Backpack, Day Two
Slowing the Pace
Wednesday, April 7
The second day of our backpack dawned just as the forecast had predicted. Crystal Clear. Calm. All of yesterday's turbulent weather had passed, and a serene calm lay over the cool shady recesses of the canyon. I decided to get up even though everyone else was still asleep. I can't sleep much past nine hours anyway.
Sunrise from Whites Butte
Because we were up on a saddle, still atop the Redwall Limestone formation, our campsite provided more expansive views than at one of the more traditional campspots in the various creek beds or along the Colorado river. I figured this would be a good time to take some pre-dawn pictures at such an extra-scenic campspot.
Morning Dusk at Campsite
The nearby highpoint of Whites Butte looked fairly accessible, so I gradually made my way over to it, taking shots of the shady depths or of the ever-brightening eastern skyline. A bit of scrambling brought me to a nice wide ledge not far below the top of the Butte. From here, I had an expansive view back over the grassy saddle upon which we were camped, as well as a good look at the entire second half of yesterday's hike, including Yuma point and the 'scrambly' downclimbing spot. See the photos for more details.
Travertine Canyon Annotated
I spent a good half hour sitting on my ledgy perch, watching the sun's rays appear, at first shining only the higher walls, and then gradually descending until it finally illuminated the little colored dots of our tents. It was only then that I finally noticed some activity, as the rest of our group finally decided to get up.
After a few more minutes (I wanted just the right light on a very cool clump of barrel cactus that was growing at the edge of the ledge I was on), I started to make my way back down and over to the tents. What a pleasant and quiet way to spend the early hours of the morning!
Barrel Cactus on Whites Butte
After a relaxed preparation under a warm spring sun, we were ready to head off down the trail shortly before 8 am. Our destination were the campsites at Boucher Creek, about 1,800 feet below and about 2.5 km away from us by trail.
Crossing Whites Butte Saddle
Our campsite was positioned just a few minutes' walk away from the final major drop on the Boucher Trail - the steep descent through the Redwall Limestone. The Redwall is a natural barrier throughout the canyon, and there's usually some weakness a trail must wander around and find before dropping through it. In this particular case, the weakness is a steep ravine cut into the side of Whites Butte. The Boucher trail roughly descends the bottom of this ravine, down to the softer and flatter layers of the Tonto Group down below.
We stopped at the lip of the drop, and I went on ahead to scout out the steepness. I came back and reported that if they managed the previous day's steepness, they would have no problem with this. It was less steep and it had virtually no exposure. It was simply a steep, rough track that required some careful footing, but was quite manageable. Nothing worse than a rough steep trail in the Adirondacks, say, and I'm sure Mike and Cathy were relieved to hear there was no exposure with which to contend.
The steep limestone ravine was quite closed-in compared to all of the open canyon hiking we'd been doing. It was shady and cool, with a profusion of desert plants around us: I imagine that the narrow dimensions of the ravine meant that this spot was just a little bit wetter overall.
We made our way downhill, albeit quite slowly, and Cathy was incurring several 'bum violation' demerit points for her style. Today we were in no rush, though, and in time we reached the bottom of the steep and rough stuff. The trail smoothed and flattened considerably as it entered the shale-y slopes of the Tonto Group. It was mostly easy walking from here down to the junction of the Boucher Trail with the Tonto Trail, where we finally escaped the shade of Whites Butte. Pu and myself and Bob basked in the warm sun, waiting for Cathy and Mike and Jenn to catch up.