After a short hiking season last year (just a month on the Colorado Trail), we are eager to put on our packs and get walking. While we aren’t sure of all our summer plans, we do know that we want to kick off the backpacking season by hiking the Grand Enchantment Trail. This trail has been on our list for several years, and we had even planned to hike it last spring, but some other commitments came up which changed our plans. We had already done all the planning for the hike which made our work this winter pretty minimal.
We loved our time on the Arizona Trail three years ago and look forward to hiking in the southwest again. For those of you unfamiliar with the Grand Enchantment Trail (GET), it is about 770 miles long, starting near Phoenix, AZ and ending just outside of Albuquerque, NM. The route was first conceived in 2003 by connecting old trails and dirt roads into a continuous trek plus adding in some cross-country sections to complete the route. Many of the trails and dirt roads which comprise the trail are quite unused and have not seen much maintenance over the years.
Some fun facts about the GET:
- The highest point on the trail is Mogollon Baldy at 10,770 feet and the lowest point is the Gila River at 1,750 feet.
- About 64% of the trail is through desert and 36% is through forests.
- The GET traverses 14 distinct mountain ranges.
- As the crow flies, Phoenix and Albuquerque are only 300 miles apart, but the trail extends that to 770 miles.
- The GET shares about 70 miles with the Arizona Trail and about 45 miles with the Continental Divide Trail.
- The route is conceived by Brett “Blisterfree” Tucker. There is no trail association, and Brett has done an amazing job putting together map sets, as well as trail and town information.
We are planning to start the trail on April 5th, which is considered to be at the tail end of the spring season for hiking the GET. The southwest has had a pretty dry winter, which will inevitably mean that we will have more stretches where we will need to carry water for long distances. The GET has been routed in such a way as to go by a surprising number of water sources (over 170!), but seeing that there has not been much precipitation over winter, and that we are starting late in the season, we expect that a number of the smaller water sources will be dry by the time we come through.
Before starting the trail, we are planning to drop off some food and water caches along the trail. In the section of trail which is concurrent with the Arizona Trail, there are several bear boxes at trailheads where we will be able to stash food and water. This will allow us to keep making progress on the trail instead of having to go into towns for resupply. It will also allow us to carry less food through these stretches. In addition, caching water will help us to reduce the number of 30+ mile water carries we will have to deal with. Since we have multiple 5 day food carries, we want to reduce the number of long water carries as much as we can. Water is heavy and food is heavy…and a heavy pack is never much fun.
Here are some things we are looking forward to on the GET:
- A sense of solitude – The GET seems to have very few hikers each year compared to other trails we have hiked. The sense we get from reading other hikers’ blogs, is that we can expect to see one or two other hikers…or even none on the entire trail! It’s a good thing we like each other, since we will probably only have each other to talk to for the hike.
- A navigation challenge – Based on the accounts of other hikers, it seems that we will get plenty of opportunities to hone our map and compass skills, as the trail is unmarked and sometimes overgrown and hard to see – when there is a trail. Some of the route is simply cross-country.
- Southwest hiking – We really enjoyed our springtime hike of the Arizona Trail and we are looking forward to seeing some desert wildflowers in bloom and sky islands rising from the desert floor. While we see ourselves as mountain folk at heart, we have come to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of the desert.
- Hopefully javelinas! – We hope to spot some of these animals on the trail…Finally! We have heard a lot about them, and saw a lot of signs of them on Arizona Trail, but never had a sighting.
One bonus for us of hiking this trail is getting to see our friends, Purple and Carnivore, who live in the Phoenix area. We first met them on the AT in 2011, and they were amazing Trail Angels for us when we hiked the Arizona Trail. It will be great to see them again and catch up.
Learn more about The Grand Enchantment Trail – http://www.simblissity.net/get/