According to the National Park Service’s trail description, the Boucher Trail is one of the most difficult on the South Rim, with “knee-destroying descents” and areas of “exposed hand and toe climbing”. Despite this, I opted to join my friends and embark on my first ever backpacking trip.
“The Boucher Trail was the creation of Louis D. Boucher, the “hermit” of the Hermit Creek basin. Boucher maintained seasonal residences at Dripping Spring and near Boucher Creek and lived in the area for 20 years. Labeled a hermit because he lived alone, Boucher was in fact well known and socially active within the South Rim community during the latter part of the 19th century.” – From the National Park Service trail description, which you can read in full here.
The route that we took began at the Hermit Trailhead, and connected with the start of the Boucher Trail shortly after Dripping Springs. The total route to the river this way is 10.8 miles. We began our hike at night, making it just over five miles to camp at Yuma Point. The wind was intense, and the trail is very exposed. A bat flew overhead. We could see the lights of shuttle buses off in the distance, carrying park guests along Hermit Road. We set up our campsite in the dark, feeling relieved to have finally made it, and excited for the next leg of our journey to come.
I had a rough time sleeping, having found the hike thus far frightening and challenging, and not yet being used to camping. But upon awaking to see our campsite in the morning light, and noting that it was the most beautiful place I had been in my life, I felt renewed and ready to see more.
Day two was a hike the rest of the way to the Colorado River, and back up to camp by nightfall. We put our hands on the basement layer of rock, the Vishnu Schist, and appreciated its age. We walked along Boucher Creek, which seemed to take forever to meet the river. We saw a group of people on rafts, cheering them on as they entered Boucher Rapids. We dipped our toes in the river, so cold that we could only do so for a moment at a time. Soon, a storm began to roll in, so we made our way back to camp.
It rained all night, depriving us of sleep, and causing us to wake with a substantial pool of water under our tent. It had seemed that it would rain forever, but when we finally gathered the courage to go outside, the sky began to clear. Clouds had formed just below us and floated upwards all around us. We sat in this surreal landscape, drinking our instant coffee and taking the experience in, before packing up and making our way back up out of the canyon.
The last mile or so was so much more challenging than I could have imagined, so unaccustomed to carrying an extra thirty pounds on my back. Our pace was slow. The thrill of topping out was unmatched by any hike I’ve done before or since.
No weekend in my life has ever been so full of genuine fear, laughter, awe, physical challenge, and love for my friends. As the trail description puts it, “The canyon always seems to compensate physical effort with spiritual rewards”, and I’d have to agree. I highly recommend it.