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It's 10:00 PM at night, my gear is packed, and I await friends driving up from Phoenix for our venture into Havasupai Canyon. we will meet sometime after midnight west of Flagstaff, drive the 2-3 hours to the trailhead, hike down in the moonlight in time to arrive at Havasupai village in the morning.
The hike to Havasupai has always been a favorite- this part of the Grand Canyon is much farther west than where most of the tourists flock, and the tranquil blue green waters and the spectacular waterfalls make it seem like a tropical island dropped into a desert canyon.
There will be more after I return on Sunday, but I've assembled a little stop frame movie of my packing preparations. I felt like I was traveling "light", with expected warm weather and a plan for using mostly dehydrated meals, but the pack always seems to end of full!
The trip was organized by friend and former employee at MCLI, Derek, who now works for the media company cnation in L.A. His group flew into Phoenix at 9:00 PM, met up with more friends from Phoenix, and headed north. I met up with the group west of Flagstaff at the Bellemonte truck stop after 1:00 AM. We relaxed and had some food served by a very surly waitress that we feared to cross. We were on our way after 2:30 AM, some of us with a severe case of Bellmonte indigestion.
The plan was to reach the trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop around 4:00 AM, but our cars got separated 2 vehicles missed the turnoff, and after a bit of confusion, we all managed to meet up and start the hike down by 6:00 AM.
today's photos - all photos o o o o
o o packing for the trip
o o Havasupai Hike
The hike drops quickly down through a steep 1 mile section of switchbacks before depositing us into a shallow, sandy, rocky bottom canyon. As we make our way father down, the canyon's red walls of Supai sandtsone rise to several hundred feet. At about the 6.5 mile point, we emerge from the dry canyon into a greener, more open part of the canyon that is fed by the waters of Havasu Creek, and at the 8 mile point we reach the village of Supai, home of the Havasupai ("People of the Blue Green Water") Indians.
This trail is the only route into this community (besides the helicopters that carry people who would prefer not to walk 8 miles through desert heat with 50 pounds strapped on their back), so besides hiking, horses and mules (along with barking dogs bring everything in and out of the canyon. Tourism is a major support for the people of this area, and there seems to be a mixture of acknowledgement of this economic fact and quiet resentment of the differences between the visitors and residents.
The sandy "streets" of the village run past small farms and residences, and the town center features a post office, general store, school, and tourist lodge. Lots of dogs run around, horses are everywhere, and people go about their business. It is pretty damn hot in mid-day.
Stopping here mid morning, we rest, and pick up our permits for the campground that is still two miles away. We got a $5 discount because Havasu creek is muddy from last week's rain- this is foreshadowing for those who study screenwriting. Passing through town, the trail draws near to the rushing blue green water of Havasu Creek that makes the place so attractive. It is the color of a tropical island. The first major water falls we pass are Navajo falls that cascade in two major sections over the sandstone cliffs, and are nestled back among the tress and thick undergrowth.
After crossing the creek via a wooden bridge, we have the top and side views of the most photogenic and pristine water fall, Havasu Falls, which drops straight down through a notch at least 125 feet into deep pools. The blue green water is rich in silicas mineral which deposits as rings of silica walls forming honeycombed pools below. Several years ago, two major floods destroyed nearly al fo the pools but they have since started to reform.
The trail descends along the side of Havasu Falls, providing breathtaking views. Passing the falls, we finally reach the campground, 10 miles and 5 hours after we started. We set up camp in a pretty shaded spot adjacent to the creek. On the first day the water is still a bit muddy from recent rains. A picnic table in the middle of the creek provides a nice place to sit and cool our feet, and to hang dome drinks in the water to keep cool.
The rest of the day is spent relaxing, well deserved naps after staying up all night and hiking 10 miles! Some of us sleep (alot), others read, we play Uno and a card game I was amazed that others knew by the same name, "Egyptian Radscrew" (slap!). I hung my hammock across the creek and some bums came and set up camp next to it (this happened twice on this trip!
The next day we hike back up to Navajo falls to explore some of its parts hidden from the trail, where veils of water drop over caves and crevices. The crazier (read younger) ones in our group jumped from the cliffs into the pool. I am a bit too sane for that. We then spent some time at the base of Havasu Falls, crossing to a quiet picnic spot. It is so serene here that I easily took 2 hour afternoon naps (in the migrating hammock) and still could sleep 10 more hoursw through the night.
The next day was intended to explore the impressive Mooney Falls, about a mile past our camp spot. I have been here twice and never went much farther than Mooney (it is an 8 mile hike to the mouth of the Colorado River) but intended to change that on this trip (oh. more foreshadowing- cue the music). Some late morning rain would not stop, and we retreated to the shelter of our tents to wait it out. It was pretty boring waiting in the tent! The floor of my tent began to soak up water, I could see rivelts running to the sides. I had all of my gear piled up on my Thermarest pad like a thin raft, and out of more boredom, I began packing it inside the pack.
But the water never stopped coming down as we listened to the booms of thunder directly overhead. Then the voice of the ranger came yelling, "Grab your as gear NOW and head for high ground!". The creek was rising fast-- the danger of a flash flood in these types of canyons. And we were camped right next to the rising creek.
So stuffing as much as possible into our backpacks, leaving tents and other gear behind, we ran out into the rain. Where an hour ago was nothing was now literally hundreds of brown gushing waterfalls rushing down the walls of the canyon where we were camped. The trail was now a fast muddy creek of its own a foot deep and the main creek as only a foot away from our tents. We assembled and climbed up to the high ground adjacent to Havasu Falls. This was an unbelievable spectacle of nature, but while impressed with this, we were all caught up in wonder of whether our tents and gear were washed away, and at how much worse this could be if a wall of water came rushing down from above Supai village. This happened several times 8 or so years ago, and those floods devasted Supai and trashed the campground.
The rain eased up, and the sky slowly transformed from grey to blue. Havasu Falls was not a deep brown rush of water, nothing like the serene blue green waters that drew us here! We then made our way back to our camp spot, found most of our gear, and packed it up best we could. The picnic table next to our spot was gone, and been carried at least 150 yards downstream.
It took a few hours to dry things out, re-organize it, and prepare to leave. Our original plan was to hike out in the peace, coolness, and light of moonlight, but we all felt given the circumstances, that we wanted to be on our way. The packs were heavy with wet gear and the hike to Supai village was hot and humid. We relaxed a bit, enjoying the homemade lemonade worth every a** penny of the $3.00 cost ;-) But we knew it was a long 8 miles back to the trailhead and were racing against dwindling daylight.
Our group reached the base of the steep switchbacks by 7:45 PM just as it got dark. It was a long laborious climb up the steepest part of the hike, using flashlight because the moon did not come out until after 11:00 PM. A large group of German and Austrian hikers clustered around us as they had no flashlights. Our group arrived back at our cars tired, thankful, wet, tired between 9:30 and 10:30 PM. By the time we got together and returned to Flagstaff (where I departed the group after a early morning snack at Denny's), I was home by 3:30 AM.
What a trip!
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