I awake a few times in the night to empty my bladder, but sleep well enough, awaking to my wristwatch alarm at five a.m. Stars still fill the sky and I just donít have the heart to wake Sue and Megan. I know how much Sue especially needs all the rest she can get. But I am worried. I know the Tonto trail goes in and out, up and down, all the little side drainages between here and our Hermit creek destination. Itís only six miles to camp, but there will be no shade on long stretches of those six miles. So as the sky begins to lighten, I rise and fill the pot for coffee.

Sleeping bags are stuffed and hiking boots put on screaming feet. Sue has a couple of impressive blisters that she attends to. We decide to finish the cheesecake for breakfast. Itís quite yummy, coffee and cheesecake at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. But the sun climbs higher and we must be going. We head up the trail a little after eight a.m. We must climb back up to the Tonto plateau. We had dropped all the way down into Boucher creek and we must regain the ground so laboriously lost just last night. Within fifteen or twenty minutes we are high enough to look back down on that view that teased us at last eveningís camp, if only you can keep on moving.

We climb in shade until we top out on the Tonto, then head north, then east, then north, then south, depending upon the Canyonís whim. We make our way around the point and start dropping into Travertine Canyon. Then up, out the other side, we head northeast. Around the next point we head up into the Hermit Creek drainage. But the Tonto has another side drainage in our way so we angle southeast up and around it and the waters of Hermit creek come to our view. They are not nearly so far away as was Boucher and we arrive in camp around one.

The overhang camp I remember from fifteen years ago is still there. I tell Megan to grab it. So we have sun and shade in our camp depending upon our whims. The creek is inviting and I collect water bottles and camelbacks and head to it with my water pump. I meditate upon the miracle of water and green trees in the middle of the desert as I pump life giving pure water into our vessels. I soak my shirt in cool creek water and pour a cupful on my head. I carry rinse water away from the creek and actually wash my hair. I take a Handi-Wipes bath and put on clean shorts and an old "I Hiked The Canyon" T-shirt. Its material is time worn smooth and soft against my skin. I am dehydrated from the past two days and I sit by the creek drinking from my bottle. Clean, I carry the water back to our camp. Sue is asleep on her bag. Megan has hiked to the river to visit Hermit rapid. I am happy for some alone time along the creek. I enjoy every minute of it. I am at peace.

As evening shade fills our little piece of paradise, we gather at the camp for dinner. Water is boiled and poured into foil containers to rehydrate our meal. With the addition of a package of albacore tuna and some rehydrated peas and some actual real cheese, we feast on tuna noodle cheese casserole. Crushed crackers top our feast and dessert is shortbread cookies iced with Nutella. Satiated we prepare for bed. Hermit camp is a threshold site so rocket boxes are provided to store our food and trash, a great improvement from the NPS.

Eighteen years ago when I camped in this very spot, mice were a major problem despite the iron racks provided on which to hang your pack. I tell my companions about the late night arrivals who had hiked down Boucher and over to Hermit in the dark. How they had roused up the sleeping campers with their late arrival then, when finally settled down, a mouse ran across the lady and she screamed. There followed the commotion of tent pitching and settling into. It is a good memory and I smile. I remind my fellow hikers we must be on the trail early and headlamps are soon switched off. Books and journals are put away for the night. The stars come out, but we do not see them.


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