We stopped for a more extensive mid-morning break and snack in the shady confines of Travertine Canyon's creekbed. I found myself a nice orthopaedic rock, Brian Connell-style, tipped my hat forward over my face, and shut my eyes for a few minutes.
Beyond Travertine Canyon, the Boucher Trail continued its traverse eastwards. There's one spot not far from (but high above) Hermit Rapids where the trail traverses an airy slope above a large dropoff down to the river (Anyone who doesn't have a good head for heights might find this section of Tonto moderately scary). We got our first glimpses of river rafters here, parked at a sandy beach, preparing to run Boucher Rapids (which, by the way, we could now see off in the distance downstream). As we continued walking along this stretch, more rafters came down from upstream, and started to run the Hermit Rapids. It was neat to watch them from our bird's eye view point. Hopefully there would still be rafters coming by later in the day, after we'd arrived at our campsite right at Hermit Rapids.
Rafting the Hermit Rapids
After passing the steep side-traverse section, the Tonto resumes its benign, mostly-flat character. We had now arrived at the mouth of Hermit Canyon, and the trail had started its long traverse up-canyon to where a reasonable descent down to Hermit Creek could be made. Hermit is a big canyon, so we had to go quite a ways in before this was possible. Along the way, we could see down to Hermit Creek, and could see the trail that led down it towards Hermit Rapids. We'd be doing that very trail in a couple of hours.
Hermit Creek Access Trail
As one approaches the descent down to Hermit Creek, there's a good view of the complex of flat spots and interconnected footpaths that mark the Hermit Creek campsites. This is a more developed, official backcountry campsite, including a solar composting toilet. Not long after this viewpoint, the floor of Hermit Creek rises high enough to enable a painless descent down into it. For some reason Mike had been worried about this descent, perhaps thinking that the sheer walls of Tapeats Sandstone would continue upcanyon indefinitely. That, however, is not the way of the Tonto Trail!
Paths and Sites at Hermit Creek
Hermit Creek Solar Toilet
Hermit Creek was a beautiful oasis of flowering trees, cool shady alcoves, and fresh, sparkling water. We dropped our packs for a proper lunch break, and explored around for a bit. We visited an excellent pool just below the lowest campsites. It was an idyllic, classic spot: a twenty-foot round pool of head-height water surrounded by smoothed sandstone, with some leafy trees hanging down from overhead and a stream of clean water pouring in as a mini-waterfall. Again, the hydrophilic among us could not resist its lure: in went Jenn, Pu, Mike and Bob at one point or another during the lunch break.