Progress Update: Spring 2006

Upper La Barge Box, Superstition Wilderness

March 2006

A week’s journey across the Sonoran desert this March allowed me to complete the ambitious task that I’d begun last fall of flagging the route. Visible when needed, but otherwise unobtrusive, “branded” flagging tape (see Fall 2005 entry below) now marks the entire 700 mile GET from Phoenix to Albuquerque. Look for it at trail and road junctions, along less obvious trail corridors, and on cross-country segments of the route. This type of marking is not intended to serve as a constant reference, such as on the AT with its trusty white blazes, but simply as a reinforcement to the forthcoming GET map set and guidebook.

New Trail Construction

This spring’s flagging project included the portion of the Arizona Trail which the GET shares. I was encouraged to see a good deal of progress toward completion of a continuous footpath in this 70 mile stretch. New trail tread now makes travel south of the Gila River across the remote Tortilla Mountains more enticing than ever. What these segments need now is simply enough foot traffic to keep the corridor open and obvious in the years to come. The new Arizona Trail guidebook should be more than adequate for finding one’s way along the route in this area. So, if you’re able and interested, by all means get out there and have a look!

Southwest Drought

The drought persists across the Southwest, but at the time of this writing hopes were running high that March rain and snowstorms might offer a bit of relief. Although the desert south and east of Phoenix appeared to be extremely stressed by months of no precipitation, I was nevertheless surprised and delighted to find lingering pockets of good drinking water in canyons along the way. Several springs were flowing as well, including Charlebois, Bluff, and La Barge springs in the Superstitions, and portions of Rogers and Reavis canyons. South of US 60 along the Arizona Trail portion, Picketpost Windmill had water, as did the artesian well in Walnut Canyon near White Canyon Wilderness area, and the spring in Ripsey Canyon shown on maps near the AZT was in good shape too. Beehive Well was less desirable in appearance and quantity, but Putnam Spring 3.5 miles away along the GET flowed strong as ever in its wide, sandy wash. Even the San Pedro River was running lively in its newly budding corridor of cottonwood trees. (All info current as of March 4 2006.) Perhaps because of reduced water availability over the land on whole, the amount and variety of bird life I encountered at each of these sources was truly astounding – a genuine paradise for enthusiasts of our feathered friends.

And so the land shows its resiliency even in the face of great challenge. Water, as life, remains, though its call for help grows louder now as hope pours forth from every corner of the Southwest for soon relief from stubborn skies. Time will tell how favorable for hiking the coming seasons will be. Meantime, I’ll be publishing the GET guidebook online, finalizing the CD map set, and pleading to the rain gods like everyone else. Hope springs eternal.

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