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GET Segment 16 overview
From its source above the Mogollon Rim, the Blue River flows south, first as a creeklet among fir and aspen, then into the Blue Range Primitive Area as a ponderosa pine-flanked stream. Descending below the Rim it becomes a small river bordered by shady cottonwoods and willows. In its lowest reaches along our route in this segment, a vertical mile below its headwaters, the Blue carves a sheer-sided canyon toward its confluence with the San Francisco River, whose waters likewise begin in the distant White Mountains. The San Francisco joins the Gila River below Clifton, and on toward the Colorado River the fluvial journey unfolds.
Toward the end of this segment the main GET route reaches the canyon of the Blue, fording the river just once. Because the Blue River drains a large watershed at elevation, it is prone to significant fluctuations in depth and current depending upon conditions upstream - e.g., whether or not snow is melting in the high country, or if summer thunderstorms are hammering just a few or perhaps many of the tributary canyons. Outside of peak runoff conditions, the Blue is typically ankle to knee deep, 10 to 15 yards wide, and easily forded. Such is certainly the case for spring and fall-season travelers much of the time.
The main GET route initially follows FR 475 (Juan Miller Rd) from the Pigeon Creek Trailhead. As roadwalks go, this is a pretty good one, with far-ranging scenery and interesting geology at roadside. Although the road is graded dirt, the area's remoteness all but insures only the lightest of vehicle traffic. Nonetheless, the GET then leaves the vehicle road in favor of a quiet track now gated and off-limits to the motoring public. This adventurous, unsigned, little-known route - dubbed Clear Creek Road on some maps, Pat Mesa Trail on others - tours a surprising landscape of strangely eroded rock formations and viewful mesas en route to the canyon of Pigeon Creek, which we then follow a short ways to its confluence with the Blue River and this segment's remote crossing. Another wonderfully obscure track soon leads away from the river canyon, returning us once more to FR 475 for the final 2 miles to segment's end at the head of the Wildbunch Trail.
Thirsty hikers touring the largely open landscape here will find perennial water at the Blue River, although seasonal Pigeon Creek is generally a better source when it's flowing near its confluence with the Blue. Water may also be encountered sporadically in the drainages crossed by FR 475, most notably at Turkey Creek.
A detailed, mile-by-mile description of this segment is available in the official GET guidebook. See www.GrandEnchantmentTrail.org
This segment of the GET forms part of a longer trip option between resupply locations, as described below:
GET Segments 15 - 18, Morenci to Alma & Glenwood
The jumbled ridges of Arizona's Blue Range unfold northward and the GET contours along their slopes, following foot trail flanked by live oak and manzanita, interspersed with shady conifers and secluded maple groves alive with color in autumn. Views eastward extend to the Mogollon Mountains along our route in New Mexico, and to the nearer canyon system of the Blue River, toward which we now descend. Fording this small river in a remote setting, the wildness of the scene before us is truly written in the sands at creekside, where Merriam's turkey, black bear, and mountain lion leave telltale trace of their passage. Foot trail resumes en route toward prominent Maple Peak (8000'), from which a vantage of the Blue Range Primitive Area unfolds toward the Mogollon Rim. Descending to reach the Arizona/New Mexico boundary, the GET joins forest roads and heads east through classic New Mexican juniper-grassland toward the small ranching community of Alma, 4 miles north of more tourist-oriented Glenwood.
Check out the Official Route.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.