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Hermit Trail
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mini location map2011-09-24
35 by photographer avatarJohn9L
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Hermit TrailNorthwest, AZ
Northwest, AZ
Backpack avatar Sep 24 2011
John9L
Backpack33.00 Miles 6,400 AEG
Backpack33.00 Miles4 Days         
6,400 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Had an epic trip down into the big ditch for four days of fun and adventure! We spent two nights camping on the river (Hermit Rapid & Granite Rapid) and then one night on the Tonto Trail at Salt Creek.

Day 1
We woke up at Mather Campground and loaded all our gear into our backpacks. We double checked our food and topped off our water and made our way over to the Hermit Shuttle. The drive out was surreal as we looked over the edge of The Abyss and thought we're going all the way down there. The anxiety and excitement were pumping!

Our hike started around 9am and we quickly hit the Hermit Trail. We found the trail very rocky with loose scattered rock throughout. We made a steady and careful pace down. There were a few sections where rock slides obliterated the trail. We scrambled through and continued. Santa Maria Spring had plenty of water where we soaked ourselves and talked to hikers on their hike out. We continued and arrived at the top of Cathedral Stairs. I expected a nasty descent but it was not too bad. Careful footing and a slow pace as we headed down. Eventually the trail leveled off and we continued to the Tonto Trail. From there we quickly made our way over towards Hermit Camp. We already came a long way and caught a glimpse of Hermit Creek...we still had a ways to go! We dropped down to Hermit Creek and headed towards the rapid. The "trail" was pretty much blown away by floods. There are sections that parallel the creek but your best bet is to stick to the creek and follow it down.

We arrived at Hermit Rapids and quickly located the camp spot. We dropped our packs and then had a look around the general area. While we were only a short distance away, a Raven went over to our packs and opened a zipper and stole some food from us! Luckily it was not much and we made sure not to let it happen again. We set up camp and then settled for the night.

Day 2
Our morning started off slow with coffee and oatmeal. We broke camp and headed back up Hermit Creek. We made quick progress back to the Tonto Trail. From there we headed east. After a few miles we saw our next destination...Granite Rapid. It looked like it was 20 miles away! We continued on the Tonto and then made our way towards the Monument...very cool! We dropped down into the drainage and made a solid pace to Granite Rapids. Once there we located a campsite above the rapid. There were plenty of great spots nestled in some trees and brush. We set up camp and then mingled with our fellow backpackers. Within a few minutes some rafters appeared and then made their way over to shore. They wanted to camp above Granite Rapids but there were already a bunch of us settled in. They chatted for a bit and then I asked for some beer which they gave us! The PBR was very tasty!

Before long night came and we enjoyed the stars and peace and quiet (besides the sound of the rapids). We turned in.

Day 3
Our third day was going to be the shortest hike of all the days with only five miles planned. Therefore we relaxed all morning. This was really enjoyable! Around noon we broke camp and made the slow trek up Monument Creek. We topped off our water at the top and then searched for the Tonto Trail heading east. I was surprised that there were no Tonto Trail signs. There are signs for Granite Rapids and Monument Camp but that is it. Luckily we saw some backpackers and they pointed us in the right direction. We picked up the Tonto Trail and made our way up and continued on the trail. We arrived at Salt Creek Campsite.

The campsite at Salt Creek was very different from our first two nights on the river. For one it was very quiet. Besides that we were the only ones there. We set up camp and then I took a nap. My buddies did some exploring down the Salt Creek drainage. Our trip was winding down and this gave me a chance to reflect on our adventures. This is the longest backpack trip to date for me and I was really looking forward to getting back to the world. Our exit seemed a distant dream that was too far out of reach. I had to tell myself we were almost there. I found this trip to be more mentally challenging then physical.

Day 4
We got an early start on our final day leaving camp at 6:30am. We had 12+ miles and over 3,000 feet of AEG ahead of us. We hit the Tonto Trail and made a steady trek east. Our going was fast and continuous. Before long we reached Horn Creek and kept on going. Shortly after that I could see people on the Plateau Point trail...I knew we were getting close. Before long we reached Indian Garden and I felt like I was home free. My buddy took a break but I continued. I was energized and ready to make the hike up and out. I cruised up the trail. Before long I was at the 3-Mile rest house and I continued. I passed a ton of people and found myself feeling like I could hike all day. Next came the 1.5-Mile rest house. I topped off my water bottle and continued. The end came to sight as my pace slowed. The 12 miles was finally catching up to me. I shortened my stride and slowly continued. Next thing I know I'm on the rim and the trip was over! My friends arrived soon after and we made our way back to Phoenix.

This was a wonderful trip that really pushed me at times. Like I said above, the Psychology of a trip like this was more difficult than the Physical aspect. I got through the entire trip fine and I'm already planning my next GC visit for early 2012!
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