14 mi ::
359 mi ::
Some clouds, warm, breezy
We start up the sandy Narrows Rim Trail in the morning. It soon ascends to the edge of the cliffs, which it follows above the road. We get nice views over El Malpais (mal-pie-EES), a huge lava flow that we plan to cross later in the day. There are pinons and blooming prickly pear where we stop for breakfast.
After a short cross-country section we descend a steep rocky gully to La Ventana, a large natural arch in the cliffs. The descent made my knee hurt a little, but it’s fine once I’m down. The cliffs here are smooth and milky. They look like they’d offer excellent climbing. I try to take some pictures, but the camera batteries die. The spares are also dead. I throw them into the solar charger and hope I’ll get at least one picture of the lava flow later.
There are a few more road miles on NM117 to reach the Acoma-Zuni trailhead. We’ve been drinking more water than we’d planned, and we look unsuccessfully for more around old stock tanks. At the trailhead we decide we need to hitch a ride to get more water. I stick out my thumb and Ann holds her empty water bottle upside-down. An old truck screeches to halt, dog barking at us out the window. The driver says he can spare two quarts. We decide it’s enough, fill up, and set out.
Hiking on a lava flow is strange and hard. The shape of the lanscape looks wrong somehow, because I’m so accustomed to lanscapes shaped by water erosion. We climb over lava that cooled in piles of wrinkles, big blobs, stacked folds, and some shapes that look like a splash stuck in time. All of these shapes are broken by cracks of every size opening like jaws full of teeth.
The going is slow and demands all my attention. It’s an athletic dance moving through this terrain with a pack on. My knee hurts and sometimes I struggle to keep up with Ann, who seems to be enjoying not having crippled feet. We take a break every hour or so, and I feel like I could drink ten times the water we have. Luckily some clouds and a good breeze make the air feel deliciously cool at times, especially during breaks in the shade.
We feel like we’ve been scrambling through lava forever already when we reach a cairn supporting a wooden post with “1/2” scratched in it. We’re only half way. I try to imagine Anasazi traders following some of these same cairns a thousand years ago on a journey as long as ours carrying goods to trade. You wouldn’t want to get caught under an unrelenting sun in this black land, or lose your way. It seems like you could wander for days looking for ways around the endless obstacles. We’re careful to follow the cairns.
It’s after 7 pm when we reach the trailhead at NM53. Ann has conserved a liter of water in case we need to overnight here, but we really want to drink and have dinner now.
It’s not long before a truck pulls into the parking lot to look around. I walk up and ask if we can have a ride to the visitor center for water. The couple agrees, if we can ride in the back. It’s a fun, windy ride.
The visitor center is closed, but we find water and a picnic table around back. It makes for a grand dinner. We sleep behind some nearby junipers with bellies full of food, hot chocolate, and lots of water.