I've recently discovered the Grand Enchantment Trail (G.E.T.). In short, it's a hiking/backpacking route leading from Phoenix, AZ to Albuquerque, NM. It's roughly 730 miles long. I was immediately enamored of it but I have never been under any illusions that I could do the whole route. I do, however, want to do a section of the route someday....Someday like next May perhaps.
Yesterday jmattax and I wondered off into the Magdalena Mts to start investigating the trails out there in general and to see if we could find some good spots for weekend backpacking trips. We certainly achieved that, but we also achieved a more important thing: A Reality Check.
What instigated the day-hike investigation of the trails up there was a camping trip my wife and I went on the previous weekend. We hiked a ways down the 6-mile canyon trail, but despaired of ever finding a flat spot to actually camp at. Eventually we decided to cut our losses and ended up camping at a sub-par but alright spot about 15 min. from the trail head. Hardly ideal for getting away from the road and other people.
Jason and I decided to hike other trails before trying to backpack on them to see if there was anything worth camping on down there. Yesterday morning we headed off up Timber Peak Trail No. 70. I picked this trail in particular because I suspected that it was part of the G.E.T.. For all the women out there, I can now confirm that hiking in a wool skirt is preferable to not having your legs covered...at least while it's snowing. That's right, a skirt. You heard me!
The morning started out with rain at my house. Driving up to the mountains, the rain wasn't really going away. Once we reached the trail head, it was more like snowing than raining. Did I mention I was wearing shorts? After a very brief trial period where I confirmed that the shorts idea sucked, I improvised a long wool skirt made of a blanket in Jason's car and his belt. We hiked roughly 7 miles with me in a skirt and Jason pulling up his pants every couple minutes. Priceless.
It did however work great. We had fog with us the entire hike pretty much, but even so there were a lot of amazing views on this trail. It's a ridge hike which takes you through fairly dense forest areas and up past the tree line a few times and back down into the forest.... The transitions are wonderful. Even more amazing of a view though is when you could occasionally see through the fog off to the west. You look over a canyon and over the next ridge of the Magdalena Mts....out into nothing! There's a sharp drop and past that there's nothing but desert. You have a very real feeling of being on an island of mountain in a sea of sand. That view alone is working hiking 7 miles in a skirt.
In the distance we hiked out, we found 1 probable place we could camp that was very nice and a 2nd place further along that we could definitely camp at. We could bring as many people as we want with us and not have to worry about running out of room for them. Jason has pictures of all of this.
The aforementioned important lesson learned from this hike is that we're no where near in the shape we need to be in to do the 12-mile a day hiking trip that I was toying with trying in the spring. We were both pretty exhausted after our 7 mile hike. I could have probably done 10 miles in better weather. However, I was only carrying about 10-15 lbs of water and food (and wool skirt), not my full backpacking gear, and the elevation change from the lowest to highest points on this trail was less than 400 feet.
In short, there's probably no way I could manage a 12 mile hike in a day carrying 40-50 lbs on trails that will likely gain and/or loose over a thousand (if not 2 thousand) feet over that 12 miles. We will likely have to cut the distance I was thinking of hiking on the G.E.T. down by half and do it in the same amount of time (a week).
It was a very productive and useful hike.