Traveling the Tonto Trail

Backpacking across the Tonto Plateau of the Grand Canyon - Apr 2004

Backpackers in the Mist
Looking down the start of the Kiabab Trail on the South Rim. On Friday morning, the canyon was completely filled with clouds and we made our way down the steep trail through a mix of rain, fog, and wind.

Clouds Caught on Canyon Walls
Clouds breaking away from the canyon walls near the edge of the inner gorge on the Kiabab Trail.

Phantom Ranch - A Shelter From the Storm
The canteen and chow hall at Phantom Ranch in the bottom of the Grand Canyon is a welcome sight no matter what the weather. The ranch buildings were designed by famed architect Mary Jane Colter for the Fred Harvey company in 1922.

Moonrise over the Colorado River
By evening the rains had stopped and the clouds broke enough to see a nearly full moon rising over the inner gorge. The historic 'black bridge', built in 1928, is the older of two suspension bridges across the river.

Plateau Point Panorama
Saturday we climbed out of the inner gorge to camp at Indian Gardens along the Bright Angel trail. At nearby Plateau Point the rim of the Tonto Plateau extends out over the inner gorge to offer dramatic views. On our way out to the point, a storm slowly approached from across the canyon, forcing us to later walk and then run for camp. It rained most of the night and cleared by morning.

Counting Condors
Three giant California condors wait out the storms on Plateau Point. Nearly threatened with extinction, condors have been recently re-introduced to the Grand Canyon area. Each condor has a numbered wing tag for identification and tracking purposes.

Storm over the Inner Gorge
Looking east along the Colorado River from Plateau Point.

Views along the Tonto Trail
Sunday we tramped west along the rim of the Inner Gorge on the Tonto Plateau. Incredible sweeping views and few other people.

Cliffs of Salt Creek
We stopped for lunch at Salt Creek Canyon, one of the few major tributaries to break the plateau between Indian Gardens and the Hermit Trail.

The Monument of Monument Creek
We spent our last night in the canyon at Monument Creek, named for the large rock pillar in the middle of the canyon. Located on a raised sloped overlooking the canyon floor, the door-less pit toilet at this camp provides the occupant with stunning views of both canyon walls and fellow hikers.

The View from Hermit Trail
The climb up the Hermit Trail on the last day was brutal. Eight and half uphill miles over rough and sometimes washed out trails. Fortunately, steady cloud cover kept things cool and made for nice views of the canyon below.

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