As I start this, let me say that nothing IMO beats the Arizona Trail. I have tons of awesome memories from it for life. But if you want to do a long-distance trail that is truly RUGGED? More rugged than the AZT? Then get on the GET. So far I've done 11 segments of the GET, and 2 of them already have been more difficult than any segment of the AZT, solely factoring distance and elevation. That's not even considering the route finding and bushwhacking; most if not all of the segments (once the GET leaves the AZT in segment 5) have these challenges, since no one maintains the trails and they are so remote. This segment was by far no exception, with a number of miles of route finding and, in some places, fairly dense vegetation.
A few other HAZ people working on the GET wanted to go but we couldn't get the dates nailed down, so JJ and I did it. As usual, we hiked in opposite directions. Anticipating this might be a doozy, I was able to find a marathon runner friend in town (Norm) to go out and do this one with me.
Left the house at 3:30am, swapped Jeeps with JJ at 5:45 in Thatcher, and I was hiking a few minutes before 7am. There are a few places on this segment where the trail is almost gone, but by far the worst of it is in the first 12 miles. Slowed us down more than we anticipated. JJ was a monster machine, we ran into him just 10 miles into our trip. We finally reached Webb Peak at 4pm, and started the 8.5-mile descent.
Other than underestimating the route finding, Norm and I did make one crucial oversight; he didn't have the GPS track on him and we didn't have walkie talkies or anything to communicate. He and I are opposites in that he is fast on climbing elevation but slow on the downs; I'm fast on the downhills but not on the uphills. Because he didn't have a track, 2-3 times he had to wait for me to catch up to him to let him know which direction to go for a total of about an hour wasted. If he hadn't had to wait for me, I could have caught up to him going down. Then, going down I waited for him, which put us both doing the last part of this segment in the dark, and became very slow. We didn't finish until a few minutes before 8:30pm and didn't get back home until midnight.
Through this segment we saw a number of piles of bear scat, especially on the western side, and even fresh bear paw prints in the water around Ash Creek. JJ's right, the waterfalls and flows in Ash Creek were pretty awesome. We also saw tons of those balls that when you step on them, they put out green smoke. Do you know what I'm talking about? Everywhere!
Thanks JJ for getting us going again; it's been too long. 11 segments, 32% of mileage completed (69% of Arizona).Foliage
Aspen groves were gorgeous.