It’s hard to believe, but fall hiking season is already upon us, and with it a welcomed reprieve from summer’s heat and humidity. And as anyone knows who’s been following the weather in the Southwest lately, summertime humidity does indeed apply here too. Higher dew points and relative humidities are among the hallmarks of monsoon season in the region, and this season has been going full-bore for what seems an eternity now.
Since late June the Southwest region defined by the G.E.T. corridor has received a seemingly limitless supply of much-needed moisture. Recent commentary from the U.S. Drought Monitor website bears this fact out, as does the latest drought impact map. Short-term drought is now a distant memory across most of the G.E.T. in New Mexico, while in Arizona the drought severity has been lessened considerably. Every indication is that the majority of naturally occuring water sources listed on the G.E.T. water chart at “category 2” and higher will be flowing this autumn. And although the Drought Monitor’s assessments tell us less about long-term drought recovery, this summer’s “monster monsoon” is still mostly a blessing – a shot in the arm against the risks of another dry winter.
Flooding has been the notable downside to the monsoon this year. Among the hardest-hit areas was the Coronado National Memorial at the southern end of the Huachuca Mountains in Arizona, where flooding washed out roads and infrastructure. The area is closed indefinitely, and with it the southern terminus of the Arizona Trail. Although this event does not affect the Grand Enchantment Trail, a similar scenario that occured in Aravaipa Canyon unfortunately does. Flood waters in late July tore through the normally peaceful, riparian canyon, uprooting large trees, scouring the stream channel of vegetation, washing out roads and carrying away homes and even horses down-canyon along Aravaipa Creek. Most incredibly to me, the maximum stage on lower Aravaipa Creek near the San Pedro River crested one foot above Highway 77’s overpass. This seems hard to imagine for someone who has stood beneath that overpass bridge, in a culvert 10 feet high, with a bone dry wash under my feet. The drainage is at least 50 yards wide here, too!
Needless to say, Aravaipa Canyon may be a changed experience for those who next experience it – a natural constant change, in the grand scheme, but hopefully one that also retains some if not much of what was wonderful about this place, biologically speaking. Aravaipa Canyon is closed to public entry for the time being, and fall G.E.T. hikers will need to detour around it via the 4WD “Rug Road,” as mentioned in the online guidebook.
G.E.T. Guidebook: Will Write for Food
And speaking of the guide… We’re working on it! Those who haven’t checked in recently may be astonished to find tangible evidence of progress in this free online resource. In all, 18 chapters have now been published, with more on their way. In truth though, no one is likely as astonished as myself, who has sometimes questioned his own sanity in tackling some 20 hours of monologue-style voice recordings and dictating untold numbers of spoken gps waypoints in order to write this certain bestseller of a guidebook! But the G.E.T. needs its guidebook in order to legitimize the hiking experience – not so much to an audience that already “gets it” but to the larger community who would become part of a “critical mass” needed to help defend the corridor into the future – against the intrusions and blight of development that are now ailing some of our nation’s great national scenic trails.
More to the point, we realize thru-hikers might like a guidebook, too. And we’re committed to “get ‘er done” before fall thru-hiking season ’07. Sure, the mapset alone might work for those who don’t mind winging it. But we really do like the route as laid out, and hey – sharing is where it’s at. Our personal mantra is “two chapters per week” – with occasional unpaid weekends and holidays, and extended time off for good hiking behavior. Even so, the math looks favorable for a late January guidebook completion.
Wanna see a guidebook sooner than later? Don’t spurn us, spur us on! We’ve just introduced an online forum, a place where hikers can post their plans, contact info, and anything else that will fit into a 600-pixel-wide multi-columnar HTML table. It’s actually a bulletin board more than a forum, but all the same a bold step out of the cave and into the sunlight for prospective hikers. The economics are simple – the more names that appear on the roster, the more other folks will think “bandwagon!” And the better the odds will be of finding hiking partners or just passing likeminded company along the trail. Don’t be afraid of burdening anyone by adding your name, even if your plans are only vague and tentative; the G.E.T. is as quiet a route as they come, and she who steps out along the path will (I predict) remain in slim but superlative company for many seasons going forward. So visit the forum or drop us a direct line and we’ll add your name to the list…!
Oh, and as it says on the bulletin board’s example entry: “I’ll be out hiking, flagging, and brushing portions of the route between Albuquerque and Magdalena NM, as well as from Clifton AZ perhaps all the way to Phoenix. If anyone would like to help out or just check out the route for a day or two, feel free to drop me a line beforehand.”
I just hope my loppers don’t rust out there this season! So much for dessicating drought!