We have now traveled on the Tonto Trail up from Mineral Canyon, through the break in the Tapeats Sandstone cliffs, to mile 3.7, the beginning of the Tonto Trail’s long journey across the Tonto Platform. For another hundred miles the trail contours close to where it is right now – the top edge of the Tapeats cliffs that mark the boundary between the Tonto Platform and the inner canyon below.
And what we see here is what we will see many times along the trail, including a view over the Tapeats rim and down into the inner canyon, here Mineral Canyon, which the trail has just left. Across the river begins the long parade of temples and buttes, ever present in your view on the Tonto Platform, spreading here all the way from Shiva and Isis temples in the far distance to the west, to the Tabernacle and Solomon Temple to the northeast.
Turn the panorama to the south, away from the river, and you see the high Redwall Limestone cliffs of Ayer Point. The trail will circle around the north end of Ayer Point before turning into Hance Creek Canyon, the first of many long and winding side trips the trail will make.
Between this spot and Ayer Point the dominant, but scattered, plant is blackbrush. It is green now, with leaves sprouted out during the pleasant springtime weather when this panorama was photographed, but come the intense heat of summer the leaves will drop, and the blackbush will become its characteristic grayish black. Look down on the Tonto Platform from above, and the blackbrush make the Tonto look like a gently undulating grey sea.
Turn the panorama to look down at your feet, and you will see the brown, blocky Tapeats Sandstone. The Tapeats was laid down as part of an ancient sea some 545 million years ago, and buried much older ancient rocks, including the Hakatai Shale in Mineral Canyon, some 1.2 billion years old. As the trail came up through the gap from Mineral Canyon and entered the Tapeats Sandstone, it passed through the Great Unconformity, the place where the rocks from a huge gap of time, here 700 million years, have disappeared.