My Tonto Tour: 14 Days Below the Rim, Part 5

Day 7.

Rest day in IG
Moonrise reflecting on the Red Wall

Rest Day! I managed to score two nights at Indian Garden, the midpoint of my trip.  After staying up late, catching up with Mike and eating prehydrated, heavy things I snapped of couple photos of the moon rise, illuminating the Red Wall above the campground.  I listened to a few chapters of my audio book and fell asleep to the rustlings of a very large packrat, I named “Spartacus,” and the resident peepers.  Day 7 started early, Mike wanted to get going up the Bright Angel before the sun warmed things up too much.  Thanks again, for the food, Mike!

After a leisurely breakfast, I took advantage of the facilities and actually washed my dishes (one spork and a cup), caught up on laundry and rinsed my head under the ice-water tap.  It felt good to just lounge in the shade, listen to my book, foregoing the boots, backpack, and sunblock for a day. At 11:30 my wife and her friends walked into the campground.  They’d day-hiked down the Bright Angel, from the S. Rim, bearing a new fuel canister, clean pants, a new roll of ducktape and a SALAD! There was also a cupcake in her pack, as well.  Lyn had been to Indian Garden with me before, but her friends were dropping below the rim for the first time.  It’s always fun to watch people’s reactions to the place, the first time they really see it.  They were able to hang out for a couple hours, ate lunch with me, and had to start back up.  It takes around 3-3.5 hours to hike out if you’re in shape for it.  I walked with them up towards where the trail crosses Garden Creek, and bid them farewell – “This is where I leave you, my good Hobbits.  Thanks for the salad!”

The way back out


Back in the campground, I went down to the little “Visitor Center” (it’s never staffed) and borrowed a book from the lending library.  You can borrow a book or table game there and when you’re done with it, just put it in the rocket box, in the campground.  Pretty cool amenity.  I “checked out” the Kolb Brother’s “Down the Colorado,” of course I skipped ahead and just read the section where they boated the Grand Canyon.  Seemed like the appropriate thing, given I only had one afternoon to read it.

There was a young family that occupied the space next to mine.  Mom, dad and three kids, age 6 – 10, maybe? I really enjoyed their presence.  No screaming, no crying or complaining.  The kids were genuinely excited about being in the Grand Canyon.  Not a single screen or device: no iPad, iPhone, Gameboy, none.  They borrowed table games from the “library,” happily hiked out to Plateau Point for sunset and then went to sleep, after mom read them a chapter from Little House on the Prairie, and dad a chapter from The Hobbit (he even did the voices).  There still may be hope for the future…

Postscript for Day 7: the small, 100 gram fuel canister I started this trip with finally died, during breakfast. It ran out as soon as my water came to a boil.  I boiled 11 liters of water with it, using a Jetboil MiniMo stove.  This trip was the inaugural trip for my new stove, and I am quite pleased with it.

Day 8.

Woke at first light and packed up.  On the trail by 8:15, I would have a mostly dry, primarily shadeless, 10-mile hike.

Tonto East!

My destination for the afternoon would be Lonetree Canyon.  On the way, I would hike past Pipe Spring, the Tip Off on the South Kaibab trail (last enclosed, sit-down toilet on the trip) and head-out the three arms of Cremation Canyon.  The first couple of miles to Pipe were mostly in the shade.  It’s a true oasis, complete with dense reeds, a bog and dozens of butterflies.  I stopped there to drink a quick liter (I use a Life Straw for trail-side sipping) and then headed on around to the S. Kaibab trail crossing.

Pipe Spring

I could hear the South Kaibab Tip Off before I could actually see it.  A group of backpackers was clustered in the shade, under the composting toilet (Sounds appealing, no?) and their “leader” was the loudest woman I’ve ever heard.  I dubbed her “Bullroarer,” and as she was dropping her extensive, exclusive knowledge of all things Grand Canyon, as loudly as she could to anyone withing shouting distance, I decided I would NOT be eating lunch there.  I would just take advantage of the facilities then move on.  I have a preference for peace and quiet.  Before I left, I asked a young woman if they were heading down to Phantom for the night.  She replied that she was, and I took that to mean “all of them.”  Boy, was I ever mistaken.

The Tip Off on the South Kaibab Trail

I continued on from the Tip Off, hiking past the large cairns that mark the entrance into the Cremation backcountry area, and found a shaded spot for lunch.  Looking around, I noticed it was actually part of an archaeological site including a rock shelter, extensive lithic scatter, and small agave roaster.  Again, there is a well-established campsite in the center of it.  The hike from the Tip Off to Lonetree has a more arid feel to it than other portions of the Tonto.  Cremation Canyon splits into three distinct arms or branches and you hike down and out of each one.  There is little shade, no water, and the trail is easier to stray off of if you don’t pay attention.  Again, a quick meander and it is easy enough to relocate the path.


I passed another solo hiker, heading the opposite direction.  He was going out the S Kaibab and had come down the Grandview.  He had good news for me regarding water – lots of it!

By 2:30 I was dropping into Lonetree Canyon, home for the night.  I was pretty excited to see I had the place to myself and, as soon as I said that, a group of three dads and their teenaged sons arrived.  They noisily set up a large tarp, ate lunch, spread out, dug cat holes and took care of business next to the creek.  I tucked myself into a small site, upstream from them and took care of my camp chores.  By 4 pm, they packed up and moved on.  I guess they were just waiting for cooler hiking.  I congratulated myself on scoring Lonetree Canyon to myself, again, just in time to hear Bullroarer coming down the trail…

Just as before, you could hear her before you could see her.  She was leading a group of three other hikers.  Apparently, the woman I’d spoken with at the Tip Off wasn’t part of Bullroarer’s group, she’d just gotten caught in the turbulence.  They set up camp after she loudly announced that it didn’t matter if anyone else was coming in, they would take up two campsites for the night.  I ate dinner with my earbuds in, listening to my audio book on the collapse of the Bronze Age, and waited for the peepers to begin their warm up.  They do a pretty good job drowning out loud talkers.  I determined I’d get another early start the next day, leaving BR and her attendees behind.