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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Zuni Acoma Trail

Yesterday, Team 2 hit the lava flows and tackled the ancient Zuni Acoma Trail, a long-cairned trade route between the Acoma and Zuni Pueblos. The terrain wasn't kind. A call to the visitor center turned up team member Doug Melton, preparing for another trip to the flow this morning.

"We did about seven miles of it, and it whupped our ass big time," he said. "It's probably the most inhospitable, rugged hiking I've ever done in my life."

Inhospitable? Rugged? Then why the centuries-old history of use? Maryanna Ireland, park guide and visitor center manager, says it was simply the shortest walk from point A to point B. Most of the original path was paved over when State Route 53 went in; all that remains is what's protected within the El Malpais National Monument.

And the hike can be enjoyable enough, it's just a matter of being prepared (its original walkers were in Yucca sandals, after all). A full day must be set aside for the trek, with plenty of water on hand. Maryanna also recommends hiking it from east to west, making the 700 to 800 year-old cairns easier to spot in the sun. The payoff is a trip to another world, over a relatively fresh gush of once-molten rock.

"It's the youngest lava flow in this area," Maryanna said. "In geologic time, it blew up about 2:00 p.m. yesterday--that's how fresh it is."

Depending on who's doing the dating, yesterday afternoon translates to anywhere from 1,000-3,000 years ago.

Doug and the rest of the team will finish it up today, forgoing Yucca sandals for their lava-chewed boots. Then it's off to smoother hiking along the Chain of Craters, where the trail breaks free of the lava flow and meanders through a series of geologically older cinder cones.

With luck, they'll be the ones doing the whupping from here on out.


Anonymous said...

Scott - My husband, Dean Rainwater, is on Team 4 and I'm following along through Backpacker's website. Just want to make sure it was team 4 that hit the lava flows and not team 2.

Scott G. said...

Excellent catch, Lisa. Dean's hike shouldn't involve lava at all...Team 2 is in El Malpais.

Anonymous said...

My husband, Eric, is also on team 4. Lisa said she was following along through Backpacker's website. Can somebody give me the link? My girls and I would love to follow along.

Jill Clajus

Anonymous said...

Jill - The website that I was referring to is which leads you to the CDT Project which in turn leads you here. Sorry for the confussion. Hopefully we'll hear from them. If I hear anything from Dean I'll post it. Lisa :O)

Anonymous said...

My boyfriend, Matt Huffman, Is also on Team 4.....I'm anxious to know how they're doing . Keep in touch ...Thanks

Anonymous said...

My husband, Greg White, is also on Team 4. I was really looking forward to hearing the satellite calls from each night so I was bummed and a little worried when I heard they weren't issued one. Can't wait to have him home safe and sound but I know he's having the time of his life.

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