Cabezon: Another Hike Toward Heaven

In past eons, a lot of volcanic activity has occurred in New Mexico. Albuquerque (ABQ) is situated on a tremendous rift valley: the Rio Grande rift. There are whole mountains that used to be volcanoes (e.g., Mt Taylor and Valles Caldera in the Jemez). Also, there are hot springs. And there are 50 volcanic plugs or necks, where molten magma extruded from the earth’s crust at a local point, cooled, and became basalt rock.

There are black lava beds (El Malpais) that once flowed for miles from active volcanoes, then cooled into solid immovable rock. You can hike on them, but the rock is sharp and treacherous. If you fall into one of the many large fissures your bones may never be found.

Cabezon peak with golden Cottonwood trees in foreground (click to enlarge).

About 50 miles from ABQ, Cabezon peak rises to 8,000 ft and is the best known volcanic plug in the Rio Puerco basin, which was discovered by Coronado in 1540 (that’s 473 years ago). A paved road from ABQ towards Cuba, followed by a dirt road for about 12 miles took us to the foot of the peak.

It was only a couple miles to ascend to the flat collar, where we lunched under the sheer basalt escarpment. The peak can be climbed to the top but it’s dangerous, and a rope and helmet are wise additions. We did not attempt to climb it.

This was October and it was assumed the rattlesnakes had bedded down for the winter. However two of our climbers got off the trail by mistake and encountered a small one when it rattled its tail. Woody, the hike leader, provided champagne at the finish line, back at the cars. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Rio Puerco basin and a different volcanic plug (click to enlarge).

For 40 years I have loved the desert of the southwest USA, and have taken many hikes on well-known trails. But since joining these organized Meetup Hiking groups, I have been discovering the inner depths of the desert, like Cabezon. In a few weeks I will hike with another group into Tapia Canyon, where there remain some marvelous panels of petroglyphs made by the Anasazi or Ancient Ones over 700 years ago.

I was reminded of hiking adventures while sitting in church next morning.After the singing, about ten adults were baptized, and I realized this was an adventure for them. I recall my own step of faith when I was 26 and decided to get baptized. To follow Jesus has certainly been an adventure for me, and I treasure that walk. Then, I prayed softly that the ten folks would find such a fulfilling adventure on their new spiritual walk.

Especially the 30-year old man with tattoos on his arms who admitted to the whole church that he had been addicted to heroin for 10 years. But also the young girl (who could not have been more than 20) who wore her hair in a kind of Mohawk, as well as a ring in her nose and lip. Her eyes shone as I wished her all the best when she came and sat shivering next to me for the sermon. And thirdly the girl who admitted she was 34, and had been a believer for many years, but just wanted to go deeper in her spiritual walk.

Viewing the basalt escarpment that is a difficult climb to the top of Cabezon.

To me, there was absolutely nothing contrived or fake about those baptisms. Each one of the ten folks seemed sincere and serious about their spiritual adventure. Although, some were obviously nervous and a couple of them were tearful.

When each one came up out of the water, they were met by spontaneous applause from the 1500 attendees in the church service. The attendees were expressing support to the folks who were stepping out in faith, and I imagine the experience to them would be like climbing on the trail to Cabezon.

I promised myself to think about stepping out in faith, and enlarging my spiritual experience. I would like to learn from you readers in this respect. What spiritual Cabezon adventures have you gone on? Please share, as it may encourage other readers.

The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers……

Two other volcanic plugs with cactus (walking-stick cholla) in foreground.

The everlasting God, the LORD,
the Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
and they shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint
(Isaiah, chapter 40).

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Creekbed below Cabezon with autumn leaves on cottonwood trees.


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10 years ago

Hello, the thought of a “step of faith” is applicable to my spiritual walk. I’ll start by saying that my Grandmother went to heaven on Oct 25th. She was the sole person on this earth who’s eyes would light up when she saw me. The precious love and kinship we shared is very missed. Looking to my Heavenly Father to feel this kind of love has been a shift for me. Last week I returned a call to join a small group fellowship, but forgot the address of the small group, and didn’t hear back from the contact person. Today at church I had this feeling of sadness and disconnection. I didn’t sing like I usually do. An older lady arrived after the service had begun and sat next to her husband, who sat next to me. After the service she introduced herself to me and it turned out that SHE WAS THE contact person who had called me about the small group. Her kind eyes were of a sweet grandmother. She told me that she had asked God to help her find me at church that day. Well! He did!! My Heavenly Father knows all too well what I need if I’ll open my heart to trust him. I often say “Miracles happen everyday”, but don’t anticipate any of them will come into my life. The term “Omnipotent” is bigger than my brain can conceive! I’m reminded to trust, have faith, give all the glory to God, and thank Him for looking out for me.

10 years ago
Reply to  Vanessa

Vanessa, thanks for sharing this beautiful story, which has many layers. One sentence struck me: “She was the sole person on this earth whose eyes would light up when she saw me”. What a gift your grandmother had! I actually think that God’s eyes light up when we come to him. But too often we think the opposite….we worry that maybe God disapproves of something we did or didn’t do. This is the wrong side of Grace. Grace means we are loved unconditionally, and received openly ALL THE TIME. This is a tremendous uplift and self-esteem booster. See my earlier blog called “The Gospel of Grace: Do you feel accepted and loved and forgiven?” (April 27).

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