I was finally able to do something of subsistence in the Grand Canyon. A big thanks to 9L who designed a nearly perfect initial 5 day excursion into the Grand Canyon. This time of year is not the easiest to plan with the lack of water and high temperatures, so our options were a little limited. Nevertheless, we came up with a plan that included starting at Hermit's Rest, taking Hermit Trail to Boucher Trail and then to my home for two nights along the Colorado River near Boucher Rapids. From there it was Hermit's Creek, then Monument Creek and on the final day the Tonto East from Monument Creek to Bright Angel and out.
Quick Anecdote: We had a crotchety SGT in our platoon during my last deployment to Afghanistan. Typical old guy, deployed like four times, woke up at three every day, always grumpy etc anyways, he would always compare me to the young mouthy guy from Biloxi Blues. So every now and then when it was a moment know one was thinking about laughing I would say SGT Blank, "man its hot today, its like Africa hot," and he would reluctantly chuckle. How does this relate to the Grand Canyon? Well just a heads up, "The Canyon is hot, like Africa hot right now!" I found myself repeating that phrase in my head several times over my five days in the bottom of the Canyon and in the absence of another hiker it was just enough to usually make me chuckle.
I drove up on Friday June 6th. I treated myself to some great Thai food in Williams of all places! I am a huge Thai fan and I give this place two thumbs up, Dara Thai Cafe worth a stop for sure. I got to the Canyon when they were still charging admission, but I told the lady of my plans and she just let me in for free and gave me permission to sleep in BCO parking lot, so that worked out just about perfect, gotta love it when things fall together like that. Only problem was the Canyon was bumping and that coupled with a little anxiety literally meant I got about 35 total minutes of sleep. No worries though to echo the words of one of my over-caffeinated drill sergeants, "sleep is a crutch for the weak." That would have to be my motto on day one as my first real intro into the Grand Canyon would be Boucher Trail.
Made first shuttle to Hermit's Rest, 4:30 a.m. Was boots on trail by about a quarter after five, skipped my intended carb loaded breakfast in lieu of 8-9 hour old Thai food that had been sitting in my car all night, turned out to be about only bad decision of trip. Stepped off with over 160 ounces of fluid, visited Dripping Springs, saw no one, loved the mild challenge of Boucher, got annoyed quickly by helicopter traffic and eventually had feet in Colorado River by 11:30 a.m. Tried to eat a little lunch, then literally spent about 4-5 hours in some of worst stomach pain ever. Cant figure out if it was mild dehydration, the Thai Food, first day acclimating to the oven or what, but was literally out of commission lying next to Boucher Rapids in a little grotto of trees until nearly six in the evening.
Day 1 Tally's: 11.7 miles, 5:13 a.m. to 11:17 a.m. Including frozen Gatorade carried nearly 170 oz, used about 80 oz of water and half of Gatorade to reach river.
Day 2: Slept in late. Woke up to find that my picturesque camp site had turned into Kuwait over night and nearly buried me in sand inside of my own tent sans rain fly of course. Lesson learned scorching hot canyons equal thermals and high winds at night leading to lots of blowing sand! My ambitions were a little curtailed by late start but stepped on the Tonto and headed West to Slate Creek, made a couple half-hearted and very cautious attempts at entering the Slate Creek drainage and eventually making my way to Crystal Rapids. I think I know how it can be done, but was not feeling overly adventurous on second day solo in back country and five miles from camp, so I headed back to camp with Slate Creek being my furthest advance west in Canyon now. Did finally get braver and hit up what I thought were some very promising over hangs and caves on way back, but found nothing. Later that evening I read in Spangler's hiking guide that she had actually attempted to drop down into Slate Creek on one of her trips but was probably turned back by the same impassable pour over that I hit in one of the eastern "finger-like" side drainages. I guess if proper side drainage is chosen one can enter Slate, with the attraction being to view Crystal Rapids. I was certainly on the right track, just lacked full commitment I guess and my private beach along the Colorado was calling.
Day 2 Tally's: 10.8 miles :started late 6:33 was back to camp just after noon.
Went from Boucher Rapids camp to Hermit's Creek area. There were two other groups there, loved Hermit's Creek, rapids were great, saw a herd of Big Horn, lounged around pool area, day was only slightly diminished by man in HAZMAT suit cleaning the restroom all day. Hermit's Creek was by far the highlight of the trip.
Day 3 Tally's: 10.3 miles, left Boucher Rapids 5:30 a.m arrived Hermits Creek around 9 hiked to rapids and back and a little upstream exploration, lots of rest and relaxation around creek.
Easy hike to Monument Creek, left late in morning had no need to rush. Forest service employee let me take a little off my load by allowing me to put trash in barrel on pallet that was being flown out by helicopter later in day. Was fully prepared to pack it all out, but could not turn down opportunity to get rid of three days worth of mountain house packages, and snack wrappers
Explored the narrows of Monument Creek, real cool! Hiked down to Granite Rapids, watched a few boats go through, prepped gear and made final preparations for longest day yet to come.
Day 4 Tally's: 7.2 miles. Lost a bag of Peach O's to desert Sun, completely liquefied them inside baggie, making them inedible, believe me I tried, it was a very sad discovery
Day 5: Started early, in fact, very early left camp at 3:34 a.m. Plan was to use the generous light from moon, however, there was a slight problem with that, as moon had set before I even stepped off, alas, it would be a head lamp hike after all, not one lit by the moon. Even with following it for the first time and following the first portions of it in complete darkness, Tonto East proved to be a race track and I was at Indian Gardens around 8.
I took a short break and then prepared to take the United Nation's walk up the Bright Angel. Everyone knows the Bright Angel is what it is, so I just appreciated it for its awesome grade and well kept trail.
Day 5 Tally's: 14.9 miles, left camp 3:34 a.m. was on South Rim and walking to BCO lot by 10:20 a.m.
Final Notes and Observations:
My camp along the Colorado had a certain stranded desert island appeal to it. I certainly was not swimming across the Colorado and with cliffs to my back, lots of AEG, and a limited shore line my world for two days was pretty much relegated to about a 45 meter white sand stretch of beach.
One of the guide books I read said something on the lines of, "it is impossible to hike in the Grand Canyon and not become at least an amateur geologist." I think there is certainly some merit in that statement, I found myself pondering rock stuff more than probably at any previous moment in my life. A truly fascinating place...
Lessons Learned: Throw out all preconceived notions about what constitutes an early start when hiking in the Canyon during warm months. Anything after six better not have far to go, 5-5:30 solid start time, 4-5 better, anything before 4 ideal for long days.