you've spent some time on the GET and have any general feedback or commentary
you'd like to see posted here, for the benefit of future travelers, please send
us your thoughts.
GLASSNER ("Al H.") - eastbound thru-hiker:
really enjoyed this hike. Well, for the most part.
I didn't enjoy: Fighting my way through no/overgrown trail, with barbed plants.
And some of the earlier wash walking, where the trail was swinging from side to
side through rock jumbles, where the cairns and the jumbles weren't much different,
was frustrating. And there is a period where you're feet are wet for quite a stretch.
Plus I'm used to the mileage I can achieve being more of a function of the hours
I walk, rather than the trail I'm walking on. In other words, sometimes a 20-mile
day is a BIG day on this trail.
was also concerned about one of the things that made this hike so enjoyable for
me: The ample solitude means that, if the stuff hits the fan, you may not be found
until the next season of GET hikers comes through. Perhaps think about carrying
a PLB, or even a backup GPS. The way I was losing things on this hike, I wondered
if I should have.
I thought the pluses far outweighed the minuses, in the aggregate. There is more
variety of landscape, and frequent changes in same, than on any other long hike
I've done. Starting out with some well-watered canyon walks, then up in the mountains,
then down to the desert, etc. It keeps the interest level up, for me at least.
Aravaipa Canyon was probably my favorite canyon walk, the Magdalenas my favorite
mountains. But there were multiple other cool canyons too, and some of the other
mountains sported fantastic views, if you hit the weather right.
think this trail does a far better job of presenting the variety of landscapes
that are available in AZ and NM, when compared to the AZT and NM CDT. Perhaps
the primary missions of those two trails are different, and don't make for a fair
comparison. But, if you want variety, like Maslow says, this is the hike for you.
trail towns were great, as were the people I met in the process of getting in
and out of said towns. Morenci is probably the toughest to get in and out of.
tip: Create a low profile for your gear if you can. Not like me, with multiple
pack pockets tacked on, and a bulky ccf sleeping pad riding on top. When you are
whacking through bush, you will be smacking into all sorts of nasty stuff, which
can be rough on your gear.
was happy with my start date of 3/30, and would not start any earlier. But my
freeze point is more like 42F than 32F, and I'd rather cope with hot than cold.
I don't think there was any significant weather while I was in AZ, but then May
came and NM cool to cold most of the time, for me. This was great and made for
less draining hiking - if it didn't rain. Since I had the time (no need to get
to Canada before the snow flies on this trail) and the funds, I sat out the worst
weather, when I could manage the timing, in town. This year's May in NM was unusual,
you figure out how fast you can proceed, I'd suggest including a bit more food
in resupplies, just so you are covered if you are pedaling slower than expected.
Brett/Blisterfree says about one particularly challenging section 'Slow down and
enjoy it!', but you likely will slow down whether you want to or not, the question
is: Will you enjoy it.
tip: it seems pretty feasible to get out to bigger towns like Silver City and
TorC if you want to - locals are often headed that way for their own resupply.
Hitching out of Silver back to Glenwood/Alma is not so hard, just get on 180,
standing near the Pizza Hut, and thumb from there. For getting back to Winston/Monticello
from TorC, this could be tougher but doable. I paid an off-work motel employee
to take me, but (as of this writing) there is also a TorC taxi service that was
asking only $35 to take me to Winston. They need a day notice. They're on FB:
prepared to think of blue flagging tape as your friend. I relied very heavily
on the GPS waypoints and tracks, which were spot on when they needed to be. Be
sure to also to carry the segment descriptions, they are a very valuable for planning
the day ahead, navigating, etc. Not all descriptions are available yet, hopefully
that will change in the not too distant future.
has put an astonishing amount of effort into creating this trail. I think he must
be a bit obsessive :-) The website, the work on the ground...amazing. One weak
point in all this is a vulnerability to local attitudes towards hikers. I suspect
that if the GET becomes more popular, this may become a bigger problem.
sum, I would not agree with the sentiment that for the effort expended, the reward
is too little. Put rather inarticulately, I thought the GET was awesome in the
aggregate. Will you feel the same way? The only way to know for sure is to give
the GET a try.
TANZMAN ("Buck-30") - eastbound thru-hiker:
the end of an obscure thru hike I usually like to provide as much planning / notes
as I can for future hikers. However, since Blisterfree's site is so all encompassing
I don't really have much to say. I'll jot down some random thoughts and maybe
provide my point of view on things, but otherwise the GET website pretty much
has everything you need to know.
The GET is a fantastic trail. There basically wasn't a single day that wasn't
extremely scenic. Even the parts that connect one mountain range to the next or
one famous place to the next were fantastic. Actually, some of these high desert
connector plains were more scenic than anything. I won't go into details, but
there's no way you won't find this trail incredibly scenic and diverse.
DIFFICULTY: It's a fairly difficult trail. Not difficult in a bad way, but challenging.
There's no one specific thing that makes it terribly hard, but a combination of
things that make it challenging. There's no insane bushwhacking or trail so bad
you can barely move. The following things come to mind as challenging when a couple
or several are combined: When on trail it is generally in poor shape and rarely
if ever maintained by anyone. Occasionally a chainsaw crew may come out, but most
trail tread is in bad shape. Vague, narrow, rocky and steep. There is a decent
bit of cross country walking which can be slow, but not overly difficult. There's
a fair bit of canyon wash walking which can be tiring. The trail has a lot of
elevation change. Water, although not too bad at all, is always on your mind.
Lastly, weather is always a concern. It usually [in springtime] seemed either
too hot or too cold.
I learned to judge a section's difficulty by the amount of trail versus jeep roads.
If there was a lot of trail then I knew it would be slow and hard. If there were
a lot of 2 tracks then I knew it would be fast and easier. There is a lot of elevation
change, but overall I felt like trail vs jeep road had the biggest impact on difficulty.
The overwhelming majority of dirt roads were completely desolate and I rarely
saw vehicles while hiking. There is almost no pavement on the GET. Cross country
sections are fairly limited and usually quite easy to navigate. Open desert country
and usually routed to make navigation easier, like along a fenceline or to a corral.
There's a good bit of canyon wash walking which can be tiring, but no navigation
Water is surpisingly (mostly) plentiful on the GET. If you are not picky about
what you drink [in open desert / cattle country portions of the route] then generally,
you won't have to carry a ton of water. I definitely drank some really bad water,
but I preferred this to carrying a lot. The historical water report is incredibly
helpful and you might get lucky and have someone in front of you updating the
online water report like Disco did for me to make life even easier.
Actual towns on the GET are few, but there are plenty of stops. I think the most
I carried was 6 or so days of food. With the exception of Safford and Socorro
($ 1 bus from Magdalena), towns are very small and several times just a general
store and possibly a cafe. You'll most likely need 3 food drops. I don't like
food drops, but unless you want to hike ridiculous miles you will need these drops.
Klondyke, Doc Campbell's and Winston or Monticello. I posted my support
for Winston to the Yahoo group whereas most people seem to go to Monticello.
Hitching is limited to Superior and Winston if you go. If you stay at the motel
in Mammoth they will pick you up from the trail and if you are lucky enough to
stay with Billy in Mountainair then he will pick you up too. Motels were pretty
cheap, in the $ 50 range for Superior, Mammoth, Stafford and Magdalena/Socorro.
can be problematic on the GET. HEET isn't all that common. I was able to get HEET
in Safford, Doc Campbell's, Magdalena/Socorro and that's it. This meant carrying
a full bottle of 12 ounces and making it last about 2 weeks which is tight. Skittles
had a canister stove so you might ask him if interested in that.
The GET is like the Hayduke, there is really no window ever when you will have
great weather for an entire hike. There's just too much elevation change and too
much fluctuation in the local weather. It's really hard to generalize the weather,
but for me [in springtime] I rarely had days where you would say, this is perfect
hiking weather. Much of Arizona for me was hot and then all of a sudden much of
New Mexico was cold. The sun is really intense so even days in the 70s you can
feel the sun beating down on you and then those same nights might drop below freezing.
But overall, it's not too bad. Skittles and Disco left 3 weeks before me and definitely
had colder weather than I did, but probably also didn't have as much hot weather
as I did. I also had barely any snow, they had some, but never a huge problem
it seemed. I also barely had any rain. A few sprinkles a few times and that's
it. This is all Spring of course, I can't speak to the Fall. Keep in mind the
weather can really, really vary out here from year to year and even from week
to week. My last days in mid May I got 6 inches of fresh snow and had a lot of
nights in the 20s in New Mexico.
I'm sure you know your gear so here's just a few thoughts:
the best item I had were zip off pants. Unless you want your legs scarred have
pants or knee high gaitors!
carried a neoair and was happy. One tiny puncture when I wasn't being careful
early on. Normally, I would try and clear a little spot and put my trash compactor
bag underneath as extra protection. Lots of prickly things, but my neoair was
no problem. Just had to be careful and it was worth the comfort.
light on the rain gear. You most likely won't get much rain.
heavy on the sun protection, whatever works for you. I was surprised how intense
the sun was even in cooler temps.
light on the shelter as generally it won't be raining. Personally I would have
something fully enclosed although you can get away with a tarp surely. There are
definitely occasional stretches of mosquitos, gnats and flies. It can also be
very, very windy [in springtime].
a warm sleeping bag. I had a fair number of nights in the 20s which isn't unusual
are of course cows out here so bring whatever you do for water treatment.
The GET can definitely be confusing. Not insanely so, but if you just have map
and compass, you better be good with them. I also had a GPS which I found to be
very helpful in 2 ways. First, there were times where it really helped me figure
out where I was going. I'm just average with a map and compass so having the extra
assurance was nice. 2nd, and more common, the GPS just made life easier. A lot
of times I knew where I was going overall, but staying on the vague trail or finding
the exact turnoff made life a hell of a lot easier with a GPS. Another GET hiker
I met wasn't using a GPS and was very good with map and compass, but it seemed
like he had to do a fair bit of backtracking or more difficult hiking as keeping
to vague trail or finding a super obscure turnoff was hard. He was never lost,
just more difficult without a GPS, but some hikers prefer that freedom from a
GPS. There is occasional blue flagging in different sections. Real helpful when
it happens to be around.
It took me 46 days which I'd say is fairly average. I started out doing around
17 miles per day and then mostly shot for 20 miles a day. I took some big neros,
only 1 actual zero and just kept the slow and steady momentum going.
Everything needed is on the GET website. I carried the maps, guidebook, town guide
and elevation profiles. All are excellent. The guidebook is not completed for
about the last 240 miles east, but you can get by OK without it. I loaded the
tracks and waypoints into my GPS and also had the state topo maps on the GPS.
I also carried the Delorme atlas pages for a higher level overview and found them
to be fairly worthless. The detail is incredibly minimal and trying to figure
out where the GET even is on the pages was a challenge, when curious.
Pretty damn good. I saw a lot and I usually seem to see less than other hikers.
Elk, deer, antelope, bears, snakes, foxes, an oryx, turkey, gila monster, tons
of hawks and vultures and big horn sheep. Didn't seen any mountain lions or wolves,
but they are out there.
SERVICE: I have AT&T and cell service was almost non existent on the trail and
only in the major towns (superior, mammoth, safford, socorro, mountainair). I
had no reception at klondyke, alma, doc campbell's, winston and magdalena.
If you start alone count on going the whole way alone. I did meet one other GET
hiker going east and one flip flopping west. Don't expect to see anyone most days.
Personally, I'd suggest carrying a SPOT. I think the GET was the remotest trail
I've hiked, seemingly even more remote than the Hayduke if that's possible. My
argument is always that a simple broken ankle or snakebite could actually kill
you when you are off trail, with little water, in the desert and ain't no one
coming by. But it's a personal decision. Obviously people were hiking before SPOT
GET OUT AND HIKE THE GET! IT'S AN A+ TRAIL!
MAYBERRY - westbound end-to-ender:
probably take a bit to digest the last ~1200 miles and have real conclusions but
that was definitely a good hike. I was impressed by how the GET follows the landscape
while simultaneously balancing things like route efficiency (no big detours),
path of least/less resistance, and following a legal route (some of the 'following
a legal route' sections were fun in an orienteering type of way - follow this
fence line, then follow this drainage, then follow this cow path, etc). I can't
imagine how much work you must've put into raising this trail baby but it's growing/grown
into a fine route.
HONAN ("Swami") - eastbound thru-hiker:
reiterate what other GET alumni have already stated, Brett has done an incredible
job putting this trail together. Mapset, water chart, town guide, data info and
of course the actual route itself..........are you kidding me!............it may
have been just a heat-induced illusion, but I could almost swear I saw the guy
selling GET t-shirts and bumper stickers by a lonely roadside Taco stand on the
way out of Magdalena...........now that's dedication...........
memories? In regards to the trail itself............. the oasis of willows, alders
and multi-colored cliffs which is the Aravaipa Canyon; splashing and soaking my
way through the Gila, and; finally, a less than restful night being buffeted by
gale force winds whilst hunkered down in the 7x7 Webb Peak Emergency Lookout Tower.
On the social front, I was fortunate to run into fellow eastbounders Dan, Don
and Will, in addition to enjoying the hospitality of thru hiker friends Carnivore
and Purple in Superior. A final thanks to Dan and Deb of "D&D’s Organic Haven
B&B", Glenwood, NM...........fresh fruit smoothies, hot tubs and Egyptian organic
cotton bath robes..........my favourite town stop of the GET.
BEDORE ("Fashionplate Dan") - eastbound thru-hiker:
is clear to me that Brett went to great effort to identify a trail corridor that
visits one gorgeous mountain range after another, and many of the vibrant riparian
canyons that are generally so rare in the desert.
each mountain range, the ecosystems changed radically from the arid, hot, desert
zone at the bottom to the lush forests at the top. I like to hike in places where
there is so much change. Seeing so many different types of plants and animals
over the course of a day is a huge pleasure for me. And camping near lingering
snow patches after baking on a desert walk is unique. These small sky island ranges
allowed me to enjoy many interesting ecosystems each day, day after day.
areas in the desert are also rare and interesting. Generally, the water table
in a desert is quite far underground. Only in a few canyons cut down to bedrock
is water found at the surface in great quantity. The GET visits several such streams.
Wildlife that normally ranges far out into the surrounding desert visit the streams
to drink and perhaps to eat the lush vegetation or to hunt the animals eating
the lush vegetation. There are also animals and plants that only live in the riparian
zone. I really enjoy seeing all the interesting animals and plants. Finally, wading
through cool water after a hot desert section is refreshing.
cost of visiting so many great places is that walking between them can be tough
both physically and mentally. Perhaps Brett's philosophy was to connect the best
sections with the least time consuming connecting routes. So while there may have
been easy but long roads one may have travelled, the route suggested often used
short but tough connectors. Tough might mean steep, or overgrown with thorny plants,
or lots of blown down trees, or loose ankle twisting rocks everywhere, or an indistinct
route that requires a lot of attention to navigation, or any combination of the
above. Still, it's easier to do the short but tough section than to walk miles
around it. And most of the GET is easy walking on trails and remote, little driven
dirt roads - it's not all tough.
Generally speaking, the Grand Enchantment Trail is suitable for highly experienced
hikers, those who are used to tough bushwhacking and scrambling, who are experienced
in cross country navigation, and who can find and evaluate rare desert water sources.
Less skilled walkers should probably build up these types of experience, knowledge,
and conditioning elsewhere before attempting the GET.
poked around the Simblissity website, and it seems that less than twenty people
claim to have completed the GET. So it's incredible that the documentation includes
a full set of topographic maps, various GPS track files, a partial trail guide,
and a complete season by season water report, a town guide, and a databook. And
the information in these documents is 99% spot on, better than most trail documents
I've used. My compliments to Brett not only for creating this very interesting
route, but also for his efforts in documenting it so well.
like to read about all the interesting things along a trail before and after I
hike it. So here are some things which fascinated me along the way: The current
and historic copper mining in Arizona, and the historic zinc and silver mining
near Magdalena and Kelly. The ecology of the desert, riparian and sky island areas.
The route travels through these areas: Tonto National Forest, Rogers Canyon Cliff
Dwellings, Superstition Range, Picketpost Mountain, Aravaipa Canyon, Turkey Canyon,
Santa Teresa Wilderness, Coronado National Forest, Pinaleno Mountains, Gila Mountains
of Arizona, Eagle Creek, Catwalk National Scenic Trail, West Fork Gila River,
Black Range, Monticello Box, Warm Springs Apache Reservation, San Mateo Mountains,
Cibola NF, Magdalena Range, Magdalena Observatory and Langmuir Lightning Facility,
Kelly, Magdalena, San Lorenzo Wash, fording of the Rio Grande, Manzano Range,
Manzanitas, Tijeras, and Sandias. I saw animals and signs of animals including:
trout, frogs, lizards, horned lizard, Gila Monster, rat snake, greenish rattlesnake
with a black tail, rattlesnake-mimic non-venomous snake, with a greenish patterned
body and a banded tail, desert tortoise, Great Blue Heron, red tailed hawk, eagles,
turkey vulture, woodpeckers drumming, grouse, turkey, elk, deer, mountain sheep,
rabbits, squirrel, bear, coyote, Mexican wolf and bobcat. Current and historic
cattle ranching in Arizona and New Mexico. The Apache Warm Springs Reservation,
Geronimo, Victorio, and the Apache Kid. The cliff dwellings in the Superstitions,
near Aravaipa, and in the Gila NF.
JOHNSON - eastbound thru-hiker:
Family and Friends,
your purpose in life?” As my hiker friend formulated a response I considered how
our questions to others often seem purposed for ourselves. Why was I embarked
on a 734 mile hike encompassing desert and snow capped peak? Over the last decade
my wilderness excursions have had clear purpose as I mentored young people and
watched them grow in faith and character. However, this time I was with five old
and seasoned hikers; our association originated in ’03 on the Pacific Crest Trail.
I thought about ultimate purpose as delineated in the Bible, knowing and honoring
God, doing justly and loving mercy. I know God delights in all His creation and
desires that we delight in Him. Maybe that was it, to honor God by delighting
in His amazing creation and in the people He places in my life. I can put my heart
were abundant opportunities for delight, beautifully patterned rattlesnakes shaking
a warning, a majestic elk silhouetted along a ridge in early dawn, a pair of coyotes
oblivious to all but themselves, curious tuff-eared squirrels bouncing along high
branches, hunter-weary turkeys darting for cover, soaring eagles riding cliff-side
wind currents, persistent coatimundi attempting a nighttime raid of our food,
shy javelina darting through camp in the moonlight, delicate eggs in protective
nests, sunning lizards and a colorful Gila monster, and this only a partial list
of just the wildlife.
also the flora, the geography and the people. Flowers were an everyday delight;
I say that God is smiling at me when I stoop to gather the fragrance of a blossom.
A joy of long distance hiking is that you pass through various life zones as your
altitude changes so something seems to always be in bloom. Spring appears to unfold
repeatedly as you descend each mountain ridge. The soft blues and lavenders of
delicate mountain flowers give way to the boisterous reds and loud yellows of
desert cacti. Imagine a small child mesmerized by cartoon characters coming to
life at a Disney theme park and you will have an idea of what it was like for
me walking through this extended wonderland. How many times did I whisper to myself
that this was indeed enchanted?
of saguaro captured my imagination, some stately and towering, some odd shaped
with one looking like an elephant, some decaying yet portraying a magic lure.
Do you know what it is like to splash through clear streams snaking from wall
to wall in slot canyons with cathedral spires confining the deep blue of the sky
to a narrow slit above you? What about crowning the top of 10,000 foot peaks with
exercised lungs gasping for the cool mountain air while you bask in the intensity
of a 360 degree view that stretches to the limits of a distant horizon? Have you
ever snuggled in a sleeping bag night after night with nothing overhead but the
star strewn sky silently beckoning to your sense of wonder? What a profound thrill
to see the length of the Milky Way rise above the eastern horizon. I was spellbound
by the brilliant moon dancing out from behind a towering cliff accompanied by
the melodious song of a nearby creek.
I hope to meet Brett. The Grand Enchantment Trail or GET is his brainchild. An
avid hiker, he pieced together a route connecting public lands from Phoenix to
Albuquerque. Starting near the Superstition Mountains it repeats a pattern of
winding across high desert plains then over rugged mountain ranges. It crosses
through a dozen wilderness areas in multiple national forests and Bureau of Land
Management lands. It features historic sites like the well preserved cliff dwellings
of the Salado Indians and the pictographs of the Anasazi. There are curious abandoned
homesteads begging to tell their stories, one built high into the edge of a rock
cliff with pictures painted with frames on the rock walls substituting for hung
paintings. Dilapidated trucks and equipment speak of a bygone era of success.
Crumpled windmills contrast with others maintained and spinning in the wind leveraging
water to thirsty cattle and eager hikers. Small abandoned mines dot hillsides
while in the distance monstrous open pit operations never rest their gigantic
was one of very few people we encountered on the trail. Only a couple dozen hikers
have ever hiked the entire route; only four have completed it this year. He arrived
at our camp on Cottonwood Creek riding his mule Annabelle and escorted by his
dog Gus who after licking a hello curled up on my sleeping bag. They had been
to the top of Cottonwood Peak described as having the best view on the GET. Glenwood
is one of many delightful little towns filled with delightful people. The necessity
to re-supply sent us to this remote New Mexican settlement. Maryann runs a local
motel. She responded to our call and picked us up a few miles up the road. From
Heidelberg, Germany she married a serviceman and has called the Southwest her
home for 45 years; her aged sister from the Old Country was making what would
probably be her last visit. Maryann pointed out the Trading Post, restaurants
and post office, all places we needed to visit and drove us to the library. Admiring
her impeccably clean establishment we settled into our room. Refreshed from our
showers we headed to the Blue Front Bar and Café for a hearty delicious meal.
Next morning the Golden Girls Café was the place to be for breakfast. It was easy
to strike up conversations with patrons and workers to gain the flavor of the
community. A poster hung in the Trading Post offered $60,000 for information about
the killing of wolves. Reintroduced wolf populations seem a threat and nuisance
to some, a priceless resource to others.
call them Trail Angels, anyone who helps with transportation or food or water.
John and Serena had just arrived at the Potato Canyon Trailhead; we relished the
watermelon and homemade cookies they offered. Maybe even more appreciated were
the brownies and bananas offered by campers along Turkey Creek because they were
accompanied by engaging conversation with charming nine year old Mattie. The Magdalena
librarian Yvonne was immediately interested in our trek. She did not hesitant
to offer transportation when she learned we would need to go to Albuquerque in
a few days. With the help of a state trooper we made contact at the junction of
an obscure county road then she drove us to a good motel near the airport. It
was important that I join my son Destry in Spokane to run the 12 kilometers of
Bloomsday, an annual father-son thing we initiated in 1986. Returning from the
quick two day trip we were blessed with transportation back to the trail for our
last 100 miles of hiking. After about two weeks Dan and I were the only ones continuing.
George, who had been instrumental in initiating and planning and preparing for
the hike was not feeling well so left the trail after six days. Dick and John
continued on for eleven and nineteen days respectively. Dan did not cook; all
his “meals” were merely munching something cold. At our last camp nestled in a
grassy meadow I offered to heat additional water so he could have a hot meal;
we both savored instant mashed potatoes.
last day offered a marvelous ridge walk over the Sandia Mountains, a stunning
switchback trail east toward Albuquerque, and a free meal at a Mexican restaurant
as Todd and Ryan from Texas picked up the tab after being so intrigued by tales
of our six week adventure. Hikers understand the wholeness that builds when one
is immersed in solitude and beauty. Our encounters with ranchers and hunters and
campers and town folk complimented that experience. Yet I felt a predictable sadness
as Paul drove us to Winston and shared that he had been divorced twice and would
not marry again although he welcomed the attention showered on him by a Vietnamese
woman he had met. Justin drove us back to the trail doing a fair job of staying
on his side of the road as he held a cup in one hand for his chew spit. He was
recently divorced. Those spontaneous disclosures reminded me of our troubled world
and caused me to value all the more the refreshment God offered through this wonderland
walk empowering me to come back energized to uphold Truth and Hope.
TATMAN ("Stryder") - eastbound thru-hiker:
first thru-hike and a desert blast!
Superstitions, White Canyon Wilderness, Santa Teresas, Blue River, Gila NF, Monticello
Box, Magdalena Mtns, and the Sandia's view of ABQ! Nice country people (especially
in NM) and the stars and solitude
Town of Morenci, Trail construction chaos before Kelvin, Snowpack in the Pinalenos.
Sometimes the solitude.
I didn't make it all the way through the Mogollon, I got spooked by some brief
but heavy snow and turned around somewhere after reaching the end of the whitewater
creek trail. It was surreal, whiteout like conditions at 9k' but seems like nothing
even happened once I got back down to 7k'. I backtracked out via the catwalk trail
and hitched a ride with some NOLS support staff to Gila Hot Springs and continued
from there. I'm pretty bummed about missing out on that section, but I didn't
have the food in my pack to account for the lost time and being a southern kid
don't have my wits about me when it comes to heavy snow. Maybe I'll try and see
the area again after some regrowth.
maps and resources, Brett is amazingly helpful, and the trail contacts in town
are exceedingly nice. Diana, the librarian in Mammoth, was extraordinarily pleasant
and helpful, and I was grateful for that library being there. I do somewhat regret
not hiking through Aravaipa due to permit issues, but actually really enjoyed
the Galiuros alternate route more than I thought. Yes, the Rug Road is a hell
of a stretch, but the transition zone between Sonoran and Chihuahuan desert feels
like it lies directly on that saddle/ridgeline, and the dramatic transition was
a great intro to the scenery to come.
feel like I took a substantial risk doing the hike (my first thru-hike) solo,
but was rewarded in experience. Other folks did express concern for me, but, despite
a few scary moments, everything worked out fine. Shareable scary moments from
off the top of my head: Running out of water three times (before the AZT water
cache, before Kelvin, and then between the Rio Grande and Salinas Pueblo NM -
all my own fault with bad rationing), walking on sketchy sloped snowpack in the
Pinalenos before I realized to just go to the other side of the ridge (I ended
up bailing out the swift trail rd via taxi because of too much snow pack on the
steep trail down to Safford), the Gold Gulch pack mule trail up the side of the
box canyon (sketchy!), and then getting briefly lost in the Santa Teresas. Just
sharing these experiences because they are the kind of pitfalls I feel proud to
have overcome as a first time thru-hiker. Was glad to be using a GPS though.
piece of experimentation that did work out: Connecting back to the main trail
from the campground along the road N of Morenci, trail was vague but followable
(a common GET guidebook term). I was pleased it worked out, and with a good hitch
out of morenci, saves about 8 miles for the hiker trying to get out of town.
wish I had kept better notes of the journey, but live and learn. I feel very fortunate
to have bumped into Cam Honan (Swami) during a low point in my morale, guy is
an amazing hiker and all around great guy, he gave me a ton of tips and a lot
of encouragement. I think I'd like to try his 'Southwestern Horseshoe' route someday,
as well as the Sky Islands Traverse, because I'm so in love with the (rapidly
disappearing) forest-mountain-desert scenery of the SW.
to ramble, but just wanted to say thanks again for all your hard work. I know
it may seem abstract sometimes, but your work on the route has enabled me and
many others to have the experience of a lifetime.
care, and happy hiking,
-Will / Stryder
DiSANTO ("Kiros") - eastbound thru-hiker:
The GET was certainly a challenge, but a blast as well. There are many obstacles
to overcome, however the rewards are great. In my opinion, I would classify this
as more of an adventure than a hike. I don't want to deter anyone by any means,
just know what you're getting into, like I said, I had a great time. Expect lots
of solitude as well. I completed it alone and without a GPS, although it would
have come in handy half a dozen times or so, I wouldn't say it's a must to have.
Much more important to have is a positive attitude and determination. Accept the
fact that you're going to lose the trail a few times before you even start the
hike, therefore you'll be prepared mentally prior to your impending frustrations.
The people I did meet were incredible and a huge help at times. Poor weather was
rare overall, but when it was bad, it was bad. A huge pleasant surprise were that
there were hardly any bugs whatsoever. Choose the time of year you go wisely and
adjust accordingly. At times, finding good water was difficult, but never did
I camp completely dry which I would say is pretty good considering the time you
spend in the desert. For an idea of what to expect and some funny stories, you
can read about my thru-hike, as well as plenty of pictures at www.hikewithdave.com.
I'd like to thank Brett for putting this route together and allowing us to see
and experience places a "normal thru-hike" would never take the average hiker.
Peace and Blessings <Kiros>
GREGOR ("Reststop") - westbound thru-hiker:
started march 2 and finished april 13 going westbound .I just wanted to say thank
you for all of your hard work everything was pretty much spot on as far as the
water report and maps. I couldnt have asked for a better trail to hike this year
and even tho it was a dry year i thought there was plenty of water out there plus
i thought the GET route was by far better than the CDT going through new mexico.
ty again and have a great day
PAYNE ("Hearsay") - westbound thru-hiker:
This was probably my favorite thru-hike that I've ever done. The sense of adventure
was here that never really existed on the other hikes...well maybe in the Grand
Canyon Hayduke route ... Every morning I would wake up, and over a cup of coffee
I'd wonder what I'd see that day. Every single day was unique in a way I've never
seen before. Maybe I'm getting older and appreciating subtle changes more, but
I do believe that this trail really has more variation than others. There are
just way too many mountain ranges out here that you do quick traverses of, then
drop into a canyon to bottom out on desert floor. Climb around up other canyons
or through the grassland hills of NM, and up into a totally unique mountain range
3 days later. Great adventure.
H. - westbound thru-hiker:
[The GET] was a wonderful hike and it is making me take a serious look at the
AZT as well. This was my desert year with the Hayduke in the spring and the GET
in the fall. Both were excellent. And speaking of excellent, [the] map set/town
guide/water guide was absolutely fantastic. Right up there with Skurka's Hayduke
map set and Ley's CDT set. I know [offering] these materials is a major undertaking
and I really appreciated the work.
& LORI - eastbound thru-hikers:
million thanks for putting together such an amazing route! I can only imagine
the manhours that went into the research and execution. I truly believe that this
is the ultimate expression of a thru-hiker's art and have long fantasized about
putting together my own route. We started on April 12th and finished at Magdalena
on May 30th. We only met one other thru-hiker (68-year-old Bill Dayton) but Red
and Gary were out there as well - about a week ahead of us ... We mostly redlined
the route with a few minor alternates (some of yours, some of ours). We did do
the Santa Teresas (pretty sure we were the only ones) but skipped the Pinalenos
due to snow ... At first, I thought the wet El Nino winter would be a blessing
and we certainly didn't have any water issues but in retrospect it put us too
late in the season ... The GET was easily the most challenging hike we've done
and we were simply done walking ... Thanks again for a great adventure -SloRide
and Shake 'n Bake…
BRANNFORS - eastbound thru-hiker:
I started March 22 and finished April 25. I took 2.5 straight rest days with friends
in Deming and Silver City at the midpoint, but otherwise no zero days. The sum
total of my "nero"/partial days and my full zero days amounts to about 8 of the
35 days in my estimation. I made a number of mini-alternate choices along the
way, some suggested by you, and some of my own, but they were mostly on the scale
of just a few miles here and there. My biggest deviation was bypassing the Magdalenas
due to snow and cold, foul weather concerns. I regret that choice, but I think
it was logical and prudent at the time.
successfully did Gila Hot Springs to Magdalena straight through in one resupply
(6 days), as well as Polvadera to the end. Of course, I was pushing 25-30+ miles
a day to do each, which might not be for everybody. After my partner Michael left
me at Superior, I took another day and a half to get loosened up, then began aiming
for 25-30+ miles a day with regularity. I did this on the AT-CDT combo in 2007
and without a partner. I was admittedly curious to see if I could do that type
of mileage on a difficult, unmaintained trail and also still enjoy the trip. Turns
out I did have it in me, and while I probably introduced an increased level of
physical and mental stress by going at that rate, I did enjoy the trail.
I certainly wouldn't advocate that approach for anyone who hasn't done many, many
miles (like, thousands) at that type of pace. The GET is not the type of trail
to try to get your feet wet with high mileage if you don't know whether you can
do it and how you're going to react to it! And there's no way I could have even
come close to zipping along on the GET like this without your sum total of maps,
information, and live updates from the trail, so thank you, thank you, thank you!
water sources and the Water Chart: Down here in the SW, just saying "spring" doesn't
always capture the huge variability we can see between late March and late May,
for instance. Sources I saw in April, earlier than most spring thru-hikers would
go through I think, may not be as reliable for someone heading through in May.
did successfully float across the Rio Grande, by the way. It was up a bit more
than your pictures, but I'd guess no more than 8-16". The mudflat in the foreground
on the [GET website photos] was a shallow side channel for me where I got to practice
my technique, thankfully! My first attempt started whisking me downstream faster
than I wanted, so I walked the bank further upstream to give myself ample time
to get to the other side. Finding a flat bit of styrofoam to service as a paddle
in one hand was invaluable. Had I just whipped on out there I probably could have
done the whole deal in 15 minutes. But I was a wee bit nervous and after my false
start, it ended up being more like 1-1.5 hours until I was finally on the opposite
bank. Actual floating time was maybe 5 minutes, if that.
mileages on the maps and in the guide: Personally, I've noticed underestimation
by TOPO! of up to 10% on convoluted trails or ones with significant elevation
change. On flat, straight, or road stretches, I think it's pretty true to form.
My gut feeling about mileages as reported on the GET reinforces that belief, as
I could consistently hit the mileages and pace I'm used to on roads, but almost
always was falling short on the trail stretches, even in sections without vegetative
impediments. Of course, maybe that just means I'm getting old, too! But I've been
hiking for a while and don't really think I've deteriorated that much, so I do
think it's a bit of TOPO underestimation at play along with the general difficulty
of the GET. Given the combo of surfaces on the GET, I like your overall thinking
that the whole trail is about 5% underestimated. I would just add that it may
reach 5-10% on certain days given the terrain, and could be noticeable on that
micro scale, not just the macro of the overall trail. I certainly think I ran
into that a number of times as I scratched my head at my inability to reach an
seen a goodly number of thru-hikers who have only done well-groomed trails like
the AT or PCT take stabs at these wilder ones like the GET or CDT and [really
struggle]. These unfinished trails with x-country and very overgrown stretches
are different beasts that some hikers simply fail to give sufficient credence
to, in my opinion. I tend to enjoy pushing the limits myself, and still get some
nice reality checks every now and then! Like I said, this is not a trail to test
your ego unless you really know what you're doing and have attempted something
similar before. Even if folks have done a a variety of trails, they will still
get some humble pie served up on occasion by the GET. And that doesn't even hit
on the potential lack of mental enjoyment by reality being far off from expectations
and not adapting to the trail.
more so than almost any other trail I've done (even the Hayduke and CDT), you
really either need to brace yourself for some of the abuse the GET dishes out,
or be super-flexible along the way to properly enjoy it. The challenges of thorny
vegetation, overgrown trails, blowdown in fire areas, and route-finding are consistent
throughout the GET and not just statistical outliers like on most other trails.
You have to accept these realities before getting on the trail or adapt to them
once out there to sufficiently appreciate the cool, out-of-the-way places that
you earn your way to see. This is rehashing a mantra of thru-hiking, I know, but
I really feel like the GET is at another level for mentally how you need to prepare
or be flexible to get full enjoyment out of it. The rewards are there, but may
not be as easily accessible to a wide audience.
SENTER - eastbound thru-hiker:
you, thank you, thank you many times over for founding the GET and for your energy
in producing all the supporting materials that allowed me to hike the trail this
spring. I started in Phoenix on March 29 and finished in Albuquerque on May 18,
50 days, definitely not a speed record, maybe an age record (66), and likely a
fun record--it was a grand adventure for me!
few comments about my experiences on the trail: [ed. note: some feedback omitted
here, but incorporated into website materials and map set - many thanks!]
met an older couple at the San Pedro River crossing who were hiking a section
of the GET. Just before Monticello, a GET thru-hiker, a young fellow from Montana
who caught up with me. Those are the only GET hikers I saw.
"redlined" the GET with two exceptions. I found the snow too deep for my short
legs on the Mogollon crest and bailed out on the Redstone Park Trail to Bursum
Road. And I couldn't ford the Rio Grande (way too deep and swift) so I took the
Johnson Road walk. Oh yeah, I couldn't resist the aerial tram down from Sandia
Peak, the grand finale.
found your guidebook (for Segments 1- 20) to be very carefully written (no ambiguities),
very accurate, and interesting to read. I missed your comments about geology,
topography, flora and fauna as much as the trail notes when the guidebook ended.
And I got along OK on the last half without a guidebook thanks to the notes you
added to the topo maps. Again, you've done a great job on the guidebook to make
it clear, easy and interesting reading. I found your maps to be very accurate
with a few minor exceptions.
think that the Forest Service and BLM have squandered a national treasure--the
trail system created by the CCC--through mismanagement and neglect. Many of the
FS/BLM trails the GET follows are in poor condition: badly overgrown and/or littered
with deadfalls, and lacking signage. This isn't so bad for experienced hikers,
but it certainly discourages casual hikers. The FS has plenty of manpower and
equipment to keep roads free of down trees and snow. In fact during my entire
hike I never saw a forest service or BLM ranger anywhere except in a diner, truck
or office--never in the field. For the cost of one truck, the FS could probably
replace all the trail signs in a district. If they would just clear the trails
of deadfalls--forget tread improvement--it would open the trails to casual hikers.(A
good man with a chain saw and a work ethic can clear a lot of trail in a day:
I do trail maintenance here is SC). I think the FS is happy to have the trails
closed because people cause problems: they get lost or hurt, they want information,
etc. Well that's my rant, but it has occurred to me that one reason I had solitude
and remoteness (which I much enjoyed) on the GET was because some trails were
in poor shape!
thoroughly enjoyed the little towns I visited and I met so many nice people. I
met Bonnie Garwood's husband Tom. Bonnie said she was away when you were by this
spring and missed you. I saw your name in the Safford-Morenci trail register,
a month ahead of me. I also saw Ken and Marsha Powers names, only two days ahead
of me. I had met them when I hiked the PCT.
got to Monticello at 2:00pm on Saturday, two hours too late to pick up my package.
So I had to wait until Monday morning. But Jane Darland [bed & breakfast owner
in town] fixed me up, and a neighbor let me use her phone (so I helped her plant
flowers). It was a fun break.
enjoyed the GET more than any trail I've walked, even though it was the most difficult
and challenging one (and the most rewarding). I'm not good at navigating so I
spent some time backtracking and being confused. The solitude, wildlife, and spectacular
scenery were the rewards. I almost never saw anyone between towns, and I never
had to camp in someone else's site. I could go on and on about the trail but you
know it much better than I.
you for conceiving the trail and making it a reality.
ANDERSON (d=rt) - eastbound thru-hiker:
I want to say thank you very much for pioneering the Grand Enchantment Trail and
opening it to others. I left Phoenix 4/9/09 and arrived in ABQ 5/13/09. I greatly
enjoyed the hike and was very impressed with how comprehensive your information
is. As new as the route is, I expected many mistakes and omissions in your info.
As I said, I am impressed. However, I have compiled a list of notes I'll condense
as feedback. [ed. note: most feedback omitted here, but incorporated into website
materials and map set - many thanks!]
in the forum had suggested putting a Ley-style compass rose on the maps. Please
don't! The latitude and longitude grid on your maps serves the same purpose as
well as giving a true N/S reference for map and compass work. Thank you for the
mapset is awesome! I thought the scale was too big at the onset (too many maps),
but I quickly learned to appreciate the scale. I printed on 8.5" x 11". On a few
sections I expected easy navigation, the AZT for example, so I printed the maps
rotated 90 degrees and cut off the margins created on the sides of the page. If
I didn't enjoy the map and compass game and enjoyed GPS instead, I would print
all the maps that way.
problem I had occasionally with the maps, especially being averse to GPS, was
clutter and inserted text covering critical topography. The Mogollons are a prime
example. Perhaps some Ley-style footnotes occasionally would help.
think the GET will attract experienced hikers looking for a new challenge. I do
recommend less masochistic hikers schedule a much longer window to hike allowing
the freedom to go more slowly than expected and to spend time exploring or just
savoring the enchanting places the trail does visit. The GET is not a trail to
rush because of its enchantment and because of its physical difficulty. Time pressure
or impatience could easily ruin a hike of the GET. By the end of the trail, I
was certainly looking forward to my upcoming PCT section hike where I could meet
other hikers and hike a steady pace on perfect tread without vigilant navigation.
Hiking so far without [being in] "the zone" (where the real traveling
is done within my own head and the physical experience becomes an automatic, secondary
adventure) was a challenge.
think my only other advice for GET prospective hikers is gear related. Due to
the thorny brush beating, which is very different than what most people think
of as bush whacking, I recommend not using sandals as sole footwear and do recommend
running style gaiters. Gaiters protect laces and socks while keeping the battle-fallen
vegetation (and sand, there is plenty of sand) out of shoes. Also because of thorny
overgrowth, [in certain sections] pants are a must and ponchos or frogg togg type
rain gear and sil nylon or lighter packs are a must not in my book.
Because there is a lot of "cobble-strewn" trail / route, I recommend a shoe with
a shank or stone bruise protection of some sort. There is very little gear for
sale along the trail so know what you want to replace any lost or damaged gear
and know how to get it before starting.
again, I thank you. The GET is amazing! Also the work you've put into making the
trail available is awesome! Thank you!
CLEGG - westbound section hiker:
started in Albuquerque on the 14th of November. I was going to put up a post on
the GET site, but didn't want any more people to be worrying about me while I
was out there, thought it might mess with my trail karma... my poor family members
are very relieved to have me off the trail and back in a warm house.
storm slammed me right before Maple Peak and I chose to bail-- I kept telling
my mom that if I needed snow shoes I would come home, and though I could have
kept wading through that snow, it just wasn't all that fun anymore. It snowed
all the way down to Alma and Glenwood, and though it had melted off somewhat,
I would have been hard-pressed to make it the 26 miles I was shooting for. The
short days were a big challenge, but anytime I happened to hit roads I could hike
into the dark without losing the trail, and that was my plan for the sections
between Glenwood and Safford.
hope I can come back and do the Arizona portion at some point, and hopefully it
will be at a time of year that I can stay on the main track-- Eagle Creek sounds
like Glenwood was the stopping point for both Mother Goose and myself... and what
a good place to come off! I met a great couple that runs a little bed and breakfast
out of their home just south of Glenwood. They picked me up from the trading post
and fed me a great dinner and I got to watch the sunset on the mountains of the
Gila Wilderness from their hot tub. It was super nice to be warm after spending
so many days freezing my butt off. "Walking is Warmth" was my mantra during this
trip, and once I got going each day the cold didn't bother me too much. The climate
of the trail this Nov/Dec was like a mix of what I am used to-- Montana summers
and Big Bend winters. It is kinda like surfing in a cold ocean with a wetsuit.
I am sure once I surf in the tropics it will be hard to go back to being blanketed
in neoprene, but I can't miss what I don't know yet, and the joy of surfing or
hiking tend to overwhelm the discomfort of cold.
only time I yelled at blisterfree was in the south end of the Magdelena Range
where the GET goes down the east fork of that creek and then back up the west,
both trails in pretty cruddy condition. I actually got so frustrated when I realized
that trail 19 came down from the lightning lab and joined the GET without the
loss and gain, that I ditched the trail in the east fork and walked a great game
trail on the ridge between the two to find trail 19 tread (which didn't ever appear)
and eventually met up with the powerline swath and the trail once again.
than that I enjoyed where the trail took me. I got misplaced twice, once below
Grassy Lookout, where the Apache Kid Trail vanished on a snowy, brushy, steep
hillside. I eventually found it again by just cutting straight down the ridge
until I found what looked to be a well used game trail and then saw that amazing
orange flagging and began jumping for joy!
other time I got lost was on trail 713 out of Tom Moore Creek. I was missing the
map for that section and wound up walking all the way back to the main road that
goes up to Wall Lake and having to hike the Gila river rather than Diamond Cr.
That day was just one of those days that no matter what I did I was bound to get
lost... oh well. At least I found the GET again and had a great time camping on
North Mesa, even though my shoes froze so solid that I had to warm them up in
my armpits for 20 minutes to get them on the next morning-- I wish I had just
kept going on into the night down to the middle fork so I could have dunked my
shoes in the river in the AM, but I didn't want to lose the trail in the dark.
I am very impressed with the maps and the work done with water and the resources
on the towns. The guide and maps made it possible for me to just jump on the trail
and go without much risk of disaster. If there is any way I can help out with
the trail resources just let me know, I feel some responsibility to give back
to the GET now that I have fallen in love with it.
kept notes on some of the water sources that I encountered and places where the
trail was hard to follow. Would this info be helpful to anyone? Also, while I
was on the CDT section I got really stoked on the trail markers and think that
the GET should have some. I have access to a huge pile of discarded license plates
when I go down to Texas (as long as scrappers haven't hauled them away yet.. you
never know with those unofficial desert dumps). I was thinking they could be chopped
and spray painted to make GET markers. Let me know if you want me to bring a stack
of them up this April.
again for all you have done piecing together this amazing trail!
Skurka - westbound on the Great Western Loop:
October 14, 2007 -- Safford, AZ - Day 188, Mile 6,324
last update was from Alma, NM, a mere 100 miles back, but I'm waiting for a package
at the post office, which will open again in the morning, and I still have some
free time after watching "Michael Clayton" at the local theater. (That was a real
treat-- my first movie theater experience at least since I began walking 6.5 months
ago.) In the last 100 miles I passed through Apache National Forest, the Gila
Box Riparian National Preserve, the mining town of Morenci and a lot of land managed
by the BLM, which has done a superb job of reconstructing the historic Safford-Morenci
trail, which I followed for its entire ~ 20 mile length.
the last three days I have been trying -- and almost failing -- to refocus on
the miles still ahead and to accept that they likely will be among the most challenging.
I have come so far and have exhausted myself so many times already, but it's clear
I will have to tighten my waist belt a few more times if I wish to follow the
Grand Enchantment Trail and the Arizona Trial back to the Grand Canyon. (The "Victory
Lap" option would be to follow more walker friendly roads.) In addition to the
GET being an unfamiliar trail with a different mapset, guidebook and personality,
it also (so far) is a tough trail: it follows lightly (or never) used trails and
does not hesitate to cut cross-country through rocky washes and brushy slopes.
There is little signage and no blazing; and it always takes the route of maximum
aesthetic/scenic/primitive experience, effort to do it be damned.
miles from Alma I crossed into Arizona, the last (and first) state along this
Great Western Loop. Things changed almost immediately. First, dirt seemed to become
nonexistent, replaced by rocks -- and rocks and rocks. In fact, the last 100 miles
were the rockiest of any other 160 mile stretch; it's a combination of sedimentary
and volcanic rock, in varying states of breaking apart/off and eroding. The second
change has been that the elevations are notably lower -- 5000 to 8000, no longer
8,000 to 11,000 -- so now I'm in a lower desert environment, with cactus, mesquite,
alligator juniper, and scrub oaks (in general a lot of low-hanging, and/or thorny
plants and trees) now being the dominant vegetation.
were two highlights in the last section, one natural and one man-made. I'm reluctant
to classify the Morenci Mine as a "highlight" -- the environment degradation is
catastrophic -- but it was amazing to me that man has been able to dig such a
big hole. The mine is even bigger than the one in Bagdad, AZ, that I passed back
in April. It's about four miles long, about two miles across, and about 1,500
feet deep. Since 1937, workers have managed to scoop out entire mountains, and
then build new ones with the tailings.
more uplifting highlight was the slot canyons of Gold Gulch, Midnight Canyon and
Johnny Canyon, all on the historic Safford-Morenci trail, a rugged trading trail
built through the mountains between the two towns, and now reconstructed for use
by hikers and horsemen. Slot canyons are a unique experience -- they are just
a few feet wide, feature vertical un-climbable walls on both sides, and frequently
require basic rock climbing skills to navigate up/down pour-offs. The experience
could understandably be compared to that of a pin ball.
miles through the Pinaleno Mountains (aka "The Grahams"), the historical (ghost)
town of Klondyke, and Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, to the San Pedro River.
section started roughly: a 6,000-foot climb to the Pinaleno Crest via Frye Canyon,
[ed. note: the GET has since been rerouted away from Frye Canyon] which was severely
burned in 2004 and has not seen 10 minutes of trail work since: the Forest Service
has not yet flagged the trail through the 5-foot-tall fireweed, across the washed-out
creek crossings, or around the numerous blowdowns; it has not removed one downed
tree, brushed a foot of the thorny regen, or reconstructed any of the switchbacks
up the steep canyon. (The Forest Service has instead apparently used their resources
to start correcting a century of mismanagement -- specifically, suppression of
all fires -- by doing some fuel reduction projects atop the crest, which is occupied
by beautiful old growth firs, aspens, and spruces.) Progress was obviously slow
(about 1.5 MPH for 5 miles) and frustrating. But being covered in soot, dirt,
and blood was not nearly as devastating as breaking a trekking pole, which I had
developed quite a connection with after carrying it in my hand for about 5,700
descended out of the Pinalenos -- thankfully on a Forest Service road -- and walked
across some low Sonoran Desert towards Klondyke (a former hub of commerce for
surrounding mining towns (now all ghost towns) that itself is on the brink of
disappearing with a dwindling and aged population of 5 and the recent closure
of the historic Klondyke Store) and Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, a 12-mile-long
gem managed by the Bureau of Land Management, which limits entry to just 50 people
per day. The canyon has no trail system -- there are some short use trails in
places, but generally the path of least resistance is either in the creek or just
next to it. Expect to have wet feet from start to finish.
description of the canyon... The eastern third features conglomerate canyon walls,
a lush riparian corridor (that is, thick willows and big cottonwoods), abundant
wildlife (I saw blue herons, deer, wild turkeys, and a dozen ringtail, the last
of which I had never seen before), and a wide and fairly flat hard-packed gravel-sand
creek bed that makes for easy and fast cruising. The middle of the canyon is the
most scenic: the canyon narrows to as little as 30 feet across and the walls rise
upwards of 1,000 feet. The riparian vegetation disappears (because even moderate
flooding will fill the entire canyon bottom and wash everything out) but the rocks
make up for it: deep red volcanic schist occupies the lower canyon while orange/tan
cliffs tower above; car-sized boulders, which occasionally break off the canyon
walls, create obstacles for hikers and flood debris alike. The canyon opens back
up in the western third and the desert environment again becomes dominant: it's
a neat sight to see Saguaro and prickly pear cacti located just 10 feet up the
canyon wall from a big cottonwood.
miles through the Tortilla Mountains, White Canyon Wilderness, Superstition Wilderness
[and continuing northward beyond the GET via the AZT]
section was not easy either. It started with a pleasant stretch through classic
Low Sonoran Desert in the gentle Tortilla Mountains -- I was surrounded by Saguaro,
cholla, and barrel cacti as well as mesquite. Thankfully it is so hot and dry
there that the vegetation is fairly open, and the trail was built wide too. After
fording the Gila River I entered a more mountainous and rugged landscape, highlighted
by the White Canyon Wilderness. Like many other places in Arizona the geology
there is a mixture of stratified sandstone -- including some awesome escarpments
and cliff faces that glowed in the evening light -- and more recent volcanic activity,
exemplified by the dark red volcanic plugs, granite domes, and cobbly basalt rocks.
up was the Superstition Wilderness, similar to the terrain I had just been through
but higher in elevation, thus home to thicker and brushier vegetation until eventually
giving way to Ponderosa pines and scrub oak. The trails in the Superstitions are
indicative of backcountry use patterns in the desert areas of Arizona: heavy traffic
between popular trailheads and reliable water sources, up to ~10 miles away, but
otherwise light or no traffic. This makes sense: most backpackers hike in on a
Saturday to a watered camp and hike out the next day; trails that do not have
reliable and frequent water sources (like the Arizona Trail north of Reavis Ranch)
or that require more than a 2-day effort are generally avoided. And trails that
are avoided are usually living nightmares: overgrown with thorny plants and coved
by loose basalt rocks that range in size from golf balls to volley balls. I feel
fortunate to have had only one serious run-in with a cactus: I kicked a prickly
pear that put a needle about halfway through my third toe (through my shoe and
sock). It should go without saying that my legs and arms are very scratched up,
occasionally to the point of being bloodied.