Alternate Routes of the GET

— <spiriteagle99@…> wrote:
>I can guess for the Gila (lots of water vs. fewer
> but can you tke the time to come up with a brief
> description of the
> alternative routes shown on the maps that would explain
> the reasons
> for the alternative? Or will that become pretty clear
> once we look at the smaller maps?

The detailed maps should help in figuring things out until
the guide is finished. I’m hopeful that anyone starting out
at Phoenix, and using the maps and guide together for a few
weeks, will get a pretty good feel for navigating the route,
and then feel better about approaching the rest of New
Mexico with just the maps. Anyone else who’s finished the
GET so far (just Trippin Ant I suppose) has done so without
any guidebook at all. Ant (veteran of the CDT, etc.) was
able to get by with just the maps.

As for alternate routes, here’s a rundown from the Pinalenos

FR 286 alternate:

This is currently a “required” alternate route, since the
portion of the main trail route that it avoids is overgrown
basically unfollowable for at least a mile. It’s no love
lost here, as the alternate is a much easier walk on quiet,
forested 4WD road, with likely water at Dry Lake Tank. South
of the tank it may be possible to use the Blue Jay Ridge
Trail, signed at roadside (though not appearing in its
entirety on maps) to connect with the main route near
Government Spring (dry). Otherwise, follow FR 286 all the
way as indicated.

Mt Graham loop:

Optional side-trip. Currently closed, as with all summiting
trails, to protect the Mt Graham red squirrel.

Deadman Canyon alternate:

Both this and the main route pass through the area burned in
the Nuttall Fire of a few years ago. Frye Canyon, along the
main route, gets the hiker out of the burn sooner and is
easier to navigate since the trail stays close to the creek
bottom most of the way – good to know when you inevitably
lose it here and there. As I understand it, both trails are
destined for eventual rehabilitation, at which time the
Deadman route might be preferable for its extra distance on
the scenic slopes here.

Safford loop:

Optional side-hike to visit downtown Safford and its
services. Downtown was formerly on the main route. Now the
best route seems to be one that avoids the main drag,
keeping to the rural fringes, and crossing US 70 in the
village of Solomon about 5 miles east of Safford. Solomon
has a post office, and possibly a convenience store, but
most hikers will probably use Safford for everything –
perhaps hitching in and out as helpful.

Gold Gulch bypass and Chase Creek alt.:

These are probably obvious enough from the guidebook
description. Chase Creek alt. is a 2-lane highway walk, and
not preferable to the main route, though maybe a bit easier
to navigate.

High Country Bypass:

This is the optional low route around the crest of the
Mogollon Mountains, to be used when snow is an issue. The
map set will offer a good idea of mileage and terrain vs.
the main route. Part of the detour follows the Bursum Road,
which crests Silver Creek Divide at ~9000′, and can see some
snow here, but it’s not a hazard. Apart from the Bursum
Road, the bypass is on good, well-watered trails throughout.

Whitewater Baldy alternate:

This is shown on the overview map, but not labelled. It’s
simply an optional route that goes by Whitewater Baldy, the
highest peak in the range. The main route is arguably
preferable, since it avoids additional fords of Whitewater
Creek. Especially in spring, I think the main route strikes
the better balance between time spent with the creek and
that spent along the possibly snowbound crest.

West Fork bypass:

With the exception of a single ford, this one bypasses the
West Fork of the Gila along the main route, for use during
high water, early/late season, or when not wishing to
confront the 50+ fords of this scenic headwater stream. Note
that the bypass route is entirely lacking in water, although
a few unconfirmed sources appear to be a little ways
off-route. The various feeder trails shown on the overview
map are optional approaches to the bypass, which uses Trail
164 most of the way.

East Fork alternate:

This is for those who just can’t get enough of the creek
thing. The main route fords the East Fork of the Gila only
once, while the alternate sticks with the river for several
miles, then heads cross-country up a class 3 box/slot
canyon. I haven’t explored this alternate firsthand, but
Trippin Ant had this to say about it:


I did follow Tom Moore [canyon] for its lenght to the E
Fork. I also was confronted by dusk, which is a commom
occurance these days as the sun sets at 1700. I stoped for
the evening just before begining the xc section. BTW there
was water flowing, just past Middle Tom Moore Well through
the slot and beyond. The slot posed no serious problem.
Like I said the presence of water, liquid and frozen, made
the slot very slick. There were only 2 drops of note, one
about a metre the other about 2. Due to ice I had to climb
around the higher one. This was prob. the one that gave you
issue. These were cut drops, no rock was lodged in the
slot, at this time anyway. I suppose you should make note
on your guide that slot canons can change drasically from
year to year.

I acctualy enjoyed the E Fork, despite the rote finding post
ford. Beasuse the grass along the course was high, dry, and
very seedy, I stuck close to the bank. Pleasent walking, as
it had been washed clean by the floods. Having not hiked
the other route I cannot say which is better, astheticaly,
but I think the Slot/E Fork route is prob nicer than the


Monticello Canyon alternate:

This is a side hike, or possible hitchhike, into Monticello
for resupply. It follows a level 4WD the entire way, fording
ankle-deep Alamosa Creek numerous times in a scenic canyon

Trippin Ant says:


Mont is a nice little community, everyone I met was friendy,
firendly enoughto let a conplete strainger use their
bathroom. If there was a pay phone in town I missed it.
The PO lady was friendly, although she was having a bad day,
something about being out of stamps. Note, she has a credit
card reader and when she learns how to use the debit
function, cash back will be a possibility. The canyon walk
was pleasent, steady water after the first ranch. There was
a county road crew repairing flood damage. I wound up
stealthing after the Mont Box Ranch. Supprisingly no hunter
were seen, infact only one truck drove by while I was in the
canyon, alas he was going the other way. All the fords, and
there were many, were shin deep, about a foot or so, some a
little deeper. The box was beautiful. Ojo Caliente was
fantastic, it was gushing out water, not the hot, about the
temp of a mild swimming pool, but great for a soak.


Burma Road and San Mateo Peak alternates:

Trippin Ant pioneered these. The Burma Road alternate serves
either of two purposes – to form a loop with the Monticello
Canyon alternate (instead of hiking out and back exclusively
on the latter), and to link with the San Mateo alt. for
those seeking more time along the crest of the San Mateo
Mountains. Both the main and alternate routes are
followable, although vague in places, and both pass through
spotty burned terrain along the crest. I’m hoping to explore
the San Mateo alt. this spring, flagging where needed.
Here’s Ant’s take on it [westbound]:


Blue – San Mateo Pk
This is where I diverged from your route. I continued on
TR43, burn and rough untill after the jct with TR46, then
easy going. I took the N seg of TR44, Cowboy Tr., to the
summit, very steep, I there is a pipe spring .5mile before
the top. The cabin has been opened to the public, bunk beds
and a wood stove, and a resident skunk, be careful. The
tower is techincally not acessable but you can climb to the

San Mateo Pk – Monticello
I came down the S seg of 44 much easier then the N, to
rejoin 43, an easy hike to TR50. Which I took the rest of
the way out of the wilderness. Water was found at San
Meteo(piped), Nave, and Myers Springs, flow in canyon after
Myers. TR 50 in Shipman can, was steep and vague, but
followable. I followed the Burma Rd, 377, to RD139. Great
views back to Vicks and San Mateo Mt, esp in Cañon de
Quirino. In all this added an extra 25+ onto the hike, not
including the 10 back to route up Mont Can., but I would say
worth the effort. I will elaborate more on water sources in
my final water report.


Water Canyon alternate:

This links up nicer with the trail in Segment 29, but is not
recommended until the trail along this alternate is
rehabilitated. Deadfall is currently severe for about a
mile. The main route also passes through some burn and
deadfall, but is far less difficult.

Sawmill Canyon alternate:

The main route on the southern end of Magdalena Ridge passes
through an area where a telescope array is under
construction (which, along with the nearby Very Large Array
will replace the ailing Hubble Telescope as world’s most
powerful). Forest Service says the ridge is entirely public
land, but NM Tech (the builders) seem to be touch-and-go
about public access near the sites. Trippin Ant and I have
each hiked by (on the road here), but not without first
explaining ourselves. For fewest hassles, use the
Sawmill Canyon alternate, which completely bypasses the
construction zone, along with its noise and dust. It’s
longer than the main route, and gains more elevation
overall, but is not as steep, has perennial water, and
oodles of quietude.

On the telescope construction zone, Ant writes:


As far as I could tell all the construction on the route is
complete, altough they are in he process of bulding another
telescope facility at the Langmuir end and have bult new
roads. There is a guard house at the jct south of Baldy,
the guard to me it was all right to walk through, just watch
out for trucks. I encountered a guy from NMTech, he seemed
to be in charge of the opperation. He told me I was really
not supposed to be in the area unless I worked there. I
told him what I was doing and he let me pass.


Rio Grande Highwater Bypass:

The river is sometimes unfordable, especially in spring.
When safe, the ford is the quickest, shortest way to
proceed. Otherwise, use the bypass, which heads south along
an aqueduct road in the bosque for 5 miles to a bridged
crossing, then follows 4WD to a rejoining of the main route
eastbound. Westbounders could either anticipate fording
conditions, opting in or out before reaching the river.
Otherwise they could apparently follow the main route to the
river, then walk south along its east bank to avoid the
ford, traveling cross-country perhaps. Trippin Ant did as
much last fall, when only a few weeks after my successful
ford he confronted a higher, swifter flow that proved
unmanageable – likely the result of autumn snowmelt runoff
from Colorado:


Despite my best effort to breeze through the I25 corrodor, I
have found my way into Socorro. The reason, I was unable to
ford the Rio. I made it to your ford yesterday midmorning.
The first thing I did was an attemted crossing without my
pack. You were right about the silty bottom, with the silt
I was up to my waist. Not a problem had the flow been
slack, unfortunaly in mid channel there was a nice 8knt rip.
The water was welling up chest hight. Worse, the sand
underfoot was scouring and I could not hold footing and took
a swim. I tried in several other spots up and down stream,
no luck, either faster or deeper.

Unable to cross, I proceeded down stream. I will elaborate
on that route later, I think it might be preferable to your
current high water bypass. After 13 extra miles I found
myself in Polvadera at nightfall, so into town for the
night. Off now to Magdalena.

Again thanks for the trail updates. The Socorro cab guy
remembered you, I guess he does not see many hikers.



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