Dripping Springs - Grand Canyon
A group of bleary-eyed, chilly Westerners huddled around the sign-up sheet at Posse Grounds Park a few minutes shy of 6:00 a.m. on the morning of November 20, 2014, I was among them. Drivers volunteered, and passengers shuffled into the warmth inside, and we sped off in the direction of McDonalds in Tusayan – the most expensive McDonald this side of Mars - for coffee and egg McMuffins. From McDonalds, the group reconvened at the South Rim shuttle stop for the 40 minute bus ride to Hermits Rest. By the time we hit the trail, it was 9:45 a.m.
The destination was Dripping Springs, down Hermit Trail at the western end of the canyon, a much less travelled trail than the more popular routes like Bright Angel. This trail was listed as “Rough and unmaintained, for experienced desert hikers only”. Being from British Columbia and visiting Sedona for a short time, I wasn’t sure if I fit the description.
I arrived in Sedona October 31, and sought out a hiking group in the area. After the frustration of spending hours trying to locate a trailhead in the Oak Creek, I joined the Westerners a few days later and have been on six hikes with them since. I was not expecting what I found, people who are compassionate, well organized, inclusive and welcoming, not just a group to hike with who know the way, but caring friends.
The Hermit Trail starts with 1.75 miles straight down, about 1,440 feet. The Grand Canyon is a hike in reverse, because usually trails begin with an uphill climb and end with the downhill easy section. The trail levels off at Hermit Basin and the Dripping Spring Trail carries on from the junction for another 3.5 miles with a gain of 480 feet. The trail loops around a box canyon and from a distance it looks impassible. How could there be a trail on that steep red canyon wall? But every step leads to another and at about noon we arrived at the Dripping Springs, a water seep in an overhanging rock complete with ferns and small trees growing upside down.
Then back the way we came with another chance to take in the magnificent views of the Grand Canyon. Nothing can prepare you for the splendor and magnitude of this place when you see it for the first time. Jaw dropping awe!
The last 1.75 uphill miles were pretty steep, but I was glad not to have to watch my feet. We were left to our own pace at that point, as everyone has different levels of fitness and stamina. I was near the back, and the tailgaters were behind me. Soon I passed one hiker in our group who was clearly having difficulty. The tailgaters stayed with him every step of the way, encouraging him and resting with him frequently. I carried on and soon came to another group of three. Two of them were staying close to another hiker who needed to take-it-easy up the climb. I was touched by the level of support offered to those who needed it, and the freedom afforded those who didn’t. I reached the top a good half hour before the final hiker emerged from Hermit Trail. I witnessed patience and concern in those waiting and heard a relieved cheer to greet them when they arrived.
We caught the next bus back to the parking lot, regrouped and headed to the Beaver Street Brewery in Flagstaff. Beer, stories, burgers and good fun followed a pink and gold sunset seen from the side windows on the way back. I arrived home about 8:30 p.m. almost wishing my time in Sedona wasn’t about to end. One more hike Sunday, then back to the soggy west coast.
I will return home to British Columbia with fond memories and a warm heart. Thank you, Sedona Westerners, for including me in your wonderful organization. And thank you Kevin and Barbara O’Connor for leading the hike that introduced me to the magnificent Grand Canyon.
If you are interested in joining the club, please go to our website at http://sedonawesterners.org or just come to one of our monthly meetings. The next one will be on Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 7 pm at the Sedona Elks Club, 110 Airport Road.