Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Hiking is cross training, right? Havasupai Hike ~ 4-1-15 to 4-3-15

I went on an amazing three day adventure from April 1-3, 2015. We did the Havasupai Hike. We drove four hours from Las Vegas to our trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop in Arizona. We started the hike at 10:00 a.m. because we had to be checked into our hotel by 5:00 p.m. The hike down was listed as 8 miles and we didn't want to risk missing our check-in time. 

The first mile of the trail is a steep descent, losing 2000 feet, by switchbacks. Once on the dry wash, at the bottom of the Hualapai Canyon, we made a much easier descent all the way to the village of Supai. We were in the direct sun for most of the hike. For the final mile and a half we were walking along the river that emerged from the Havasu Springs in the shade of willow, tamarisk, and cottonwood trees. We arrived at the village of Supai and our lodge at 2:00 p.m.

At check in, we received our hiking permits that had to be attached to our backpacks for the entire stay. Everyone needs a permit to do the hike. Our permit fees were added into the hotel costs. The hotel was very expensive and the room was old and falling apart but it was clean and the beds were comfortable. After we stopped by our room we walked to the cafe for an early dinner. The prices were high, the service left a few things to be desired and my cheeseburger wasn't very good but the curly fries were great. My friend ordered an Indian Taco that looked amazing so I made a mental note to order that if we ate there again. After dinner, we walked down to the river to stick our feet in the water. We then made our way back to the hotel for showers and an early night to bed. 

We woke at 6:00 a.m., packed our backpacks and headed out for a long, glorious day. We wanted to hike the 12 listed miles round trip from the lodge to Beaver Falls. We came across our first waterfalls within a mile of the village. They were the Upper and Lower Navajo Falls. There were trails that led down to them but we had planned on making a fast trip down the hike and spending more leisure time on the way back up so we only stopped for a quick picture at the rim of the trail.

The next waterfall we saw was Havasu Falls. It was two miles from the village and at the beginning of the campground. It is 100 feet tall and the most photographed waterfall in the Grand Canyon. It literally took my breath away when I saw it. The water was an amazing blue-green color.

As we made our way through the campground, we stopped at Fern Spring, which is a fresh water faucet along the west wall of the canyon. The water is safe to drink so we all refilled our waters. There were also several bathrooms along the path through the campground so we stopped to use those before we left. The campground is sprinkled with picnic tables and tent sites, ranging from along the canyon walls to next to the river. It would be a beautiful place to spend a few nights. 

Just below the campground, we encountered the third and tallest waterfall, Mooney Falls. It is a 200 foot waterfall. At that point, the trail cuts through the cliff with two tunnels, chains anchored to the wall and old ladders leading to the blue-green pool at the bottom of the waterfall. I was the first of my group to go through this. I am not afraid of heights but if you are, this will be a very difficult section for you to get through. At the bottom, we regrouped for a quick picture and continued down the trial. 

We followed the river for the entire trail. Sometimes it even had us cross the river. We ended up crossing it twice on make-shift bridges and twice in the river. We all had water shoes so switched into those for the water crossings. I actually kept my Teva sandals on for the remainder of the hike after the first water crossing. They were comfortable and I didn't have to keep switching them. 

We arrived at Beaver Falls at about 11:30 a.m. Beaver Falls is a series of cascades where Beaver and Havasu Canyons meet. We decided to take our first real stop since this was our scheduled turnaround spot. I had worn my swimsuit under my clothes so I took this time to take a little swim. The water was chilly but so beautiful. I played in the top pool just below the first waterfall. The rocks were not slippery which was a welcome find since you never needed to second guess your footing. After a short swim, we stopped for lunch along the waters edge. I got one more swim in after I ate. 

We hit the trail again at about 12:30 p.m. Our GPS watches showed that the hike from our lodge to Beaver Falls was 7.75 miles. The hike back towards Supai Village was all uphill but the grade was so slight that it was barely noticeable. We made great time on the hike back up and even stopped for a few group shots along the way. 

The next long stop we made on the way back was at Mooney Falls. It was so beautiful and powerful. We sat at a picnic table and had a little snack. Then we enjoyed the water and viewing the waterfall. The sun was hitting just right. We could have stayed there forever but knew we needed to get up the cliff before it got too late. 

We made our way back up the crazy maze of ladders, chains and tunnels. I was the first to go again and waited for my friends at the top. We then made our way back through the campground, stopping to refill some water. Our final stop was at the Havasu Falls. This was the busiest falls since it is by the campground and the easiest to access. We stayed in the water until the sun made it's way passed the canyon walls. 

We then made our way back to the village of Supai. We arrived at about 5:00 p.m. Our GPS watches said we had hiked 15.5 miles. We stopped at the cafe for dinner. This time I ordered the Indian Taco and was not disappointed. The service was about the same but that's ok since they have a monopoly on the business there. After dinner, we went back to our hotel room, showered, talked and laughed, and then went to bed. 

We woke up at 6:00 a.m. We had decided to take the helicopter out of the village back to the Hilltop. It cost $85 and took only minutes. When we arrived at the helicopter pad, we talked with a few other waiting hikers. We were told that we could wait hours for the helicopter and sometimes people didn't make it out on the day they wanted. With that news, we decided to hike out instead and left the village at about 7:30 a.m.

The first seven miles were a gradual ascent along the dry wash again. We made our way in and out of the sun along the way. It was neat to see the trail in the opposite direction. Things that were beautiful on the way down weren't as cool on the way up and things on the way up were way neater than they were on the way down. 

Once we hit the seven mile mark, we started the final mile of the steep climb. We were directly in the sun so it was hot. I just put my head down and climbed. I was on a mission but still stopped for quick picture along the switchbacks. 

We all made it to the top by about 12:00 p.m. I was the first because everything is a race, right? As I waited for all the members of our group to make the Hilltop, I looked out over the canyon in amazement of the feat I had just accomplished. I hiked roughly 34 miles in just over 48 hours. I saw desert canyon and lush tropical waterfalls. I bonded with friends and learned things about myself. I got bad blisters on my heels by mile two on the first day, my shoulders were sore from carrying the backpack and my leg muscles were sore and tight but I didn't let that stop me. I chose to push through and enjoy the journey. This was an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone. Our world is a beautiful, mysterious place.....go explore it.

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