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Begins: Mar 31, 2014
Date: Fri, May 16th, 2014
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Trip Distance: 737.0
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Grand Enchantment Trail Map
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 seemed either too hot or too cold.
TERRAIN: I learned to judge a sections 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. This is mostly because of cows. Cows are everywhere and therefore there needs to be water. If you are not picky about what you drink 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 tjuhe 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 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 ofnights 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 surly. There are definitely occasional stretches of mosquito's, gnats and flies. It can also be very, very windy.
-Carry a warm sleeping bag. I had a fair number of nights in the 20s which isn't unusual at all.
-There's a ton of 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 then 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. Oh and lots and lots of cows. 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!
The Grand Enchantment Trail is a
730-mile wilderness walking route across the Southwest U.S., connecting mountains, deserts, canyons, and places of cultural and historic interest. Beginning in the Sonoran desert near Phoenix Arizona, the route meanders eastward, crossing unique and diverse Sky Island mountain ranges, deep and water-blessed desert canyons, the pine-studded Continental Divide, and toward the southernmost Rocky Mountains, where it descends dramatically to the outskirts of Albuquerque New Mexico at its distant terminus. Learn more: www.simblissity.net/get