Green Mountain Club Sections are regional chapters of the club that get together on a regular basis for hiking and other outdoor activities, trail maintenance, and socializing. But they don’t just get together in Vermont! The Connecticut Section, especially, likes to travel for their hikes. They’ve gone around the country, from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Mount Whitney in California, and they’ve even hiked internationally in places like Iceland and Ireland. This past spring, they did a trip to Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, and GMC Connecticut Section Member Dennis Himes shares his trip report here.
My dad has for years told me I have to hike the Grand Canyon before I die, and a couple weeks ago I finally did, together with 12 other members of the Connecticut Section of the Green Mountain Club.
Friday, 14 April 2018 – Hermit’s Rest to Monument Creek
We started out at Hermit’s Rest on the South Rim and took Hermit Trail down into the canyon. The trails throughout the canyon were very smooth and gentle compared to what we’re used to in the Northeast. They were also very different in being open the whole way, and, of course, by being in a western desert, with mostly unfamiliar flora and fauna. The most notable aspect of Grand Canyon trails, however, is the fact that pretty much around every corner you’re in front of a new view which would by itself be world famous if it were anywhere else.
The steepest part of Friday’s hike was right at the beginning, dropping down from the rim on switchbacks. I actually got off trail briefly, by missing a switch, but recovered quickly. After a couple miles or so of switchbacks, the trail heads north along the eastern side of the Hermit Creek side canyon, losing elevation more gradually. Early in this section is Santa Maria Spring and Santa Maria Shelter, a really nice place to take a break in the shade and the only place to refresh water before Monument Creek. The day wasn’t particularly hot, but there were no clouds, and almost no trees, so a shady place to rest was always welcome.
Eventually, the trail took us to Breezy Point, whence it drops down some switchbacks called Cathedral Stairs. After the stairs, the trail runs pretty straight and flat to where Hermit Trail ends at the intersection with Tonto Trail. We then headed east on Tonto Trail, which was the easiest trail of the hike. I started pushing myself in this section because it was easy and we were nearing camp. That was a mistake; I ended up bonking. After recovering I continued towards camp. We were pretty spread out by then, but I was with a couple of other hikers when the trail dropped into a drainage and I became convinced we were on the wrong trail. In retrospect, I think this was at least partly due to fatigue because after consulting the map I had a mental image of how the trail intersections and turns went which wasn’t what the map actually showed. I was sure we had veered off of the Tonto Trail onto the Granite Rapids spur when in reality we hadn’t gotten to that intersection yet. Eventually, it was all figured out, though, and we all made it to Monument Creek Campsite. The whole hike was 9.3 miles and about 3500 feet elevation loss.
Monument Creek Campsite is in a side canyon containing Monument Creek. The creek was flowing nicely in the campsite area, but not downstream of there, which had caused some concern when we were approaching and could see the dry creekbed below us. The creek is named after the Monument, a 250-foot high stack of rocks. The campsite has very sandy soil; I ended up putting rocks on my tent stakes to hold them in. That first night the sky was clear and we watched a narrow but dense star field slowly rotate above us.
Saturday, 15 April 2018 – Monument Creek to Granite Rapids and back
On Saturday we hiked down to the Colorado River and back. There’s a trail from the campsite to the river which is mostly just the Monument Creek bed. Although the creek was flowing at the campsite, soon after it dries up (or goes underground?) and reappears near the river. The point where the creek/trail meets the river is Granite Rapids, which has several beaches on the south (i.e. our) side, including a nice sandy one just upstream of the rapids. We spent a lot of time hanging out, watching the rapids and the lizards, and resting in the shade of the bushes. Some of us went swimming, as well. Then we hiked back. The back and forth was only about three miles total with only about 500 feet elevation loss/gain. The temperature was the hottest of the trip, but still only in the 80s.
As we were headed out we saw a couple of climbers preparing to scale the monument, and after we got back we saw a different couple of climbers doing so. Actually, we just saw them at one point on the ascent and then on the top, since they climbed up the opposite side.
Sunday, 16 April 2018 – Monument Creek to Hermit’s Rest
On Sunday we reversed Friday’s hike. It was cloudy that day, but very windy. I had made the mistake of not packing any chapstick. I associate needing chapstick with cold weather, so I didn’t even think about packing it. I ended up with severely chapped lips, which took several days to recover from. Other than that, it was a great hike, seeing the sites from Friday in reverse and from a new perspective.
My dad was right; the Grand Canyon is not overhyped; it really is that awesome. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back, but now I’ll be telling hikers I know that you should go there before you die.