|Backpack||48.85 Miles||4 Days |
|8,603 ft AEG|
Headed north from Phoenix late morning. Traffic was pretty bad to Sunset Point area. Stopped for lunch at Camp Verde, then headed to Tusayan. We had two vehicles so the other went to get the permit, but traffic was super backed up into the park. We got a hotel room then figured out a back way to FS328 (road out towards S. Bass TH) so we wouldn't have to wait in the line to enter the park. That was sloppy as all get out. we were relieved when we finally made it to FS328. We went a bit past the railroad track crossing and decided to wait for the others in case they weren't given the permit for some reason. They got the permit and made it out to us, then we travelled the rest of the way to parking. It was pretty muddy and snowy in places, but we made it. Parked a truck under a tree, across the road from Cecil Dodd Tank, then headed back to Tusayan, dinner, and beer.
Day 1: Hermit's Rest to Slate Creek
Breakfast at McDonald's. $57 for 4 Sausage McMuffin meals. What's with that? No line into the park this early morning. We made it out to Hermit's Rest and were greeted with a crimson sunrise. After too many minutes getting everything set, and our packs closed up, we headed down Hermit. We had little information on the trail conditions and were worried about ice for the first few miles. There were some snow patches, but they weren't icy, and it wasn't a problem traversing them. Mostly the trail was clear, and it was easy walking. Well, as easy as it is descending Hermit.
We turned off Hermit onto Boucher. That stays higher for longer, so there was more concern about ice and snow, but it is a few miles shorter. The ice never showed up but there was more snow, mostly shortly before Boucher starts its descent. What a descent that was! Very steep and loose. I was very glad we weren't climbing up. The trail continues descending to the Tonto Trail where there is a large cairn at the junction. I saw the cairn, but didn't see the Tonto go to the left, and kept going straight the wrong way on the Tonto. Fortunately, I wasn't too far in front of the others, and they let me know I was going the wrong way and that I was a few other things too.
From there the Tonto descends to Boucher Creek and follows it a short distance before heading up the other side. We stopped there for water. Though rain was in the forecast, we didn't know what the water situation would be ahead, so we left there loaded up. I had at least five liters.
Our target for the day was Slate Creek. We made it there a bit before five. I don't remember if water was visible, but we had enough for the evening and probably the next day. After setting up camp we ate and then it started to sprinkle. Not much, but enough to get us to rush getting ready to call it a day. We were all in our shelters not long after six.
Then it started to rain, and rain, and rain. All night long. I was a bit lazy setting my tarp up and it started sagging with the rain onto my inner shelter, then dripping on things. I got up and fixed the pitch and tied the sides out so it wouldn't touch the netting again. Things were fine after that. Sometime during the night, a roar started. Slate creek was running. Would we start out with wet shoes crossing it in the morning?
Day 2: Slate Creek to Ruby Creek
After 13 or so hours, we climbed out of our shelters and got going. The rain had stopped and Slate Creek was flowing, but it would be easy enough to cross and keep our feet dry. But not for long. The grass was wet and soon our shoes were soaked; at least it wasn't raining.
The Tonto trail is nice. It follows the contours in and out of drainages with little ups and downs. Overall, it's an easy walk. The worst part is one type of evil bush that scratches your legs to heck. I don't even want to know its name.
Sometime in the afternoon, it rained. The others put on their rain jackets, and I got my umbrella out. That appeased the skies and the rain stopped for the rest of the day. As we crossed the drainages, there usually were pools of water and some water trickling as well.
I was hoping to dry things out sometime during the day but there never was a good opportunity as it was mostly overcast and wet wherever we were. It was close to five when we reached Ruby Creek and set up camp. There were lots of pools of water and we rejoiced.
Day 3: Ruby Creek to South Bass/Royal Arch trail junction
There was no rain during the night and my tarp was close to dry when I broke camp this morning. My shoes were essentially dry and things were looking good. We were no longer worried about water after what we saw yesterday. We had a plan.
Then it started raining. I think around Emerald Canyon, but I really don't know. It wasn't bad for a while. I had my umbrella out and it was working fine. Then the rain got a bit harder and steadier. Still things were fine. We made it to South Bass. We were going to look for water along the wash, but nobody wanted to, we really didn't need to either. We climbed up South Bass. I was still using my umbrella with my wind jacket. It started to get brushy. I put my rain skirt on so my shorts wouldn't get wet from the brush. Should have put my rain jacket on too. Went through more brush, my wind jacket and shirts got soaked. Put my rain jacket on and my umbrella away. So much brush going up South Bass. It is very overgrown.
As we neared Darwin Plateau, it started to snow. Big slushy snow. Darwin Plateau was a muddy mess. It was a slip and slide fest, all along the trail. There was a layer of water everywhere. Where would we be able to camp? We were all soaked and getting cold, so it was a concern. We made it to the trail junction to go to Royal Arch. I found a higher spot under a tree. The others found places off of the mud. My hands weren't working too well, so it was a chore setting up my tarp. I was worried the wet snow would accumulate on it during the night. Thankfully that didn't happen. It was around five when I crawled in my shelter. I got out over 14 hours later. I'd never peed into a Gatorade bottle before, now I have.
Day 4: South Bass/Royal Arch trail junction to Beer at Truck
Sometime during the night, the rain stopped and things dried up some. Except my shoes, they were still soaked. My nice dry socks were wet right after I put the shoes on. Oh well, at least the rest of my clothes dried out during the night. I was slow getting going this morning and the others left about 15 minutes before I did.
Not long after the climb from the Plateau to the South Bass trailhead started, I reached the snow. It got deeper as I climbed but it was a wet snow and it was never icy. That was a big relief as we crossed some very wet rock slabs that would have been scary with ice. At the trailhead, the snow was about 6" deep.
From there we had about 7.5 miles to the truck, all in snow, most along a road. We had a slight detour around some private property. The snow lessened as we went and was almost gone at the truck where we had beer and rejoiced.
Our big worry the whole trip was how difficult it would be to get back to Tusayan. There was a lot more snow on the way out, but the mud wasn't as bad, so the drive to Tusayan was uneventful. All in all, this was a great trip.