Monday, December 7, 2015

Thanksgiving in the Grand Canyon

For the past few years we have skipped Thanksgiving and taken the time off to go backpacking.  Once again we returned to the Grand Canyon, which was extra easy this year as Jacob and I are just over and hour and a half away.  Mom and Dad flew in Las Vegas on Wednesday morning, so we spent the afternoon together around campus.  We packed up our stuff Wednesday night, and Thursday morning we headed off to the Grand Canyon.  It was below freezing as we arrived at the rim and headed down the Hermit Trail.  The first section of trail follows a slight ridge so we were in the wind for a while making the descent a bit chilly.  We hiked down to the Boucher junction, the dropped the back and walked over to Dripping Spring to get some water and a bite to eat.  From there, we picked up the packs and traversed around the top of Hermit Creek Canyon before rounding Yuma Point and starting our descent to Boucher Creek.  After Yuma Point we were in the shade, but the lower elevation led to warmer temperatures.  Our path leveled out as we went by Whites Butte and then we headed down again dropping into Boucher Creek just before it got dark.
Paintbrush in late November

Heading down the Hermit Trail

Looking down Hermit Creek Canyon

The head of Travertine Canyon

Dropping down from Whites Butte to Boucher Creek

Looking out a mile above Boucher Creek

The Parents
The next morning was sunny and clear and we headed west on the Tonto, climbing out of Boucher Creek and making our way over to Slate Creek.  On our way over we stopped to eat lunch and look down on the Colorado River and Crystal Creek on the other side of the river.  As we continued toward Slate Creek the day started to darken and we could see some rain rolling in to the east.  Luckily we avoided the rain but the day was fairly cool after that.  As we made our way to Slate Creek we saw a couple bighorn sheep who were a few hundred yard above the trial.  We made our way into the Slate Creek drainage only to find there wasn't a creek.  There were a couple puddles we could use, but up the drainage there was a small trickle that eventually dissolved into the rock below. We pitched the tent a ways up the creek and then headed down the drainage to explore for the rest of the day.  The hike down the side canyon had a few tricky sections but was largely easy walking as there was no undergrowth.
Nice and clear on Day 2

Heading west on the Tonto

Some rain rolling in to the east of us

Fortunately we didn't get wet

Our campsite for the second night

Day three found us heading east to Hermit Creek.  We made our way back into Boucher Creek and then climbed out.  The traverse from Boucher to Hermit Creek was hillier than most of the Tonto as the cliffs above the Tonto Platform come closer to the river leaving less room to wind in and out of the drainages.  This section of trail has some great view looking down on the river.  After we made our way around the last knob, we wound our way into the Hermit Creek drainage.  We headed up the creek a little way and ate dinner then headed into the tent early as we planned to get out early to see the Portland Timbers semifinal game against Dallas. (The Timbers tied Dallas 2-2, winning the series 5-3 on aggregate.  The next weekend, Portland beat the Columbus Crew in the one game final, 2-1, leaving Portland as the MLS Cup Champions!)
Heading east the next morning

Looking across the Canyon to Crystal Creek

The River

We headed out early on the last day and planned to make breakfast after we had hiked for a while so we grabbed some snacks and took off under the moonlight.  We all had headlights on, but there was plenty on light from the moon to illuminate the trail.  For me, the nighttime is always special.  It reminds me of races that started or finished in the dark, descending into the Grand Canyon to run R2R2R, and just all the time we went hiking or backpacking and the darkness settle in around us.  I'll be back in Corvallis in a week and a half, so I'm looking forward to hiking around in the Coastal Range and having a fire while darkness settles in, before we drive back home.
Anyhow, we headed along the Tonto Trail and soon turned off and began the climb up the Hermit Trail.  Once we crested Cathedral Stairs, we stopped to eat breakfast.  After that we caught our last glimpse of the Colorado as we traversed along the eastern side on the Hermit Creek Canyon.  The trail rolled along and eventually headed up to a small plateau from which we began the last climb up to the rim.  We took a quick stop to grab food to eat on the go, and then climbed out of the Canyon.  All in all it was an awesome trip, especially having the parents along too.  That'll be the last trip to the Canyon this fall, but I'm looking forward to some more trips next spring, once school start up again.
An early start on Day 4

Looking back down on the Hermit Trail

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