You forget what it truly means to be on the road. You are rich in places to sleep, yet essentially homeless. Your car is your home. Your car is your kitchen. Every national forest is your home. Your hammock and tent, your nest. Every Walmart parking lot, a potential home if all else fails. You create systems inside your car that only you understand. Everything has a place. Five inches of space are as valuable as a whole room in your house. You become one. Your seats start to smell. The dashboard is thick with dust and dirt. You brought a bunch of clothes, but you wear the same every day. There’s a collection of rocks starting to grow already. Cold beer is god.
We alternated between trail and road. Sweaty then showering down in the campground bathroom. Or a bath in the creek, any cool water would do. The heat penetrated our souls as we careened across the south west of our country, and some days we felt like we may never be cool again. We began to deeply and carelessly long for our future in Maine; the notion of cold winter and icy fingers became an every day daydream.
A hike into the depths of the Grand Canyon brought us to our knees far away from the comforts of civilization. We struggled in a new way, but that discomfort made the reward that much sweeter: friends awaiting us at the rim with a campsite we’d call home where we hung our hammocks, drank cold beer and ate not-cliff bars. We slept like babies (until one of us was nudged by a burro in the night), and awoke refreshed, ready to find new roads to explore and new places to lay our heads for a night or two.
The options were endless, we chose the way. This was our new life.
Photo Locations (from top to bottom): Roadside stand east of Grand Canyon on AZ Rt 89; Crossing the Colorado River near Marble Canyon; Hermit Creek trail inside the Grand Canyon; Vegetation inside the Grand Canyon; Dreamcatcher on AZ Rt 89; The vast Grand Canyon National Park; Dealing with the heat inside the Grand Canyon; Rocks in Arizona; Comfort at Desert View Campground, Grand Canyon; Roadside stand flags east of Grand Canyon on AZ Rt 89; View of the Colorado River from the Tonto Trail inside the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon Hermit Trail – Hermit’s Rest to Monument Creek & Hermit Creek
Semi-Loop – 21 miles
Day 1 – 9.3 miles – Hermit’s Rest (canyon rim) to Monument Creek
Day 2 – rest and exploration around Monument Creek
Day 3 – 3.5 miles – Monument Creek to Hermit Creek
Day 4 – 8.2 miles – Hermit Creek to Hermit’s Rest
We woke before the first light to beat the inevitable heat. As we took our first strides down the steep, rocky path we were strong, confident and thrilled at the glowing canyon walls around us, illuminated by the sun’s early rays. With each step we took down, we knew we’d eventually have to come back up, but we brushed those thoughts aside, eager to dive deep into the truly impressive Grand Canyon; an enormous gash in our Earth’s crust, not visible from the surrounding plains until you are standing at its dramatic edge.
The sun rose higher and higher, but the bending and folding canyon walls shaded us with their cool rock as we meandered our way down into the warmer air that felt as though the night air had never cooled it down.
But eventually our luck ran out and the time had come for us to feel the full brute force of the sun’s heat. Hiding behind boulders and crouching under small bushes we tried to grasp at every inch of shade we could find, while feeling the desperate need to push on to our final destination in order to beat the heat that we knew would only get worse with every minute. And so it did. And with only two miles left, and still an hour or two before High Noon, we met our 100 degree match. But we pushed on, knowing that a cool creek and some form of shade were promised at our trail’s end. And thankfully the promise held true.
We spent the following day and a half dipping our feet and splashing our bodies in the small creek, exploring the deep slot canyons of our narrow, protected valley, hiding in the cliff overhang that was the only cool shady spot between 10am and 4pm, building relationships with lizards, flies, bees, birds then bats and frogs and crickets that made the most powerful orchestra as the short, hot night settled in.
We were trapped in a way that was unfamiliar. We were safe and cool, but we both had daunting feelings all along that the only way out of the buggy safe haven we had called home for two days was a long grueling path that we would soon enough have to take. But before we had to face that reality we were happy to have a short early morning jaunt over to the plentiful Hermit Creek where an actual shady swimming hole awaited us with other hikers who had experienced the same hardships as we had. It was surprisingly wonderful to have other humans to lament with and share in the joy of a cold dip, and to build up courage all together to face the 4000 feet of elevation gain that challenged us in the coming dawn. By nightfall we were no longer afraid and felt ready and excited to charge our way out.
We woke before the first light to beat the inevitable heat. As we took our first strides up the steep, rocky path we were strong, confident and thrilled at the glowing canyon walls around us, illuminated by the sun’s early rays.