Tonto Trail: April 26 - April 28, 2008

Day 1: Granview Point to Horseshoe Mesa to Cottonwood Creek

Our first day, we got up at 5 in the moring and drove up to the Canyon. It took about 3 hours from Pheonix and we walkied into the Backcountry Office at exactly 9am. By that point, the 8am rush had been dispelled, and there was only us and a couple of other stragglers. The ranger printed out our backcountry permit and asked told us that the weather was turing out to be slightly less hot than originally anticipated and that water should not be a problem.

Water availability was the number one concern I had and once I found out we were all good in that department, I didn't have any other questions. We drove the car to Grandview Point, which was the starting point for our trek, and stopped for a minute to just take in the beauty.

*My suggestion for anyone doing a backcountry hiking trip in the canyon, is to find out from the Backcountry office exactly what the water situation is prior to leaving, and then plan ahead. Also, on the way, any thru hikers will have more up to date info sometimes, so chaek with them as well.

First view of the Canyon, on our way to the Grandview Trailhead.

Once we (That's JP on the right above. AKA Drill Sgt Evans) got to the trailhead at Grandview Point, we grabbed our stuff, filled our bottles with water and locked up the car. Since we knew it wasn't going to rain, I threw my lightweight shell in the back seat and left it.

The day started out at a comofortable temperature. We started out at about 7000 ft above sea level so there were some nice breezes and we even needed long sleeve shirts. That is, until we started descending the trail.

The trail is pretty rocky and tight for most of the way down. And The views are spectacular.

The Horseshoe Mesa area had an area where an old rock building was still standing. It definately gives you an appreciation for what it took to survive here 2 and 3 hundred years ago.

All around this area, there are caves and a few mine areas.

We rested at the top of Horseshoe Mesa and had lunch. Then we descended further towards Cottonwood Creek, the camp area we were assigned for the night.

The descent from the mesa was slightly more difficult than Grandview trail. But the views only get better and better.

We got to Cottonwood Creek somewhere around 6 or 6:30pm. While most of trail we were on had very little little trees given the lack of shade, Cottonwood creek was shielded form the sun and had a good amount of trees there to make a nice camp site. There were actually a coule of other groups a little ways up the drainage from us. The water source was excellent so we filled up our Dromedary bags, threw our tents up and cooked up some beef stew.

It was a good first day and after getting up at 5, we were pretty much sleep by the time the sun set. While our average temperature during the day was probably in the nieghborhood of 85 to 90 degrees, the night dropped to about 40. I woke up and had to put on some socks!


Day 2: Cottonwood Creek to *Grapvine to Lonetree

We started out a little later than we had planned, due to a little more soreness than we had planned! But by 8:30am, we were around the bend from Cottonwood creek, and making our way pretty quickly to Grapevine, we we were scheduled to stay on night 2.

As we walked, we ran into a few groups coming the opposite way, who confirmed what a solo hiker ascending Grandview told us. Cremation, where we were scheduled to stay on the last night, was bone dry. Not a drop of water to be had. We would have to collect enought water to camp the night and hike out on the last day prior to making camp in Cremation. We decided we would make our final plans later in the day.

As we made our wany across the Tonot Trail westward, the colors started to change from brown to yellow...

and orange....

and purple...

and even some red!

As we made our way out of Cottonwood Creek towards Grpevine, we spied our first view of the Colorado.

The longer you walk, the more you realize how small you are in comparison to the surrounding landscapes. It was at around this point that we decided we would forgo staying at Grapevine, given its sever lack of shade and our getting therre in a mere couple of hours.

So we took a long restful lunch, and then packed up an made our way to Lonetree, which was that last source of water before we ascended to the top. We had to move about 15 or 16 miles in one day to get there. Day two was turning out to be a killer. Not only were we carrying a good amount of water to get us there, but there was literally not one place in the shade the whole way from Grapevine to Lonetree, until for 10 minutes, at the end of the day the sun sunk behind a spire and gave us a respite from the sun beating down on our backs.

We were carefule to pay attention to how much water we had as well as the time. As well as the trial is marked, at night it would be completely undiscernable from the surrounding terrain. I pushed the pace a little so we could make camp before sundow. We made it with about an hour to spare.

You are also careful to pay attention to what you are doing. Some parts of the trail are on somewhat precarious precipices. They definately give you a good look at whats below.

Surprisingly, the trail is pretty well marked. There are some areas where if you're no0t paying attention, you could easily lose the trail. Cairns are placed pretty liberally around areas that might be found to be confusing.

You definately have to pay attention. And not just to where the trail is, but to who else may be ont he trail as well. Our frinedly rattler here is just cooling down in the shade behind this rock. We were happy to walk around him so as not to disturb his rest!

Lonetree had water, but much less than some of the other places we pumped. Lots of tadpoles to avoid.

This was a really tough day. We walked really far with pretty heavy packs. Drill Sgt. said next tim he was taking one shirt, one pair of pants and thats it. :-)

Day 3: Lontree to Cremation to South Kaibab to Yaki Point

We decided in the morining that rather than stop at Cremation, and camp there, we would just hike out on the third day. But just in case, I carried enough water to stay just in case we decided to. Great camping are though. Good shade, and lots of flat ground to stake your tent on.

The moon ridinig above the canyon.

Cremation was pretty much the same as Grapevine. Little to no shade, and nothing interesting to explore. So once we got there, we decided to push on and out of the canyon. Shade in the canyon on the Tonto trail is hard to come by, so when you find some good shade and nice "chair" you take advantage of it.

The gates to the Kaibab South Trail.

The start up the South Kaibab trail.

The view near the top of the Kaibab trail. This was a tough trek to the top. After trekking for three hard days, with a lot of water in our packs, we were moving pretty slowly. The view you earn however, is well worth the hike.

Well... I guess they see the view from the top of the trail! :-)

The welcome site of the bus.




Well done is better than well said.    -Benjamin Franklin

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