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Hermit Trail
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mini location map2018-11-09
44 by photographer avatarmt98dew
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Hermit TrailNorthwest, AZ
Northwest, AZ
Hiking avatar Nov 09 2018
Hiking17.71 Miles 3,400 AEG
Hiking17.71 Miles   7 Hrs   40 Mns   2.31 mph
3,400 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Partners none no partners
Belated post of a hike that almost wasn't. Couple of side notes. I had finished up my rim hike around 7:30 on a Thursday night. Arriving back to the visitor center parking lot by shuttle bus, I discovered that the GC believes strongly in the concept of minimal lighting. It was dark! The night sky was beautiful, but it was dark. The white strip across the sky (some call it the Milky Way) was cool to see, but it was dark. It's amazing how being a city dweller can redefine one's definition of darkness. There was only a handful of cars left in the parking lot, and luckily one of them had their headlights shining directly on my car. Otherwise it may have taken me some time to find my car. Ironic, the idea of not being able to find your car in an empty parking lot, but it was that dark. The other memory that will stick with me, is that it was cold! The wind was constant, bringing the temps down into the 20's. And that ties directly into, the hike that almost wasn't. I had decided to car camp so that I could get another day of hiking in at the Canyon. Finding an old forest road, I turned off the car and tried to get comfortable with my two blankets. That lasted for a little over an hour. It was freezing!! According to a phone app, it was 18 degrees. I tried to go back to sleep, but I was miserable. So miserable, I came very close to driving home that night. I actually ended up driving to another forest road before deciding to give it another go. I ended up turning the car on and running the heater until I warmed back up every couple of hours to make it through most of the night.

After a great nights :zzz: (not), I was all charged up (true) to hit the Hermit Trail. Arrived at the Canyon around 4:30. There is limited parallel parking at the beginning of Hermit Rd. if you get there early enough. I didn't have a problem. Took the first red shuttle bus at 5:00am out to Hermit's TH. Surprisingly, I had the bus all to myself. Got started on the trail a little after 5:30 am... and guess was Dark! :lol: Used a headlamp for the first hour. Turned the headlamp off around 6:30 and tried to get some pictures, but unfortunately the lighting still wasn't good enough for my garmin. That's too bad, because the views were Fantastic! This would have been shortly after the Dripping Springs juncture where I got my first lighted look of the Canyon. Shortly after that I came upon a small enclosure with some benches and its own dripping spring. Very cool! I noticed that just below that shelter, on a lower shelf, there appeared to be some sort of stone structure. There was no obvious path to it and unfortunately I was too eager going down and too tired coming up to make an effort to check it out. Not sure what it's purpose was. :-k The views were never ending. I found myself stopping every 10 minutes or so, trying to capture the beauty that was unfolding before me. I failed. Pictures just don't do it credit. I was amazed at how the trail fit into the walls of the Canyon. I found myself trying to figure out where the trail was going, and more times than not, I just had to wait to see where the trail took me. (The same held true going back up, even though I knew where the trail should have been). The descent into the Canyon was more gradual than I anticipated. I thought it would be a constant "Squaw Peak", but it wasn't. There were only 2 major descents/climbs. Right out of the gate at the TH and then again around the Cathedral Stairs area. Otherwise, it was fairly gradual (or, at least, short enough in elevation change that I didn't really notice it).

My thought was to hit the river and then turn around, but once I hit the end of Hermit Trail, I had a few decisions to make. (Confession, my understanding of the GC trails below the rim is non-existent ((though I hope that will change in the next few years)), so I was unsure of my route ((after Hermit Trail)) and of the description that I will provide). The sign at the terminus of Hermit Trail said Monument trail to the east and Hermit Creek trail to the west. (After completing this hike and doing some light reading on HAZ, it sounds as if this/these trails are classified as part of the Tonto Trail(?)). I decided on Hermit Creek, since that seemed to achieve what I wanted. Plus as I was coming down the Hermit Trail, I saw a structure in that direction that I wanted to check out. About a mile in I came upon another juncture for Hermit Rapids. In my mind I had already committed to Hermit Creek, but I was tempted and I thought maybe on the return. The hike to Hermit Creek was nice with minimal elevation change, but with still some surprising drop offs along the way. Shortly after the Hermit Rapids juncture I came upon the foundations of an old stone structure and a corral. And then shortly after that I came to Hermit Creek, which is also apparently Hermit Campground, a designated camping spot. There wer 4-5 tents pitched in the area with people milling about. The water was flowing gently, nicely. But was a poor substitute for the mighty Colorado which had been my initial thought as I hiked down. Still not sure what that structure is that I saw. It was raised about 6 feet off the ground and was made out of a fabricated plastic (like the tool sheds you can fear at Home Depot). It may have been just that, a tool shed, or a type of outhouse. It had solar panels on top and looked fairly new. I took a few pictures of the creek and headed back.

Since this was my first time down in the Canyon in 30 plus years, I wasn't sure on my ability to do this as an in and out. With that in mind, I forewent the Hermit Rapids option and chose to hike straight out. I actually did ok. I didn't really hit the wall until the last couple of miles, which of course involved the last major climb. I'm sure my pace slowed noticeable during that last stretch and I ended up pausing a few times to "enjoy the scenery." That being said, my split going up was actually a little faster than that going down. Of course I wasn't stopping evert 10 minutes to take a picture on the way up. Traffic was (I'm guessing) light for a Canyon trail. Met about 35 hikers all told, most as I was heading out. About 19 of them were backpackers with apparent plans for an extended stay. No wildlife, but awesome views! This was a nice intro into the interior. Hope that many more will follow.
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