The sun rose milky over the south rim of the Grand Canyon on a late October morning. It seems I never get as early a start as I want when hiking into the Canyon. The milky haze in the atmosphere is from a fire burning unchecked on the North Rim.

It shouldn't affect our hiking plans, but it definitely affects the views. I meet Sue and Megan in the lobby of the Maswik lodge. We check out, buy large coffees to go and head for Hermits Rest. We will be hiking down the Hermit trail for a bit before taking off on the Dripping Springs trail, then on down the Boucher. They say it is 8.5 miles from the rim to camp on the creek. At 7:15 a.m. we are on the trail, a little late but not a bad start. Our packs are heavy with over a gallon of liquid in each pack, but itís a long way between water sources our first day out.

Down the Hermit we trek, chatting in the cool morning rim air. It is steep but a great trail to make time on. Before we know it we are at the Dripping Springs/Boucher junction. We head generally north following along on top of the Supai until it turns west. We feel like we are wandering forever. It is about three miles before the trail meets the crack in the Supai and descends. When Boucher wanders, it wanders. When it drops, it goes straight down. Reminiscent of the Bill Hall trail from the north rim down to the Esplanade, the Boucher pounds our feet, but the knees and thighs take the brunt of moving us down, securing our footing, and keeping our downward movement compatible with life. I can not even look at the drop offs. Itís just best to keep my eyes on the trail and where it goes. Where it ends up is a twenty-five foot drop through a crack, requiring hand and foot climbing down. I start down with my pack, make a bad move and fall up against a boulder, thankfully falling into the cliff. My elbow is scraped up but I wonít notice the bruise until after the hike.

Megan decides this is a good place to use the webbing she brought along and will lower her pack down. She and Sue take off their packs as I walk a little further down the trail to set mine down so I can catch and guide their packs from below. It goes pretty well and the ladies make their way unencumbered by packs. But we are not through with down yet as we are still atop the redwall. We slip slide our way down the drainage the trail follows until we come to the next descent. Again it is steep, loose and rocky footing. It seems to take forever but now we can at least see our goal. Camp looks close enough to touch yet remains frustratingly out of reach. The green trees sway in the late afternoon breeze. The sound of the water flowing in the creek below the trees reaches our ears but does nothing to cool our feet, backs, or heads.

Megan takes over the lead as she is a much stronger down hiker than I am. We leave Sue in the middle and Megan takes off. Sue is tired and I am tired. We have been hiking since seven a.m. and it is now four-thirty p.m. The sun will set around five-thirty. Sue tries to go faster and starts stumbling. I am so tired I could sit down and cry. We just want to be at that creek so tantalizingly close yet so many painful steps away. Finally Megan cries up from below, "Iím here!" We can see her standing pack less near the creek but we are still a good quarter mile away. I tell Sue to slow down and watch her footing. I assure Sue we will make it. Sue mumbles something about "how ridiculous it is to be so close for so long and not get there." I say "no, itís not ridiculous, this is the Grand Canyon. This is the way it is here."

Packs slide off screaming shoulders, tarps are spread and ground pads laid out. Megan goes to pump water for our jugs and camelbacks and fill the pot with water for dinner. I set up the stove and stretch out on my pad. Rice is boiled for dinner, one of those flavored Lipton things that is half pasta, half rice. We are too tired to be hungry but know we need the calories to recharge our batteries for the hike over to Hermit tomorrow. So we eat. Megan makes a cheesecake for dessert. It is very good but again we are just too tired to eat much of it. We clean up the kitchen and hang the food in a tree, then call it a night. Stretched out in warm sleeping bags under the stars, sleep soon overcomes three exhausted hikers.


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