Monday, January 18, 2016

CDT: Towards El Calderon

My first week at a new winter seasonal position.  So many new things to learn, people to meet. Mixed feelings of uncertainty and self-doubt.  Change doesn't come easy.  Will I find my niche here?
Can this possibly be right? What am I doing out here?
But then I step foot out here on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), all the anxiety is forgotten.

Setting foot on a national scenic trail always feels like coming home. Though this landscape is unfamiliar and the challenges of this trail are new— even this very newness and the constantly challenging terrain are themselves familiar. Here, I am grounded.
Familiar signs in an unfamiliar landscape.
I haven’t spent much time on the CDT— just a few miles in Glacier National Park. But I’ve done a lot of miles on the PCT, AT, and Arizona Trail.  There’s just something special about National Scenic Trails.  It’s the collective stories I have in my mind from reading previous hiker’s trail journals and blogs.  It is the familiar signage.  The comfort of having Guthook’s Guides on my iphone.  All this and… more.
The CDT continues north over snow-covered Mt. Taylor.
Imagining the connection with the countless people who have come before me.  Imagining the trail winding all the way to Glacier where I hiked all summer. I don’t feel so lost.
Ponderosa thriving here.
Here in El Malpais National Monument, in New Mexico, the CDT follows the 700 year old Zuni-Acoma Trail that connects the pueblos of Zuni and Acoma.  I try to imagine what it was like for the people who have been hiking this trail for hundreds of years.

Traveling over lava has given this place the name “the badlands.”  Navigation requires constant attention.  There is no easy footpath here among the lava formations.
Collapsed lava tubes
Cairins (some of which were build by the Ancestral Puebleoans) are constructed from lava rocks, with vertical stick in the center. The trailguide says not to go forward until you find the next cairn… which is nearly impossible because the next cairn seems to always lay hidden behind a tree or down in a ravine.  I can see why they say not to hike this alone.  It would be easy to get lost, and having another set of eyes would help.
Can you find the cairn?
Slowly, I develop a search image for the cairins, and gain confidence on the unstable lava rocks covered in snow.  Adapting to the trail---this too is something that I trust will always happen on the trail. 
Snow on the lava.
Finally, I find my way back to the trailhead.  New muscles are required for walking over such uneven surfaces, and legs and feet muscles scream with the exertion.  That too, makes me feel both at home and excited about a winter of hiking around here.

Parked at the paved Zuni-Acoma Trailhead off 53.  Follow the signs a mile south to the Encerrito Junction sign (Guthook’s Guide calls this CDT mile 507.3), then head west following the Contential Divide Trail towards the El Calderon Trailhead to mile 503.2.  And back.

El Malpais National Monument

Zuni-Acoma Trail

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