As soon as I dipped below the South Rim, all of the knots in my life seemed to unravel. Even though I was carrying five days worth of food and plenty of water, I felt as though I could float like a dandelion seed through space and time into the inner canyon. There's something about hiking all day that seems more real to me than anything else. As soon as I put on the pack, I'm not an "older lady" to the twenty-something dude on the trail. I'm not someone who increasingly feels trapped in what is admittedly a secure job and financial situation, but one that is harder and harder to go to each morning. I'm monkey bars, my trail alter-ego, a sprite in a hiking skirt, and honestly? I could hike forever.
|Day one, looking okay. Thinking about keeping this side braid thing. It doesn't get caught in my pack like two braids.|
The air sizzles on the Tonto Plateau. This is the place I will spend five days, many, many hours alone in the remote and waterless escarpment above the Colorado River. I both love and fear it; when I deposit my tent and belongings at Indian Garden and day hike along the eastern section, I find a secret plunge pool off the trail and some light reading. Staying alive here is so tied to water.
|A secret plunge pool in Pipe Creek.|
|Probably shouldn't have borrowed this book from the IG "library". I kept thinking, "The last people to see her said she was headed west on the Tonto Trail. She never showed up at the campsite."|
The next morning, some campers next to me decide that getting up at three am is the way to go. They pack loudly, encompassing the next two hours to talk and slam things around. I am reminded of what I hate about the Grand Canyon: you are required to camp in designated sites, and most people congregate around water. If you want to be truly alone at night you must choose a dry camp or scramble down faint routes. So it's an early morning, and I hike through the dawn on Tonto West, towards Monument Creek.
The Tonto Plateau is not flat. It curves and bends and inches around deep chasms: Horn Creek, Salt Creek, Cedar Spring. It can take two hours to reach a point you can see just around the bend. You can't count on a fast pace here. But I have all the time in the world to reach the slow ribbon of water that snakes down to Granite Rapids, and hours to sit with feet in sand, watching rafters plunge through the silty, cold water of the Colorado. There are only two other groups camped at Monument, and as darkness falls at seven, everyone retreats to their tents.
|Monument Creek is pretty awesome.|
Stars burn holes in the sky. Two nights and I am already changing. I think about this: staying in the canyon for days and days, well past my exit date, following the Tonto west until I run out of trail.
To Be Continued...