If I have a lot to say, more like if I have a lot that I feel, I always start out with "I struggle for words". This time is no different. I debated even sharing photos. They do not do the place justice one, and two...it was a really hard trip. We joked quite a bit before going, and while I knew it would be difficult, prepared for the difficulty, but that last mile...preparing your mind for it as you've already walked over 2 miles in the afternoon sun (never ever do this), 7 total that day already, looking around, seeing no one (not the case on the hike in), your spouse about 50-100 yards back bent over not having the energy to go back to him, knowing you just need to sit a minute, drink some fluid, it's gonna be ok. Putting that camel back bite valve in your mouth to get that sip and nothing...try again...nothing...let's just say it isn't a great feeling. Thankfully we found a rock that provided some shade, which we stayed under for 2 hours debating the best options, knowing we were drained, already on the trail 6.5 hrs, knowing we had a 1000ft mile long climb and not quite knowing exactly how far we had left before we started that climb, not even being able to see the trail on the canyon wall because it's just that narrow, knowing we were both out of water, not knowing how much we'd lost...dry heat, you don't sweat (we had 3 liters each for the record when we started that morning, and then a liter of water with electrolyte mix). Thankfully 3 girls who were starting the hike later afternoon did walk by, I asked them how far before the switchbacks started. They gave the info and encouragement that we were close, and also offered water, because they had plenty (it's not the hike in, Dave had a 1.5 liters left that night after we got in, I had about a liter left, it's the hike out in the heat after the 14 miles the day before that make it hard)...that, a lot of prayers, and the sinking sun, not nearly as hot, we were able to make that last climb out of the canyon. Was it worth every bit of it...the first 30 minutes under that rock my mind probably would have said no lol...we were that exhausted and thirsty. But when I realized Dave and I both had this, we just needed to let the sun go down some, regain some energy, yes it was worth it. I know what we'd do different next time, better shape for one lol, have more time, not hike in the heat, and have about 100mls of water in a bottle reserved for the climb :) It is such an amazing place and definitely worth the hard :)
Havasu falls, just google it...all kinds of info out there I won't rehash. In looking at the images and reading all the experiences online, I knew I wanted to do this. It didn't take a whole lot of convincing...Dave agreed. I couldn't wait. I had a backup campsite in a campground near the Grand Canyon National Park just in case we couldn't get permits (you have to get permits to camp, read on that too...almost impossible to get). We secured permits on the second day they went on sale before the internet booking system crashed. I was so so so excited. It was starting to become a reality. I won't continue in the planning details, but my pop became very ill. We talked of not even going, and even in all that, comfort was given and we made the decision to fly out. We landed in Phoenix. The best two options to the Hualapai Hilltop are from either the Phoenix airport or Vegas airport. You drive 4 to 5 hours to the trailhead. The drive itself is beautiful for someone who has never been to that side of the United States...and the speed limit was 75...yes, I took a photo of that too! And a rainbow cloud...needed that cloud :) We camped the first night at Grand Canyon Caverns, about an hour from the trailhead.
I can not say enough about the people of this campground. I had read mixed reviews. We left here later than planned. It was on route 66 towards Indian Road 18 (the road that dead ends into the trailhead) where we got enough signal that a message came through my phone. I could not get enough signal to call out. We went back to the campground. She let me call home. I knew the news, mom told me what she'd post if she had to leave, but the sweet sweet lady who worked the desk let me use her phone. After I took some time outside with Dave, because even knowing the news, it doesn't make it easy to hear, again discussing options, the lady asked who my cell provider was and told me where we could drive to get signal. I could have made all my phone calls from that desk, but I wanted the privacy and she helped me get it. Yes it's camping (they also have a lodge), yes it's in the middle of nowhere, but I will always have positive things to say about the campground.
After rearranging, talking to the airline and knowing our options, talking to friends, my mom...we decided to cut the trip short a day meaning we hiked in on day one, out on day two. It isn't ideal, maybe a little selfish...maybe a lot selfish instead of going home immediately to be with family and get my kiddos. I do know however, for what it's worth...I am so incredibly thankful for all those that allowed me the chance to see the waterfalls and for my husband, who knew he was giving up that day of rest in between, but still willing to hike to the falls :) We set out...even the roads out here are beautiful.
It takes about an hour and 15 minutes to get to the trailhead from the campground. Again, I can't express the beauty of the canyon...and now for the photos...they can speak for themselves although I'll explain a little. God is so diverse in His creation and so thankful to be able to see a part of it I'd never seen before.
This is the view from the hilltop in the morning. It looks totally different in the afternoons. The sun falls behind this part of the canyon as it sets. The sandy trails in the middle are the trails towards Supai. They break to the right and follow down the canyon. The ground looks semi flat towards the right at first glance. But if you look (very right of photo is the best place to tell) you can see where it narrowly dips into even more canyon. This is where the trail goes. In between the narrow canyon walls.
The terrain changes as you walk the trail...You start out with narrow switchbacks that drop you 1000 feet in the first mile. Mule and horse trains use these as well and you definitely want to be cliff side when they pass. Everything, even the mail, is carried by the horses or helicopter.
This next photo I should have studied going in...I should have studied what the canyon wall really looked like after we descended and were on the sandy flat. It looked slightly different on the way back. The sun was on the opposite side. But after the almost 2 miles in the heat on the sandy trail (9 total), and then seeing that canyon wall, a dot of a helicopter landing on top of it, with no apparent trail, even though you see the signs that you are on the right path (footprints, horse poop, etc). You doubt...(and your husband doubts), and you are alone. I knew I saw the signs, but that canyon wall, not remembering how it looked, did we approach it wrong...it is so intimidating. There is a lesson in that, now that I'm out of it.
You descend ever further into the canyon and again the terrain changes a bit. It's absolutely beautiful. I read a lot before going (although I'm sure now I should have paid more attention) and some didn't appreciate the walk in compared to the falls. I loved every bit of it. I thought it was all beautiful
We reached the sign to Supai meaning not a whole lot further. I only took the two following photos in Supai...I know other people take all kinds but for me it was a respect thing. I wouldn't want my life on display all the time every time I went outside. I'm not sure these people do either.
After checking in Supai, getting our permit bands, resting a bit, we continued to last two miles to our campground. On the way to the campground you pass 3 waterfalls. 50 foot falls, Little Navajo Falls, and Havasu falls. There was a trail leading to 50 foot. David waited while I walked down it a bit but I turned around before getting to the end. We were tired. We were able to see if from a lookout point at Little Navajo. I did walk down to the bottom of Little Navajo. Absolutely beautiful.
After these two falls you get to Havasu falls...but I'm saving those photos. I took them on the way in, but because of the sun, the images on the way out look so much better :) We made it...I can't put into words just how beautiful. We set up camp, rested a bit, and then without a whole lot of daylight left, decided to walk down to Mooney falls (the 4th waterfall) without the weight of our big ole backpacks :) We brought packable day packs...the plan was to explore without the full load on day two. I think packable day packs is a fabulous idea btw...even though we didn't get to use them much since we cut the trip short, it was so much better than lugging around a pack.
We only descended about halfway down Mooney. There are two tunnels and a series of chains and ladders to get you to the bottom. From Mooney you can go another 4 miles to Beaver....on the bucket list for next time ;) We took a few photos, enjoyed the view a bit, and then back to camp. We camped between two streams of water and slept better here than any other night, even the hotel the next night after we were exhausted. Those who know me know I love the sky. Well, this was planned at the wrong time for the night sky, but the only time I could get permits and we had a free few days to go. I did take some images of the night sky against the canyon wall and the waning moon.
Camp life was fabulous. Short, but fabulous...We slept, I took a few photos about 2a, slept some more and then we prepared for the journey home. There is a spring that runs called fern spring with drinkable water. On occasion they post to filter the water anyway. We brought a katydyn base camp filter and filtered the water anyway. It holds 10 liters. We filled our 3 liter each camelbacks, liter empty powerade bottles that we added dry powder propel to (because I left my others on the kitchen sink lol), cooked breakfast, broke camp in the process, and headed out. We stopped by Havasu on the way out and had the waterfall to ourselves. LOVED it. I didn't want to leave.
We stopped by the pools of little Navajo as well. And then the next collage of photos is from Havasu to Supai and then slightly further on the trail. The helicopter in Supai. It's a 10 minute ride out of there. 10 minutes...that thought taunts you the entire way back (however it quit flying when we were under the rock...the winds were horrible and I'm guessing too rough to fly. It started back up shortly after we left the rock). Dave and I may or may not have had a discussion about flying out...I may or may not have listened...the fact that we ended up under a rock with a mile and 1000 ft climb to go lets you know the answer to that. But we got out of the canyon without flying out...and I would go again if given the opportunity with a little experience and lessons learned under my belt.
I have never been more thankful for a Walmart gallon jug of hot water that we left in our vehicle waiting for our return :) You can use a trekking company to get here, they guide you, supply permits, you carry daypacks, they take care of gear, etc. but it's expensive...You can also fly in, stay at a lodge in Supai, hike two miles to the falls, hike two out, fly back out...and we saw a lady with her two kids in flip flops, sling bag, who I'm guessing did similar. In fact she had the nerve to say to us (probably meant nothing by it, we were just tired) as we were walking to Supai with our packs and we took a break at little Navajo already winded "what we are like just a mile in"...we saw this same lady celebrating after her helicopter ride out (the helicopter landed close to where we park, which also means that line to get out was long, they give preference to locals, supplies, and then hikers. Sometimes it can't fly either due to winds which we noticed as well) She was giving her kiddos high fives that they did it. Initially it made me so angry if I'm honest. No ma'am...you didn't do it. And then the more I've thought about it, the more it's ok. If I had the means, I might give my kids the same experience, or wait til they are older and work for it...who knows, they may not ever have the desire. However, I do know, she'll never have the same appreciation for the journey that we have. We chose it...and I'll be forever grateful for those that let me choose :) I also know that everyone has their own journey...I'm sure so many other people are in much better shape, more prepared, and find humor in our struggle. I know there are far worse struggles than choosing to struggle on a hike in the canyon...The struggle was real for us though, just like the success of that lady was to her and her two kids. And these photos are so real too. I'm so thankful we have them and the stories to tell. My 53 year old hubs does have bragging rights :) We did it, maybe after 10 hours to get out, but we did it...and well, we won't tell my age lol. I took a photo almost at the top of the trail of something that has meaning to Dave and I and then the sunset on route 66 after we'd traveled off Indian Road 18. I can not say thank you enough to my parents and friends who allowed this experience to happen.
"In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks" - John Muir
and maybe a little dramatic...but I love this song....
"A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Savior to me;
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life with the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand" - Frances Jane Crosby