September 28, 2008
After arriving at the Grand Canyon in May, it wasn’t until September when I finally had an opportunity to hike the Hermit Trail.
A large construction project to re-paved the Hermit Road (and reconstruct much of the Rim Trail) took place throughout the summer, leaving Hermits Rest inaccessible to the public. So it wasn’t until September when they began to open the road, but only in phases.
During the first phase, the Park ran an early morning shuttle bus from the Village to Hermits Rest. It was a one-way shuttle because the roadwork wasn’t complete. The bus only offered to drop off hikers in the morning, and from there you were on your own. The intent, I believe, was to allow backpackers to do trips from Hermit to Bright Angel.
It irritated me that I hadn’t yet been able to hike the Hermit Trail, so I took full advantage of this. I decided I’d let the shuttle bus drop me off, hike the full Hermit Trail from the rim to the river and back, and then walk the rim back to the Village. I don’t remember how I was even allowed to board the bus with just a day pack – I must not have been entirely truthful to the driver about my intentions. The shuttle departed at an early hour, before sunrise.
Despite the late summer heat, it was a successful day that clocked in at about 27 miles – my longest Canyon hike at the time. I learned my lesson on my early August disaster on the New Hance Trail, and carried a whole 2.5 gallons of water to get me through the day (In addition to proper salty snacks and a treatment method for additional water).
For the return trip to the rim, I ended up taking the Waldron Trail and night-hiking the Rowe-Well Road back to the Village at Maswick Lodge.
Culminating the day with this night-hike is one of my more memorable experiences hiking the Grand Canyon. It was the midst of the local elk’s rut season. As I walked the dirt road through the woods by the light of my headlamp, I was surrounded by the varying trumpet calls of the males for hours, for the entire distance. I didn’t lay eyes on a single elk, but occasionally heard them rustling in the darkness.
In hindsight I was in more danger than I realized – not being able to set eyes on the animals in the darkness – as the males are especially violent and unpredictable at this time. It was a spooky walk nonetheless, and exhaustion wasn’t the only reason I was relieved to see Maswick’s lights at the end of the day.
I came away from the hike with a nice set of over 100 photos. The quality of the day’s images can probably be attributed to being on the trail at both sunrise and sunset, along with good overall lighting provided by the clouds.
The image below was my first ever published in print, by Backpacker Magazine a year or two later. It was the first of about 5 occurrences when they’d use my photos (and even pay me a few hundred dollars for them). I was getting really into photography at this time. Mirrorless cameras were still in development, so I had an edge in my willingness to a haul a DSLR camera around my neck on my hikes.
It was a pleasant surprise to see the shaded resthouse at Santa Maria Spring. There was a large notebook in place for hiker’s notes and register entries, similar to the shelters on the Appalachian Trail. I spent a short time paging through it.
Cope Butte is seen from atop the Cathedral Stairs – the colloquial name for the trail’s Redwall break.
I’d previously visited some large rapids along the river, like Hance and Tanner, but the power of the River really struck me at Hermit Rapid. This was due in no small part to the sheer noise of the water – it’s very loud here. Another main factor was how I could get so close to the raging water through the act of walking on top of the boulders at its edge.
On the return trip, there was one place where I significantly lost the trail in the Supai. I found myself traversing a steep, unstable slope with loose rocks that felt rather dangerous. After relocating the trail, I turned and took a picture of this streaked boulder as landmark.
I had my eye out for a couple of spots that were labelled on my Sky Terrain map, namely Lookout Point and Breezy Point. I was fairly certain that this feature (above) must be Lookout Point. On a subsequent trip I discovered that it was an easy 3rd class scramble to the top of the small peak (4,568′). I failed to locate Breezy Point.
The sun set when I was near the Waldron junction. I remember hiking up the Waldron Trail in the twilight, and total darkness fell as I began the long walk through the woods to Maswick Lodge.