If 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.
HONAN ("Swami") - eastbound thru-hiker:
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 into that.
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 trucks.
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.
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.
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
TATMAN ("Stryder") - eastbound thru-hiker:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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
BRANNFORS - eastbound thru-hiker:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 anticipated mileage.
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
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!
comments about my experiences on the trail: [ed. note: some feedback
omitted here, but incorporated into website materials and map set
- many thanks!]
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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 grid.
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.
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
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.
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
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:
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.
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 awesome.
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.
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
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!
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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 miles.
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.
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.