SWH – Stage 11 – Magdalena to Albuquerque (GET)

Distance:  158 miles (254.3 km)

Start:  Magdalena, NM

Finish:  Albuquerque, NM

Time:  5 days (April 25 to 29, 2012)

Daily Average:  31.6 miles (50.8 km)

Total Distance:  1,782 miles (2,867.2 km)

Highlights:

  • San Lorenzo Canyon: Picturesque, colourful, sandstone canyon, dotted with hoodoos, caves and a really cool slot.
  • Blowin’ in the Wind:  I slept through one of the windiest nights of the entire hike during this section. Camped in a relatively sheltered area with the MLD Poncho pitched in uber-aerodynamic mode (A-Frame/back end pegged almost to the ground/front entrance about 70 cm in height) , I was actually quite cozy as the elements roared all around me. Click here for information and instructional videos on different tarp configurations.
  • Sandia Crest: Impressive views and a cable car ride (I bypassed the final walk down to the base) provided a fitting climax to what had been an amazing two months.

Lowlights:

  • Camera:  On Christmas day last year, whilst hiking the Florida Trail, I dropped my camera in a stream. Fortunately it was in its case. Not so fortunately, the case wasn’t entirely sealed. At the time, I thought ” #!*#, my camera’s a goner.” But in a miracle rivalling the one on 34th street, my camera came back to life the following day. Unfortunately, it has never been quite the same, and without rhyme or reason goes through periods where it just refuses to function. It’s almost like its developed a personality of its own. A bipolar one at that. I endured two or three of these “camera strikes” during the SWH. May be time to buy a new one.
  • As far as I’m concerned, there really aren’t many negatives associated with the GET. My hat’s off to Brett Tucker, the guy who created the route, for putting together a wonderful hike.

Notes & Musings:

  • GET vs AZT vs Hayduke: Various hikers have asked me about the similarities and differences between the three trails/routes which constitute the Southwestern Horseshoe. Here are a few points which come to mind:
    1. Water: The H2O situation on the AZT and GET is far better than on the Hayduke Trail. Indeed, Utah may well be the number one contender for “cow poo capital of the world.” Texas beware!
    2. Wildlife: The GET gets my vote. Bear, elk, deer, bobcat, javalinas and even a bum’s eye view of a mountain lion. The AZT is runner-up, with the Hayduke once again bringing up the rear.
    3. Jaw-dropping Vistas: Although the AZT and GET pass through some undeniably beautiful areas, neither one comes close to the Hayduke in terms of the sheer quantity of magical vistas. Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce, The Wave and the Grand Canyon all rate amongst the world’s great natural wonders. The catch is you often need to take side trips in order to see the most spectacular parts.
    4. Difficulty:  The Hayduke is the most difficult of the three, followed by the GET and the Arizona Trail.
    5. Trail Towns: For hikers who enjoy regular town stops with all the trimmings, the AZT is the pick of the three. The GET is next and the Hayduke comes in a distant third.

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