This triplog with pictures and videos can be seen at http://desertsirena.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/get-started-already/
I have been attempting to start my Grand Enchantment Trail hike for the last three weeks, but the weather has been really bad on every day I have off. So bad that the first couple weeks, I couldn't even access the trail because of washed-out and closed roads. Finally, though, everything came together this week. Since I hike alone, I have to enlist the help of generous individuals to help me with shuttles so that I don't have to backtrack. It's hard enough to complete a trail of over 700 miles without having to retrace your steps. Laddie Cox, who is part of the Crazies trail crew that I work on, was kind enough to help me put my car at the entrance to Aravaipa Canyon and shuttle me over to Freeman Road. I brought 10 gallons of water over to the Freeman Road cache to add to the 14 gallons that were already there. The Freeman Road cache is very important for Arizona Trail hikers, as it is in the middle of a very long, dry stretch of the trail.
The Grand Enchantment Trail (GET) and the Arizona Trail (AZT) run concurrently for about 70 miles, from Roger's Trough in the Superstitions to Beehive Well. I planned on hiking south on the GET/AZT near Antelope Peak until the two diverged at Beehive Well, then continuing east on the GET to Putnam Spring, a distance of about 12-13 miles. It was 12:30 by the time we got over to Freeman Road and since I have already hiked this part of the trail, I agreed when Laddie suggested we drive the two-track that serves as the GET/AZT and I would start on the singletrack just north of Antelope Peak. It shaved about 2 miles off, and as a result, I was able to hike at a more leisurely pace for the rest of the day.
The reason I chose to start hiking the GET in this seemingly random spot, rather than starting from Phoenix, is that this part of the Arizona Trail is the first piece that I did solo, almost two years ago. At the time, it was only my third backpacking trip ever. In some ways it seems like a lifetime ago. I had Laddie take the obligatory "starting the trail" picture by the carsonite post that marked the Grand Enchantment Trail/Arizona Trail turning off the two-track onto singletrack. The GET is more of a route than an established trail, and it was fitting that I am not starting somewhere with a big, fancy trail marker, because there are no big, fancy GET-specific trail signs anywhere on the route.
Just as I started hiking, two red-tailed hawks circled overhead in the bright blue sky, and I had an overwhelming feeling of excitement to finally be starting a new long-distance trail. The trail contoured around Antelope Peak and I had great views to the south of the snow-capped Catalinas and Rincons. To the east, I could see the Galiuros, with the Santa Teresas behind them.Before long, I reached Beehive Well in Putnam Wash, which is where the Grand Enchantment Trail and the Arizona Trail part ways. The tank at Beehive Well was full of water, with a nice layer of dead bees floating on top.
I was glad I didn't need to take any water from there. I took a short break, and then took my first steps on a part of the Grand Enchantment Trail that I had not previously seen. The GET follows Putnam Wash toward the Highway 77 underpass, but my destination for the evening was Putnam Spring, a short way off the GET in Camp Grant Wash. Along the way, I found this cow skull, which to me looked like he had a goofy "hairdo" that went over one eye. Kind of gross, but these are the things I amuse myself with, hiking alone.
There was water flowing in the wash at the confluence, and I reached Putnam Spring, a pretty area with water flowing out of the pinkish rock. There were OHV tracks in the wash, and as I was figuring out where to camp, I thought, "Maybe I won't see anyone, since it is a weekday." A minute later, I heard the loud whine of off-road vehicles. I set up camp and was going to gather some rocks for a small fire ring. When I picked up the first rock, a small bark scorpion scurried out and wedged himself in a cleft in the rocks.
As I was taking pictures of the scorpion, two OHV's drove by and I waved to them. Shortly afterward, they circled back around and stopped to talk to me. There was a young man and his girlfriend, and he asked me if I was having fun. I said absolutely- and asked him the same. He said that he and his friends were out celebrating his last days before he joins the National Guard and goes to Iraq. He then asked where my vehicle was, and I explained that I am hiking the Grand Enchantment Trail. He and his girlfriend were pretty shocked to hear that I was alone and on foot. He introduced himself as David Light and invited me to come by, as they were going to be having a fire with a bunch of friends a little ways away from where I was camped. I said that I would come by later.
I ate dinner, and was walking over to where they were having their fire, when I saw David drive up- he said that he was coming to check on me to see if I was ok and if I wanted to come by. I thought it was pretty cute that they were concerned about me. I got a ride over to their fire, and met David's girlfriend, Dayna, his brother Colt, and several other of his friends. They were all surprised to see me- the "hiker chick" that David had told them about. They were mostly from Dudleyville, a small town nearby, and they asked a bunch of questions about my hike and were all very friendly. I had a great time talking to them, even though some of them were half my age. They asked me how old I was, and I told them that the day before I had celebrated my 36th birthday. They were shocked- they had thought I was in my mid 20's. I had anticipated just reading my book and going to bed, but I ended up having a great time at the bonfire with David and his friends. I wish him the best of luck in Iraq.
When it was time for me to go back to my camp, David and Dayna drove me over and made sure that I was all set-up before they left. I had to assure them a couple of times that I would be comfortable sleeping under the stars by myself. After they left, I had to giggle out loud with delight- what a great first day on the Grand Enchantment Trail and a great start to my 36th year!!
After last night's unexpected bonfire with the people from Dudleyville, I awoke early in the morning to see that there was mist rising up from the wash. Putnam Spring is a warm spring, and it was hitting the cold air and making the wash look amazing! Today's walk was mostly on roads or in washes or on a road in a wash. There was no worries about navigation, and the walking was easy in Putnam Wash. After Putnam Spring, the walls of the wash closed in a bit and became more and more beautiful as I hiked east. I just love when anything grows from solid rock- like a saguaro I saw who looks like he is wearing a silly hat and pointing the way.
Before long, I was at the San Pedro River, and I changed into my camp shoes to ford the ankle-deep San Pedro River. The river was a beautiful place, with sycamores just starting to leaf out. After a refreshing ford of the San Pedro, I reached the Hwy 77 underpass and the end of my first segment of the Grand Enchantment Trail. I really didn't want to walk on asphalt, so I chose to stay in Aravaipa wash instead of taking Aravaipa Road. It is a broad wash that is alternately sandy and rocky and at about the second mile of sinking into sand, I began to wonder if asphalt wouldn't have been a wiser choice. It was just me and some cows in the wash, and I put on some music to pass the time. It was getting warm, and the wash was really exposed, so put on my umbrella.
After what seemed like forever, I reached the point where I was able to exit the wash onto Aravaipa Road, which was a dirt road in this area. The roadwalk wasn't too bad, just a little warm and exposed. As I was starting to get hot and uncomfortable, a truck stopped to ask if I was ok. (I get that a lot, hiking by myself) The driver introduced himself as Langdon, and said he owned a ranch in the area. We chatted for a bit, and then he asked me if I would like a cold beer. This is what is known in the hiking community as "Trail Magic". It's a beautiful thing. I enjoyed the heck out of the frosty Tecate before hiking on.
The remainder of the road was very scenic, and not very heavily traveled on the day I was hiking. I passed by all sorts of ranches and farms before coming to the Brandenburg Ranger Station, on the side of beautiful Brandenburg Mtn. After the ranger station, the road dipped back down to follow Aravaipa Creek and I crossed a one-lane "Bailey Bridge". Finally, after hiking 16 miles for the day, I reached my car that had been dropped at the Aravaipa West Trailhead. Man, I cannot wait
to go through Aravaipa Canyon on the Grand Enchantment Trail. It is called "The Grand Canyon of the Sonoran Desert" and the beautifully colored cliffs gave a preview of what is to come when I hike the next segment. I will be waiting for warmer temps to do that piece, however, because Aravaipa is considered a water hike. There is no trail, and you have to wade in the stream for a great deal of the time- much too cold for now, better saved for late spring.
I feel so lucky to be able to hike a new long-distance trail and had a great time on what was really a connector segment- I can't wait to get into the numerous wilderness areas- Superstition, Aravaipa, Santa Teresas, Mount Graham, Gila, and many more on the Grand Enchantment Trail. I am also looking forward to raising some money for the Miller's Wildlife Rehabilitation- I love volunteering there and the Millers pay for everything out of their pocket, so it would be nice to be able to help out a bit.