Hermit's Trail to Hermit's Rapids

Trip Start May 15, 2009
Trip End May 23, 2009

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Hermit's Rapids

Flag of United States  , Arizona
Sunday, May 17, 2009

4:00 am came pretty early.  We dressed and quickly began making sandwiches before we hit the trail. We left the trailhead around 5:30am and quickly scampered down some long steep switchbacks, not even realizing how hard this stretch would be on the way up.  We stopped often to take snapshots of the amazing views. 

As we lost more and more elevation, it was like we were slowly being swallowed by the canyon.  The blue sky was getting farther and farther away.  About 2 miles into the 9 mile trip we arrived at Santa Maria Springs. A small hut  was built here to offer refuge from the sun next to a water collection trough.  Santa Maria Springs surfaces high above our current location and runs down the side of the cliff until finally contained in the trough.  The metal trough is covered in algae and filled with tadpoles, but we filtered the water and topped off our water supply anyway.  As we drank it later in the day, it had a strong sulfur smell, and tasted quite minerialy (if that is a real word).  After leaving the Springs, we soon ran into a family of 4 making the ascent.  They appeared to be laboring with their slow pace, and thanked us for yielding to them on the narrow trail.  This was the first real impression we got about our return trip.  We knew it would be very challenging, but to see their expressions and their body language took it to a whole other level. 

We continued descending further into the depths, staying mostly shaded.  The shade was a serious relief, as even a few seconds in the shade seemed to lift our spirits.  We wound through the Hermit Gorge, crossing rock slides and noticing the trail getting narrower and narrower until we stood at the top of The Cathedral Stairs.  The Stairs are a series of 25-30 short switchbacks that drop you very quickly to the lower levels of the canyon.  At this point the sun was high enough in the sky that there was few places to hide from it.  Also, the temperature averages about 20 degrees hotter at the bottom than it does on the rim.  The rim was about 90-95 degrees yesterday by noon so you can only imagine the wrath of the sun when there is no place to hide. 

We soon reached the Tonto Trail intersection, which would take us the remainder of the way to Hermit's Camp.  Near the intersection was a large boulder with a small overhang.  There were 3 hikers huddled in that very tight spot trying to get out of the sun.  We waved and continued on, even though a bit of shade would have done us well right about then.  We soon came to the Hermits Camp/Hermits Rapids intersection.  This told us we had about another 1.5 miles to our campsite at the rapids.  We dropped down into Hermits Creek and followed it down stream until we heard the ever-growing roar of the mighty Colorado River at Hermits Rapids.  We dropped our backpacks under a nice shady tree a few feet from the creek and just laid there, our bare feet in the cool creek; exhausted.  After 9 miles and 8 hours, I would say we had accomplished something, but the return trip up is supposed to take twice as long.  We scarfed down a hot meal, set up our tent, replenished our water, and were off to sleep, hopefully getting some good rest for our tired bodies.
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