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Continental Divide Trail 2009 – Zuni-Acoma | Average Hiker

Zuni-Acoma Trail
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Leaving Grants, NM

I had been looking forward to the Zuni-Acoma Trail, and was not going to let gluttony stop me from hiking it today. I was still not able to hold down any food this morning, but not for lack of trying.

Feeling marginally better later in the morning though, I headed to the PO to get my resupply box. The maintenance manager at the motel gave me a ride to the PO, and the motel manager then gave me a ride out to Highway 117, so I could hitch hike out to the CDT.

Once at Highway 117, it only took about 20 minutes to get a ride with Jerry McGuire. Seriously, that was his name!

As was often the case when hitch hiking, I was given an education. Jerry was a local rancher, and as we hauled his trailer of alfalfa down the road, I learned the history of local communities and ranches. Most interesting was my lesson on raising and training rodeo bulls.

With relief, I learned the bulls are trained using a reward system, and that “elite” bucking bulls are rare. Jerry said he had never been fortunate enough to raise one, until recently.

A slow grin spread across his weathered face, and his eyes lit up as he described his bull “Cowboy Bling.” Cowboy Bling was special he said. This bull had that “extra something,” a natural talent for bucking that was not common. Jerry sat up straighter behind the steering wheel as he announced “Cowboy Bling is going places.”

His grin was infectious, and I could not help grinning in return. This was 2009. Bling was not a commonly used word, and quite “hip.” I LOVED the name “Cowboy Bling!”

Natural Arch & Zuni-Acoma Trail

Jerry dropped me off on the side of the highway, and I headed up the dirt road to the Natural Arch formation near the Sand Cliffs. I snapped a few pictures (which I have since of course lost), and started walking up the road towards the Zuni-Acoma Trail. This was a trail that I had been looking forward to walking.

Zuni-Acoma Trail

The Zuni-Acoma trail traverses an old lava flow. It connects the Zuni and Acoma pueblos, and has been used for over 1,000 years. Like many parts of the CDT, the length of the trail depends on whatever maps or data books are used. I’ve found 3 different sets of mileage for this particular stretch of trail, to include 7 miles, 8 miles, and 15 miles. I’ll split the middle and take credit for 8 miles hiked.

I have 3 small tips for this trail through old lava.

My first tip for hiking this trail is NOT to hike it in the middle of the day when it is hot. There is very little shade, and hiking on lava in the mid-day sun is warm. The novelty of the lava field did not wear off the first couple of miles, but it was not long before I began to feel as if I was high stepping through a very warm oven.

The second tip is a result of falling once and ONLY once. Falling on crushed glass, followed by extensive profanity, followed my only stumble. Pay attention and lift your feet. The lava is unforgiving, and dragging your toes will probably result in a crash.

Third and last tip, pay attention to the route. There were sections with no real trail, so I really had to watch for cairns. This made the route finding slow, but resulted in me paying more attention to the actual lava formations, which were really quite interesting.

Back to Grants

It took me about 4 hours to cross the lava field, and I was worn out by the time I reached Highway 53. I had not eaten anything all day, and had zero energy after having held down nothing the day before. Squinting down the highway, I began the 10 mile road walk towards Grant. I hate road walks. They are so hard on my feet.

Hearing a car behind me, I half halfheartedly held out my thumb and kept walking. I really did not expect anyone to stop since they could see nothing but a large pack and two legs. Surprisingly, a small compact car veered around me and pulled over onto the shoulder.

Annette taught school out at the Navajo reservation, and as we traveled the 10 miles back to Grants I had another interesting conversation about her experiences.

The people I met along the CDT were some of the most interesting of all the trails.

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