Well I had plans to do the Mt'eers route on Mt. Whitney this week but when everyone back out on me I still had the week off and didn't want it to go to waste. So after consulting with Hank a bit about which trails I should, we came up with the Boucher - Tonto - Hermit Loop. All in all it's about 25 miles or so. So I called to see if there would be any permits left for the route and was off the next morning at 4:30 am to the Grand Canyon. Was making great time till I got the speeding Ticket on 64...oops. Not the way I wanted to start the trip. So I got there about 7:30 and had breakfast at the B.A. lodge then a quick trip to the backcountry office for the permit. Where I got yelled at for getting a late start. Come on it's 8:05, you only opened at 8:00 am. So I was on the trail about 8:45 headed down the Hermit till it branches with the Boucher trail.
The trail to Yuma point is good and I enjoyed a nice lunch on top there and changed my socks. After Yuma is when it starts to get really interesting. The first 100 feet or so has some steep rocky stichbacks but after that I don't know if I lost the trail or what but it was a bit hard to follow. I could see where I needed to get to below Whites Butte but didn't think I was on a trail most of the way. A cairn here or there to get me hopes up for a minute, but I think that was just a lost person marking there own trail. A few spots I would get up to high and have to backtrack to drop down a level. So after a few hours (it felt like) I finally made it over to Whites Butte. If I had more time I would have liked to try to find a way to climb it but I knew I didn't really have the time nor energy and water to play around.
After Whites Butte the trail drops sharply again but these steep rocky switchbacks were at least pretty easy to follow this time. I could finally get a very of Boucher Creek too which was a nice boost. Somewhere around here I ran out of water but I knew I was near so I wasn't at all worried about it. I was pretty hydrated when I started too. Once I made it to the creek, I just wanted to make it to the rive to set up camp. I think it's another mile or so to the river.
While walking along the creek I ran into two guys (Randy and Greg) who were out exploring. I asked them where they came from and they said the "river". I was a little stunned but then found they were with a river party that was camped down there. They invited me over to their camp and introduced me to everyone. Tom and Erica were the head people in charge from Arizona River Runners. Both were extremely friendly and told me to help myself to anything they had. They were both hikers also and were familiar with my route too. Somehow I missed the junction with the Tonto so I was wondering where that was at too. I guess I was pretty tired on the way down because it was pretty visible the next day. After some porkchops, bean, coleslaw, cheese and crackers and a few beers it was time for bed.
It was the first night for me testing out the new tarptent. It got pretty windy that night and sand was blowing right inside like there was nothing stopping it. It was too hot to sleep in my sleeping bag but I took refuge in it from the blowing sand. It was drizzling on and off but not enough to stop the sand from blowing. So finally around 4:30 or 5:00 it actaully started raining. Just in time for me to get up in a few hours to break camp in the rain. One of the river people came and got me for breakfast and had some great breakfast burritos.
After breakfast I broke camp and head back up stream to the boucher trail to pick up the tonto from that. It's 7.4 miles from Boucher rapids to Hermit Creek. I really like walking along the tonto, it has some ups and downs and goes in and out of every side canyon but the views are great. I made it to Hermit Camp about 11:00 am. Ran into two Brothers from Florida who were on there first Grand Canyon hike. It started raining pretty good then and we were all out in the open so I showed them where a little cave/ overhang was. We ate the rest of our lunch there. They had some trouble finding there way through the rock slides along the Hermit trail. They made them sound pretty bad and I was trying to think back to December when I did the trail and couldn't remember any. They had left the TH around 11:00am and by dark they were still about a mile and a half from camp, so they set up camp there about 100 yards from where the hermit and tonto trails intersect. They weren't even sure if they were on the right trail still. The next morning they woke up to 3 women hiking out who said they had to do the same thing the night before. Hmmm...I wonder about some of these people.
I spent the rest of the day playing around in the water and there was a mini swimming pool just below our camp that occupied me for a couple of hours. Around 4:30 or so two gilrs hiked from Indiana hiked into camp that had left at 7:00am. It was also their 1st GC trip, and they also siad they had a hard time following the trail. We all plyed some cards together and called it a night when it got dark. I wanted to get an early start to avoid hiking in the sun as much as possible.
I woke up just before sunrise and had some oatmeal for breakfast. By the time I had camp packed up it was already light out so I'm guessing it was around 6:00 am when I left. I never saw the two other guys who said they wanted to leave early too. They had camped in the alcove/overhang thing since they didn't have a tent and were worried about the rain. I was pushing it on the trail pretty good and made it up Cathedral Stairs with only a break or two. I took about 10 mintues and had a snack once I got up there. I had timed it just right that I was in the shade the whole time when i got there. From there is just more of a traverse for a few miles with some limited ups and down. This is were the rockslides where. I didn't seem to have any problem navigating through them at least. I took another break an hour or so later and changed socks again. After only 10 minutes of hiking I made it to Santa Maria Spring which would have been the ideal spot for a break. I threw another liter of water in my bladder and took off again. I noticed a little shack just off the trail from the spring so I checked it out. It appeared to have been a toilet and smelled like it too. From here the trail really starts to climb again. I just kept thinking about the hike out from the Yuma pt. trip and trying to keep up with JW on this part of the trail. It's a real leg burner but I think JW pushed me though it. About a mile from the top came across 3 other hikers making there way down the trail. Made it out at 10:15! I was a little shocked I had made it out in just over 4 hours.
I stopped by the backcounty office and talked with the rangers a bit. Asked them about some future trips I have in mind and picked up some info on it. BTW the Grandview trail should be open by the end of October. To top the trip off I had a voicemail that a had made the cut-off for Staff Sergeant so I'll be getting a promotion in a few months!
This was my first solo trip too!
Hiking time going down Boucher to the river was 7.5 hours