Trip Start May 06, 2012
15Trip End Oct 17, 2013
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A group made up of mostly people from the "A Christian Ministry in National Parks," plus a couple stragglers like me, headed to the Havasupai Indian Reservation Sunday morning. Part of the group, all the girls, left around 5 a.m. from Grand Canyon Village for the four-hour drive there, and the rest of us, four guys, left around 10 a.m., getting there around 2 p.m. to start the 10-mile hike to the campground.
Terrance, Ethan, Eric and I started down the trail at a pretty good pace, literally running at some points because it was easy with the downhill slope
The hike to the campground was a comparatively short jaunt of just two miles after the village, and along the way we saw the first waterfalls of the trip. The first was Navajo Falls, where many people were swimming and playing. The trail continued along the river the rest of the way, and we eventually came to the top of Havasu Falls, a tall, beautiful waterfall with several pools at the bottom
The campground wasn’t far away from the falls. It was a flat, narrow expanse of land between the high walls of the canyon, where the river split into several streams that wound through the area. To go virtually anywhere you had to cross little bridges or on rocks or jump over water if you didn’t want to just wade through the streams. We found our campsite and started setting up our stuff. Most people had hammocks that they strung up between trees, and there were a couple of tents as well. The girls had told us about a big cave they had found beside the camp site that you had to climb up a rock wall to get to, and they said they were going to sleep in it in case it rained. As I had only a sleeping bag, and not a waterproof one on top of that, I thought that was a great idea, so when Eric and I climbed up to the cave to look around, I brought my stuff up too. The cave was surprisingly large. It was basically a tunnel maybe a little shorter than the ceiling inside of a normal building, and it ran back probably 50 yards of twists and turns with some little offshoots and rooms on each side. As we were finding good spots for our gear, the girls came back. Ethan, Terrance, Eric and I decided to still go to the falls because we were ready for a swim, so we changed and headed back up the trail
The water was cold at first, but we quickly got used to it. The current from the falls was pretty strong: you could swim as hard as you could toward the falls and not move at all, just staying in place, and as soon as you stopped you would be swept backward. We had fun checking out the different pools and messing around, and after a while headed back to the campsite. Once there, people pretty much started getting ready for bed as it was sundown. The girls had ended up setting up their hammocks outside rather than in the cave, so I was the only one to sleep there. I, of course, immediately dubbed it the man cave. After everyone had gone to bed, I wasn’t very tired since it was way earlier than I normally went to bed with my schedule of getting off work around 11:30 p.m. each night, so I hiked back up to Havasu Falls and sat at the top, looking at it in the moonlight. It was beautiful when the moon came out of the clouds to light it up. Eventually, I walked back and climbed up to my cave for bed. I slept as I normally do while camping: off and on. It was enjoyable walking out to my ledge overlooking the campground to have a snack or just enjoy the night air while everyone else around was asleep.
The next day was when the real action began. Some people in the group -- John, Kelsey and Ben, who I had barely gotten to meet the night before -- had gotten up to leave around 5 a.m
As we walked, at times we had to cross back and forth from one side of the river to the other. Most, if not all, of the others had water shoes, but I was wearing my hiking boots and didn’t want to wade in water. They were waterproof, so I could walk through shallow water fine, but if it came over the tops of my shoes and went inside, the waterproofing would mean it would take forever to dry out. So I took my shoes off and hid them in the woods when we came to a spot where I would definitely have to do a bit of wading in deeper water and continued barefoot.
It was fine for a while. The path was dirt and didn’t bother me at all. However, due to my penchant for exploring little side paths or running off to check out views, I fell behind most of the group
This was the beginning of the really annoying part, because I had misestimated the distance we had come when I left my shoes behind, and there was still quite a long ways to go. The trail, while in places still being plain dirt or mud, would also climb and become very rocky, which translated to painful for bare feet. At some parts you even had to climb up ladders and rocks to higher places to continue. However, I did finally make it to Beaver Falls and met up with the rest of the group. Some were already down in the water a couple hundred feet below, and a couple people were sitting up top taking a break before climbing down
The pools were a lot of fun. We swam and splashed and sat under the waterfalls and cooled off from the hike. We spent more than an hour there hanging out before deciding to head back. This was the least fun part of the hike for me. I had already traveled all this ground barefoot before, and now I had to do it again. I sucked it up and started to climb. The trail was rocky and painful a lot of the way. It turned out I did well by getting in the river and skipping a big section of the trail, because a large part of that section was some of the rockiest of the entire trail. It also started to rain as we went back, although this wasn’t such a bad thing as it kept us cool and softened the ground for my feet (at least, on the already-easy dirt parts). There wasn’t really any other choice but to just take the roughness of the trail, so I did and kept going. At one point, somehow I ended up in the front of the group and went down a trail that we discovered wasn’t really part of the main trail when it ended at a waterfall
At the top, I thought I recognized where we were and that we had passed where my shoes were, so I told the rest of the people to continue on and I would grab my shoes and catch up. I doubled back to where I thought they were, but I couldn’t find the landmarks I remembered. I was just in the wrong place, because it didn’t look the same at all, but the problem was I didn’t know where the right place was to go. So that was that: I lost my hiking boots. I did get to climb the waterfall again though, so doubling back wasn’t all bad. The rest of the group was waiting for me at the climb back up near Mooney Falls, and when I got there we continued on. The walk back to camp from the top of the falls, which had been the easiest part on the way there because of how flat it was, was suddenly the most difficult because of how rocky it was. But I finally made it back to the camp where my flip flops were waiting.
We packed up and got ready to leave for the 10-mile hike out of the canyon
That rain turned out to be sort of important. As we were walking through Supai, people kept asking us if we were hiking out and then, after we said yes, saying things like, “Good luck!” and “Don’t get washed away by the flood.” So we thought something might be slightly amiss. We stopped again at the tourist office to see what was happening and received some interesting and sort of disturbing news: floods had parts of the trail under as much as three or four feet of water, and they were highly recommending that we not try to hike out that night. After a discussion that was pretty much settled when the weather changed from drizzling off and on to a downpour, we decided we would have to stay in Supai that night and hike out in the morning. We all had work the next day, but we figured they would have to do without us since we would be taking out lives in our own hands to try to leave
One problem, though – at least, another problem – was lodging. We tried the lodge in the village only to discover that they had no vacancies. We didn’t really know what we were going to do: we had asked about staying in the church but had been told that the people who ran it were not in the canyon at the time since they were off fundraising somewhere. They couldn’t open up a classroom in the school or anything either. But the woman at the tourist office was very nice, staying after the office was supposed to close to ask around for places for us to stay, and we were eventually told that we could sleep in a covered walkway at the school or on the covered porch of the cafeteria. It wasn’t inside, but we were grateful that we wouldn’t have to sleep in the rain, so we accepted and went to get some real, hot food, as opposed to the granola bars and peanut butter/Nutella sandwiches and other snacky, high-energy stuff we had been eating while camping, from the cafeteria before it closed. We sat out on the porch and just talked and laughed about the ridiculousness of our situation, and while we were eating the rain started to clear. We were told that it was clearing up enough that we should be able to go if we wanted, and we all jumped at the opportunity. We finished eating and prepared for a night hike, passing around extra flashlights and any semi-drier clothes we could find in our packs.
The going wasn’t too bad for a while, and nothing like what we were expecting from the doom and gloom we had been getting from the people we talked too. As we came to the formerly dry stream bed, we ran into a changed terrain. There were streams of water everywhere. In some places the trail was gone
That felt good. We took a couple of photos and then got in the cars for the ride home, and just sitting was amazing. I took off my shoes and socks, and both of my feet were completely puckered up from having walked the entire time in wet shoes and socks. I was sore from having done so much barefoot walking, too, using muscles I don’t normally use. I pretty much just passed out in the back and didn’t wake up until Eric had stopped the car and was asking if anyone was up for driving since he kept almost dozing off. I can drive virtually forever without falling asleep regardless of how tired I am, so I volunteered, and we sat off again. As I started down the road, I thought about how it had been about three months since I had driven, and then there was a big bull in the middle of the road. I swerved around it, and everyone sort of breathed out their own version of “woah” and then went back to sleep. I drove to a tiny town called Seligman where we had hoped to stop at a gas station for some snacks and drinks, but the gas stations were closed so we had to continue on. We eventually found an open one about half an hour later down the road in Williams, and I grabbed some juice, which was one of the best things I had ever tasted. Eric started driving again, and we headed north back home to the Grand Canyon
We got back a little after 4 a.m. Eric dropped us all off, and I just dropped everything on the floor of my cabin, not wanting to deal with all the damp stuff until the next day. I was scheduled to work at 10 a.m. that day, the first time I had been scheduled to work before noon, of course, and there was no way I was going to be recovered enough by then, so I left a message at the managers office that I was sick (because I pretty much was, I was so exhausted) and wouldn’t be able to make my shift and then passed out. I woke up at 8 a.m. when my roommates were getting up, and after they left I called back over to confirm they got my message and see if I was maybe trading shifts with someone. At first it seemed I would just be working at 5 p.m., but then they set something else up and told me not to come in at all, so I got an extra day for my weekend, much needed for recovery. I passed out again. After I re-awoke, I headed over to Maswick for a victory meal and had some really good lasagna with meat sauce and some garlic bread with milk. It was sublime. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and doing laundry and trying to dry out all my stuff (not helped by the big thunderstorm, complete with hail, that swept through in the afternoon).
Even though the trip had its downsides, it also had its incredible ups
Note: Sadly, as my photos show, what with all the recent rain, the falls weren't their famous blue, but they were still cool. Also, I put my camera in Lyndsi's backpack after Mooney Falls to protect it from water, so I don't have photos for half the trip. Oh well.