Mammoth

GET 2017 Day 7, March 24, Friday.

Start Freeman Road Trailhead, segment 5 mile 0, then to mile 13.8 to segment 6 alt.

End town of Mammoth on Aravaipa bypass route segment 6 alt mile 9.5

Miles walked: 23.3

The path tends to be on top of long low ridges, dipping down to arroyos (washes here) and back up.

Saguaro is nearly gone, preferring steep rocky areas. Antelope Peak stands out taller than the surrounding rolling hills

At mid-morning the GET splits off from the AZT and continues eastward in Putnam Wash, which grows wide. Water is running, possibly from Putnam Spring, and eventually goes underground.

The wash sides are steep, and saguaro return.

The wash goes all the way to the San Pedro River, a wide deep dry riverbed. The main GET crosses and heads east to Aravaipa Canyon, but you need a permit to hike there, restricted to 30 people a day. The canyon has become popular, and spots are snapped up instantly online.

So I have to take the Aravaipa bypass route, walking 9 miles to the town of Mammoth along the western bank of the San Pedro River channel on a dirt road, hot with no available shade. I did not take photos to help forget that walk.

Violet gives me a room at the Lodge, the onlly motel in town. She does hiker laundry for a small charge, and offers to contact a friend at the BLM to try and get me a permit for Aravaipa, but no joy.

Shower, laundry, snacks, … what else? Oh yeah, a burger.

Rain Magic

GET 2017 Day 6, March 23, Thursday.

Start just past village of Kelvin, segment 4 mile 1.5

End Freeman Road Trailhead, segment 4 mile 27.6

Miles walked: 26.1

Light rain started at 3AM, sometimes becoming heavy. Rain continued as I broke camp. Temperatures drop in a major way from the heat wave of the pash several days, and clouds suggest an all-day rain.

The trail ascends to a series of gravelly ridges with views.

Rains do finally subside, but clouds threaen most of the day, and brief showers mean putting back on the rain jacket.Later the land bocomes low  rolling hills with frequent washes

Saguaro becomes scarce. Plenty of yucca and mesquite grow here, with a few grasses and cactii. A few scattered catle graze.

A cluster of large boulders seems put out here to make us ask how they got here.

I meet three AZT thru-hiker, and one tells me about a trail angel ahead. At the trailhead Sequoia is spending several days in a camper meeting hikers.

In the roal world Sequoia runs an  expedition company. Out here,seemingly in the middleeof nowhere, he gets good 4G signal and can tend to business.

Kikipu and Backup keep him company.

Gila

GET 2017 Day 5, March 22, Wednesday.

Start near boundary of Tonto National Forest, segment 3 mile 11.7 of 30.8, off GET to follow new AZT trail alignment for a few miles.

End just past village of Kelvin, segment 4 mile 1.5

GET Trail miles walked: 20.6

Going down Red Mountain in early morning, I head towards the Gila River. 

While still high up, the river channel can be seen in the distance.

Another monster blocks the path, until the sound of trekking poles knocked together encourages it to leave.

Finally down to the river, the path keeps its distance, often 100 feet high on the nearby slope to stay well out of the flood plain.

The river is surrounded by thick vegetation, mesquite and willow, typically too thick for a human to get close to the water’s edge. But sometimes you can find a spot where the river meanders close to the trail, and a dry tributary feeds into the river, and you can walk this sandy path to the water.

On the CDT alternate in New Mexico, the Gila waer was clear, cold, and you could walk through it, crossing the strem two dozen times in a day. Here the water is muddy, deep, and fast moving, not something you would try to walk through.

Here is a view of river from above.

With no other water sources past a seep at Red Mountain until the end of the day, I had to get water a couple of times from the Gila. Once after unsuccessfully trying to find a clear route to the water, I heard ATVs nearby and followed their path. The dirt clogged my filter, so I had to back-flush at the end of the day. 

A copper mine  dominates the landscape near the village of Kelvin

Somehow my pants got a large rip, and I don’t know how it happened.

I met four AZT hikers today. The heat makes it hard to stop and chat for long.

Near the end of the day I reach Kelvin, where a road maintenance depot offers a faucet for hikers. Then across a one-lane bridge across the Gila, and the trail leads south for a while.

Here Be Monsters

GET 2017 Day 4, March 21, Tuesday.

Start near Superior, segment 2 mile 16.2, then walk into town.

End near boundary of Tonto National Forest, segment 3 mile 11.7, off GET to follow new AZT trail alignment for a few miles.

Trail miles walked: 14

Striking steath camp a couple of miles from Superior, I hike along US60, dodging massive constuction. Getting on Main Street (starts at Buckhorn Tavern) I walk to historic downtown district to use the library and post office. Downtown is struggling, but some effort is being made to refurbish old buildings.

Wifi at the library was non-functioning, and also slow or broken at any open wifi point. Was a key internet link into town down today? No blog posts until another town.

I got my supply box at the post office right after it opened at 8:30. Another AZT hiker was in line after me, who was staying in town another day.

On the walk out of town I stopped at the arboretum, to become more familiar with the.Sonoran ecozone plants I am seeing on this hike.

The shrub wïth yellow flowers I was wondering about yesterday is called Brittlebush

A fuzzy pink flower I see often is named Fairy dusters.

Any Fairies reading this might try growing this plant.

At the trailhead I chatted with a hiker just finishing a day hike. This is a popular trailhead, with several bikers and hikers in the first few miles.

The trail winds around several slopes, not often following creeks at the bottom.

Pools of seasonal water can still be found in a few creekbed crossings.

A colorful fat lizard, about half a meter long, flicks a tongue at me and slowly steps off the trail with dignity.

This is my first gila monster encounter in the wild.

I departed the official  GET route for a few miles, on new AZT alignment that has better markings, at the cost of about 5 extra miles, more walking along the Gila River tomorrow. Stopping for the night just down from a pass in a sheltered area, expect a scenic descent down to the Gila River in the morning.

 

Trails Merge

GET 2017 Day 3, March 20, Monday.

Start near Angel Basin, section 1 mile 25.9.

End near Superior, section 2 mile 16.2

Miles walked: 20.6

In Roger’s Canyon, cliff dwellings guard the entrance.

The canyon is also notable for the change of plant life. Gone are all suculents, replaced by actual trees. The high walls and narrow canyon trap air cooled by rushing water, making for a pleasant morning walk that corkscrews through the passage.

Our way joins the official Arizona Trail (AZT), which we share for several days, almost until Monument. We continue following Roger’s Canyon and exit Tonto Wilderness.

I meet four northbound AZT hikers, two section hiking and two thru-hiking. Each tells of meeting several GET hikers going in the opposite direction, just a day or few ahead of me.

Going up Montana Mountain (ahem) on a forest road provides views from the top of the Tonto I just crossed.

A bewildering number of swithbacks decends to Reavis Canyon, with tricking water available off and on. The canyon begins too high for any saguaros or other cactii, but gradually descends to altitudes where saguaro thrive.

A huge saguaro is down along the trail.

Looking at a cross-section of one of the broken arms shows the internal structure, with woody stems arranged in a circle, perhaps for strucural support or for circulation.

Later, in Whitford Canyon, a saguaro is intertwined with mesquite.

A hillside is covered with yellow flowers and saguaro.

This is what the yellow flowers look like up close, produced by a small shrub.

The trail descends down to US60, about five miles from Superior. I have a supply box coming, but it is late in the day and the post office is closed. I walk closer to town and stealth camp on public land, hoping to make a quick entrance and exit in the morning.