Eureka Mesa, that is. After almost a month of waiting for an opportune time to once again hike the section of the CDT that begins at Eureka Mesa Road east of Cuba, NM, we finally got up there for a hike yesterday. We weren’t sure what we would encounter, but guessed that the major outflow of irrigation water released from the reservoir that had stopped us last time was probably minimal by this time. We could hear the rush of water in the trees next to the road as we walked up the road to the trail marker. A short distance up the trail, where the major flow crossed the trail, we had to search a bit upstream to find a crossing point, but we were able to manage it. After that, we couldn’t say enough good things about what a well maintained section of trail this is.

Crossing of irrigation water.

Once through the woods at the base of the mesa, the 3.5 mile section of the trail that we hiked up ascended from 7400 foot elevation to 8800 feet. It was not a difficult climb because there were so many switchbacks. There were nice views of Cabezon Peak to the south and Cuba to the west. We could see that much work had gone into this trail recently to cut back overhanging branches and shore up rough, eroded areas. Even the CDT trail markers were shiny and new, something we don’t often see on the sections of CDT we have hiked in New Mexico.

Lee was happy to add to find some wildflowers to study and photograph, while I managed to find a couple of clumps that were bright enough to show up when photographed with my cell phone camera.

I even managed to get a picture of a horny toad. They used to be much more common and it’s a good day when you get to see one on the trail. They don’t dash off quickly like lizards and seem to give you a friendly look in spite of their rough outer appearance.

Unlike this sad sack of an abandoned pet found by a pile of household trash someone had dumped in the woods.

We can congratulate ourselves that we accomplished this goal but, as enjoyable as our day hike was, it puts us to shame when we encounter the through hikers who are doing the whole length of the trail. We had almost finished our hike before we saw anyone else on the trail, but then we came upon a solo hiker resting under a tree who told us he was on Day 27 of his hike to do the whole trail. Then just as we reached our car we saw a group of three through hikers coming up the road from Cuba. They shared with us this website that documents their travels. As they continued up the road and got to that place on the trail with the irrigation water crossing I’m sure, unlike us, they wouldn’t even have given it a second thought. Check out their website for the April 21, 2021, entry describing over 20 stream crossings in one day, sometimes in water that was to upper thighs!

Zuni-Acoma or Acoma-Zuni

When we got out of the car and walked over to the trailhead marker for today’s hike, I was surprised to see the name Acoma-Zuni. I had always referred to this trail as the Zuni-Acoma Trail. It’s a 7.5 one-way hike, connecting Highway 117 and Highway 53 across the lava flows at El Malpais National Monument. In our travels on the two highways for various other destinations we have passed the trailheads many times. But we’ve never done the hike, knowing we wouldn’t be able to do all 7.5 miles and then turn around and hike back to the car. Besides, how interesting could it be to trek across that rough black rock surface for the entire hike. As it turned out, just hiking in for 3 miles and then turning around to come back was quite interesting, indeed.

It was a last minute decision to do the hike and when Lee suggested it I hesitated, saying that I would be more comfortable if we had a GPS track to follow. I know how easy it is to lose your way in that kind of terrain, especially when rock cairns are the only trail markers. But we were out of cell coverage so I couldn’t download a track. We would be able to track it as we went along, though, so if we did lose the trail we would be able to find our way back out.

Once the trail left the sandy area and headed up into the lava rock we soon realized that we didn’t need to worry about losing the trail. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a trail with so many cairns. Just when you were wondering which was the best way to navigate around one of the big cracks or to go through one of the collapsed lava tubes there would be a cairn to show you the way.

As I learned on the website for the National Monument this trail has been around for centuries, used by native people to connect the two pueblo lands on either side of the Malpais. A lot of hands and backbreaking work has probably gone into making all the piles of rock that guided our way. That bit of history on the website also provided an explanation for my confusion over the name of the trail. When you start from Highway 117 it is the Acoma-Zuni Trail because the Acoma pueblo is on that side of the Malpais. You will be crossing over to the Zuni side. If you start from Highway 53 it is connecting Zuni to Acoma, hence the Zuni-Acoma Trail. So I suppose our hike today would most accurately be called the Acoma-Acoma Trail. Zuni will have to wait for another day.