Great Western Loop: Day 14-16: Mammoth to Safford
Day 14: Bypassing Aravaipa (28miles)
Leaving Mammoth before having breakfast at the Mexican restaurant I remembered from last year, wasn't an option. I therefore started the day with a "meat lovers skillet" to get some calories in for the challenging southern Aravaipa Valley bypass.
For most of the day I followed a dirt road and passed a few tanks, which were usually empty. After some 10miles Ieft the dirt road and followed a wash for some GET cross-country hiking and scrambling.
I enjoyed that section, which ended at a stinky spring, that I used to refill my water bottles. The dreaded and incredible steep Rug road, was now in front of me and would take me all the way to Turkey Creek Canyon. It was quite a rollercoaster of up's and down's.
By 6pm I had made it to Turkey Creek Canyon. Last year I turned north here, to hike through the Santa Theresa Mountains, this time I turned south, following Turkey Creek. Turkey Creek was supposed to have water, but here at the junction I couldn't find any. I grew a little bit concerned, but managed to find some pools just before pitching my tent.
Day 15: the Wall (36miles)
I followed Turkey Creek for several miles and really liked its impressive walls.
At 7am I already started climbing out of that valley and back down towards the tiny village of Klondyke, consisting out of a few farmhouses and a Ranger Station.
Yet again, I had to follow a 3mile dirt road to the Bufford Hill Alternate, which was locked off by a gate.
With Kyle's (landowner) permission I jumped the fence and soon got back to public land, following a wash in the scorching heat.
14miles later I was back at the Klondyke road, where Segment 9 of the GET officially started.
Segment 9 was just 10.8miles long, but challenged me with one of the toughest climbs so far. Roughly 1000ft (300m) cross-country, without any switchbacks, just straight up a mountain ridge.
It was about 5pm, when i started the 0.8mile climb, but it was important to me to get it out of the way, as I knew there would be an even tougher climb tomorrow.
Water was again a tricky thing to plan.
Last year I had run out of water for some 12hours on the mountain and I didn't want to relive this is experience. On the other side, carrying to much water on two climbs of more than 3000ft (1000m), would slow me down massively.
So I decided to carry some 3.5liters for the initial climb, the night and approximately 14miles to the next reliable water source at Riggs Lake.
Day 16: Into the clouds (27miles)
Day 16 started with a 3000ft (1000m) climb over 6miles to West Peak. I chose a dirt road instead of an overgrown footpath and spent 2hours climbing that beast.
Government Spring on top of that mountain was dry, as I had already expected and so I started rationing my water for the next 6miles to Riggs Lake. Here at 8700ft (2650m) it was pretty cold and windy and my water consumption rather low.
The trail dropped down some 1000ft (300m) after the first summit, just long enough to relax a little bit for the next uphill battle of yet another 1000ft (300m) to Clarks Peak.
This time around, I didn't encounter much snow here, there were just some occasional patches. I ate a little bit of it, to stay hydrated.
After just a few miles of real single track trail I joined a dirt road again, to circumvent an old burn area with massive erosion.
At noon I got to Riggs Lake and rested for an hour after these rough climbs. By the time I left Riggs Lake I was quite cold and wearing most of my cold weather layers and windbreakers.
I continued following that same dirt road for a few more hours, until I arrived at Shannon Campground at 5:20pm.
From last year I knew, that I would have to expect snow from here on. My idea was to leave the dirt road for 4.5miles and make it to the Arcacdia Campground, but something didn't feel right about pushing on.
I was already very tired and I knew those 4.5 miles would take me approximately 2hours, due to some difficult and overgrown terrain and that it would probably be dark before making it to camp.
Nevertheless I went to the trailhead, but than got approached by a car camper who told me about "the most terrible trail and snow ever". Upon hearing that I decided to call it the day and just pitch my tent.
Day 17: Roadwalk to Safford (25miles)
Well rested, I left early for those 4.5miles I skipped the day before.
I encountered a little bit of snow on the trail, but that was nothing compared to what I hiked through last year. Nevertheless that stretch was really annoying and slow going, as it was overgrown with thorny and spiky bushes. However, that part that I expected to be the worst, was actually much better due to some recent trail maintenance.
(Had to climb up next to that broken tree, but there was a rope installed)
After making it to Arcacdia Campground I followed the road down for some 18-20miles to Safford.
(Probably the longest road walk ever...)
At times I was really thinking about just hitching into town, but I knew that I would regret that later on.
It's these hardships that really contribute to the overall experience and I know that one day I'll be proud to say "I didn't give in, I maintained a continuous footprint and I hiked it all. Every. Single. Mile.".
So I put on some music and started singing on my way into Safford.
Upon reaching Safford I met an elderly couple that had seen me hours before on the mountain. We talked for a while, before I moved on to my motel, where I would spent the night. I got there at 2pm and spent the rest of the day with resupplying, buying new shoes and resting.