Sunday, July 18, 2010

Grand Canyon - New Hance to Grandview Part 3

After a satisfying day meandering along the Tonto plateau, the destination for the next camp slowly comes into view as the trail begins a long traverse up canyon to Hance Creek, located below Horseshoe Mesa. From this final Inner Canyon resting place we'll make the long ascent out the next morning.

As is typical for hiking on the Tonto, the canyon bottom appears well below as the trail begins the final approach. Tantalizing glimpses of green trees and running water beckon the tired hiker onward, providing much needed motivation to keep moving. Each step brings the promise of rest closer, along with the simple reward of enjoying the awesome scenery while relaxing in camp.

Nestled in the upper reaches of Hance Creek, this primitive "campground" offers several sites along a year-round stream. For anyone familiar with Grand Canyon hiking, this much appreciated source of running water is a welcome change from the largely waterless environment that is the Inner Canyon. Except for the river which is mostly inaccessible to the hiker, these few perennial streams are an oasis along which travelers congregate, making them essential waypoints for many visitors.

Anyone who has carried a heavy pack for hours knows the exultant sensation that occurs when a destination is reached and the load is removed from their shoulders. Gravity seems suddenly lessened, and legs that felt leaden moments before become light and springy again. And knowing the weight is off your back for at least 12 hours greatly improves the mental outlook as well.

Finding a likely spot Jim and I drop our packs and set up the tents, as light rain showers continue to threaten overhead. It is early afternoon when we arrive, so there is plenty of time to explore the area after lunch. There is another small group who arrived ahead of us occupying sites down canyon, some of the very few people we have seen on this trip.

I decide to walk back up onto the Tonto for a short hike above the creek where the views are more expansive. Just absorbing as much as possible of the grandeur that surrounds me is very satisfying, and I could easily spend the rest of my days immersed in the endless sweep of majestic beauty that is everywhere I look.

In this less hurried time I now have the luxury of examining some of the many wildflowers that blanket the hillsides of the plateau. It's amazing to me that a place that can appear harsh and lifeless much of the year is so vibrant with color and new life after winter rain and snow.

As shadows creep across the opposite canyon wall it's time to head back to camp, rested and ready for supper. I am tired but happy, and looking forward to a good night's sleep before the final hike out. I know tomorrow will be a long day as the trail climbs over 3500 feet to the journeys end, and I'll need every bit of strength and stamina to reach the top. For now though all I need is a hot meal and warm sleeping bag to complete my contentment.

Next:The Grandview Trail

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