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"Forget the Rest" blog

Solstice trekkers first morning

Winter Solstice Walk for
Disarmament and Human Security

Dec 21 - 24, 2007

An eager group of 12 of us gathered on the front lawn of the “World Headquarters” of the Los Alamos Study Group at 7 am on Fri day, December 21, 2007 to begin our 4-day, 3-night trek to Los Alamos.  After a blessing and send-off by Pastor Anita Amstutz of Albuquerque Mennonite Church, we set off down the street, and north. 

A few walkers had to leave after a little while to go to their jobs but most were able to stay for the duration of the walk to Bernalillo, some 18 miles.  Others joined later when they could, so the number of walkers was about the same at the beginning and the end that first day.

Greg & Rob at Chama diversion

Right from the start we had a really great support team consisting of Richard Hostetter (all four days!), Astrid Webster, Peter Neils and Sue Chavez, with Marcus Page also ready to step in if needed the first two days.  Marcus also walked many miles with us, mysteriously and cheerfully turning up when least expected.

Carla & Sandias












first day trekkers

A dozen of us finished that first day walking into Bernalillo in light rain, wind, and then snow.

trek into Bernalillo

It really started coming down after most of us were inside “The Range” restaurant for dinner (definitely welcome at that point!).

The Range

Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church and its schools were our hosts that the night, opening up one of their heated classrooms for us.  We all enjoyed their (warm!) hospitality – and the beautiful Spanish singing in a big chapel down the hall.

The next morning dawned crisp and cold but clear for our walk to Pena Blanca.  After stopping off at the local Lotaburger for excellent breakfast burritos and coffee, we set off north on Highway 313 for our longest day – 24 miles, across the Santa Ana, San Felipe, and Santo Domingo reservations.  The walkers were met every few hours by Richard in his truck – ready with an abundance of food and hot water for coffee and tea, very welcome in the cold wind.  It was a blessing to have the support we had on this walk.

Some walkers joined us during various phases for a few miles and then had to leave to go back to their jobs or home.  We really enjoyed visiting with each other as we walked through New Mexico – seemingly something there is never enough time for.  Quite a different experience – slowing down and focusing on what was all around us and under us – not just what we see as we speed by on the highway. 

swamp coolers

As the sun was going down, and just as the bells began to announce evening Mass, our group of walkers made it to Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church on the north end of Pena Blanca. 

The portable classroom that was our “home” for the night was a welcome sight and Astrid already had dinner ready and water hot.  So we enjoyed a second night of warmth and hospitality before setting out at daybreak the next morning for the third leg of our journey.  This part included the cross-country leg from Cochiti Lake to the north side of Bandelier National Park and Ponderosa campground, near the back gate of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Because of the uncertainties in that cross-country leg, we decided to have the support team drop the walkers off at the Town of Cochiti Lake rather than starting from Pena Blanca as originally planned.  There were only three of us hiking that day – the others unfortunately had to go back to work or to family events.





We started a little before dawn, with the sun’s glow coming up over the mountains – another beautiful New Mexico sky, full of color.  As we came up over a rise to the lake itself the sun was just glinting off the water, with ducks and geese rising off the surface.  We saw signs of other wildlife – coyotes, quail, deer, raccoons. 







overlooking Rio GrandeAs our trio reached a high ridge looking north over the Rio Grande, with its panorama of canyons before us, we saw that about a third of our proposed trail was actually underwater.  To reach our support team (and our sleeping bags) we would need to go down into (and up out of) about four canyons before reaching Frijoles Canyon.  With snow on the ground, fatigue in the bones, and low temperatures expected, the high trail just didn’t seem like such a good idea.

So for safety’s sake we decided to save that part of the trip for a warmer month, and pulled out the cell phone. 

By the time we had hiked down into Bland Canyon and out most of its length and back to the road some miles away, Richard was waiting for us. 

canyon walk

Richard then drove us all the way around and up “The Hill” to Los Alamos.


After a stop at Ed Grothus’ famous “Black Hole” anti-nuclear salvage yard (and so much more) we headed to camp.










Peter and Sue already had things pretty well set-up with dinner underway, water hot, firewood ready and snow shovels at the ready for the half foot or so of snow on the ground.

Peter & tent

Carla & snow

Ponderosa dinner

After a hot dinner and drinks we all sat around a warm campfire for a few hours and “talked story” with the full moon rising through the forest. 

moon through forest

The morning dawned crisp and clear with a bright blue sky and brisk temperature in the low teens.  After a hearty breakfast and plenty of hot drinks we broke camp and began the last day of our walk – an easy 4-mile stroll. 

last morning

As the four walkers proceeded, the support team conversed with the lab’s ever-vigilant security guards.  About half a mile from the end of the walk an armored Humvee was waiting, 50-caliber machine gun at the ready, just in case we were carrying any thumb drives. 

Gilbert Sanchez of San Ildefonso Pueblo had hoped to receive us and offer an invocation, but he was called out early that morning on tribal business.  At the agreed time, he offered his invocation and blessing for us from the Pueblo.

All of us here at the Study Group felt really blessed to share these days and walk these miles with all of you that participated – whether for a short or long while, in spirit, or as part of the support team. 

Carla's sign

Photography wasn’t allowed on much of the walk, either on pueblo lands we crossed or at the Lab.  If you were there, you know it was beautiful (not so much the lab).  A few photos are attached here.

Hopefully those who walked this time will want to do so again, and those who couldn’t, maybe you can next time.  We are tentatively planning the next walk for June; watch your email for destination, path, exact dates, and program details.  If you want to help plan, call us!

Quotes from fellow disarmament trekkers:

I didn't think i could walk 18 miles in a day, and now i have hope that we can also keep walking long enough
to get to disarmament.  I really really enjoyed seeing the country between Albuquerque & Bernalillo at a
snail's pace in the company of fellow pilgrims.  Donna Detweiler
"As soon as I hit Lead Ave. back in Albuquerque, after hiking in rural N.M. that morning from Algodones to San Felipe, I actually felt myself "ratchet" into a higher gear!  It made me so grateful to have had the opportunity to get out into bracing air, in a space of "time outside of time," to walk with no agenda, to talk and eat with new friends.  The idea of a spiritual pilgrimage for its own sake rather than as a show for the press or powers that be continues to intrigue me. When I got home, my pastor and I began a conversation about how we might, in the future, plan a Christmas service "outside that box" - something to shake things up, to wake us up, to help us step out of the hype and stress of this season, that, ironically, seems to suck in even those of us seeking to follow the Jesus way..." Anne Sensenig

The walk was a way for one to personalize their commitment to ridding the world of these terrible weapons, to meditate on why we work for a different world. To have joined just a small part of it was a quiet inspiration for me. Peter Neils


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