Havasu: The Grand Canyon Part 2
Havasu Falls, not Lake Havasu. A very big difference, one is filled with power boats and people enjoying the Arizona sunshine with all the modern toys that accompany a body of water in the desert. The other is at the end of a 10 mile hike down the side of the Grand Canyon to the only village in the U.S. not to have a road built to it. The name of the little dirt road village is Supai, inhabited by the Havasupai people. There are only 3 ways to get to this wonderland that the native people live in, hike, horse or helicopter. The native people are using their natural resources, beautiful blue waterfalls against red canyon cliffs with temperate weather year round to make a living in this isolated area of our great country.
A lot of research went into planning this hike. This was the first hike I saw when looking for waterfall trails in the Grand Canyon on the Web Site naturevalleytrailview.com. It took us on a virtual hike of the trail to the great blue waterfalls and we knew we must put it on our Grand Canyon adventure list. Next was learning where in the canyon it was, approximately 30 miles due west of the south rim, should be easy to find. The distance stated was as the crow flies, not the actual roads through the Arizona desert. It turned out to be a 200 mile drive from the South Rim. It took a lot of google earth time to see just where these roads were to find the elusive parking lot at the top of the trial. Next we went about getting the permits to backpack into the canyon. We needed backcountry permits $35 per person, camping permits $25 per person per night, and to pay an ecological impact fee for each of us $10 per person. As I said before, the native people were using their natural resources for their income. From our research we discovered that we could not apply for any permits until 2 months before our planned trip. So, on February 1st, Paul, using two phones and hitting redial several times, made it through and we had permits! So exciting, we were going to backpack in the Grand Canyon and see waterfalls only a few hardy hikers have seen!
We took the day before our scheduled hike to drive from the South Rim to a little hotel/campground on Route 66. This was an experience in itself. We saw why the movie “Cars” was so popular. This “Mother Road” truly takes you back in time, complete with Burma Shave signs along the way. The little hotel was lost somewhere in the 1950’s before the interstate was built and probably had not changed in as many years. In the parking lot sat “Mater” and the little blue helper car from the movie. The remnants of old plastic dinosaurs sat in the fields beside the hotel bragging of days gone by when the area was an amusement park called “Dinosaur Land”, now known as Grand Canyon Caverns.
The night before, after dining at the Road Kill Café in Seligman, AZ, we packed our backpacks with our warm clothes for layering, sleeping bags and liners, which seemed the reasonable thing to do. Our experience so far on the South Rim was 20 degrees at night, we were only 30 miles away and reason says the weather patterns should be the same. We were soon to find out differently, but not before carrying the heavy packs down the reverse mountain 10 miles. We hit the road by 6:30 a.m. to have a hearty breakfast at the Hualapai Lodge in Peach Springs before driving the 50 miles to the trail head.
We hoisted the packs onto our backs and started the hike down the canyon. We encountered many pack horse trains on the switchbacks going to the top and back down continuing to carry supplies for people staying in the canyon and supplies for the town. The town’s helicopter also made several trips doing the same.
For the first 6 miles down into the canyon we were met with red canyon walls and crystal blue cloudless skies. We started seeing various trees, cotton wood and blooming red buds along the trail when it started following Havasu Creek into the village. we reached the isolated little village, we had to wait in line to get our camping permits to hike another 2 miles down to the campground which was first come first serve wherever you could set up a tent and find a picnic table in the area between 2 waterfalls, Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls. After acquiring our camping permits, we hiked out on the village’s dirt road down a toe screaming decent along New Falls, Navaho Falls, and finally Havasu Falls.
Breathtaking, is the best word I can find to describe this place tucked away among the red canyon walls. The water is unbelievably blue because of the high levels of calcium carbonate in the water. This also builds the many travertine terraces in Havasu Creek all the way to the Colorado River.
When we finally reached the campground, I was happy to set up at the first spot I could find. It was small, but it had a sandy little creek running by it and a picnic table. Enough for me, shoes and pack come off and Paul finds me standing in the middle of the creek relieving my feet. He takes one look at the area and says, No, it’s not big enough for our “small” tent, I tell him, after all it is only 4 ½ lbs., it’ll fit. I assure him that I can make it work because I was not walking any further with my pack. He promised me he would carry my pack for me if I would just let him find a better spot. The new site was across the creek where children were catching guppies and frogs just a stone throw from where I stood. As he promised, he carried my pack to the new site as I hobbled along beside him to help set up our small temporary home in a unique paradise.
While visiting and staying on Native American lands, you’ll soon discover they go by a different set of rules than you would find in our country’s’ public lands. Basically the rules are “use common sense” and climb and explore at “your own risk”. The showers are the travertine pools and waterfalls which are an even 70 degrees year round, out houses with sawdust to scoop into with each use and lukewarm water from a pipe in the canyon wall for drinking water. It was not uncommon to wake up with a horse looking into your tent in the morning, a village dog resting on your site, or children running free throughout the area. It is a definitely a wonderful place to take a family to explore and learn about our natural world that God had created and the people that live there.
We soon discovered that we over packed to camp in this canyon. Unlike the South Rim the weather is very temperate; where it was 20 degrees on the South Rim it never got below 65 degrees here. We never even crawled into our heavy sleeping bags, but used them as extra padding and slept comfortably in the liners. Waking the first morning I was greeted by the sounds of frogs in the creek running by our tent and the sliver of a moon hanging over Havasu Falls. It was worth getting up early for, at least in my opinion. It was our plan for the day to hike to Mooney Falls then on down to Beaver Falls following and hiking in the blue Havasu Creek along the way.
When we reached Mooney Falls we discovered the sign the read “descend at your own risk”. To get to the bottom we had to climb through a series of tunnels, cables and ladders, the latter not being in very good condition. Without hesitation we dared what our mothers would have advised us not to do and headed down the canyon wall to explore what lay ahead. The area was filled with wild flowers in brilliant reds and yellows blooming with the red canyon walls, blue water falls and sky for a backdrop. Well worth taking the risk. We followed the beautiful blue water and many terraces and small waterfalls until we ran out of water, poor planning on our part since we left our camelbacks and water filters at our tent. We never made it to Beaver Falls, which made for more unfinished business. Some kind people hiking along shared their water supply with us so we could make it back to our campsite. Trail magic is always present somewhere in the remote places we like to visit. We hiked back to our campsite and had a wonderful meal cooked over our mini rocket jet burners.
While sitting at our campsite and enjoying the people and sites, a young man came by and asked if he could sit and chat with us for a while. Of course we agreed, but shocked that a young person would be interested in our company. He was hot and tired and was craving sweets; he had remembered that the native people would sit at the entrance of the campground selling fry bread with sugar along with frozen Gatorade. The fry bread was gone but he had the Gatorade, but felt unsatisfied without the coveted sweets. I had a trail mix made of peanut butter M & M’s, dried fruit and nuts. He happily offered a trade for the remaining trail mix for the frozen Gatorade. Since we were thirsty for something cold, we welcomed such a trade, a win, win decision. After chatting a while he went on his way to find his friends and we hiked back up to Havasu Falls, Navaho Falls and New Falls before turning in for the night.
While packing up in the morning we had fun watching a multi-generation family pack up to leave. The grandmother and approximately a 10 year old grandson took a wheelbarrow full of supplies to the pack mules to be carried up to the trail to the parking lot. On the way back to their campsite for more supplies the grandmother road in the wheelbarrow being pushed by the grandson, when he tried to push her across the creek bed he dumped her into the creek, of course we were ready with the camera which we e-mailed to them latter. So much fun and laughter families can share when in God’s natural world!
After packing everything we donned our packs and headed back up the two miles to the village to start the hike out of the canyon. We soon realized the hike back up would take us several more hours than we had and made the unusual decision to cheat our way out. We decided to take the helicopter out and save 5 hours of time. By the time we hiked out we had to drive the 50 miles back to Peach Springs, get a shower and food then drive another 4 hours to Zion area. So for safety’s sake we choose the easy way out, shh, don’t tell our kids. Needless to say the 10 minutes it took us to get to the top gave us beautiful views overlooking the canyon.
I need to say that one of the most rewarding showers we ever had was at the Hualapai Lodge in Peach Springs, it was $10 a piece for us to shower, but nothing felt better as the red dirt rolled of us. Afterwards we ate a wonderful meal at the restaurant lodge and started our drive to the Zion area.
This was an experience we will never forget and long to go back to the area to finish all the unfinished business, hiking the Narrows in Zion, Rim to Rim (hopefully, spring of 2016), Antelope Valley, and back to Havasu Falls and all the way to the Colorado River. As I said in Part it was truly a life changing trip the memories of the beauty and grandeur of the area will forever be embedded in our minds along with a larger shoe size. Thank you Lord for the “Important Places” you have placed in our world.