Perspectives on the Route
Commentary from Veteran GET Hikers




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.

 

 .:2015

LEN GLASSNER ("Al H.") - eastbound thru-hiker:

I really enjoyed this hike. Well, for the most part.

What 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.

I 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.

But 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.

I 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.

The 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.

Packing 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.

I 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, methinks.

Until 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.

Resupply/hitching 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: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Need-A-Ride/791182904298165

Be 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.

Brett/Blisterfree 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.

In 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.

-Al H.


 .:2014

BRIAN TANZMAN ("Buck-30") - eastbound thru-hiker:

At 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.

OVERALL: 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.

TERRAIN: 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 issues.

WATER: 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.

RESUPPLY: 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.

Fuel 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.

WEATHER: 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.

GEAR: I'm sure you know your gear so here's just a few thoughts:

-Probably the best item I had were zip off pants. Unless you want your legs scarred have pants or knee high gaitors!

-I 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.

-Go light on the rain gear. You most likely won't get much rain.

-Go heavy on the sun protection, whatever works for you. I was surprised how intense the sun was even in cooler temps.

-Go 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].

-Carry a warm sleeping bag. I had a fair number of nights in the 20s which isn't unusual at all.

-There are of course cows out here so bring whatever you do for water treatment.

NAVIGATION: 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.

TIME: 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.

MAPS: 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.

WILDLIFE: 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.

CELL 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.

PARTNER: 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.

SPOT: 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 was invented.

SO GET OUT AND HIKE THE GET! IT'S AN A+ TRAIL!


BENJAMIN MAYBERRY - westbound end-to-ender:

It'll 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.

 

 .:2012

CAM HONAN ("Swami") - eastbound thru-hiker:

To 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...........

GET 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.

Cheers, Cam


DAN BEDORE ("Fashionplate Dan") - eastbound thru-hiker:

A Beautiful Walk

It 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.

In 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.

Riparian 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.

A Tough Journey

The 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.

Well Documented

I've 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.

Interesting Things

I 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.
http://bedore.org/2012_Grand_Enchantment_Trail.html


DON JOHNSON - eastbound thru-hiker:

Dear Family and Friends,

“What’s 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.

There 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.

Consider 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?

Forests 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.

Someday 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.

Kelly 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.

We 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.

Our 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.

Love, Don


WILL TATMAN ("Stryder") - eastbound thru-hiker:

My first thru-hike and a desert blast!

Highlights: 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

Lowlights: Town of Morenci, Trail construction chaos before Kelvin, Snowpack in the Pinalenos. Sometimes the solitude.

Unfortunately, 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.

Fantastic 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.

I 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.

One 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.

I 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.

Not 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.

Take care, and happy hiking,
-Will / Stryder

 

 .:2011

DAVE 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>


SEAN GREGOR ("Reststop") - westbound thru-hiker:

i 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

 

 .:2010

ERIC 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.
http://ultrapayne.blogspot.com


ROBERT 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.


CHRISTIAN & LORI - eastbound thru-hikers:

A 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…
http://www.throughhikers.com

 

 .:2009

LI 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.

I 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.

But 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!

On 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.

I 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.

On 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 anticipated mileage.

Some General Thoughts

I've 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.

Really, 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.


HERMAN SENTER - eastbound thru-hiker:

Thank 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!

A few comments about my experiences on the trail: [ed. note: some feedback omitted here, but incorporated into website materials and map set - many thanks!]

I 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.

I "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.

I 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.

On the trail:

I 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!

On people:

I 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.

I 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.

I 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.

Thank you for conceiving the trail and making it a reality.



TRAVIS ANDERSON (d=rt) - eastbound thru-hiker:

First 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!]

Someone 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.

Your 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.

One 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.

I 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.

I 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.

Brett, again, I thank you. The GET is amazing! Also the work you've put into making the trail available is awesome! Thank you!

 

 .:2008

SAGE CLEGG - westbound section hiker:

I 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.

That 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 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 awesome.

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.

The 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.

Other 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!

The 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.

Overall 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.

I 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.

Thanks again for all you have done piecing together this amazing trail!

 

 .:2007

Andrew Skurka - westbound on the Great Western Loop:

Sunday, October 14, 2007 -- Safford, AZ - Day 188, Mile 6,324

The 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.

Over 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.

Ten 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.

There 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.

The 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.

Safford to Mammoth

~100 miles through the Pinaleno Mountains (aka "The Grahams"), the historical (ghost) town of Klondyke, and Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, to the San Pedro River.

This 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.

I 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.

A 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.

Mammoth to Pine

~200 miles through the Tortilla Mountains, White Canyon Wilderness, Superstition Wilderness [and continuing northward beyond the GET via the AZT]

This 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.

Next 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.



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