No. The camp at Hermit Creek is 7 miles, nearly 2,500 feet vertically, and trekking takes a few more hours. We went down the Hermit Trail, a poorly maintained path away from the South Rim of the canyon, and paused at a cliff where we could see many of the canyon’s well-stacked layers. The Coconino Formation becomes a pinkish pastel of hermits, Supay, and Redwall deposits below. Exhibited on a cliff hundreds of feet high, it clearly reminds us of how far we have to go and how quickly we can get there with one failure.

We are mostly here, thanks to the birthday memo that Kai wrote to me two years ago. I love you so much that I never want to leave you. But until then, we can do a lot together! I’m actually sitting in my seat, thinking I’m old enough for the Grand Canyon! “

Just as some fathers plan an experience-worthy trip for their son, I think some fathers can resist it. I’m neither, so I’m here. Kai does little to physically prepare for this, except that he is just 12 years old. Or I haven’t backpacked for 13 years. Or, my old gear is much heavier than most people have these days. Exception: Hiking boots that I bought a week ago and “invaded” by walking around the neighborhood the day before I took off here.

Where car, cell phone reception, and emergency assistance are in the right range, all of this can be fine. However, in the Grand Canyon, minor accidents such as ankle sprains, dehydration, gastrointestinal illness, and water purifier breakages can be a Code Red emergency. arrive.

I’m spending time on adventures and I don’t really believe that Kai is leading his destiny, but I’m far more anxious than if I were flying alone here. This wasn’t the case if you got permission to camp only along the main corridor trails of the trafficking Grand Canyon, with ranger stations, emergency calls, and at least occasional drinking water sources (even these trails). It’s daunting).

Instead, we stay for two nights in what the national park calls a threshold campsite, with a pit toilet (BYO TP) and no other facilities. The last night takes place in the corridor. We carry all food (mainly dehydrated food) and need to filter drinking water, but at least we camp near a reliable stream.And backpacking is less risky coronavirus The transmission has masks for those you meet on the trail, and we use double masks while traveling here.

Pass by low, winding juniper and pinion trees, and chunks of sage brushes clinging to harsh terrain. Immediately, the field of view expands to no slim, the stack deepens, and descends to the shadowy 1.8 billion-year-old Vishnu, a panorama that fascinates Kai. “This place is great,” he says, asking again how much time he has left to throw away his pack. He has never even carried a backpack. In the middle of Flagstaff, Arizona, I rented him at the same store where I bought his oversized hiking pants. It, coupled with the sunshirt and brim hat he borrowed from my wife, embarks on an epic adventure and makes him look like a Paddington Bear.

Oddly enough, it would have been easier a century ago. The Hermit Trail was once the best-maintained road for guided groups to travel on mulebacks to and from Hermit Creek’s luxury camps. The trails and camps were built in 1911 by Fred Harvey, the hospitality division of the Santa Fe Railroad, to replace the Bright Angel Trail, which was managed as a concession by businessmen and ultimately by US Senator Ralph Cameron. rice field. ..

A set of steep scree switchbacks drives us to the Tont Platform, a sage-colored shale sloping shelf adorned with prickly pear and barrel cacti, black brushes, and thorny yucca. From here, head to Hermit Creek a few miles downstream, then spend one night each at Monument Creek and Indian Creek on the upstream Buttonhook and hike the Bright Angel Trail on Friday.

We arrive at a dusty, beaten, and resentful hermit — where did you go, Fred Harvey? — But there are no injuries, blisters or other serious concerns. There’s about half a dozen etched places on a steep embankment above a stream, and there’s plenty of space between us and two other parties, one man and two women.

Nightfall in the canyon can be magical or ominous, depending on your mood. Pushed by the cold air, darkness pours into all the gaps, and a small sound takes on a deep inside story. We follow the narrow path to the stream, settle in the sound of a waterfall, lie down on a rock and take a star. We recommend that you submit it twice. “Not yet,” says Kai. “This is incredible.”

Wednesday’s plan is to follow a 3.5-mile distance to Monument Creek, drop the pack, and hike the Colorado River for a mile (1,000 feet vertically). You will then arrive at the monument by 1 pm in time for the river hike. But when I’m lowering my gear, I look up at my boy standing and falling asleep while leaning on a tanned rock. I go back to the hole of guilt and begin to worry deeply about tomorrow’s 11-mile day.

Later, one of them got in the way while chatting with a trio of hikers in their 50s from Flagstaff. “As you know, bighorn sheep are walking across the cliff just behind you.”

Indeed, it has muscular, agile, flashy, comma-shaped horns. When it reaches the other side of the camp, it lays down and looks back from where it came. Kai is making a fuss, encouraging me to take more pictures and report on every movement of the animal when I cook dinner.

I also met two solo campers at Monument Creek. He is a man named George Van Meter who is posting a video of his backpacking trip on a YouTube channel. George backpacking, And an Oregonian named JoZacher approaching the end of the 50-day hike. “It gives you more time to look at nature,” she explains. Like most long-distance Grand Canyonies, Sacher cached food in plastic boxes with sealed labels to discourage wildlife and human theft. She has also endured many bitter snowy nights, and her melancholy tone suggests she is ready to go home.

That night, the wind gets stronger and the rain blows the tent away. I probably sleep for 4 hours and wake up with fresh worries: will it rain all day long? Can you filter enough water for an 11 mile tradge? (Of the two streams between the camps, one is too silt to drink and the other is Horn Creek, which is radioactive due to the accumulation of uranium on the hills above. “Death due to thirst is the other. Drink here only if it’s an option. “) And: Is it the day Kai cracks and folds?

But I’m optimistic when I leave Monument Creek at 7:30 am and a cold fog pours from the edges. Kai sets an active pace as the trail jumps out of the wash and then reaches long-distance levels.

For most of the next few hours, we feel like we are walking there. Tonto melts into a huge red-walled bay called Inferno, and our view is disastrously stable, stirring. At one point, Kai found Flagstaff, who left the camp 30 minutes before us, on the other side of the drainage channel, within screaming distance. “Hey, dad, they’re right there! You’ll catch them soon.”

But when you turn the next turn, you’ll see how far the trail has gone before it doubles towards the river. Alas, they are at least an hour ahead.

By noon, the clouds had disappeared, the temperature had settled to the heights of the 1950s, and we were freed from Inferno. In many places you can see and often hear the river. A river is a vein that quenches a green waterway far below. The vantage to the inner canyon shows a cluster of sharp spire cut from a dark schist. But it’s still a long day. As we walk around, the Indian Garden emerges in my imagination. An oasis of taco trucks, margarita bars, live music, and happy mules ready to shuttle the pack to the South Rim.

Kai breaks my fantasy. “What are those ropes?” I’m sure he’s hallucinating, but then I see them also looping the phone line from the edge to the corridor path. look.

Even without an octopus truck, Indian Garden is another dimension. A square campsite with mule stables, picnic tables, shelters, wildlife-resistant food boxes, water spigots and ranger stations is all hidden in green-leaved cottonwood groves. The crew of George and Flagstaff are there, as are at least five other parties. And my second feeling after deep relief is overcrowding.

Friday is the first person to get up before dawn and leave the camp. For an hour, you can admire the Bright Angel Trail and its towering views.

Our five miles, one-third of the road to a 3,100 vertical foot climb, George blows a breeze past us. Day 4 Dad can’t compete with the up-and-coming YouTuber. Kai finds another gear, casts a shadow on George, goes through layers, gets off mule trains and day hikers, crosses snow and ice spreads, and finally rises to the plains of the South Rim, asking questions. Kai also wrote on the birthday card that he would always be wild even at the age of 100. good. If you’re lucky and you can get there, you’re likely to make friends.

Briley is a writer based in Takoma Park, Maryland.His website is johnbriley.com..

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