Funny enough, we decided that down the Hermit, camp one night, back up the Hermit would be the final training hike for our Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (SK-NK-BA) later in the month.
The initial descent takes you pretty quickly through the first few layers of the canyon (it doesn't go so quickly on the way out). Views open up almost right away into Hermit Creek Canyon. I really enjoyed walking over the sections of hand-laid cobble in the Coconino, imagining all the hours of labor that went into it. After passing the intersections with the Waldron and Dripping Springs trails, we came to the shade structure at Santa Maria Spring. The trough was full to overflowing, with a steady stream coming from the pipe - an unexpected surprise. After several rockslides and switchbacks (common themes on this trail), we reached Lookout Point and then Breezy Point, both amazing potential photo spots. Next comes a short but steep trek down the Cathedral Stairs, from where you can see the Hermit Trail all the way down to the intersection with the Tonto Trail. A long traverse beneath Cope Butte and some more switchbacks finally brought us to the intersection with the Tonto. Hoping for a good camp site, we hurried along the Tonto. We didn't really need to hurry, as there was only one other group staying the night - perhaps the threat of rain scared people off? We explored a bit and enjoyed a dinner of peanut noodles with shrimp (cleaned and pre-cooked, stored frozen in the middle of my pack).
Since much of the trail is so exposed, we decided to start the hike out well before sunrise. The weather was on our side, though, and it was completely overcast the entire hike and even snowed on the way up. We reached the trailhead pretty tired but very excited for our upcoming R2R2R. Two teenage boys even offered us some fresh carrot sticks at the trailhead - perfect!
This was a fun trail away from the south rim crowds, with a bit of minor route-finding required over the rock slides after Lookout Point. Unfortunately, I learned that my husband is a terrible route-finder, as he nearly lead us to our doom following imaginary cairns. Eventually, I pointed out that there was a party hiking along about 100 vertical feet straight above us. A heart-pounding scramble over loose slopes returned us to the trail, and I lead after that.
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