|GC Loop Hermit Tonto Bright Angel, AZ|
|GC Loop Hermit Tonto Bright Angel, AZ|| |
GC Loop Hermit Tonto Bright Angel, AZ
|Backpack||38.00 Miles||5 Days |
|Fun 5-day winter loop in GCNP. Heckuva hike out in the snowstorm on Jan 6.|
Hermit to Monument
Monument to Indian Garden
Indian Garden to Bright Angel Camp
Bright Angel up and out
Arrived at GCNP amid the shutdown. Never got a code and drove around the Hermit Road gate (more on this later). Nice clear day but plenty of snow on the ground. Strapped on microspikes and headed down. Really helped we weren't making fresh tracks -- had a couple brave souls somewhere ahead of us. Basically, we could count on snow in the shade and dirt in the sun for the next few days. Worried for a minute about water at Monument Creek since it was cold and our first time there. But when we arrived it was flowing no problem. Had Monument Camp all to ourselves. Met a couple young guys from out-of-state day hiking from Salt Creek to Granite Rapids. They were the only people we saw our first two days.
Headed out from Monument on the Tonto toward Indian Garden. Beautiful trail and probably my favorite day hiking of the trip. Epic views of the river. Can't beat all the snow on the canyon layers either. When we got to Indian Garden it was fairly busy. Some people hadn't followed instructions and the nearest water in camp was frozen over. But the other two spigots were working fine.
Woke up at 4am and headed out to Plateau Point for the Quadrantids Meteor Shower. It was amazing. We probably saw at least 20-30 meteors in the course of an hour. The sky was so clear and it was a new moon. Of course it was cold and windy out there so we lasted as long as we could. My buddy kicking over the hot water for coffee mid boil didn't help I went back to bed for a few hours and our other friend, who had hiked in at 5am during the shower, met us at camp. We then hiked down to Bright Angel Camp and had dinner at Phantom Ranch. Great day.
Our day off. Got up for early breakfast at the canteen. Spent the rest of the day relaxing, hanging out at Boat Beach, stretching, writing postcards and playing card games. We knew the weather was going to turn that evening and the next day (rain/snow) but decided we'd still rather have a day off at the bottom of the canyon. I don't regret it.
Up and out. It rained all night and the rain turned to snow in the morning, which I would guess is pretty rare for down at the river. The precipitation turned to a freezing rain and then into a beautiful snowstorm. It snowed all day as we trudged uphill. Got some great photos but boy it was tiring. Was very glad to have full rain gear (pants/jacket) and spikes. I made it in 6 hours and my buddies got up a couple hours later.
Here's the fun part: my car was out at Hermit's Rest and the road was not going to be plowed until at least the following day. Our original plan was for my friend who hiked in late to drive me out there, but that wasn't going to happen. Luckily, Bright Angel Lodge had rooms available, so my friends braved the snowstorm home to Phoenix and I got to stay overnight.
The extra day. I woke up wondering how I was going to get my car. The front desk of the lodge was SUPER helpful. First they called the Taxi company but because the road was technically "closed" they were no help. So they called the park service and somehow there was a Ranger available to take me out there. The road had been plowed and she wanted to check it out anyway, so she gave me a lift. We picked up a couple backpackers hiking the road along the way. They were heading out on what sounded like a crazy, epic trip down Hermit and west on the Tonto, over to Royal Arch, where they were going to hike out on South Bass and walk the road back to the park. She quizzed them on their gear, re-wrote their permit (originally for ski camping on north rim) and we sent them on their way. I drove home.
Thanks for reading. Hope it's helpful for anyone trying to hike the canyon in a snowstorm during a gov't shutdown!