Yay! Just faxed my backcountry itinerary to the Grand Canyon Backcountry Office for my October '01 trip. Made my pre- and post-hike hotel reservations (Bright Angel Lodge the night before, El Tovar the night out).
4 days, 3 nights on the Boucher Trail, the Hermit Trail, the Tonto Trail between the Hermit and the Bright Angel, and the Bright Angel Trail back home. If my first choice of itinerary is accepted, I'll spend the first night at Boucher Rapids, the second night at Hermit Rapids, and the third night at Monument Creek. Then out, via the Tonto Trail/Bright Angel Trail.
All this is on the south side of the canyon, to the west of Grand Canyon Village. I've only done this area of the Canyon once before, and didn't do the Boucher area at that time. Boucher is named after one of the early prospectors in the Grand Canyon, French-Canadian Louis Boucher, whose cabin and diggings were in the area now named after him. While he is remembered as a friendly, gentle soul, he was rather a loner—as I imagine prospectors had to be—and for that reason was sometimes called the 'Hermit'. It was said of him that "he rode a white mule, wore a white beard, and only told white lies." The last bit was probably a dig at another of the early entrepreneurs of the Canyon, 'Captain' John Hance, a notorious teller of tall tales.
The Hermit Trail is also named after Boucher's nickname, as is the restaurant/scenic viewing area known at 'Hermit's Rest', which is at the head of the Hermit Trail. Hermit Trail was originally built by the Santa Fe Railroad around 1900, when it was competing for tourists with the Cameron brothers, who owned a hotel in the what is now the area of Grand Canyon Village, and the Bright Angel Trail, which the Camerons controlled. The Santa Fe Railroad ran its spur line out to the west, built Hermit's Rest, and built the Hermit Trail down to the river. Both the railroad's holdings and the Cameron operation ultimately were taken over by the National Park Service when the Canyon was declared a national park. The Bright Angel Trail is now maintained by the Park Service, and is one of the main mule trails that carries tourists down into the Canyon.
Hermit Trail, like most of the Inner Canyon trails, is not maintained at all, except by hikers' boots, and as a result has decayed a lot over the years. Small bits of it remain as the Santa Fe RR. built it, a 'yellow brick road' of evenly hewn blocks of the light yellow-to-tan Coconino Sandstone, one of the rock layers in the Canyon. Much of it, though, is washed out, or has been covered with rockslides. The Redwall descent isn't bad, as Redwall descents go, but the steep switchbacked slope down a cone of Bright Angel Shale talus as you approach the Tonto Platform is especially nasty, if I recall correctly; the last time I did it was about 8 years ago. But maybe I was just doing it on too hot a day, and exhaustion and overheating made it seem worse than it is. The Hermit is actually among the better of the Grand Canyon trails.
I have never been on the Boucher trail, and I'm looking forward to it. It has the reputation of skirting very close to the edge of very high cliffs. Can it be any worse than the Tanner? We'll see. The Tonto Trail between the Hermit and the Bright Angel is fairly easy. It's heavily traveled, the Hermit-Bright Angel loop being a very popular one. It may see more traffic than any other Inner Canyon trail, except the NPS-maintained ones.
I like to stay at a nice hotel the night I hike out, and luxuriate my tired muscles and ligaments in an hours-long hot bath, followed by room-service if possible. Um, so sweet! Nothing like total exertion and exhaustion, followed by luxury and rest. The El Tovar fills the bill perfectly. It's a Mobile 4-star hotel. Outstanding service, nice accommodations, excellent dining room.
Also a remarkably low price—US$118 a night for a single in October—for a 4-star hotel, which probably explains why it was so hard to find a room, even 4 months off.
The Backcountry Office limits the number of overnight hikers in any area of the Canyon at one time; the number permitted depends on how developed the area is. Not everyone who requests a permit for a given area on a given date gets it. The Backcountry Office also requires all requests for backcountry permits to be filed no more than 4 months prior to the first of the month in which the request is made. Thus, June 1 is the first date I could have made my requests for backcountry reservations.
My fax modem had to dial the Backcountry Office five or six times before it got a connection. Busy signals. ^^ Hm. A bunch of other people faxing in their requests for October on June 1, I suspect. Hope no one else wanted my spots...
And now, a word from someone else who loved the Canyon:
|No matter how far you have wandered hitherto, or how many famous gorges and valleys you have seen, this one, the Grand
Cañon of the Colorado, will seem as novel to you, as unearthly in the color and grandeur and quantity of its architecture, as if you had found it after death, on some other star; so incomparably lovely and grand and supreme is it above all the other
cañons in our fire-moulded, earthquake-shaken, rain-washed, wave-washed, river and glacier sculptured world.