January 21, 2011

Hiking around Zuni

One of the best parts of living in Zuni is quick access to great hiking. Here a few of my favorites so far.

At the top

Me and my father-in-law at the "Edge of the World"

Mount Taylor is the tallest mountain in Northwestern New Mexico at 11, 301 feet. It is located just outside of Grants. It provides over 100 mile views to Albuquerque eastward and the Chain of craters to the South-West. It is sacred to the Laguna, Zuni and Navajo. I hiked it on MLK day with my father-in-law Tracy Stout. It took 4WD to access the trail head due to snowy road conditions. It is a moderate 2.5 mile hike to the summit with great pay off. It wanders up through Ponderosa Pines then transitions to Spruce. It never exceeds tree line, though it opens up on the final push to the summit for a 200 yard stretch called "The Edge of the World." We used snowshoes and trekking poles. This is a must do for any local outdoors enthusiast. This is my favorite hike in the area to date.

My dad at the top of Coronado's curse on DY

My dad poses for a picture on the way up to DY

Coronado's Curse. This hike is literally out my front door. It is the on the Northern approach to the sacred Zuni Mountain (bluff), Dowa Yallanne. Dowa Yallanne translates to "Corn Mountain" but most people just call it "D-Y." Back in the 1500's when the Spaniards were exploring for the El Dorado and Seven Cities of Gold, Cororado swept through this area, threatening to wipe out all the Natives (A:Shiwi). The A:Shiwi took refuge on top of DY and lived there for a long time. According to local legend Coronado tried to attack the Zuni via the most obvious trail, which dead ends into a sheer rock face just 75 feet short of the top. Hence the name, Coronado's Curse. I have been up this route a couple of times, but most recently with my dad in December. At first the trail winds through Pinyon (locals call it "PIN-Yawn"), then climbs into predominately Juniper. It was super muddy, but rewarded us with good views of the Zuni Valley, fascinating rock formations that look like Russian turrets, and at least six abandoned ruins, some still largely intact.

Somewhere in the lava fields
This type of lava was slow moving. It has a Hawaiian name.

Zuni-Acoma Trail. Located in Malpais National Monument, the Zuni-Acoma trail is a 7.5 mile hike over old lava floes as young as a few thousand years. It is an official part of the Continental Divide Trail. I hiked it back in October with my friend Jeremy John. We had our wives intercept our car from the trail head on Highway 53 and drop it off for us where the trail ends on highway 117. Walking on lava was strenuous not only on our ankles and calves, but the soles of our shoes as well. We had to jump over deep crags in the lava. Some were over 30 feet deep. Most crevices would have ancient rock bridges built for brave travelers. I enjoyed it. The Zuni Acoma provides a variety of lava and hearty flora, but lacks a lot of animal life. A few reptiles, birds and insects. There is a reason it is called the bad lands. The Navajo believe the black lava floes to be the blood of the Twin War gods. Pretty cool.


My nephew poses for a picture in front of El Morro

Beautiful cloud formation from the top of El Morro

El Morro. This was our first and easiest hike in the area. We have since done it many times with visiting family and friends. It is a National Monument that commemorates the many travelers who scratched their names into its famous Inscription Rock. You can hike up and over the bluff which passes by a few ruins including what is believed to be a kiva of an ancient Puebloan society. Round trip this is only 2.5 miles. It is the sort of thing that retirees do when they need to get out of their RV's and stretch their legs.

Taking a look back at the arch after our hike

Me, Aeden and Eliza perched on a ledge in the Arch. She is crying. So is Aeden.
Tracy's Dirty Truck after we cleaned the windshield.

Zuni Arch. Actually, I do not know if this is the real name of this destination, but it seemed fitting since it is the only arch formation in Zuni (of which I am aware). Last Friday, my father and I were watching the kids and we got this ill-conceived notion that we should hike with the kids up to the arch. Well, we did it, but I will not do it with kids again. At least not in the winter. It was a short hike. Actually, about a 200 yard scramble up loose shale scree covered in a thin layer of snow and ice. We took the back approach to the arch, which leaves it in perpetual shadow, so the snow doesn't melt quickly and was left over from our cold snap last month. It made the hike dicey at best. To make matters worse I simply had Aeden on my shoulders. By the time we reached our little perch in the arch Aeden was panicked and cold. I warmed him up by opening up my down coat and feeding him cookies. The descent, while tearful on Aeden's part, was pretty easy since I could just slide down here and there on my backside. Afterward, we rallied Tracy's F150 on some dirt reservation roads until we couldn't slide any farther. Our apologies to the BIA for tearing up the road in a recreational manner.