The Lucky Charm was not involved this time, but we did feel very “lucky” indeed to venture down into the Grand Canyon on the occasion of my 49th birthday. How could you not feel glad to be alive when surrounded with beautiful sights like Havasupai Falls?
The Havasupai Tribe are the native people of this portion of the Grand Canyon, with the hiking trail starting not at the “traditional” tourist visiting point of the South Rim, or even the lesser-visited North Rim, but rather way to the west. Havasupai means “the people of the blue green waters.”
The 11-mile hike down starts out flat and barren and hot, with little shade.
(“Where’s Waldo?” …. can you spot a team of horses and a group of hikers in this photo?)
Eventually the trail leads to lush canyons and beautiful scenery.
Teams of horses share the trail and they are not slowing down for YOU! Watch out!
We had heard horrific tales of animal abuse to the horses and mules in the Canyon, but saw no evidence of it. They looked well-fed, did not have any obvious sores or injuries, and we never saw them being mistreated by any of the wranglers. There were fun diversions along the way, and lots of other hikers to commune with.
After the first nine miles of hiking, we finally reached the native village of Supai, and the first sighting of the waters of the Havasu Creek (though the Falls would not be for another 1.5 miles and the campground 0.5 miles beyond that), Great for hot feet and blister-ridden toes!
Little Navajo Falls showcased the area’s gorgeous blue-green water, due to high concentrations of lime.
And finally, the world-famous 100-foot drop of Havasupai Falls! Spectacular!
The water is cold but very refreshing on a hot summer afternoon after a long hike.
The campground was just past the falls. We found the perfect tent site …
…though others opted for double-decker bunk beds.
Drinking water for the hundreds of campers is from a pipe tapped into a natural fern spring.
A short hike past the campground is Mooney Falls … twice as tall (196 feet) as Havasupai Falls and just as beautiful, in our opinion!
But in order to get there, you must traverse through a series of tight caves, and down many very steep ladders while holding onto chains drilled into the side of the cliff, in order to avoid a 300-foot fall to your death.
Back at camp, my charming husband stuck candles into a Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie and played “Happy Birthday” to me on his harmonica. Awwwww!
The hike out was even more enjoyable than the hike in, due to cooler temps from a rainstorm the day before, as well as some cloud cover. But the same gorgeous scenery!
Eleven miles down, unfortunately means eleven miles up!!
But 25,703 steps later, we reached the top, extremely tired but feeling proud!
Our day was not done, however … having sent our two 40-pound gear bags down via helicopter (instead of carrying them on our backs), we had to wait for them to be helicoptered back out. This equated to a FIVE HOUR wait at the top, as our bags ended up in one of the last two runs of the day. (Early-birding overachievers who left camp at 3 or 4 AM had to wait up to 8 hours, in some cases.)
That teeny speck below the helicopter represents probably 20 or 30 bags (or furniture, or supplies, or literally anything)! The natives living in the Village at the bottom of the Canyon use the helicopter as method of transport for themselves, their kids, their pets, and literally everything they need, both coming in and going out.
This was a beautiful trip, but as www.hitthetrail.com notes, “When envisioning your adventure to these blue-green waters, do not allow romantic thoughts of an unspoiled wilderness barely touched by ‘civilization.'” There were literally hundreds (if not thousands) of people down there with us (though of course I tried to get photos with as few people in them as possible). Obtaining a tribe permit to go there in the first place, is extremely difficult (we heard they are already completely sold out through the end of this year and it’s only May), and you may be best off joining a group expedition for this reason. If you are thinking of taking this adventure, let us know and we can share with you some of the things we learned along the way!
The night before we hit the trailhead, we stayed in a “YURT” at Flagstaff Nordic Center. A traditional yurt is a semi-portable round tent based on dwellings used in Russia and Mongolia even before the time of Genghis Khan. Basically, a camping cabin! Ours had a wood-burning stove for heat, and an outdoor BBQ, but not much else! It was very rustic, very fun and very romantic.
We loved our backcountry journey to Havasupai Falls, but it also reinforced our appreciation of the Lucky Charm with her soft bed, hot food and many modern comforts! The Lucky Charm is chompin’ at the bit to hit the road again and experience the mountainous beauty ofthe Canadian Rockies (primarily Banff –pictured below, Lake Louise, Jasper and Calgary) from June 8 through July 22.
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