With each long distance trail that I hike, I find that I become more enchanted with the profound effect that each of them has upon my soul. It is because of this that I have learned to hold no expectations of any hike before I actually embark upon the path, knowing that each of them will hold their own wonders for me to discover.
So as we departed the Phoenix area I was excited to see what we would encounter in this magical southwest landscape. The Grand Enchantment Trail did a spectacular job of taking us through all kinds of hidden gems and ever changing landscape. As I look back through the pictures I am amazed to see just how different each region and sometimes each drainage was from the last.
Flora & Fauna
The plants and animals along the Grand Enchantment Trail were spectacular! As one would expect for the spring, everything was bursting forth with great energy to celebrate the birthing of a new season.
What an amazing experience it was to see 3 Gila Monsters within our first couple of weeks on the trail. They carry a powerful presence with them, and you know immediately that they demand a buffer of respect. When we would push it a little too far into their personal bubble we would get a hiss of disapproval. Other wise they simply kept an eye on us while they moved to a slightly more concealed location than the open trail.
All kinds of animals graced our trip; lizards, snakes, countless birds of all kinds, elk, antelope, fish, frogs, cows, horses, and likely many other things that are escaping my memory right now. I especially like discovering the little unexpected and unknown surprises like this caterpillar who carried his home with him. It looked like a particularly laborious way of carrying a safety shell around with you, but he seemed to think it was worth it. I touched one of the little pieces of plant matter sticking off his home and instantaneously he retreated within the protection of his cocoon.
I have to admit I was hoping to be fully immersed in a thick spring bloom in the desert. We were just a little to early to have a chance at that. Many cacti and plants were starting to bud up, but weren't quite ready to start their full show. But we were able to see many plants blooming on a small scale, and even happened upon a few places like this one with a grand show of Poppies. It is always magical to see a whole hillside painted in a single color.
I was beyond excited we were graced with the blooms of several Claret Cup Cacti in our last 2 miles of our hike. After hopefully watching buds form for most of our hike, I was finally treated to a beautiful show of brilliant red color just as the sun was setting and we took our last steps along the Grand Enchantment Trail.
The Sun Sets Within the Soul
Words and images simply can not convey the beauty that we witnessed along this hike. We often say to each other "How long does it take to truly absorb this scenery? We could stay here for hours, days or weeks, and even then would we truly absorb the essence and beauty of what we are looking at?" And so as one does with long distance hiking, we will stop and enjoy a spectacular view, but more often we simply absorb and become that view as we hike through the landscape.
The Sun sets and rises within our souls. In this way we carry every beautiful view or scene that we have experienced along our journey's. The pictures help to bring those memories to the surface from time to time as the years drift between each hike, but there are many moments that live like a hologram within my mind that I can return to at any moment.
The Hard Spots Become Your Castles
While the internet has made preparing for a long distance hike easier than ever in recent years, I have learned to take everything with a grain of salt when reading other peoples reviews and perspectives about a specific hike. Everyone's experience on a trail is an incredibly relative experience, and what may seem overly difficult to one person will be an enjoyable challenge to another. So I encourage others to carry this wisdom with them when ever preparing for a long distance hike: Every trail will be different than the last, so don't carry any expectations with you based on your last adventure, and remember that this hike will be what ever you make of it. Find the beauty along the way, and regardless of the terrain or conditions you will find that each and every hike will completely Enchant you!
As with any aspect of life, it is all about turning your hard spots into castles. When you find yourself going through something that makes you question why you are doing it, take a moment to step back and remember that you can chisel that rough spot into what ever you want it to be. With each rock that you chisel out, you will have yourself a grand castle before you know it!
There were points along the Grand Enchantment Trail that pushed me, stretching my body in ways that remind me in no uncertain terms of my weaker points. It was nothing I had not gone through before, but as always it reminded me just how powerful I am! Walking through the West Fork of the Gila River in the early morning hours with freezing temperatures was one of the moments that forced me to fully inhabit my body feeling every ounce of pain, pushing my body to warm itself from the core in conditions that it was protesting. But even within those moments I knew that once I came out the other side of that experience it would be a memory that would live with me always, reminding me that I can accomplish anything I put my mind and energy towards.
Our Ancestors Walk With Us
One of the great wonders in the southwest is the history that you are able to see and touch. I love to witness the places our ancestors used to live, and be able to see even a piece of the life they used to lead. I know these sites have been heavily influenced by modern mans imprint, but I feel like I can feel the wisdom of those who came before us pulsing in the landscape around us. There are many of these ruins and sites along the Grand Enchantment Trail, adding to the magical feeling of the hike.
Our Journey Never Ends
So we have reached the end of another long distance trail; happy, tan, and definitely Enchanted. We have another 770 miles beneath our feet, and another cross section of this beautiful Earth within our hearts.
Now we are preparing to drive north to Minnesota where we will store our car at a friends house, and we will be starting the 1,200 mile Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin. Neither of us have been to the Mid West before, and we look forward to a whole new kind of adventure!
Follow along as I share highlights of the adventures that bring me such joy in life, and the wisdom they have imbued into my being.
Would you like to become part of my next adventure by being a sponsor? Learn more here