Hiker with Poncho, Tonto Trail | Mark Lindsay

The Tonto Trail meanders along the Tonto Platform which is the one, relatively flat and wide formation of the canyon. Some 70 miles long, it is the longest trail in the canyon. Covered in green, broken shale, the platform follows the course of the river and sits above the plunging cut of the inner gorge. The Tonto Trail is where the entire canyon reveals itself. It is where this enormous container of space and time can be seen for its grandness, all while you're being contained by it. Because of this, the Tonto is my favorite trail. Its majesty has moved me to tears more than once.

But, I'd never been on this section of the Tonto Trail before. The trail here takes hikers to the very edge of the inner gorge—it's a spectacular, breathtaking, and precarious route. As we approached this section the sky grew dark yet again. The weather routine was, by now, familiar. The clouds grew on the plateau above and then moved in on us. Then came the thunder and lightning and then came the downpour. This made our tiptoe on the precipice of the inner gorge all the more dramatic.

We could now see Hermit Rapids far below but could hardly admire the view. The rain was coming down in sheets. The humidity inside my poncho was stifling, causing rivers of sweat to pour from me as the rain drenched everything on the outside. On we went, grumbling and miserable. It wasn't supposed to be this way. The Tonto Trail is normally a hot, arid, and sunny; a walk in the desert. On this day it was cold, windy, slick, and dangerous. The lightning was uncomfortably close as we trudged onward. At the moment of yet another lightning strike I looked up and thought to myself that being a couch potato was not a bad idea. Experiencing the canyon via a TV screen seemed like the thing to do.

The rain on this third day was stubborn. As soon as we'd take off our rain gear another cloudburst would nail us. We finally arrived at Boucher Creek but would have to climb down into a gorge to get to the camp and the creek itself. The camp was fine and in good weather it would have been spectacular. But, we were cold and wet. Damp mist crawled over the rim above us like heavy cream being poured by a sadistic giant. The rim seemed impossibly high, the weather had frayed our nerves.

Like good soldiers we made camp and replenished our water supply. Hot cider warmed our chilled bones as night came early to the shrouded skies. The next day we'd tackle the legendary and steep Boucher Trail. It promised to be the most strenuous day of the trip. The rain came yet again so we went into the tiny tent with nothing to do but go to sleep.

To be continued…