With much anticipation, I was excited to hike the Boucher Trail for a second time! The first time was over twenty years ago, and we hiked most of it in the night by moonlight to escape the summer heat. A group of friends was organized to hike from the Hermit Trailhead to the Boucher Rapids the first day, followed by a day of exploring and then a morning hiking the Tonto Trail to Hermit Creek where we spent our third night before climbing out via the Hermit Trail to complete the loop. I had little to no memories of how the Boucher Trail was. Descriptions of the trail called it rugged with rope repelling required in one section. We quickly descended to the Dripping Springs junction on the Hermit Trail, which was followed to another junction either to Dripping Springs and a right turn for the Boucher Trail. We dropped our packs and some hurried over to check out the springs. I stayed back to cool off, although I’ve seen the Dripping Springs on two other occasions. The Boucher Trail started as a meandering trail offering big views of the Hermit Trail route on the opposite side. Clouds moved in for a touch of shade and winds whipped through in big gusts. We rounded a big butte formation to the start of a rugged descent. The trail became rough and rocky, we could scramble down just fine and we took our time. The trail wasn’t always easy to see and we looked ahead for evidence of where it lead, sometimes heading up a wash the wrong way at first. Finally, we found a spot of shade above the Redwall to gather our wits for the next big descent to the Boucher Creek. Again, the trail was rugged and was a scramble. Finally, we reached another junction, this one unmarked. I could see part of our group below at what I assumed to be Boucher Creek. We were greeted by shade and some cool, clear waters. After re-hydrating and cooling off, we followed the gravel bed along the creek, meandering back and forth for what seemed like and endless maze to the bottom of The Grand Canyon. Finally, the view opened up and we could hear the rapids! We were greeted by an amazing sight of clear green waters of the mighty Colorado River and beautiful afternoon light on the inner canyon walls. Most of us took a refreshing cold plunge before finding places to set up camp. The winds were still persistent but seemed to calm enough to light our camping stoves to cook dinner. Later, the winds returned as we all climbed into our sleeping bags early, exhausted from the rough hike down. I awoke covered by the wind-blown sand, even my teeth were gritty! Thursday, our second day of the hike, brought us a threat of rain. Later in the morning, it cleared briefly and the sun warmed us up enough to think it could be a day in and out of the river. The clouds returned and the wind brought a spattering of rain showers, looking like a torrential downpour could hit us at any time. We escaped a drenching and enjoyed the cooler weather. We enjoyed a calm night of sleep serenated by the Boucher Rapids. Friday morning, we got going relatively early, expecting a warmer day. We retraced our steps up the Boucher Creek and to the pile of rocks marking the Tonto Trail junction to Hermit Creek. The trail was mostly flat and was a joy to see cactus blossoms and big views of the river. As the day became warm, we soon arrived to the refreshing sound of Hermit Creek. Finding a small pool, we dunked and sought shade to relax during the heat of the day. I took the opportunity to do a couple oil paintings along Hermit Creek, at a spot I call Hermit Creek Narrows. I had also painted at Boucher Rapids the day before! The sun dropped behind the canyon wall, casting shadows over us. We decided to head up about two miles to the Hermit Trail junction where we spent the night. We watched the sun set and the moon rise! This night was eerily quiet compared to the last two nights at the river. Before long, we were up at 4:30AM to get a early start. The sun began to rise soon after we began hiking about an hour later and we were glad to be in the shade most of the hike up. We took short breaks along the way up and kept a steady pace. Finally reaching Santa Maria Springs, we took a longer break and had a light lunch under the shade structure there called “Respit.” We were only about 2.5 miles to the top and still had the last steep climb to conquer. The return up the Hermit Trail from our turn at the Dripping Springs junction went quickly and we were soon at the top! We made great time, it was only 10:30! Here is a slide show of pictures from the hike (click on pictures for a bigger image). Enjoy!