Backpack, Day Five
Return to Civilization
Friday, April 9
I woke up at 3:50am and went around to wake everyone else up. (I know, a wee bit before 4am, but it wouldn't hurt anyone who'd been getting eight to nine hours of sleep every night recently, like we were). We had breakfast and packed up under darkness, which slowly progressed to a very dim twilight by the time we were ready to head out at around 5:30am. With headlamps still glowing, we marched out of the Salt Creek campsite, down and across the creek, and up and onto the Tonto Trail. All around was a quiet and gently lit Grand Canyon.
I'd wanted an early start for many reasons: firstly, this was to be our longest distance covered in a day - over 18 kilometres (11.5 miles), and we were given warnings from the park service about the 'excessiveness' of covering this distance in one day (because the route was extremely straightforward and not rough, I wasn't worried - but it didn't hurt to get a head start). secondly, we had to be back in Las Vegas this evening, and the drive from the South Rim to Las Vegas is on the order of five hours -- meaning we had to drive south out of the park at a reasonable hour. thirdly, I didn't know exactly how fast we'd be on the long uphill of the Bright Angel trail, and wanted to hedge my bets against possible extra slowness. fourthly, we had dry camped the night before, and would not have access to water until Indian Gardens, so hiking in the cool of pre-dawn and morning meant less water consumption (although this was a minor consideration - it wasn't generally that hot out anyway). In short - I was factoring in extra time to make sure that we achieved our goals for the day.
It was delightful to hike in the cool shade of pre-dawn, and then to see the first rays of fiery light strike the higher towers and mesas above.
We emerged into full sunlight as we crossed the divide into the next side canyon : Horn Creek. Horn Creek is a large, multi-pronged drainage that also has a backcountry campsite -- one where the water supply is supposedly radioactively tainted by the remnants of a mine high above on the cliffs.
As we approached Horn Creek, there was some unusual super-straight sections of Tonto Trail (straight like someone had laid it out using a ruler), followed by a long contour around multiple sub-drainages. We crossed through the Horn Creek Campsite, which is at the most easterly of the sub-drainages. There were a few campers scattered about here, just getting up for their day.