Tonto Trail | Mark Lindsay

Long, rocky, ankle-twisting. The descent down the Hermit Trail in Grand Canyon feels a bit like torture. It's not the first rock that gets you. Somewhere around boulder #500 the legs start to scream. There are nine rock slides that obscure the now-forgotten trail. The Park Service is quick to tell you that it hasn't maintained the blasted path since 1931. It shows. The trip is slow. The trail disappears often.

Then things suddenly smooth out under your feet. The boulders turn to soft shale. You are on the Tonto Platform. 360 degrees reveal the aloneness and the connection all at once. The canyon is yours. You feel like screaming so that the echo bounces forever. It is like being on the moon. Or Mars. Or in a forever land of infinity. It is staggering.

The Tonto runs East to West for most of the canyon. It undulates like the outside wake of a motorboat. Rolling up and down it teases the legs into thinking the hike is easy. But, then a cramp or a shooting pain reveals the wear-and-tear. The problem is that the deep erosion of the washes cut into the platform and you need to walk around them. The slippery shale makes you feel like the drop into the void is inevitable. It's sort of a tiptoe dance on the edge of the abyss. Drama is everywhere.

Then you make it to the safe, rolling plateau again. And looking up at the canyon rim it hits you again. You are at one with everything. You catch your breath. It's hard to breathe it all in.