|Austen, Felix and Justin beginning the early morning walk across the Tonto|
Ten miles. Ten miles before we'd reach Indian Garden, which is located on the Bright Angel trail (the route that would bring us back to the rim, and reality). The thing about the Grand Canyon is ... the trail that lays ahead never looks as far away as it actually is. The full Tonto is a 95-mile east-west passage along the entire length of the Tonto Platform. Although it is relatively flat with little elevation gain, the trail follows contours and drainage routes while paralleling (for the most part) the river and rim. This means that you end up going a mile in the seemingly wrong direction just to maneuver in and out of gulches and side canyons. For this very reason, it felt like we were hiking forever and making very little progress.
|Countouring around the Inferno|
The above photo is an example of the necessity of contouring around mesas and tributaries to the inner gorge. This section is called the Inferno, most likely because of the way the sun hits the rock and increases the temperature; this was the only part of the hike that I was uncomfortably warm. Even though the day seemed to drag on, we made excellent time and soon arrived at the Tonto/Bright Angel trail junction.
Indian Garden was just around the corner, about another half-mile. Because it is a part of the Bright Angel trail system, Indian Garden is considered a corridor campground. Essentially, this means that it's more developed and more popular than the other backcountry campsites we'd been to (due to easy access, comparatively, from the rim). We even had our own picnic table, on which we played a few games of Yahtzee after setting up our tent and changing into warmer clothes (we were at a higher elevation now). I had mixed feelings about the next day; I was thankful to hike up rather than down because it's significantly easier on the knees, but I was also somewhat dreading the five mile ascent in snowy and/or icy conditions closer to the rim. Justin and I had forgone our crampons figuring that we wouldn't really need them ... rangers had only recommended them. And this is among the more crowded trails that attracts tourists year-round. So, no crampons ... and sweet, frequently interrupted dreams of the prickly pear margaritas awaiting us at El Tovar and a warm shower in Durango.
|Prickly pear cactus|