Great Western Loop: Day 18-20 (Superior to Mammoth)
Day 18: Superior to White Canyon
I was excited to leave Superior as I would soon reach my first milestone. Leaving the Arizona Trai for the new and adventurous Grand Enchantment Trail.
Due to the covid-19 situation I decided not to hitchhike back to the Picketpost Trailhead, but to hike through the scenic Arnett canyon back to the AZT. This added some 6miles to my day, but it was totally worth it.
That section was crowded with day hikers and overnight car campers who also mentioned several rattlesnake sightings.
Compared to the last few days, it was an easy hike on a nice and initially sunny day.
The trail was rather flat and I made good progress through this dry desert section.
After several hours on the shared AZT / GET section, the trails parted for the first time.
I decided to follow the slightly shorter, but more rugged GET alternative until it would reconnect with the AZT. Within minutes I had to start concentrating to actually follow the overgrown trail. Hiking became more difficult and thorn bushes were ripping my clothes and backpack apart. My only orientation were small rock cairns and my GPS data.
Leaving the beaten track and having a more cross-country like experience was really nice and a good start to get used to the Gaia App instead of Guthooks.
I hiked till 6:45pm and than pitched my tent close to the White Canyon and with some great views on the surrounding mountains.
Day 19: White Canyon to AZT Sobo mile 542 Wildlife Tank (31m)
The next day started with more awesome views, while hiking through a dry river wash that had been used by ATV's.
That wash lead all the way back to the AZT, close to the Gila river and some 12miles from the junction to Kearney.
The Gila river looked quite polluted and so I skipped filtering water until reaching the Gila River Trailhead around noon.
Being back on a shared AZT / GET section meant good progress and easy hiking again, even though the temperatures were hot and water sources limited.
After the Gila Trailhead the trail quickly climbed 2,000ft into the mountains.
(Copper mine in the background)
With temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius I expected to see some rattlesnakes, but I only encountered a harmless (probably Garter) snake. It still made me jump off trail, as I saw that beast very late.
The rest of the day remained uneventful and after a 0.5m detour to the Wildlife tank, I put my tent and enjoyed a nice sunset.
Day 20: Wildlife tank to Mammoth (36m)
A big day! Today I would leave the AZT for good. An important milestone that motivated me, but I still had some 20miles to hike until I would reach Putnam wash, where the AZT and GET would part. My plan was to get close to Mammoth and hike into town the next day.
The trail was very flat and I was going fast. Just after 11am I arrived at the Flatman road Trailhead, knowing that there would be a 20gallon water cache, which had just been stocked 2 days earlier. I refilled my bladders with that water and continued with a supply of roughly 1litre for the next 9 miles to the Beehive Spring in Putnam Wash.
A few days later I would learn that public servants had started emptying previously opened water-containers to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Tough call, as some hikers really depend on these caches.
The Beehive Spring offered fantastic water in a beautiful and scenic setting. I stopped here for a few minutes and celebrated reaching this milestone. Here I would leave the AZT and follow the Putnam Wash towards Mammoth, Az.
Leaving the AZT meant having much less reliable information on trail conditions and especially water sources. The GET is not an official trail, but a rugged route that requires much more navigational skills and planning than any other trail so far. I was excited and ready for that challenge, when I left the spring at 2:30pm.
Following the Putnam Wash was beautiful, but also tough as I had no protection from the sun. Luckily water wasn't an issue at all. The river bed almost looked like a road.
After following the wash for some 5miles I reached the South Camino Road which lead all the way into Mammoth. I had initially planned to camp along that dirt road, but due to the good progress in the early morning, I managed to hike another 9-10miles into town, making it a 36mile (57km) day.
I stayed at the only available motel in town, a run-down place build in 1952. Mammoth is a small town and the only resupply option was the local Dollar General. Another mile from the lodge. Despite all the miles I had hiked, I went there for my resupply and had quite some difficulties finding enough meals for the next section. Almost all noodle and rice dishes were sold out and the shelves completely empty.