With little internet and even less predisposition to do research we had no idea if Pie Town, NM, would actually serve pies, if the pies were made of food, or if it was named more abstractly like remote towns tend to be. But one thing was for sure: we would visit it this day on our journey.
First we had to get the stunning El Malpais National Monument out of the way. Driving south on state road 117 there are quite a few stops in the preservation area. Just before our campsite, near the ranger station, is a scenic bluffs overlook which had a far reaching view of the splotchy lava fields. If you squint, you can see Kate on top of the sketchy rock here:
Continuing south, the next stop is the famous El Malpais Arch, which is only a quarter mile off of the road.
Doesn’t take much time to look at it, and it was cold in the breezy shade so we booked it to the next spot where we could heat up by moving our bodies a bit. Again, right off the road is a four mile long trail along the bluffs called the Narrows. It ends with a view of the arch from above. We packed some cheese and crackers and set on our way. Not a half mile in we were greeted with layered rock formations, just itching to be explained to us by someone who knows geology:
We’re working on getting Harper to be a better trail dog by not running ahead and she is starting to get the gist of having a human lead the pack on our hikes!
To the far left you can see the arch in the shadows from the trail’s end:
Eight miles in the books and one tired pup down we were ready to tackle Lava Falls, which due to the rough terrain wouldn’t be good on her paws anyway. Still a bit further south on the 117 and we were at a one mile lollipop loop trail through porous, coral like rocks. Again, a bit of squinting is required to the the scale of the valleys we were walking through:
The trail was marked reliably by cairns and the vastness of the lava fields suggested apocalyptic movement when the volcanoes were alive.
While most of the cracks weren’t wide enough to fit a human, the were deceivingly deep.
It was one of those experiences that we wondered why we hadn’t heard of the area before. Next, Kate again drew the short straw for driving and I didn’t tell her that our route to Pie Town involved 40 minutes of washboard dirt road. Oops.
After the slow dusty travel we hit pavement and were in Pie Town. Actually, we drove through it by accident because it’s so small that it’s really just one restaurant. Looping back the cafe next to the RV park turned out to be the main event, not just a themed side attraction. No gas station in Pie Town even.
The story of the area is that a man was traveling back in the 1920’s and his car broke down. With no money for repairs, he raised some by making and selling pies from dried apples he had with him. And he seemed to be successful enough doing that to not want to leave. Naturally, the pie maker in the cafe is a few generations removed from him, but it was honestly one of the best pies I have had.
With Kate having catered enough to my agenda, we headed further south into the Gila National Forest to camp for the night. We found a free developed site right next to a junction called Apache Creek and went all out making fancy dehydrated rice for dinner.