Friday, April 1, 2016

Do cows bluff charge?

Roadwalking the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) up Bonita-Zuni Canyon, north of El Malpais National Monument, NM. The pounding makes me feet ache, and I can’t hike fast enough to get my heart rate up.  There are other trails around with fewer cowpies, rifle shells and beer bottles.  But like a bad crush, I can’t get the CDT out of my mind, and this is the next section north of where I’ve left off.
So here I am, on a dusty road.  A raven is dancing above a cow carcus.  Maybe it will get more scenic further on?
Be glad I'm sparing you the photo of the dead cow.
Nope.  Instead, there are cows.  Live cows.  At first, it’s just two.  They stand up and stare.  No, three— the baby wobbles to her feet.  All small mammal cute and fuzzy.  At least I try to pretend it’s cute.  But really I wish they would go away.  Which they do, running off, then turning to stare again. 
Lurking in the trees.
Round the bend, a swarm of cows spread across the valley.  They stand up, and walk parallel to me.  Then one runs towards me.  What if it keeps coming?  Do cows bluff charge?
She ends up veering off at the last minute.  But still stares at me.
I get mad that they make me so nervous with their running at me.  No one is scared of cows.  Cows don’t hurt people.  Its ok to be scared of grizzlies but not cows.  That’s just ridiculous.  I have thousands of miles under my belt, and I’ve faced all sorts of wild creatures of the night.  I keep hiking and pretend I will ignore the cows. 

Around another corner, three cows are running towards me.  Or really not towards me because I don’t even think they see me, but they are stampeding in my direction.  How can something so large move so fast?  This is not fun anymore. 

I’ve had enough. So what if I only hiked three new CDT miles today?  As much as I try to be logical, having large animals running at me has activated my sympathetic nervous system, and I can feel the norepinephrine mustering the troops and getting my body ready to RUN AWAY.

Which I do.  A fast walk for the three miles back to the parking area.  As I retreat, a term Jan uses comes to mind: cherry picking.  It means picking only the sections of trail that you want do to- for scenic reasons, or whatever.  I’m going to be a proud cherry picker today because it means no more horrible roadwalking among cows.  And no more beer cans!
Ugh!  I want a path lined with flowers, not trash.
Why am I telling you this?  I think it’s important to say: IT IS OK TO TURN AROUND.  Why not go find joy instead?  Walking through fields of cows is not my idea of a joyful experience.

The CDT continues across to the Zuni-Acoma Trail, so I head down that trail.  This is a sweet cherry of a trail for sure!

I spend a few hours flying across the lava. The lava is rough and sharp and it hurts and wares me out.  But also: I see flowers and my feet meet the lava with confidence and I feel agile and strong. 
Beautiful lava along the Zuni-Acoma Trail.
 This is joyful hiking.  Not because it’s easier (it’s actually much harder hiking that makes all the muscles in my legs hurt) but because it is that special thing that makes me feel free.  It is challenging in a way I believe is worthwhile (unlike walking down cow-filled roads, which is the opposite of worthwhile).  Most importantly, this hike that I choose is joyful.
Sunny yellow corydalis- this is why I love to hike.


  1. Scared of cows over here! And this is why I may never finish the PCT in its entirety. Acqueduct....hmm.

    1. Darn cows-- had another fun cow adventure today too-- sheesh they are everywhere.

  2. Proud to be a cherry picker! Joyous Joan, YES!!!

    1. This term makes me so happy-- cherry picker-- yes indeed!

  3. Here's my new quote "Flipper, Picker, Cherry Picker"

    and "when the . . . . sucks, Cherry Pickers . . . ."

    and my new tag #AnotherCherryPickersDelight

    1. LOL! This is priceless! What a nice ring it has to it!