G.E.T.- Grand Enchantment Trail, Seg. 10

G.E.T.- Grand Enchantment Trail, Seg. 10, July 18th-23rd, 2010 Connie, Judy and Sirena did this hike from July 18-21-2010.  The Grand Enchantment Trail really lived up to its name on this one!  We haven’t had such an exciting backpacking trip in a long time! 

7-18-2010:  The shuttling for this trip was quite confusing trying to meet up with Steve from Bonita, AZ, getting our vehicles in place on each side of the Penalinos Mountain and then to the top before dark.  We camped at the last campsite just past Riggs Lake at the top of the mountain that had a bear proof trash bin, pit toilets and picnic tables.  Steve stayed with us while we used his headlights to put up our tents.  Thank you so much, Steve! 7-19-2010:  Woke to dynamite views over looking Pima Indian Reservation and Safford.  We started out on the Clark Peak Trail heading for West Peak Lookout Tower where Steve has cached 5 gallons of water for us.  This section took much longer than expected.  Blisterfoot, had written on the map, “not noted” and not knowing what that meant we continued hiking on a beautifully maintained trail with cairns only to find out that between way-point ***10160-10140*** there is no trail or cairns.  Our GPS said we were on the Hurricane Ridge Trail, neither the maps nor Blisterfoot mentioned this trail.  While taking way too much time and trying to find the trail we encountered cliffs with steep drop-offs and walls of Mexican Thorn Locus.  We could see why this area has a high concentration of bears with all the blackberries and raspberries, but still, no trail.  Storm clouds, thunder and lightning were getting closer and was really making us nervous being on this ridge in the open.  **Note** At way-point 10120, if you still can’t find the trail, bushwhack west 200’ and you will hit the old road.            We made camp on the only flat spot we could find: on the gated road leading to the Lookout Tower.  Finding the cache of water we knew we were in for a comfortable night.  Suddenly, out of the blue, a strange wall of smoke or a cloud rose up behind the hill.  We looked on in amazement staring and sniffing thinking the other side of the mountain may be on fire.  We couldn’t smell anything but soon with thunder and lightning, this huge cloud, full of mist, shot over top the mountain with hurricane force winds!  We were so fortunate we were on this side of the hill and not the other, we would have been thrown off the mountain!  When it was all over we discussed how exciting our evening had been and admired God’s hand at work creating a beautiful sunset! 7-20-2010:  As much as we wanted to do Johns Canyon Ridge it will have to wait for another time.  We took the alternate route that was beautiful but the most wildlife we saw was a dead rattlesnake and a perfect bear footprint.  We know they are in there but we never saw one.  Finding Serina’s car was easy and we helped her with some unusual snacks, olives and dehydrated Saguaro fruit that was excellent!  Must try making some next year.  Getting back to the top of the mountain meant driving through Safford again. Yippee!  We can stop at Los Jibertos again for fish tacos and burros!          We camped at Peters Flat for the night.  Terrific spot, no facilities but nice fire ring and campsite with “to die for” sunset and beautiful views to the south. 7-21-2010:  As we were getting our packs on we watched with anxious anticipation the sky develop into what looked like a bad storm so again we took the alternate route and skipped Webb Peak and headed to Ash Creek Trail.  What an unexpected surprise!  We never knew there was a rain forest in Arizona!  This was the lushest vegetation Judy has been in since the Olympic National Park in Washington.  Connie’s favorite flower, the Columbine was everywhere along with wildflowers galore! Everywhere we looked turned into “Ah”!  As we approached the Y in the trail to go to Slide Rock a rain, hail, thunder and lightning storm hit us hard.  We had a brief conversation with a solo hiker that didn’t appear to have much in the area of protection from the storm.  He decided to take the low trail even though it was raining hard.  The storm lasted about 45 minutes and dropped about 15 degrees.  Within 15 minutes we had all our raingear, umbrella, and emergency blanket on trying to stay warm.  As everything was so wet we decided to take the high trail which proved to be the best decision.  We encountered our solo hiker as we got close to Slide Rock.  He said we had made the best decision because he had to bushwhack quite a bit and was miserable in the rain.  Hiking in about ¼ of a mile we could get really close to the mouth of Slide Rock.  What a view of God’s creation!  Not a good idea to slide down this one as not far from the bottom is Ash Creek Falls.  I think it drops 300’.  Further down the trail we wanted to get a better view of the Falls but seemed too slippery with the trail being so slippery.           We made camp at a lovely area called Oak Flat which had a huge fire ring but no need as it started raining about 8pm.  The Pinnacles, to the east, had lovely shadows as the sun went down and Night Shade flowers entertained us through the evening. 7-22-2010:  A Vole or Mole was our entertainment this morning.  He would go into his hole and come back out with dirt on his face.  It didn’t seem like he could see us even though we were standing right by his hole taking his picture.            The day was beautiful!  We could see it raining in the higher elevations but missed us as we hiked.  The trail was one of the most beautiful ones we have done.  There was waterfall after waterfall, lush forest, greenery, and flowers in all directions! The last 2 miles was open terrain and more of a hot desert landscape.  We could see a storm coming down the mountain behind us but we were able to get to the Jeep before it hit us.            One last trek up the 35 miles to the top of Mount Graham (in a rainstorm) to take Sirena to her jeep.  It was like a fairytale storybook ride.  Nature is so amazing!            It was hard for Sirena to leave this area because of all the beauty.  Judy and Connie were able to stay one more night to try their skills at fishing Riggs Lake. (Nice campsites with pit bathrooms and nice access to the lake). No luck but a super time with the beauty of the lake, great fire, and a bottle of homemade wine that Connie’s husband had made.  It doesn’t get any better than this.  A perfect week! This is a trip to do again!              

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