Posted by: Brad Nixon | July 22, 2016

Trip Prep Map Steps

Let’s plan a trip. Where shall we go? How about New Mexico? We need maps.

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So far so good. It’s a big state. Anywhere in particular you want visit? How about the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness? I’ve always wanted to see more of that place. Here’s an example of what we can expect to see.

Bisti-De-Na-Zin Brad Nixon

Those “hoodooes” formed when softer sedimentary deposits were irregularly eroded, some areas protected by harder caprock. Translated from the Navajo language, Bisti (BIS-tie) means something like, “among the adobe formations.”De-Na-Zin (DEH-nah-zin) takes its name from the Navajo words for “cranes.”

The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is on land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM website provides these directions to the trailhead:

Drive US 550, 4 miles north of NM 57, and turn west onto County Road 7500. Drive approximately 11¼ miles to the De-Na-Zin parking area.

Ah, we don’t need the Albuquerque map, then. We know to take Interstate 25 north, get onto State Rt. 550 at Bernalillo and head northeast for a couple of hours.

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We have the AAA Arizona/New Mexico highway map, the now out-of-print AAA “Indian Country” map and a big detailed New Mexico atlas. That should do it.

Let’s check the AAA Arizona/New Mexico map first.

Brad Nixon 3755

Hmm, there’s Nageezi, lower right, state route 57 beyond it, but only white space to the west. De-Na-Zin is somewhere in that space between 550 and Rt. 371, near Hunter Wash. This map doesn’t help us. It’s at a 1:1,330,560 scale, 1 inch = approximately 21 miles. Let’s jump to the big atlas.

Brad Nixon 3758 - marked

At a scale of 1″ = 4.7 miles, we see the De-Na-Zin Wilderness, the green area in the lower left. An unpaved road appears to provide access at the lower yellow circle, and that road apparently connects to 550 (top yellow circle) at El Huerfano Trading Post. That might be County road 7500, but it’s a confusing map to rely on, because there are a LOT of small, unpaved roads.

On to the Indian Country map. That should be a good resource. No lesser authorities than Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee use it to drive around the Navaho Indian Reservation in Tony Hillerman’s novels. Good enough for me.

Brad Nixon 3756

Better. The scale of this map is about 1″ = 12 miles, in between the other two. There’s Nageezi, lower right, and BOTH sections of the Bisti Wilderness, outlined in gold. The photo of the wilderness at the top of the post was shot in the western sector of Bisti, many years ago, accessed from route 371. We want that second section, and we see ONE unpaved road leading there from near Huerfano Mountain (one of the four sacred mountains of the Navaho). We also see a landmark we can look for along 550: Dzilth-Na-O-Hle community, which I happen to know has a big water tower with those words (that’s actually a phonetic spelling, accurately spelled Dził Ná’oodiłii meaning in Navaho, “The Mountain People Moved Around”).

I know what you’re going to ask. Allow me:

“Blaknissan, why not just check Google or Bing maps?”

OK. Here’s Google.

Bisti Google Map - Crop - marked

There, finally, zoomed far in to a scale of about .875″ = 1 mile, we see that, yes, we’ve been looking at County Road 7500, the number circled in blue. Circled in red is the indication that the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is there. Dzilth-Na-O-Hle appears, no Huerfano Trading Post, very little else to go on.

Still, using 3 maps, only one of them digital, we know where we’re going.

What will Bisti/De-Na-Zin look like? Stay tuned. We’re heading for New Mexico soon. If we get to Bisti, I’ll show you. If not, hang onto those Indian Country maps. AAA doesn’t print ’em any more.

© Brad Nixon 2016

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