Scroll to Content

An Earth Day guest blog from my parents about their recent backpack in the Grand Canyon.

Layers of history

The Grand Canyon is a mirror in time. Revealing layers of stone, each with a history, it tells a story that you can see. It also tells a story that you can feel. A hike through the Canyon to its depths in the inner gorge, across the great expanse of the Tonto Plateau and to the top of the rim is awe inspiring.

The black Vishnu schist rock layer in the inner canyon is nearly 2 billion years old. As you ascend the canyon walls, each layer exposes history and at the top is the youngest rock, the Kaibab Limestone. It is only 270 million years old. This layer was deposited during a great extinction event called the Great Permian Extinction, when 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species were destroyed.

Vulnerable wonder

When you are in the Grand Canyon, you feel the great expanse of time that has gone by and how infinitesimal we are in this span of space and time.  Yet, somehow mankind threatens the natural order of the world, including this natural wonder.

Theodore Roosevelt said after visiting the Canyon with business people looking to cash in on its splendor, “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it.” Even the creation of the 1893 Grand Canyon Forest Reserve, the 1906 Grand Canyon Game Preserve, the 1908 Grand Canyon National Monument, the 1919 Grand Canyon National Park, and the 1975 Grand Canyon National Park Enlargement Act, has not completely protected the area from schemes of exploitation.

This story is told, while traversing the Tonto Plateau, between Monument Creek and Indian Garden. The Grand Canyon is place where water is a very limited resource for plants and animals, not to mention people. Horn Creek is a beautiful rest spot, where there are shade trees and a trickle of water. But be warned, the water is forever contaminated, radioactive actually, due to uranium mining that took place during the 1950s and 60s.

A downhill slide

Our trek started on Hermits Rest, looking deep into the Canyon and travelling west along the Boucher trail to Boucher Creek. It’s a downhill slide, almost. The Boucher connects with the Hermit via Dripping Springs about a mile and a half below the rim. At first, it rolls along the edge of the Esplanade Sandstone, with beautiful vistas. Then it plummets down the Supai, then the Redwall Limestone, and tumbles down to the Tonto Trail. From there one more short descent through the Tapeats Sandstone, to finally arrive at Boucher Creek.

The “Hermit”

Back in the late 1800s, Louis D. Boucher, the “Hermit”, lived in this Canyon area for 20 years and although labeled a hermit, he was well known and involved in the South Rim community. His former “home” is now nothing more than a few stones strewn about and certainly challenging to get to, but worth every step. I should digress here that if you haven’t drawn a connection yet, our handsome Catahoula carries Louis Boucher’s name! He’s strong and spirited.

Sounds of nature

Next, a beautiful section of the Tonto trail takes us to Hermit Creek and down to Hermit Rapids on the Colorado River. We camp on the beach, listening to the roar of the river. Off the next day, we are on a short hike to Monument Creek, named that for the spectacular rock formations. It should really be named Woodhouse Creek, after the Woodhouse toads, which fill the evenings with a harmonious sound like the bleating of sheep, really.

The expansive Tonto Plateau

It’s about 10 miles from Monument Creek to Indian Gardens along the Tonto Plateau. The Plateau is just above the inner Canyon and it weaves in and out, and in and out. You traverse from expansive vistas of the Colorado River, a chocolate ribbon threading through the inner Canyon, back into deep drainages, where sheer rock faces rise straight up to the Rim. The sense of grandeur is palatable. We stopped at Horn Creek and enjoyed a respite in the shade, listening to the water and enjoying the beautiful panorama. In a place so grand and vast, it’s strange to think how mankind has impacted its purity.

Something out of nothing

At Indian Garden, we enjoy our fifth and final evening with a celebration. We have just enough to put together a fine meal, even if my partner refers to it as “slim pickings.” Smoked salmon and sumptuous crackers, perfectly cooked mushroom risotto, and only the best fig newtons. It’s amazing how it all tastes so very delicious! Up and out the next day – and it’s a magnificent climb to the rim. We pile in the car, with six days of trail dust on us and head south to Flagstaff. Destination, the best bohemian cafe in Arizona. Ahhhhh, lunch and you guessed it, a Bohemian Coffee!

She will endure

Hiking the Canyon, which we have done more than 25 times on many trails and routes, is challenging, spiritual, renewing and a reminder of the power of Mother Nature – her sights, sounds, whims and strength.

The sheer cliffs of the Abyss,
Colors always changing,
The roar of the Colorado River, and the babbling of Boucher Creek,
Oppressive heat, then ice on treacherous slopes, all in one week,
Flattening winds, and the lightest of breezes,
The explosion of wildflowers that stun the senses,
Silence. . . solitude . . . the sound of your boots,
Or surround-sound toads at Monument Creek,
A universe of stars, a feeling of insignificance, peace.

In our hearts we know she will endure, perhaps in spite of us, but hopefully because of us.

Celebrate the Grand Canyon’s Centennial.

Learn more about issues threatening the Grand Canyon.


  1. Thanks for bringing us along this fantastic experience! I will check it out again on a larger screen laptop. I’ll bet you miss the Catahoula!

  2. Ann D’Amico

    Thank you for sharing your adventure. Amazing!

  3. Susan Stodola

    Thanks for sharing your story of the beautiful and majestic Grand Canyon. It is a place like no other.

  4. Kay Hanson

    As usual, your panoramic photo views deserve a larger screen than my phone allows—- have to see to that later. But for now, thank you for sharing your adventure!

  5. Deborah Leatherwood

    Thank you for sharing your trip with us. The photo’s are great. I am so glad you had good weather too⛺️

  6. Ah, Horn Creek:
    The Tonto description contains one of my favorite NPS quotes:
    “There is water in the bed of Horn Creek about half the time, but unfortunately it is radioactive so don’t drink it unless death by thirst is the only other option.”
    We did virtually the same hike in the opposite direction (Bright Angel to Hermit Trail) within a week of yours.
    Alas, no hiking this April 2020, quote from GCNP:
    Grand Canyon National Park Is Closed Until Further Notice
    …and as you say, She will endure.

  7. Your photos and narration are priceless. So professional. Scenery that the average visitor won’t see. kudos to both D & S.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.