - Patrick's knee had healed up enough to take up the trail once more. We had driven up to Pie Town to try and time the sections to coincide with the start of camp hosting season in early May.
Made it to Pie Town and quickly found the free campground - Jackson Park. Jackson Park is a nice little "city" campground sitting right in front of BLM camping land. Again, it's free so its hard not to like it! Very nicely shaded spots, fire pits and a somewhat rundown picnic table grace the sites and we settled in for a cold night.
Patrick and I had talked about getting to Toaster House hiker hostel - he was really excited to see it and decided to scope it out in the morning before we moved the bus again. He came back impressed and mentioned there were only a couple of people currently in residence. We thought about going over, but he did say he hadn't found out about parking Old Stinkey out in front.
At this point we were trying to acclimate once again to higher altitudes and since it was so chilly, we decided to stay another night rather than press on to start the trail. We ended up spending three nights in town - two at Jackson Park and then the last night we moved down to park in front of Toaster House.
We met Stryder and Running Moose (pictured above), a couple of very cool cats. Running Moose was from France and had summited Mt. Everest the year before his hike. He was on "an adventure" and had picked up his trail name from a camping trip to Australia - if I remember correctly. Stryder was hiking this section of the CDT in sandals and we brought some Epsom Salts down to help him heal his feet from the desert walk. Stryder had baked his own pie in Pie Town in an oven that was wood fire. I was quite impressed actually.
We shared some food, gathered supplies, saw Stryder off late in the afternoon that day, and went to bed kind of early. We decided to hit the showers that were at a small RV park down the road from Toaster House and then go our separate ways down the road. Whether I'm driving off and leaving Patrick to the hike or he is walking away from us, this is always the hardest part.
As Jaco and I take off in the bus - we are traveling the same path today as Patrick who has a long road walk on the way to El Malpais - we wave and honk as Patrick fades in the rearview window. And then there is nothing but the road.
This road is the worst washboard we have ever been on. It is worse than Piedra Road (Colorado) in the spring. It is worse than the camp roads in our first campground in Illinois. There is no riding over it faster to relieve the jostling. There is no slow speed that alleviates the godawful vibration. This goes on for days. Maybe it was hours but it darn near tore the interior of the bus apart. There was actual furniture breakage, every pan and cooking utensil ended up on the floor and the pug was terrified. I calmed him down by stopping so we could moo at some cows.
There was one vehicle that passed us the entire time - the FedEx truck. It was like something straight out of a Coen Brothers movie. Passed me, went to some ranch in the far distance and then rolled like thunder back down the road. Impressive.
Another problem began making itself known. I had not adequately planned to be shaken so badly that my bladder nearly burst. I am not one of the people who has to stop every hour or two to relieve themselves. But this situation was getting dire. There were no convenience stores, no shelters, port-a-potties, johnnies-on-the-spot, etc. There was not even any decent tree cover, just the road and an open view for miles. I finally stopped in the middle of the road and did something for the first time in my life - peed in a large coffee can. Sorry, not sorry. Had to be done. We have since remedied the bathroon situation on the bus but that was a close call with nature.
Back on the road, it wasn't long before we hit the highway cutoff to make the turn up to El Malpais and another free campground, Joe Skeen. It was exciting to start seeing some of the scenery we had viewed on other hiker/camper media! The arch, the ridge above the highway, some of the lava fields come into view, and then the campground!