April 8 & 9, 2009
The Hermit Road was closed during my first season at the Grand Canyon, so the common Hermit-Tonto-Bright Angel loop was at the top of my to-do list for 2009.
With two days off of work, I booked a permit for a single night at Granite Rapid. My logic was that I’d already seen Hermit Rapid (and thus could bypass that), and it would be cool to spend the night at the River.
Day One clocked in at 10.3 miles (Hermit TH to Granite), and Day Two measured significantly longer – 17.1 miles from Granite Rapid to Bright Angel TH.
Day One: Hermit Trailhead to Granite Rapid
On the first day I simply enjoyed the descent of the Hermit Trail. The time stamps on my photos show that it took about 7 hours to get from the trailhead to the rapid.
I took an extended break at Lookout Point and climbed the small butte here. The summit is narrow and exposed, making it a fun little diversion.
The Hermit Trail’s Redwall break is called the Cathedral Stairs, and offers an impressive perspective of Cope Butte.
Soon I reached the junction with the Tonto Trail. Everything beyond here was new territory in the Grand Canyon to me.
The first feature along the Tonto was the drainage seen in the photo above.
I didn’t know the following beta at the time, but it’s possible to descend the first drainage east of Hermit Creek to the River (pictured above). There one can access areas on the north side of the River via packraft and 94-Mile Canyon.
The Tapeats Pinnacle seen here in Monument Creek was a surprise to me – I was not expecting to come upon such an unusual landmark.
I wondered if anyone ever climbed it. Such a thing struck me as impossible, but I’d later learn that it’s been climbed numerous times.
Descending Momument Creek was a pleasure through the Vishnu Schist and Zoroaster Granite. A good trail reaches the creekbed, and from there it’s a simple stroll down the gravelly, perennial course. With a little exploration you can even find a segment of the canyon that qualifies as a narrows (in my opinion).
Several parties were camped at the Monument Creek Campsite (near the Tonto Trail junction), but I was fortunate to have Granite Rapid all to myself for the night. It was a treat to first experience the location void of any backpackers or river parties.
I spent some time viewing and photographing the rapid before setting up camp.
It amuses me in hindsight to look back at what I’d brought for the trip. Since I was out for just one night, it looks like I brought a can of chicken to supplement my Lipton noodle dinner. I see that I was still using my old alcohol stove at the time (with a diffuser / potstand constructed from a Dinty Moore Beef Stew can).
Later in 2009 I’d replace the stove with the original MSR Pocket Rocket.
see more photos from Day One:
Day 2: Granite Rapid to the South Rim
I had a good night’s sleep despite the noise of the rapid. Sleeping near the River’s edge tends to conjure images of what would happen if the Glen Canyon Dam were to fail. This was especially the case on these first backpacking trips in the Canyon, but one can’t live in fear of such unlikely events.
I began the day with a walk up Monument Creek to the junction with the Tonto Trail.
The social trails surrounding the campsites obscured the eastbound Tonto Trail out Monument Creek. At least that’s my excuse, because I had a moment of confusion in locating the trail.
A light, steady rain fell for much of the day, forcing me to stow away my DSLR camera. So opposed to my usual volume of photography, I only have intermittent shots from a low quality pocket camera.
Despite the handful of people camped at Monument Creek, I saw only one other hiker along the Tonto Trail today. He was day hiking from Hermit to Bright Angel, and like me also worked for the concessionaire at the South Rim.
I hadn’t met him before, and if I recall correctly I think his name was Ryan. We intended to join up for a hike at some point, but he soon left the South Rim to move on to other things.
The most memorable takeaway I have from this trip is the night at Granite Rapid. With consecutive hikes on my previous two weekends (Lone Pine Canyon and The Battleship) I was off to a great start in 2009.