Just a heads up to anyone interested: we’re currently adding chapters to the GET guidebook in advance of the fall hiking season.
The new material begins at Chapter 21 (West Fork Gila River). All of the new stuff is currently in draft form, meaning that we haven’t yet delved into the reams of hiking voice notes from over the years and are working by “foot memory.” (This isn’t a reflection of any particular brain power but more of a warning to anyone thinking of spending too much time hiking any one long-distance trail!) In any case, the idea is to get as much basic info out into the ether as quickly as possible, so it can hopefully do some good beyond what the map CD alone could offer.
Here’s an example of what’s new, actually one of the more complete entries among the recent batch:
CHAPTER 27: MONTICELLO BOX
Monticello Canyon is truly one of southwest New Mexico’s hidden gems. Flanked by colorful rock formations, rugged cliffs, and occasional narrows, a ribbon of verdant splendor unfolds through the heart of an arid grassland. Sustained by the year-round flow of Alamosa Creek, this nearly 20 mile long riparian corridor is home to the familiar Fremont cottonwood, the common assemblages of willows and ashes found elsewhere along the trail. The chatter of songbirds fills the air on spring and summer mornings, while birds of prey watch cautiously from leafy roosts, or indolently, high overhead. Yet despite such obvious similarities with other desert-bounded creeks, much about Monticello Canyon feels unique as well; this place would not be mistaken for Aravaipa Canyon, the Blue River, or Eagle Creek. At an elevation of 6000 feet, Monticello Canyon is unmistakably a high valley, much higher than its counterparts to the west. The surrounding landscape is distinctly New Mexican: austere, the scene contemplative, the terrain self-evident yet somehow unknowable, full of mystery. And a riparian community of this nature and extent, set against this high desert backdrop, is a rare thing indeed. Javelina roam this canyon at the very limit of their geographic range. Large herds of mule deer are often seen, while the smaller coeus variety of Arizona is not. And nowhere along those distant canyons to the west are Rocky Mountain elk as at home – if home at all – as here.
Monticello Canyon is unique in other ways. Scattered ranches and homesteads – the canyon was named by pioneering Irish settlers – dot the valley in its broader expanses, as they have for generations. A dirt track threads the canyon, tumbling back and forth along the nourishing creek. This is a landscape whose natural and human histories still coexist in harmony, each somehow complementing rather than competing with the other, a place little influenced by the outside world, so far removed and unseen as even now it remains.
The canyon’s creek is artesian, born of a cluster of springs that surface just above the canyon. These perennial waters, including Ojo Caliente – “warm spring” – made the area a favorite of the ancestral Apaches, including Chief Victorio and even Geronimo. During the Apache wars of the 1870’s the area tribes were moved here by the US Army. Yet with white settlers increasingly drawn to the region, the Warm Spring reservation never flourished, and the tribes were eventually relocated to the larger San Carlos reservation in Arizona. Today the only evidence of the old Warm Spring reservation, once occupied by some 3000 souls, are the remnants of a few adobe walls, crumbling and all but forgotten.
This segment of the Grand Enchantment Trail also serves as a linkage between the vast Gila National Forest to the west and the scattered, island-like districts of the Cibola National Forest to the east. The route first descends out across rolling foothills at the edge of the Black Range, where pronghorn antelope are often spotted along grassy hillsides dotted with soaptree yucca. Easy cruising along lonely dirt roads leads to a few sections of cross-country travel in open terrain, and navigation remains relatively straightforward. The route enters the old reservation boundary and crosses NM Highway 52 within sight of Monticello Box, the dramatic, and seemingly improbable, cliff-bound entrance to the water-blessed canyon beyond. Hikers with a maildrop waiting in Winston can try their luck hitchhiking via the sparsely-travelled dirt highway, while those who’ve sent supplies to Monticello first continue along the GET through Monticello Canyon. (See the Town Guide for more about the pros and cons of resupplying in either town, and why it’s a good idea for thru-hikers not to forego a maildrop altogether.)
Alamosa Creek is most often an easy, gentle slosh, no more than calf deep. Flood events can occur following heavy summer storms, when hikers would be well advised to keep a backup plan, but the high water tends to subside fairly quickly. A primitive dirt road in Monticello Canyon fords the creek repeatedly, such that wet feet are unavoidable (eastbounder thru-hikers are old pros at this by now), yet little about the experience here suggests a slow-go challenge, at least on foot. (Passenger cars, however, do occasionally get stuck in the sand, apparently lured in by the legal, county road designation.)
Six miles down the creek the main GET exits Monticello Canyon and climbs via 4WD road toward segment’s end at the edge of the San Mateo Mountains. Hikers intending to resupply in Monticello would instead continue down the canyon via the Monticello Canyon Alternate Route. They can then return to the main GET in this segment by following the Burma Road Alternate Route, or can use this alternate to reach the San Mateo Peak Alternate in Segment 28. The Monticello and Burma alternates together form a scenic 31 mile loop that avoids the need to backtrack after visiting town, and this will hopefully make Monticello a more appealing resupply option, so useful to hikers as it is given the remote nature of this country.
Because Monticello Canyon is mostly private land, camping is not allowed along its length, nor within the old reservation boundary to its north. As such, the distance between public land camping opportunities in this segment is about 11 miles. See the route details at the link below for more info.