The Legendary Zuni-Acoma Trail

Field Trip

Friday, October 12–Saturday, October 13, 2012, Trip is Full

Inside El MalpaisInside El MalpaisPhotograph by and courtesy of Jonathan A Lewis.Inside El MalpaisPhotograph by and courtesy of Jonathan A Lewis.

The El Malpais National Monument is the best place in the lower fortyeight states to view young, Hawaiian-style volcanic deposits. The name “El Malpais” comes from early Spanish explorers and translates literally to “the bad country,” so-named because of the impenetrable nature of these lava flows. Yet, Native Americans did not shy away from this menacing landscape. Instead they utilized its unique resources—the summertime coolness of lava tubes, ice found in caves, and foodbearing plants growing in the kipuka (islands of vegetation surrounded by hardened lava). By the time of the Spanish entrada, Zuni and Acoma people regularly travelled across this seemingly austere landscape to trade with each other.

We will have the opportunity to hike the ancient Zuni-Acoma Trail and see evidence of its use by Puebloan peoples. Starting on the west side, we will trek 7.5 miles (one-way) toward the eastern side of the El Malpais, crossing four lava flows that were emplaced at different times during the past 60,000 years: El Calderon (the oldest, having erupted 30,000 to 40,000 years ago), Twin Craters (18,000 years old), Bandera Crater (11,200 years old), and then the younger McCarty’s flow (around 3,900 years old). We will encounter rock cairns, bridges, and other archaeological evidence that illuminates a 1,000-year history of human activity in this area.

Our trip leaders will be SAR vice president John Kantner and geologist Nelia Dunbar from the Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources at New Mexico Tech. Dr. Kantner’s years of research on the Ancient Puebloans includes investigating their use of this stunning landscape, while Dr. Dunbar is a geochemist whose research focuses on the volcanic record of regions from New Zealand to Antarctica to New Mexico. This hike is rugged and thus only suitable for members who are active and accustomed to hiking for extended periods of time.

The next morning, depending upon road conditions, we will visit either the Lobo Canyon or Aldridge rock art panels in the El Malpais Conservation Area. BLM rangers Paul Yoder and Sheila Brewer will be our guides to these beautiful sandstone petroglyphs.

Activity Level: Very strenuous, you’ll need strong legs, ankles, feet, and a willing spirit for traversing hardened lava flows. Please don’t register for this trip unless you are healthy and ready for a strenuous adventure.

Cost (per person): $300 (double occupancy) and $370 (single occupancy), includes transportation from SAR, accommodations at the Holiday Inn Express in Grants, guide honorarium, permit fees, and all meals.

Trip Registration: To ensure that field trip registration is equitable, SAR will be using a lottery system. Please send your field trip requests (PDF, 728 KB) by mail—postmarked no later than March 9, 2012. Do not send any trip payment with your lottery registration. A drawing will then be held for each trip, and members will be notified of the results by March 23, 2012. Please note that memberships at or above the Galisteo level receive advance registration.

For more information, visit the Field Trips section.

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