Here we descend into the flowing heart of the Sonoran desert. Aravaipa Canyon was formed much like the Grand Canyon, as the earth rose up a perenial water source carved its way through the layers of stone.  Its crystal clear water pushes up,  spilling out of the desert,runs through the canyon, and once it passes through the steep walls descends back below the desert sand. Uplift and erosion.

A lush green desert canyon landscape with leafy cottonwoods, yellow flowers and saguaro cactus.
Remnants of of ranches skirt the wilderness as the canyon tightens, and we descend. 
A huge saguaro cactus hangs improbably from a high cliff edge.  The photo is looking up the canyon walls towards a blue sky
An improbably perched Saguarro. 
Three round, white stones stacked on top of each other, sitting on a red-orange canyon wall.
A small gathering of stone on the canyon wall. 

Here I am going to interject a small psa about cairns. The beautiful little stack of white stones above is not a cairn, it is three small pebbles stached onto a canyon wall (not stacked my me). Cairns are trailmarkers, extremely important navigational tools in the wilderness, along riverbeds, in canyons and in the desert when other trail-marking systems are not possible. (such as tree blazes) If you are out hiking do NOT build cairns!  They can send people off trail, add to errosion and ecosystem damage by having more people go off-trail and even create dangerous situations for people trying to navigate rivers or canyons.

A man in plaid shirt and brown shorts stands in front of giant chockstone boulders blocking a canyon entrance
Its hard to imagine the power that brought these boulders to where they are now. We are so tiny. 
A closeup image of a black stone that was consumed by a tree, which then died and its textured wood remains, looking like a fingerprint.
Stones consumed by trees, enveloped for an eternity. 
Grey canyon cliffs reflected into a still pool of water, surrounded by blooming plants.
Perfect. Reflections. 
A small grey frog perfectly camouflaged with the rock it is hanging out on
More little friends we meet along the way. I LOVE Canyon Tree Frogs! (please correct me if im wrong on the species, im not an amphibian expert) 
The bark of a sycamore tree grown into a smile shaped knot.
All smiles in the canyon. 
Man walking through a narrow basalt canyon with small water filled pools running through.
Exploring side-canyons
Two trees with a maze of gnarled roots creeping along the grey stone and into a sandy pool of water in a canyon
Tree-beings dipping their toes in the crystal clear water. 
A slow canyon moring by the creek, breaking up our rhythm of pre-dawn mornings of the dry desert days. 
Woman wearing a large backpack hiking down a canyon creek, lined with cottonwood trees
It felt so good to cool our sore feet in the cool waters of the creek. 
Man in white shirt and hat stands, looking tiny below giant canyon cliffs, with a creek running in the foreground
Geology in action, while Kyle enjoys the perspective. 
A white house obscured by underbrush and sycamores in a canyon bottom
Slowly emerging out the other side of the canyon and back into the world of humans and their remnants. Turning a canyon corner and seing these remnants is a shock to the senses. (Though I'd take up resecdence there in a heartbeat if it were possible) 
A man with a walking stick and wearing a large backpack stands in the middle of a dirt road, lined by greenery and trees
The road leading away from paradise and back into the drylands. 

At 153 miles from our starting point we arrive in Klondyke, AZ.  Here Kyle sits on the front porch of the (closed) general store as we open the food-box we mailed to ourselves.  

An old white plaster general store with wooden front porch in the desert.
Kyle sitting in the shade of the Klondyke General Store.

I quite love the description from The Grand Enchantment trail guide about mailing boxes to the (closed) Klondyke Genral Store. This is the description from the website - PLEASE NOTE: Klondyke does not have a post office, but an unwritten agreement with store / lodge owners Beth and Dave Ringwald allowing GET’ers to ship a box to a metal storage freezer (unplugged) located behind the store. The continued availability of this option depends on our positive actions. With this in mind, the following address is for maildrop delivery only. Please limit shipments to one package per person. You MUST ensure that you or someone on your behalf picks up your package in a timely manner. Packages should not be left unclaimed for more than 2 weeks. So that you can best assure your commitment to picking up your Klondyke package, EASTBOUND LONG-DISTANCE HIKERS PLEASE CONSIDER mailing from your first trail town (i.e., Superior) rather than prior to starting your hike. Most unclaimed packages are from those who underestimated the trail’s difficulty and had to bail out prematurely (the first section from Phoenix to Superior is indicative of the trail’s overall level of difficulty). Don’t become a member of Klondyke’s Most Wanted - if you mail a package here, please pick it up! (By the same token, don’t mail your package too late, as delivery can be a bit slower than normal to this remote location.)

A man in plaid shirt and brown shorts stands in a desert landscape and points to the top of a mountain.
Topo maps checked, here's where we are headed. 
Once we made it up to the saddle. 

The two photos above give wonderful perspective. In the first one, Kyle's finger points right to the spot that we are headed, cross country, sans trail.  The second photo is rather self explanitory. It was a long steep way up the mountain with a heavy pack. This, however was not the end of the elevation gain for the day. Here we head into the Pinaleño mountains.

Two white mariposa lily flowers with three petals and yellow and orange centers
Arizona Mariposa Lily
Man in plaid shirt and brown pants wearing large backpack, hiking through the snow in the mountains
There was more snow than we anticipated. 
A panorama of photos taken from a pine covered, snowy mountaintop overlooking a valley
Following a snow-covered trail was nearly impossible, and I must admit that post-holing for hours was not the most fun we've ever had. (Little did we know this wouldnt be the last time we'd be doing that on this trip)
Woman looking at the camera, wearing a red and brown headband, standing in a snowy forest.
Great joy in struggle and discomfort.
A panoramic image of a snowy forest with a woman in hiking clothes and backpack standing on a snow-covered roaad
Trying to find a patch of flat, dry earth to pitch our tent for the night wasn't easy.

One of the miraculous things about the Southwest, is that one can walk from boiling hot desert to winter snowpack within a matter of hours. They call these mountains in the midst of the desert, Sky Islands.  Though they are connected by land instead of water, they might was well be in the middle of the ocean for how isolated they are from one mountain range to the next.  This creates marvelously unique ecosystems housing many endemic species.

This seems like a good place to discuss our footwear.  We hike in sandals.  At the time we hiked the GET our choice footwear were Chacos.  For snowy and wet weather we carried wool socks and waterproof neoprene socks to wear with the sandals.  This system worked quite well, the only major drawback being large ice clumps that woud form between the neoprene socks and sandal-footbed.  

Our night on top of the Pinaleños was cold and wet. We hiked until dark hoping to find a better place to pitch the tent.  The best we found was a small patch of soggy mud-gravel in the middle of the road near to where we would begin our descent in the morning.  

A wooden trailing and old rust metal remnants buried in snow
Trail sign in the snow marks the begining of our descent from the Pinaleños.

It took a minute in the morning to find the correct spot to begin our descent as all trails were buried with snow.  The first section of our descent had maybe the scariest moment of the entire journey. We picked our way carefully down the steep snow-filled gully, along side a raging snow-melt creek.  Being no strangers to bushwhacking through snow and ice (both of us grew up in the North), we were enjoying the beautiful descent and excited about our progress to warmer climes at low elevation once again.

At a particularly deep, dark and steep spot Jeannie began to slide atop the ice covered snow toward bouldery rapids of snow-melt.  Ten feet or so from the precipice she stuck her Saguaro rib walking stick into the snow to self-arrest, but the stick broke, quickly she stabbed the broken end into the snow again and came to a halt. Heart pounding, skin burning from the grating ice crystals. Aside from some close encounters with rattlesnakes, this was the only truly scary moment on our voyage.

A man wearing a large backpack stands in a narrow canyon next to a raging whitewater creek liked with pine trees and snow
Kyle following a small snippet of exposed trail, along the icy creek.
A wooden walking stick leans against the highly textured grey bark of a ponderosa pine
This is the remaining end of Jeannie's walking stick after it saved her from falling into the creek. Turns out the broken end was still a perfect length walking stick, though shorter than the original. 
A man wearing plaid shirt, white sun hat and brown shorts stands on a down log in the forest
Just a bit of downed timber along the trail. Kyle doing some log hopping. 
A close up image of a green, and yellow flowering plant with maroon spots on the inside of the petals
Im not sure who this fascinating flowering plant is, but its amazing. 
A mountain desert landscape with beargrass and mesquite in the foreground, puffy clouds in the sky.
Finally out of the snow, we look down into the valley toward Safford, AZ the first (and only) sizable town we'd be going through. 
A mountain landscape with snowy, pine covered peaks in the background, a dirt road lined with mesquite and cactus in the foreground.
Looking back to where we'd just come from, the high peaks of the Pinaleño Mountains.
A man in a white hat, looking very happy
The face of releif. Grateful to be warm and walking on flat land once again. 
A man stands in the middle of a dirt road in the desert with snowy mountains behind.
As the hours pass, so do the miles. The previous night was spent up in the snow of these high peaks. Kyle sports both of our walking sticks for this photo, his wizard staff and Jeannie's broken off life-saver. 
Again, and every time, aproaching the world of humans is always jarring. It is mind boggling how humans amass so much garbage. 

At 230 miles from our starting place, we arrived in Safford, AZ.  To this day, this is one of the only times we have ever gotten a hotel room while traveling the States.  It may have taken three showers to get off the grime. One night and two meals at the local diner and we were ready to hit the road again.

A man laying on a hotel bed with orange, red and green blanket, talking on the phone.
Kyle, sending his mom an update about our progress. 
A woman wearing many necklaces and bracelets photographing herself in the mirror of a hotel bathroom
Jeannie and her Olympus.

Safford is a cotton town.  The Gila river gives its remaining water to the fields of cotton filling the valley.  The walk from Safford, through the cottonfields and back into the wilderness was heartbreaking.  Rivers drained. Garbage piled.  We walk on.

a stroller, destroyed shelving and couch sit in the desert sand
Human detritus in the desert. 
dirty cotton on dusty ground
Remnants of cotton harvest
a yellow and rusty large machine in a cotton field
Old cotton harvesting machinery. 
a muddy river flows with swallows flying above, green bushes along the banks, snowy mountains in the background and puffy clouds overhead
Crossing the Gila River, surrounded by swallows. 

Here we cross the Gila River, looking back at the mighty Pinaleño Mountains and headed toward the Safford-Morenci trail.  The next section of our GET adventure will be coming soon.