Hermit Trail Loop?

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DannyBoy
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Hermit Trail Loop?

Post by DannyBoy » Oct 02 2011 5:28 pm

I hope this is the correct forum. My wife and I are in the planning stages of a loop hike in September of 2012. We are novice backpackers, both in very good physical condition with all the necessary euqipment to make the trip. Be noted, we have never hiked the Canyon and may never get back again. With that being said, we are strongly looking at a 5 or 6 day trip, no real hurry. I have studied the Hermit-Tonto-BA route in depth, both thru logs and youtube videos on the area. I would like to hike down Hermit, stay at Hermit Rapids, hike to the Salt springs area and camp, continue to Granite Rapids for a one or two day camp. Depending on how we feel, and how our supplies are holding up, continue to Indian Gardens for one last overnight, then on the the rim via BA. Everyone seem to suggest that first timers stay on the corridor trails only and try the harder one later. We may not get out west again to do a harder one. Evidently the Hermit section is the real problem, as the elevation and mileage for all the trails is similar. If we took our time, knowing that there are washout areas, and areas that are steep, is Hermit really that much worse than say going down S. Kaibab? I realize the park service wants to discourage questionable behavior, but I am really putting some time into making this a safe trip. I am not foolhardy, so I will take your input very seriously. Thanks

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PaleoRob
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Re: Hermit Trail Loop?

Post by PaleoRob » Oct 02 2011 5:38 pm

The biggest issue I see overall is the "Depending on how we feel, and how our supplies are holding up, continue to Indian Gardens for one last overnight, then on the the rim via BA". You need to have your itinerary set before heading down. Sure, you can always bail earlier, bust since IG to Rim is probably the easiest possible overnight trip in the Canyon, hopefully that's not an issue if you are planning to do the rest of the route.
Novice backpackers I would suggest staying on the corridor trails. Think: the NPS backcountry office has literally hundreds of years of combined experience dealing backpackers in the Canyon. They issue those recommendations for a reason.
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DannyBoy
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Re: Hermit Trail Loop?

Post by DannyBoy » Oct 02 2011 6:27 pm

Rob,

Thanks for your response. Please let me clearify a couple of thing. This is a year away and still very much in the planning stages. When I said "depending on how we feel and our supplies", I only ment that it is not possible to foresee a hurt knee or twisted ankle, or even a blah stomach. Any of those could be cause for laying over an extra night to recoup. It seems to me that whether you go down BA, S.Kaibab, or Hermit that your body is going to endure pretty much the same abuse..as the elevation drop is almost the same on each trail. This leave me to believe that the main concern on Hermit is the trail finding at the washout areas. I have read some of your other posts, so you are very much qualified to give me advice...I just wanted you to know that when I go for my permit will have all my ducks in a row. I really want an enjoyable hike, but would really like to be somewhat away from the mules and throngs that we would have to endure on the way up. Thanks alot....I really like your post on the guy from Colorado...food for thought.

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Re: Hermit Trail Loop?

Post by nonot » Oct 02 2011 7:09 pm

Dannyboy,

Here's the issue - you show up and ask a question that depends on a great deal of factors - where are you from, how often do you hike/backpack, how far do you go, how much do you carry, what do you think of as "very good condition". Backpacking tends to use different muscles in different ways. Many are the same, yes, but there are a few you likely never use and they will be plenty sore. OK for an overnight - bad news when on a 6 day venture.

That said, you say you are novice backpackers. Attempting a 5-6 day trip is not what I would recommend for beginners. I would recommend you get out of novice stage - there is plenty of time - start by doing short one night overnights.

You are planning on going in September. September is going to be pretty hot, unless you are at the very end and still, it's a toss up of what the weather will be like then. Your camps appear to mostly be at the river level where it will be hottest.

That said - your route is not too difficult for experienced backpackers- except the first day which may be a lot to ask for some people and easy for others. For beginners I would say you are entirely out of your element.

But like you say, it is a way off, you have two choices:
1) Get some practice so you aren't novices when attempting your trip. If you do this I imagine your itinerary will be very successful.
2) Stay novices and try out your itinerary when the time comes. Possibly not make it to camp the first day, don't finish your route, have a miserable time.

:M2C:
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Re: Hermit Trail Loop?

Post by nonot » Oct 02 2011 7:13 pm

DannyBoy wrote: It seems to me that whether you go down BA, S.Kaibab, or Hermit that your body is going to endure pretty much the same abuse..as the elevation drop is almost the same on each trail. This leave me to believe that the main concern on Hermit is the trail finding at the washout areas.
While elevation is a factor, not all is equal. Steepness, sun exposure, ruggedness also factor in to how hard a trail is in real life. Taking big steps down a steep trail is a heck of a lot more training and abusive on the body than walking a fairly regular stride. Keep in mind you have extra weight on those knees. I can appreciate getting away from the mules but the corridor trails will be easier than others. I don't think trail-finding is a major issue in the Canyon.
http://hikearizona.com/garmin_maps.php

Hike Arizona it is full of sharp, pointy, ankle-twisting, HAZmaster crushing ROCKS!!
Hike Arizona it is full of sharp, pointy, shin-stabbing, skin-shredding plants!
Hike Arizona it is full of striking, biting, stabbing, venomous wildlife!

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Al_HikesAZ
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Re: Hermit Trail Loop?

Post by Al_HikesAZ » Oct 02 2011 8:23 pm

Dannyboy - definitely doable since it is a year away. This is a great trip if you can complete it successfully. Novice backpackers carry too much. You need a couple of 3-4 day trips in your area to see what you can throw away. Climbing out of the Canyon every ounce counts. And the gear sellers will load you down with lots of extra ounces. The only luxuries I carry are advil and tequila. Everything else I leave behind or get other people to carry. Camera - the smallest possible. I have learned how to "cowboy" camp and "bivy" camp when appropriate. Kurt taught me how to "enchilada" in a silnylon tarp. If you don't know what those mean, we'll help you. WATER - many experienced backpackers who are newbies to the Canyon have no conception about water in the Canyon. Assume there isn't any and hope for the best. Water weighs 2.2lbs per liter. You might have to carry 12 liters. Do the math. Bad water will hit you after a couple of days and give you the shi*ts for a week or two until the antibiotics kick in. Expect the unexpected. I 'll have more to say later, but my dog is telling me he has to go out. I hate when unexpected things like this happen.

OK I'm back. Oh yeah - make sure you have a "ratsack" - something to keep the critters out of your food. You don't need a heavy "bear canister", but you do need a stainless steel sack. Nothing ruins a trip faster than mice eating or damaging all of your food. You can buy them at the Grand Canyon Village General Store. The General Store has a lot of last minute stuff you might need. Except I hope they eventually improve their tequila selections. The Grand Canyon group on Yahoo can be helpful, but HAZ has most of the same people and Joe makes sure that we are nicer and friendlier here. And he makes sure that we edit our posts so they are SFW. That's why you see us telling each other "pumpkin you" a lot. :A1: (and adding smilies) ;) Be careful with Nonot - he only speaks the truth, but he gets up at 0darkthirty and does this trip as a "training hike" before breakfast - I personally think he has Genetically Modified Ankles.

Oh yeah - and training. Steps and stairmasters don't cut it. You will be stepping down much differently. You will be planting your whole foot or your heels. If you are not training by climbing steep mountains you need to find a trainer who understands mountain climbing. My buddy's sister - a physical therapist in Chicago - trained with loaded packs on stairs. She was hurting our first day down Bill Hall Trail. Cardio is critical. But muscles can hurt that you never knew you had. Some of those little itty-bitty muscles around the knees - take an extra advil and some extra tequila to get to sleep the first few nights. (Ambien might be lighter but I don't do performance enhancing drugs - unless my Doc prescribes them).

OK - tequila. It puts you in harmony with the ecosystems of he Canyon. You become one with the agave. You can taste good dust in the tequila. I know that everclear is more powerful and goes well with crystal light. And I know that some say beer is a miracle of modern technology. But really good tequila - like Herradura Anejo or Herradura Ultra Anejo Seleccion Suprema - is truly the nectar of G-d. One night - after a few shots - when I was saying my good night prayers, G-d personally told me this. :sl:
Anybody can make a hike harder. The real skill comes in making the hike easier.
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John9L
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Re: Hermit Trail Loop?

Post by John9L » Oct 03 2011 12:00 pm

I just got back from the Hermit to Bright Angel loop. Here is some info on your trip planning. You can also see my trip report and pics by going to my profile.

The Hermit Trail is a little rough. Sections of the trail are covered with rocks and some sections has been blown away. However there was nothing that was overwhelming. The worst was slow going and very careful foot placement. The heavy packs made this a bit more tricky but we were fine. We had no issues with route finding either. I did have a GPS with the track already downloaded. That proved helpful but not a requirement. By the time we reached the Tonto Trail, my knees and legs were feeling it. Besides rocky, the Hermit Trail has a lot of steps that range from one to two feet. Make sure you take Ibuprofen with you.

The Tonto Trail is a Super Highway. That trail is smooth and flat and made for fast travel. You’ll need to follow it one mile to the west to connect to the Hermit Rapids trail which is signed. There isn’t much of a trail leading to Hermit Rapids. You basically follow the creek to the Rapid. As far as I know there is always water flowing. There are only a few campsites at the rapid. You’ll need to return the way you came to connect to the Tonto Trail and then head east. You might want to stay at Hermit Camp. This is right off the Tonto Trail. You can set up camp and then day hike to the rapid.

To get to Granite Rapids, you’ll head east on the Tonto and head down Monument Creek. This turn off is also signed. Monument Creek has water year round but it is found only at the top near Monument Creek campground and then again right by the Colorado River. It must flow underground in between. The Monument Creek bed is dry and very easy to follow. You’ll arrive at Granite Rapids and there are plenty of shaded campsite above the rapid. I would recommend spending two nights at Granite Rapids. It was a great location and there are some side canyons you can explore.

Return up Monument Creek and work your way over to the Monument Creek Campground. You’ll want to top off your water just below the campground. There probably will be no more water until you reach Indian Garden. Also, this is the one area we had a slight challenge connecting on the Tonto Trail heading east. There are no Tonto signs and it’s a little confusing. You basically walk through the campground and then drop back into the wash. Follow the wash up the creek bed 50 yards or so and then you’ll see a high step marked with Cairns. From there your back on the Super Highway and can make haste towards Indian Garden.

I would recommend camping at Salt Creek or Horn Creek. Try for Horn Creek first and then Salt Creek as a backup. Don’t drink the water in Horn Creek because it’s radioactive. Your fine to camp there. From Horn Creek, Indian Garden is 2.5 miles away and then the rim can be reached in another 4.5 miles and 3,000 feet of elevation gain.

Don’t be shy about taking this adventure on. It is not going to be easy but it is very doable if you space things out. Make sure you train for this trip and only take the bare necessities. You’ll only need to carry 3-4 liters of water at a time except for the hike between Monument Creek and Indian Garden. Don’t bet on any dependable sources in between. We did our trip in 4 days but we were experienced canyon hikers. You’ll also want to hike very early in the morning to avoid the heat.

Good luck in your planning and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have down the road.

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PaleoRob
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Re: Hermit Trail Loop?

Post by PaleoRob » Oct 03 2011 12:09 pm

DannyBoy wrote: I only ment that it is not possible to foresee a hurt knee or twisted ankle, or even a blah stomach. Any of those could be cause for laying over an extra night to recoup.
I understand that. What I was trying to convey is this: If you have a hurt knee, twisted ankle, or a blah stomach you won't be able to lay over someplace. There won't be spots and the rangers will get either A)irate or B)start a search for you. Unless you already plan a layover day into the trip, like Liz did with our Boucher trip, you won't be able to layover.
Incidentally, I had a blah stomach on that trip, so it was good we had the layover day built in - would have been a tough trip instead of an awesome one if we had to do it in 3 days.

It seems to me that whether you go down BA, S.Kaibab, or Hermit that your body is going to endure pretty much the same abuse..as the elevation drop is almost the same on each trail. This leave me to believe that the main concern on Hermit is the trail finding at the washout areas.
Honestly, the washouts are more of a pain to negotiate than the actual trailfinding on the route. nonot makes a good point - sun exposure, etc. are important considerations. The Hermit is well shaded in the AM but in full sun in the afternoon.

I also second the recommendation to stay at Hermit Camp instead of Hermit Rapid.
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Re: Hermit Trail Loop?

Post by azbackpackr » Oct 03 2011 2:08 pm

September and early October can be hot. Yesterday on the Tonto (when I was hiking it between Toltec Beach and S. Bass), it had to be at least 95.

Hermit/Tonto/BA loop is well-doable by moderately experienced backpackers. I agree with all above, although haven't tried the tequila. :D

A much simpler plan would be to do just the Hermit, in my opinion. Plan on two or three days at Hermit Camp. Or two days at Hermit Camp and one day at Monument Camp. And hike back out the Hermit. Start hiking before it gets light, like Rob del Desierto and I did last year, and you will make it out just fine.
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Re: Hermit Trail Loop?

Post by KwaiChang » Oct 03 2011 2:36 pm

Danny Boy - as a recent first time hiker in the Canyon (May 2011) all I can say is this - "The ONLY way to train to hike the Canyon is hike the Canyon." I thought I was in top top shape - I went down the SK and when I got to the bottom all I could say was "Hmmmm - maybe I wasn't as prepared for this as I thought." The down is brutal for the first timer - the up was as simple as pie, for me - I did the NK for my up and really other than the Mule poo and pee it was a breeze. Only bad part of the hike was emerging from the trail head and not realizing/believing that I really did have 2 more miles to go to get to the Grand Canyon Lodge!

There are many suggestions/ideas on how to train - as previous posters have said cardio is HUGE - I had no cardio issues but my feet were barking when we got to the bottom. Hiking poles can help the impact some - personal choice - I used em and am not ashamed to admit it. Yer boots/shoes are going to be key. Go and get fitted - I sure wish I would have. It is the little things that will get to you. My big toe nail is just about 2/3rds grown back in from my misadventures of going down SK on ill fitted boots. Plan on blisters, PLAN on em. If ya don't get em all well and good - but plan on em.

All this being said - ENJOY the hike - take your time - you are already at your destination - The Canyon. Best of luck from one first timer to another. I am making sure that my first timer tag is going into the past tho - I will be hiking the South side next spring! :y:
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Re: Hermit Trail Loop?

Post by PaleoRob » Oct 03 2011 4:05 pm

Holy cow Liz, it was a year ago we did that Boucher trip, wasn't it!? It seems like just the other day...
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Re: Hermit Trail Loop?

Post by John9L » Oct 03 2011 4:27 pm

I attached a couple of info sheets I received from the canyon regarding Hermit Trail and the Tonto Portion between Hermit and BA. The attachments have details on mileage, elevation and water sources. It will help with planning.
Attachments
Hermit to BA.pdf
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Re: Hermit Trail Loop?

Post by azbackpackr » Oct 03 2011 5:03 pm

Rob del Desierto wrote:Holy cow Liz, it was a year ago we did that Boucher trip, wasn't it!? It seems like just the other day...
Time flies when you're having fun! :D
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DannyBoy
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Re: Hermit Trail Loop?

Post by DannyBoy » Oct 03 2011 9:13 pm

Thanks everyone for all the valuable infomation. I will definately take everything your have said into my planning. Being in central PA, we lack the high mountains, but we have a few very steep climbs of about 800', one is a series of sharp switchbacks on a boulder strewn powerline, the other is called Thousand Steps on the Standing Stone Trail, a man made series of actually over 1000 step up the side of a mountain. It was once used for mining. I guess we will load up our packs and get to work...have till May to decide our final plans. Again thanks for all the great thought and info...much appreciated.

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Re: Hermit Trail Loop?

Post by autumnstars » Oct 29 2011 6:14 pm

DannyBoy wrote:Being in central PA, we lack the high mountains, but we have a few very steep climbs of about 800', one is a series of sharp switchbacks on a boulder strewn powerline...
That one sounds good for training. Sharp switchbacks and boulder-strewn are both things you will encounter on the Hermit Trail.

I strongly second other folks' suggestion to take several 3-4 day backpacking trips locally in the months leading up to your planned GC trip. This helps get you accustomed to both the physical and mental aspects of a trip like this.
Secondly, I suggest building a rest or "down" day into your schedule - 2 nights camped at Hermit or 2 nights at Monument, for example. If everything's going well, you can enjoy a day hike to the Colorado from either of these locations. If things aren't going so great, it gives you a day to lay around recovering. This small detail of planning can be a real life-saver. :D

As some others have mentioned, September can be brutally hot in GC for those not accustomed to the temps. If you can swing it, October will likely be cooler.
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