Day 2: Hike to Havasu Falls

We had only gotten a few hours of sleep when the alarm clocks started to go off. Departure time from the hotel was 6:00 am, because there was a four and a half hour drive before we could start hiking. The earlier we got to the trail head, the less heat we would be exposed to while hiking. With that in mind, we reluctantly rolled out of bed and prepared to leave.

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The drive took us on the famous Route 66, through Peach Springs (the inspiration for Radiator Springs on Cars), and onto the Havasupai Native American Reservation. Our caravan arrived at the trail head at 10:30, and after taking a few “before” shots, we were on the trail by 11:00.

The beginning of the hike is a 2000 foot steep decent via switchbacks along the walls of the canyon. Though we were just starting out, seeing the faces of those climbing back up did give us a good preview of the difficult hike we would have going in, and the even more strenuous hike we would have getting out of the canyon. But, we were ready and excited for the challenge.

It had been cool and windy on the top of the canyon, but we quickly shed our layers once we were tucked in the canyon. We were now in the heat of the day, and had the sun pouring over us. Since we were hiking in March, it was warm, around 80 degrees. We didn’t mind it as the usual temperature for the hike in the summer is 100+ degrees.

Supai, the Native American village near Havasu Falls, is only accessible three ways: by foot, by donkey/horse, or by helicopter. Because of that, we were constantly having be on the look out for the trains of horses, bringing in supplies or mail to the village. They were usually accompanied by a dog or two, and a member of the village leading the way. It really was an incredible sight; almost like stepping back into time to the days of the wild, untamed west.

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Hiking in, over, and through those red rocks was incomparable to anything I have done before. The only way to explain it would to be combining several other experiences into one; hiking the Narrows in Zions National Park, with the colors of Arches National Park, with the majesty of the the Swiss Alps. This is a place worthy of the word awesome. I can’t tell you how many times my jaw would drop and my hands would rush to my camera to attempt to capture the moment. Pictures don’t do it justice.

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At around 4 hours and 15 minutes, we made it to Supai, which is approximately 8 miles from the trail head. My parents went to check in with the camping office and get our wristbands, while the rest of us ordered some of the local fare. Kyle and I savored every bite of fry bread covered in powdered sugar, and also sampled a Supai taco consisting of fry bread topped with pinto beans, ground beef, onions, and tomatoes. It only lasted a few minutes on the plate. We had developed quite the appetite from hiking. After a short rest the backpacks were put on again, and we hit the trail again.

Part of the trail took us through the village. I felt like I was invading the privacy of the residents by taking pictures, so I will attempt to describe it instead. Supai is located in a large, open area of the canyon. The high, red rock walls offer protection from the elements, as well as beautiful scenery. The village itself is composed of small house, often painted bright colors, and surrounded by fences created from the branches of the scraggly trees found along the canyon. Near each house were corrals with horses, goats, sheep, and chickens, with the dogs roaming the trails in between houses. Within the boundaries of the town were a church, school, convenience store, and a couple eateries. The only sounds of modern day machinery were from the helicopter occasionally hauling in tourists or supplies for the town, and a small off-roading vehicle that acted as a supply truck.

Another hour and a half and two miles later, we started hearing the sound of falling water. Our feet felt heavy, but the excitement of seeing our intended destination propelled us to walk faster. First were the 58 Foot Falls, then the connecting Cascades, and Navajo Falls. Already we were beginning to feel the pay off for our exhausting hike. The best was yet to come.

As we approached Havasu Falls, the roaring of the water was our first clue to the magnitude of what we were about to see. Everyone stopped at the top of the falls to look down, but not being able to see much, I quickly made my way up ahead. I rounded a corner and was met with one of the most breathtaking sights I have ever seen. In this oasis, the colors alone were enough to leave me speechless. The red rocks looked as if they were melting over the edges of the cliff, having been molded like that from the water over hundreds of years. Under the falls, green moss and ferns grew lush from the mist of the falls. And then there is the water, created from deposits of calcium and lime. It looked as if it had been pulled from the beaches of the Carribean and placed in the dessert of Arizona. The blisters, gritty skin, and achy muscles were quickly forgotten as we looked over a true natural wonder of the world.

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We may have hiked 10 miles already, but we couldn’t stay on the hill overlooking the falls all night. We still needed to find a campsite. The campgroud is located on a trail near the bottom of the falls. Having started later than many of our fellow backpackers, we were late to the game in finding a campsite. Much of the area was already occupied, however, after walking up and down the campground to find a place, we were able to find an area suitable for our party of 10 on an island in the river.

By that point, our GPS was telling us we had traveled about 12.5 miles! Our bodies were feeling it, too. There were several blisters, red noses, achy legs, and several bruises on our hips from the waist strap of the backpack. We didn’t waste much time getting new water from the spring, setting up camp, and making and eating dinner. Being in a canyon has its benefits, one being the sun disappears earlier, allowing us the excuse to turn in early and enjoy one of the best nights sleep I’ve ever had.

In case you were wondering what we dreamed about, it was this:

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