Thursday, February 19, 2009

Occasional Trails: Enchantment In A Grand Way

  • Name : Grand Enchantment Trail
  • Location : Arizona and New Mexico
  • Length : 730 miles
  • Best season : Spring or fall
  • Features : A well-watered, almost unknown and unused desert and mountain trail connecting Phoenix, AZ and Albuquerque, NM
  • Permits : Not needed except for the Aravaipa Canyon wilderness area in Arizona
  • Info at : Simblissity Ultralight

Ever thought about creating a new trail? Would you
  1. Choose the best scenery and force it to work?
  2. Pick two borders and connect them, somehow?
  3. Beg government agencies, for decades?
  4. Spend millions on plans, surveys, staff, and digging?
Or copy Brett Tucker?

He created a trail. Everything was in place, waiting for an idea, and Tucker provided it. In 2003 he began scheming, poring over maps, making calls, walking, and thinking. The result is G.E.T., the Grand Enchantment Trail.

So what's it like?

Tucker calls the G.E.T. "a loose assemblage", combining trails, riverside paths, canyon walks, short cross-country hops, and primitive roads. It is distinctly unlike the usual dedicated single track, with few campgrounds and no shelters, no trail angels, or true believers either.

Tucker says "the Grand Enchantment Trail is not for those in search of an encore to their last long hike on a well-established National Scenic Trail. In terms of character and challenges, the route most resembles New Mexico's Continental Divide Trail or the Arizona Trail - trails which the G.E.T. itself uses in part - but it is also a distinct experience."

The Grand Enchantment Trail hugs creeks or rivers for 90 miles, has over 170 water sources and 12 resupply points, shuns any contact with pavement for 217 miles, intersects with 14 mountain ranges, ascends from 1750 feet to 10,783 feet, visits both the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, covers 460 desert miles along with 250 forested miles, and owns not one mile of its own trail tread.

Its hallmarks are convenient access at each end while ensuring scenery, solitude, diverse geography, closeness to flora and fauna, easy water, and handy resupply in between. Because it began as a unique idea and needs no bureaucrats (or even volunteers), the Grand Enchantment Trail has no brand identity, no crowds, no "paternalistic rules and regulations". It is fuss free.

Gear needs are minimal. Temperatures in season are moderate, but nights are cool, so hikers need warm bags. A light tarp is fine, with a ground sheet and netting to defeat small nighttime creepers.

Though the occasional snake or scorpion wanders by, thorns, burrs, and stickers are likely to be more trouble. In the mountains bears and cougars are common but unused to people, so food hanging is optional. Even mice are scarce away from camp sites and water. Too much water, as spring runoff or lingering snow, is the main hazard, but varies by year.

Not all resupply stops are on trail, but each has at least a post office, and most have more. Maybe even a motel, hardware store, library, laundromat, medical facility, Forest Service or BLM office. Only four lack ATMs.

Well done, Mr. Tucker. Well done.


Brett "Blisterfree" Tucker's trail journal
Brett Tucker's photos
The Grand Enchantment Trail Guidebook
Yahoo Grand Enchantment Trail group