So we’ve managed to squeeze in a mini adventure. In planning for the Grand Enchantment Trail we had to obtain a permit to traverse Aravaipa Canyon. These permits are hard to get especially this time of year. In doing so , we had purchased and reserved two dates, this past Monday (April 24th) and Thursday (April 27th). It is a 12 mile traverse with limited permits (50 total) per day, and we were not sure exactly when we would arrive at the West entrance. Much to my surprise, I had purchased permits to enter from the East Trail head. This explains why it was so easy less than a month out. The West Trailhead is fairly easy to get to, accessible by 2WD and relatively close to Phoenix and Tucson. At this entrance they issue 30 permits/day. The East Trail head is a completely different story! The East Trail head is allotted 20 permit/day for those brave and adventurous souls with plenty of time on their hands…and a good 4WD vehicle. Thus said, we clearly fit the bill for the East entrance. Our plan was to thru-hike the 12.8 miles of Aravaipa Canyon, from east to west, camp at the campsite by the Brandenburg Ranger station, and then spend the next two days walking one of the alternate routes listed by Brett Tucker on the GET FaceBook page. We did however call “Heidi” the Ranger for the Aravaipa Canyon to see if there were any “easier” routes back to our vehicle on the East end, and/or if she knew of any cancellations for Wednesday or Friday, in hopes of just doing a yo-yo (up and back the same way) of the canyon. Unfortunately we were out of luck. She, however, told us that we should check the recreation.gov website again to see if something opened up. The bad thing is that unless someone actually goes back into the Recreation.gov site and cancels their reservation or calls “Heidi”, or the BLM station for that area directly, they would never know if people decided not to use their permit and “ate” the fee as you have to cancel two weeks in advance to receive a refund. Being conscientious people, we made sure to cancel our Monday reservation as soon as we were sure we wouldn’t be able to get out there by that date, which by that time, of course, was not within the 2 week period. So out to Arizona we drive Tuesday afternoon. Our plan was to get as far as we could toward Safford, where the BLM HQ was in order to get some better maps for our trek back to our car (from the West entrance)…and to get a better ideaof what the water situation would be for said trek. We made it as far as Gila Bend, AZ and stopped at Sophia’s Mexican Resturant. It is a non-descript building just off the 8 interstate hwy, a place that only “locals” would gravitate to. When we arrived it was full of “locals”, so we knew we were in the right place and the food had to be good. Paul had a burrito and I had carne asada soft tacos with a tamale. We were not disappointed . As we were adjacent to BLM land, our thought was to take a side road and set up our camper and “homestead” for the evening, then we thought better of it, considering it was pitch dark, and frankly we were in Maricopa County close to the border. As luck would have it, there was a KOA in Gila Bend 2 miles from where we were. Our better judgement won out over adventure.
The next morning after an okay night’s sleep (it seems that every KOA we stay is located near freight train tracks), and a hot shower, off to Safford we headed. We made it to Safford in the early afternoon and spoke with “George” at the BLM Office. She had limited knowledge of the route wanted to take, but was able to find the appropriate maps and more importantly was able to rustle up an authority on the area. After a long discussion of our intended return route (doubtful of water) and the fact that (for us) the navigation would be a little dicey, but doable, we were given permission to Yo-yo the Aravaipa canyon, even though all permits had been reserved for that Friday, and that we essentially had already paid for the additional day in the Canyon. After a stop at the local supermarket (Thriftee Food & Drug) for ice and a few vittles for dinner, we were off to the East entrance.
Nearly 3 hours later over mostly graded dirt road (70.1 miles to be exact) and a stop at the Salazar Family Church (an adobe building, that is a functioning Catholic Church) we made it to the East Trail Head, where a sign said we could drive to and camp at Turkey Creek on BLM land (1.5 miles away). This last 1.5 miles definitely required 4WD. We parked at the trail head and set up camp. With an hour or so of daylight left we took an impromptu hike down Turkey Creek (that was essentially dry) following a 4WD dirt road with several fairly good size campsites lining the route. We passed by one site that looked like the occupants had moved in and had no intention of leaving for quite some time. Back at our camper we readied for our next morning’s foray into the Canyon proper.
This is essentially what our 3 hour drive looked like.
**More to come, next week, but first a girl’s ski trip to Mammoth #ForceOfNature #Springskiing