[cdt-l] Out and Back Again - 110 miles on the GET

Jim and/or Ginny Owen spiriteagle99 at hotmail.com
Mon Apr 2 00:14:22 CDT 2007

As some of you know, we started our hike of the Grand Enchantment Trail on 
March 21.  First we wound our way through the Superstition Mountains near 
Phoenix for 30 miles, then we descended toward the mining town of Superior 
on a section of the Arizona Trail.  The country was beautiful - lush Sonoran 
desert and orange and red cliffs and volcanic rock formations - but solitude 
was not an option as the Superstition Wilderness is a very popular getaway, 
especially this time of year.  We got lucky in that the 100 degree 
temperatures we experienced when we arrived in Phoenix dropped the day we 
started our hike. A storm front passed through, dropping some significant 
rain every day for the first four days, and temps dropped to the mid-70's.  
We reached Superior, 50 miles into the hike, midway on day four.  We decided 
to stop to clean up and buy groceries and snared the second to last room at 
the only motel in town. It was a brief but welcome chance to clean up and 
dry out.

Next morning we headed out on the Arizona Trail, which the GET follows for 
about 60 miles, and followed a combination of nice trail and easy wash 
walking up to a series of jeep roads high above the valley.  There was a 
wild section of trail in the White Rock Wilderness where we tried to dance 
through dense prickly pears and cholla.  Jim tripped and somehow managed to 
land in the only six foot section of the entire valley that wasn't covered 
with cactus.  It didn't matter as we were both carrying our share of cuts, 
scratches and miscellaneous thorns in our hands and legs, but at least we 
didn't have to spend the next two hours plucking cactus spines out of his 
hide.  The White Rock cliffs were gorgeous - about 200 feet high colorful 
cliffs - but there was no trail beyond there for several miles so we ended 
up walking dirt and paved roads past the huge Ray Copper Mine to a crossing 
of the muddy Gila River. Not a good water source!  Fortunately a BLM ranger 
stopped to chat, excited to see hikers actually using the trail he had 
worked so hard to help build, and he gave us some much appreciated icy cold 

The next several miles of trail wound high on ridges, with beautiful views 
of some very wild and remote desert.  We ended the day after 20 miles at our 
first natural water source of the day - a very, very slow piped trickle at a 
cow trough.  It was slow, but worth the wait.  The next day our only water 
source was a water cache put out some months ago by the Arizona Trail 
Association.  Most of the jugs had disintegrated in the sun, but there were 
still two that were useable, so we split one jug of water and left the 
second for the next GET or AZT hikers.

On day eight of our hike we split off from the Arizona Trail and headed up 
wide Putnam Wash toward the town of Mammoth.  It was easy walking, flat and 
smooth on sandy river bottom.  There was even a trickle of water along one 
side of the wash. Because of all the rain we experienced our first few days 
of the hike, there were lots of different desert wildflowers in bloom.  The 
only cactus in bloom were some yuccas, hedgehogs and ocotillo, but elsewhere 
we saw lots of poppies, bottlebrush, globemallow, mariposas, phlox, etc.  We 
only saw a few animals - lots of birds and hawks, but only one rattlesnake, 
a desert tortoise, several rabbits and squirrels, and two deer.

We reached Mammoth on Wednesday afternoon and got a series of checks:  the 
only motel was full (so we camped just outside town on the sandy bank of the 
San Pedro River), we couldn't get a permit to hike in Aravaipa Wilderness 
until Monday (every weekend is booked until May), and once again there was 
no fuel for our stove (Superior was a bust too, in that regard, but we had 
enough to last for four more days - no more).

Combined with very sore feet, a general lack of enthusiasm/commitment for 
the hike, and an inner voice that was telling both of us that we were in the 
wrong place at the wrong time - we decided to leave the trail.  It wasn't an 
easy decision to make, as neither of us has quit on a long hike - but at the 
same time it was fairly easy since we were both feeling that same lack of 
enthusiasm.  I started thinking of the many other places I want to visit 
this spring/summer and we decided that we'd rather be visiting them now than 
continue hiking the GET.  We enjoyed the sections of trail we did hike - but 
now wasn't the right time for it. Doing a long distance hike requires total 
commitment to the goal - and we didn't have it.  We want to be playing more 
and relaxing more than is really allowable when doing a long hike in country 
where water is 15-20 miles apart.  It takes a lot of discipline - and we 
just weren't in the mood.

So, in a couple of days we'll leave Phoenix and explore more of the west - 
the Chiricauhuas, Havusu Falls, southern Utah, etc.  We still plan to head 
to Canada in July - though we'll see whether we'll thruhike the GDT or just 
explore some more.  We'll keep you posted on our peregrinations.

Walk softly,
Ginny and Jim


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