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Since before I was born, my parents have been going to and hiking in the Grand Canyon. Sounds so cool, but dogs are not allowed on the trails inside this National Park. What was the Park Service thinking, I would chase a deer, poop in the park, pee in the mighty Colorado? Anyway, this is a story about a trip Mom and Pop went on this year. I guess it was nostalgic, it reminded them of some dude who’s name was Jerry. I never met him, maybe a good thing, for a while he worked for animal care and control. Here’s what mom said …

About 25 years ago, we took our first trip down the Hermit Trail in the Grand Canyon. We hiked with our great friends Linda and Jerry. This article is dedicated to Jerry, a man with a heart the size of the Grand Canyon, an attitude as wide open as the views from the Tonto trail and a passion for life beyond anyone I’ve ever met, even when faced with debilitating disease. Although I never walked in his shoes, we always walked side-by-side. We learned a lot from Jerry over the years and continue to miss him, although his spirit is always with us. This one is for you, buddy.

Grand Canyon Day One:  Hermits Rest to Hermit Rapids

Brisk temperatures with no clouds in the sky made for a perfect start to our trek to Hermit Rapids. We started with a little yoga, to set our intention of gratitude. The flowers exploded from the start – lavender, yellow, white with a blush of pink and vines crawling along the ground with deep purple flowers. The most beautiful section of the trail between Santa Maria Springs and Lookout Point did not disappoint. The view at Lookout included four soaring California Condors. From the top of Cathedral Stairs the Tonto Plateau was bursting in yellow brittle bush with dots of orange mallow. The brittle bush was vibrant yellow right out of a Grand Canyon color palette.

We stopped at Hermit Creek for a rest and to enjoy the natural hydro spa for our feet. A lizard joined us for lunch, munching on a butterfly twice his size. Refreshed, we were off. Drawing near, you can hear the roar of the rapids, and turning the corner, you see the mighty Colorado – nearly emerald in color this year. Our camp above the rapids gave us a perfect view of some river runners. Five boats and four kayaks; the blue one lost control. Although separated from the boat, the kayaker seemed fine. The yellow one capsized, but righted itself for the last few rapids. Clear skies and millions of stars (and the space station) set the stage for dinner with a full moon as the finale – a kiss goodnight.

Day Two: Hermit Rapids to Monument Creek

Riley and Joe at Grand Canyon White Water saved the day! But we’ll get to that later. First, it is another sunny day at the beach. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and then packed up our gear to head to Monument Creek – only about five miles across the Tonto Plateau. Heading up the creek, we stopped at a cool cascade of water to refill our bottles. At the start of the Tonto, we were greeted by more yellow brittle bush and tremendous views of the rapids we just left behind.

The Blow Out

Sun, heat, moisture, age – all contribute to deterioration, and I guess my well-broken-in Lowe boots decided they’d had enough – which is a little tough, when you are at least 10 miles from civilization. As I took each step, the material between the sole and the shoe (holding everything together) began to crumble. We stopped about a half mile from camp. And the “laugh bird” spoke to us. Actually the Canyon Wren, said “tee-tee-tee-tee.”  The front part of the sole of my left shoe detached. No duct tape, so we wound a shoe lace cord around the shoe to bring me in to Monument Creek.

The rest of the trip?

Flip flops were my only option. Stressed, but with no ideas, we set up camp. Other hikers at Monument were also without a cobbler’s bench. We heard some people coming up the Creek. They were day hikers.

“Hey, are you day hiking up from a river trip?” my husband called out.
“Yes.” Riley said.
“My wife’s boots blew out and we need some duct tape or something. . .”
Riley interrupted, “Grab the boots and hike down with us, I’m sure we can help you out.”

Zip-ties, Gorilla tape and Swiss army knife make repairs

It’s about a mile and a half to the river. Almost two hours later, my husband returned with a smile, thumbs up and two Coors.  “Joe, devised a way of using zip-ties and gorilla tape, to fix the boots. I think it will work.” He said, “We got it started and I can finish the job.” Relieved, we toasted our beers and enjoyed dinner and the sound of the Monument Creek Woodhouse toads. It sounds like a herd of sheep, bleating.

Day Three: Relaxation at Monument Creek

Another leisurely morning to enjoy our coffee. Then the shoe shop was open for business. We discussed the engineering, available tools and materials and went to work. The result was a little bit Frankenstein – not very pretty, but functional. We hoped for maximum performance tomorrow.  With disaster averted, it was down to the creek to relax. Our little toads were quiet, but humping, joined together one on top of the other, hanging out. A flash of vibrant ultra-blue darted by – our first dragonfly of the trip. Joined by yellow, white and canyon brown butterflies, the air and water was filled with springtime creatures. Our camp was in the shade by noon, so we headed back for lunch and a little R&R, and to pay homage to the good Gods of the Grand Canyon.

Day Four: Monument Creek to Indian Gardens

We woke early for a long day, about eleven miles. The hike out of Monument Creek is short and straight up. It gets your heart pumping and ready for a day of easy ups and downs, ins and outs along the Tonto trail. We were up early to avoid the heat of the day and met by some deer doing the same. The first milestone was Cedar Spring where we spotted three deer crossing the trail. Further along, about 3.4 miles into the day, we approached Salt Creek and a deer shared the trail up ahead. The views are spectacular from the Tonto Trail in all directions, with beautiful vantage points where you can view the Colorado River rapids below. The next section of the trail, about 4.8 miles, takes you to Horn Creek.

It’s a long haul!

About halfway I hit a wall, figuratively that is. Now, over the years, I have caught a lot of grief, because I refuse to hike without juicy, heavy, crunchy, sweet apples. But is the case of walls, there can be no better ladder. Revived, with a new quickness to my step, the last 2.5 miles from Horn Creek to Indian Gardens was a breeze. And best of all, the boot repair worked! We arrive for lunch at Indian Garden, an established campground, but a beautiful oasis below the south rim, nonetheless.

Day Four – Well worth the effort.

“There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.”  For what it’s worth, is a protest song from the 60s written by Stephen Stills. The words take on a new meaning in the Canyon, bringing up the idea of something special, something inexplicable – an experience and an energy beyond any other. The music can help set a pace to carry you to the top. It is 4.5 miles from Indian Gardens to the Rim. The hike is easily divided into three sections; 3-mile resthouse, 1.5-mile resthouse, then to the top. The journey is all about rhythm.

It is special and as many times as I have completed a “walk in the park” it continues to be deeply moving. Every trip presents its challenges, but Jerry is always there, walking along side us with a positive attitude. If you go, I hope you’ll find your rhythm, a beat that will carry you far beyond the rim.

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