Day 20: a mile up the Narrows Rim Trail to Upper Bonita Canyon, ~21 miles, ~384 miles total
Gabriel declared today no hurry Monday. After all, as Gabriel often likes to think: we’re on vacation. Per dictionary.com, vacation is defined as an extended period of recreation, especially one spent away from home or traveling. Ahh, yes. So be it. We’ll sleep in and take it easy.
I could use the slower day, mentally and physically. The winds yesterday kept us walking without breaks for many hours. Days of miles of flat road walking had my legs annoyed with repetitive use. Also, I wanted-needed really-to have a day to stop for whatever reason we liked and take in the world around us.
Of the last hundred or so miles, today was the finest day to meander hike. Sandstone scrambles. Arches. Lava flows. Flowering cacti. Pepsi impromptu.
Out of the tent with a late start of 7:30. We found ourselves stepping through a gorgeous sandstone rock garden. Ponderosa pines with hedgehog and prickly pear cactus blooming. Golden bunch grasses. Over the rim we could see the red sandstone cliffs drop 500 feet below to El Malpais.
We hiked the Narrows Rim Trail to a view of La Ventana Natural Arch. 160 million years of ancient oceans, climate changes if sedimentation to create the Cebollita Mesa and the magnificent arch. Gorgeous cream and buff sandstone.
We actually got to do some off trail scrambling to descend to the arch. So fun! Along the way we stopped for breakfast on a white sandstone slab. Behind us, a rock squirrel scurried about. In front if us, La Vantana. A lovely spot to linger.
After breakfast, it was a brief walk along Hwy 117 with views of sandstone cliffs and formations on both sides. We made it to the next trail and met a couple who’d stopped to check a tire on their trailer. They were retired Forest Service employees off to Quemado fora 5-day FS camp out. Fun! They gave us each a Pepsi and enjoyed hearing about the trail. Janice was even happy to hug dirty smelly hikers several times. So sweet!
Back on our way to the Zuni-Acoma Trail. The route crosses 7+ miles of lava flows. An ancient trade route for the Pueblo of the region, some of the cairns are more than 700 years old. Ponderosa and pinyon pines grow out of cracks. Hedgehog cactus, verbena, and paintbrush have taken old in the duff.
We hop lava flows. Sit on benches. Admire the gorgeous lava lands. Ponder the age of the trees in these 117,000 to 3,000 year old lava flows.
We did not want our lava walk to end. Save for the need for more water and by tomorrow, more food. Eventually the lava flows gave way to grasslands. The mesas and canyons of the Zuni Mountains came into view.
We crossed Hwy 53 after stopping at the Mumm’s water cache. Trail angels in Grants. The couple does much to help CDT hikers. Water in the El Malpais especially appreciated.
Entering Bonita Canyon, we stepped into Cibola National Forest. Named for the region in now northern New Mexico,16th century Spanish explorers believed Cibola to contain sevenhours legendary cities of vast treasures. (Too bad the Spanish were looking for something as useless as gold. The area is indeed rich with natural and human history.)
The canyon was lovely. Wide and open. Good oak and Ponderosa duff for camping. There was even a windmill with water. A great day on the CDT.
Here’s to no hurry Monday.