2007 was a delightful year for me — By December I had over 30 Canyon nights (Nights spent under the rim of the Grandcanyon). I had had my fix but since we had no specific plans for the holidays, we decided to take our chances with Canyon permits and see what we could do – we were open: a couple of nights below the rim, perhaps covering a stretch that was new terrain for at least one of us. The Hermit Boucher Loop was Guru’s 1st choice and my last ( I had already been through the area twice this year…) & I was hoping for camping at Indian Gardens and lounging….and make it to Plateau point and claim my Phantom ranch shirt.
We had a few days of cabin reservations – so we were in no hurry. We arrived late 22rd to our cozy rooms at Yavapai Lodge and a snow cloaked canyon ….Delightful as always and a White Christmas to boot! Next day we were at the backcounty office bright and early and got permits for the Loop as well as another hike slated for April. We made this 20 mile loop real easy and decided since it was cold we would sleep in and stop early — after all it was our low cost vacation in a dream destination
Sunday was rim time — do the tourist thing, breakfast – drive out Desertview, peek over the rim, hot cocoa…shop. The place was not too crowded so it was great. I was hoping for some good moonrise shots since it would be a full moon rising just about sunset time ….and I tell ya it was coooooold Brrr…my fingers would not work to click the shutter on the camera.
Dec24: We hit the trail after an awesome breakfast and scenic drive to Hermit Rest — On the trail at 10:30 am finally. Trail has some snow & ice but nothing too bad and we hit our stride quick – especially with our rather light packs. Both Guru & I were sporting new packs – way lighter than the Bora’s and loaded lighter as well since we did not need to schelp water. Its a delightful morning and we make good time down to Santa Maria Springs.
Today was my Mom’s & Suz’s B’day — so they got a mention in the journal. The trough is frozen solid and I pick at it trying to life the frozen slab up. The water is crystal clear below – the cold has killed off the usual algae. We goof around the place for a bit and then pick the trail again — we now spy a group far ahead that looks to be hiking in skirts and just don’t seem to have the typical profile of the modern day hiker. Catching up with the group right at the top of Cathedral stairs we find the “skirts” are skirts and men are in overalls – this is a group of traditional Mormans for UT that are make the hike – 1st time hikers and they sure look it. Destination for them is Monument Creek – they consult my map ( they have none) and discussion them to feel they cannot make their destination by last light. They ask what they should do – they are determined to continue and seem to have heavy but adequate protection by way of tents and sleeping bags. They continue on contemplating another 1st -dry camping. Hope they made it out well (headed up Bright Angel trail). These were last people we saw for rest of the time till we reached Hermit Trail again — sweet soluitude almost to the point of whishing to have some one else on the trail!
We reached Hermit Camp by 4:25 pm that day and had the place to ourselves. We settled in the overhang campsite and chilled. Guru was thrilled with his GoLite pack – Step 1 accomplished in getting grea light(er). Given we had the camp to oursleves we elected to pitch camp at site that was under the overhang – for some wind protection n’ warmth. It gets dark quick and we rush off to get our water for dinner – straight out of the creek. Its easy! Dinner gets cooking and the sky overhead turn to dark velvet – the milky way splashes across the sky and we spend sometime gazing skywards. By about 8:00 pm the moonlight washes out the stars and we tidy camp to retire for the night. No visitors and a rather calm night — almost too warm. Temps insise the tent remains in the mid-40’s.
Dec 25: We hit the trail at a leisurely 10:30 am — but we do not have very far to go. Destination for the day is Boucher camp – 5 miles away. It feels great to hit the sunshine as we ascend up to gain the Tonto trail heading westward. Exiting Hermit makes for a long walk tracing along the creek all the way out to the Colorado river an soon you head westward. This makes for a few “peek over the edge” stops. Just at this point there is a short stretch that takes you directly over Hermit Rapids — way down below. This stretch makes me tread a wee bit more carefully…we stop to study the Hermit rapids below our feet and Granite rapids out further east-both fairly big rides in a raft! The trail then turns away from the river to countour to the back of Travertine Canyon — along the way we see sheets of Travertine much like thos that drape the waterfalls at Havasu. – Only no water. In its day there must have been much water flowing through here.
Today there just one green mossy area to show. Lunch is at the back of Travertine Canyon — Yummy! Pesto-Turkey sandwich, apples and some nuts. Its too cold back there and we want to get moving but both of us manage to ignore the carin right in front of use and go upstream looking for the trail. We explore the canyon a bit and then return to our lunch spot -feel silly when we see the carin. But then again – The last 2 times I was here, we managed to miss the cross-over. Its quite a cold day — we don’t warm up at all – Highest temps are in the low 40’s In the brief spots where we see the sun we slow our steps and stop to savor the feeble warmth. We make it to camp by 3 ish – set up camp (No company here either!) We decide we want to make it down to the river n’ back so we headout down Boucher Creek. A brisk walk brings us to the river to catch the setting sun. We can’t laze too long so we have a quick snack and head back – making it back to camp just as darkness drops over the canyon. Special Christmas dinner is on the cards — Pesto Salmon Penne Pasta, Dark Chocolate for dessert! We make ourselves a cup of chai and settle to watch the stars – spy the usual assortment of planes, satelites and 2 shooting stars. Temps drop quite quick and by 9:00 pm its 30F — its gonna be a cold night!
Dec 26: Morning brings on the cold –Inside tent temps are 28F and I tell Guru that I do not want to get out till its above freezing — well puts us at 9:00 am ! We watch the sunshine make its way to camp -not. We give up waiting at 11:00 am and head up Boucher trail making good time. White’s butte is in glorious warm sun so we hang out there for about an hour in the afternoon before we head back up Travertine Canyon to get to Yuma point and reach camp by 4:30 pm. It just seemed much easier that my last ascent up Boucher! We quickly scope out our water — the pots at Yuma point are frozen and full!
Guru heads down to get some water or rather chuncks of ice and slush – this by far was the “unique” aspect of this hike. Being true to form as the sun drops over the horizon the wind rules. We set up tent and build a rock wall to protect oursleves from the wind. Between the rocks and pack we manage to get ourselves a really good windbreak. I
think I must have a moved a few hundred pounds of rocks to weigh down the tent.
Sunset is sublime — shades of red turn to delicate pink and another day is done! Guru and I freeze but we watch sunset and the silence that follows..far below the might Colorado is a silver thread, the last vestiges of the day paints the rim in shades of warm reds and oranges — and soon everything blends in to darkness.
We ready for a cold night and sure enough it gets really cold – we wake to 19F in the tent. Guru had a rather rough night since his feet were super cold…I was snugged up in all the gear I had. We lay in bed dreading to step out and wondering why we choose to freeze over Christmas yet another year! Next year we are going some where warmer – so we tell oursleves. But then again that’s what I said to myself last year as well….
Dec 27: We wake up and pack camp and head out…its easy walking. Past Dripping Springs we run into dayhikers – who let us know yesterday PM was the coldest night for the year at the Canyon! We top out, head to the Backcountry office to tweak our Spring permit, take a long warm shower and chow down at Bright Angel Lodge and toast to another adventure…and we head back home (to teeth surgery )