latest map CD, plus trail conditions update

As promised, an updated version of the Topo Map Set CD (version 1.6) is now available. This is mostly for the benefit of fall ’09 hikers. Anyone else who owns the current version (1.5) probably doesn’t need to worry about updating at this time, as changes are fairly minimal overall, and an even newer version will likely come down the pike by the end of the year.

As always, existing map set owners may upgrade to the latest version for just the cost of postage.

The new CD will also include several additional maps that should hopefully allow fall hikers to walk around a current Forest Closure area without too much inconvenience. The Main Fire is burning near Albuquerque, west of the GET (segment 37) in the Kirtland Military Withdrawal land. Although the route isn’t directly threatened right now, and fire activity is minimal, the closure order – which affects all of the public and withdrawal land west of Hwy 337 – won’t expire until December 31, unless rescinded. My best guess, having spoken with the USFS info contact, is that it will eventually be rescinded, but possibly not until after fall hikers have come through. The additional maps included with the CD show a verified workaround – actually a former routing of the main GET – that remains on the east (open) side of the highway.

A number of fires are burning in the Gila National Forest right now, most of the creeping and smoldering variety. Of these, only the Moore Fire has been confirmed to have impacted the route, in this case in Tom Moore Canyon (segment 22). Although the fire remains active, however minimally, the trail remains open and there are no closure orders currently in place anywhere on the district. As well, the Diamond Fire has been burning through grass and understory for several weeks, and is reportedly now backing toward South Diamond Creek (segment 23). Although this fire is expected to remain active, it is considered to be under control and is being used for resource benefit. Again, there are no closures posted at this time. One other fire that may bear watching is the Turkey Fire, which I believe is burning west of the GET (segment 24 / Continental Divide) in Turkey Run. This one is being monitored by the nearby Lookout Mountain fire watch, and was likewise showing minimal behavior at last check.

Several recent lightning fires in the Mogollon Mountains (segment 20) – Whitewater and White / Cub – were reportedly extinguished by wetting rains last week. Neither directly impacted the route.

Refer to for the latest word on these fires, as well as anything else that might pop up in the coming weeks.

It’s proving to be a rather unimpressive monsoon season this summer. As it currently stands, Arizona looks to be in a less favorable position than New Mexico. If things continue on the same general track, and we move into the fall dry season as normal, then I suspect the GET will be “in drought” by the time thru-hikers reach the AZ border, though the effects may not be as pronounced until after the Pinalenos, due to the nature of water sources (more reliable rivers, creeks, springs, and stock sources east of there, with less reliable sources in the Santa Teresas and especially along the AZT corridor).

One theory about why the monsoon is off this year is that El Nino is making an early return, which could eventually be good news once the winter storm track moves in. Too early to say just yet.

Speaking of good news: ongoing, professional trail maintenance is planned for at least two areas of the route this fall. This is long overdue maintenance that should go a long way toward improving the overall trail experience, if not in time for fall ’09 hikers then hopefully by spring of next year. The Coronado NF dispersed recreation manager (roving trail crew leader) confirms that the upper half of Ash Creek Trail in the Pinalenos (segment 10) recently saw a crew. Work included rerouting the main trail in its middle miles onto the equestrian bypass and away from Slick Rock. Apparently they’ve removed what was left of the metal work holding up a sketchy section of trail in this area. As it turns out, the suggested GET route uses the equestrian bypass anyway, so hopefully the red line on the map set will continue to describe the best route through this area. In addition, the lower portion of Ash Creek Trail will see a crew in October. (The USFS contact mentioned also having a small budget for Clark Peak Trail (GET), but that they’d like to get Ash completed before starting on that. See the recent archives for more on Clark Peak Tr. conditions.)

In any case, those who’ve hiked Ash Creek Canyon would probably agree that the lower portion is in rough shape, with debris flows frequently burying most evidence of the tread in the drainage, and frequent nuisance blowdowns to contend with. The work crew will undoubtedly have a full plate this fall, but the canyon is beautiful and the trail an important link between the crest of the Pinalenos and Gila Valley. Rescuing it from the verge of oblivion is absolutely a worthwhile goal, and we wish them well.

Much-needed maintenance is also coming to the Apache Kid Trail (GET segments 28 & 29). The Cibola National Forest, Magdalena R.D. tells me that a Colorado-based corp will be working the upper portion of Water Canyon, on the north slopes of Blue Mountain. This part of the trail is currently an alternate route of the GET that had burned a while back and now features matchstick-style blowdowns that have all but obliterated the trail corridor. The main GET instead now uses Coffee Pot Canyon / Trail, which also enters the burn near Blue Mountain but with somewhat less severe blowdowns to contend with. Trail work on the alternate GET will take place sometime this fall, and *may* make the alternate a preferable route option, depending on how much progress is made. (Only cross-cut saws will be used due to the Wilderness designation, and there is a LOT of heavy, fire-hardened timber to cut through.) If this pans out, then hikers could remain on the Apache Kid Trail throughout, westbounders starting at Grassy Lookout and continuing all the way to Cyclone Saddle. Although the trail needs – and will eventually receive – maintenance throughout – the portion being targeted this fall remains the only genuine impasse to travel right now.

It seems we’re seeing an up-tick in funding being made available to land management agencies of late, and a renewed effort to cut through the backlog of deferred maintenance and construction projects. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is surely playing a role in some of this, as is broadly outlined here:

and click on Arizona and New Mexico in the table of contents to see what may be pertinent to the discussion here.


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