Completed my first hike of the New Year, the Boucher-Hermit Loop in Grand Canyon. My history with this route is mixed. I first completed this loop as a solo 3 day backpack in 1990 and to this day it remains my favorite Grand Canyon route. A few years later I hiked it with a group of friends.
Then a couple turns of bad luck.
New Years 2003 I led a group of Scout leaders on a advance scouting day hike to assess whether we’d want to take our boys on this route over President’s Day. That hike was successful, as was the subsequent Scout outing. But one of our scouting party tore the meniscus in his knee and I was hit with appendicitis on the drive home. And then 2 years ago we had to abort a Scout trek down the Boucher – it was buried in snow and we couldn’t locate the route through the Supai cliff.
So what was I thinking? Not much more than “I needed a hike.” My dad had passed away a month ago, and I had been in daily task force at work all month. I needed to get out, blow off some steam, and reset.
I decided last Friday afternoon to go on a hike, and settled on the Boucher-Hermit around 10pm. Matter settled, I went to bed. I was up at 3, and on the trail at 7:30am.
Who wouldn’t like this?
The hikes starts along the Hermit Trail which drops for the first mile or two through the Coconino sandstone onto a bench of Hermit Shale at the head of Hermit Creek Canyon where it meets the Dripping Spring Trail. The Dripping Springs Trail contours at the very
edge of the Hermit Shale to the drainage leading up to Dripping Springs where it meets the
Boucher Trail, and today, fresh snow. Well “human fresh.” There was a set of bobcat tracks.
The Boucher continues the contour to the end of and around Yuma point. The views are spectacular.
And the excitement begins! The trail drops through the Supai cliffs. Some may prefer the more technical description “descends steeply.”
The route is exciting however one describes it. And before arriving at this point I realized what we got wrong on that Scout outing – from the point we lost it, the trail climbs; we never looked up. Today all is clear.
On the descent the Boucher Trail rounds the head of another side canyon until it levels out on the promontory tipped by White’s Butte. Today it made for a nice rest stop. Halfway out the trails drops into a drainage that nearly cuts the promontory in two and descends the Redwall and meets up with the Tonto Trail.
To the left the Tonto drops for 1/2 mile to Boucher Creek and excellent camping; both up creek where the “Hermit” maintained a homestead, or down creek to the beach at Boucher Rapids. But today my route leads right over a beautiful stretch of the Tonto Plateau and
over to Hermit Camp. What a nice reprieve from the steep downhill. I lengthen my stride, relax, sing a couple songs, and pray.
I have a good cry remembering my dad and question whether I am, whether I have been half the man he was. And I pray over my team at work. A former co-worker had died Thursday, and word came on Friday. I didn’t know her, but many on my team did, and some quite close. I prayed for her family and each I knew were hurting at the loss. And though only a couple hours of my 10 hour hike, this section, this time were the most necessary.
Hermit Camp is quite possibly the ugliest established campsite in all of Grand Canyon. I had no desire to stop at this place and continued the next 1.5 miles to the junction with the Hermit Trail.
The Hermit Trail is IMHO the most pleasant route up to the south rim. It climbs the Cathedral Stairs through the Redwall and just when you tire of the climb begins a mile long contour. I never tire of the views.
And then a second climb through the Supai, and a second contour. Kind of like the Boucher Trail in reverse except the Hermit is a good, well graded trail up the cliff faces while the Boucher is a crash down rockslide chutes and drainages.
The shadows deepen at 5pm on my climb through the Coconino. And yes I am fortunate to live in Arizona where such as this is my backyard.
And here I am at the end, red faced and tired, but quite satisfied with the daylong 22 mile challenge. I drive into Flagstaff, take my son to dinner and restock his refrigerator, and then drive down the hill to Phoenix. I am home by midnight and minutes later sleeping soundly. I needed this.