The Boucher Trail had lived up to its expectations. It was steep, precarious, and exhilarating. But, even though now at Yuma Point, we weren't quite done with it. There was another leg of the trail to be negotiated on the next day—a long traverse to Dripping Springs Trail and then up to the rim on the Hermit. The grand loop would then be complete.
Yet, the worst was over and we knew it. Spirits were high as we approached Yuma Point. The sky was blue, the air brisk and fresh. The entire canyon was before us from this high perspective of view and mood. We looked out and down, our pointed fingers retracing the day's hike from the now-faraway White's Butte. Yuma Point was lofty and spectacular, the worthy culmination to this four-day journey.
After endless discussions of water needs, hiking itineraries, supplies, and weather contingencies, the only decision left before us was one more placement of the tent. The best spot with the best view was right in the path of some of the bluff's drainage. But the skies were finally clear and it looked like we'd actually see the stars on our last night. The lure of waking up right on the edge of paradise was too strong. We took our chances. I built a small dam of scattered rocks to divert any unlikely runoff.
"Ah, the weather has finally broken," I said, looking up at an empty sky. "What a glorious end to the trip!"
I looked down then back up again five minutes later. A storm cloud had somehow formed beyond the rim. And it was coming straight at us. Startled, I opened my mouth. "Oh, no!"
"Forget this," Tom said as he crawled into the tent. "I'll ride out the storm in here. I've had enough of this."
Karl and I decided that the rain would be brief and invigorating and remained in place on the bluff. The storm was neither brief, nor was it invigorating. The downpour was intense; manifesting a river out of nowhere that went right under the tent. Too late for staying dry, we stood there in the cold rain, shoulders hunched and miserable. The small dam I'd created to divert potential flood waters was useless.
"Your dam is made of Swiss cheese," Karl muttered. "We'll have to move the tent." He looked at me, rain dripping from his nose. He sniffed in resignation.
There would be no stars on our last night in the canyon. But, there was no more rain, either. A spectacular sunrise greeted our last day as we broke camp and made our way out and back on the Boucher Trail for yet one more traverse among the red rocks of the Supai Group. These kinds of traverses are long and tedious, yet always dangerous. The uneven erosion of this geological group carves natural paths in the cliffs but these routes are always exposed and paved with loose rocks and gravel. This part of the Boucher Trail undulated up and down as we worked our way around the side canyon to our linkup with the Dripping Springs Trail and then, finally, the Hermit Trail.
"Dripping Springs Trail is washed out ahead. Hikers coming from the opposite direction appeared out of nowhere and greeted us with a warning. "Follow the pink flags and be careful!"
That's the way it always is in this place. You march along, alone in peaceful thought, keeping your eye on the trail straight ahead. Then something happens out of nowhere. You lose the trail, you fall and sprain something, a storm nails you, you suddenly get heat exhaustion. A rattlesnake appears from nowhere. You run low on water. There's always something lurking right around the corner.
Dripping Springs Trail, our final link to our final climb, was washed out. We were still on the edge, we still had several miles to go. The only way out was to follow the pink flags that the rangers apparently had placed to guide us around the hazardous obstacle. We couldn't see the new slide nor the little flags. We'd simply have to keep going with faith enough in ourselves to get past one more thing on the way to the rim.
To be continued…