Thursday, December 12, 2013

Havasupai, Grand Canyon, Arizona

Definitely a once in a lifetime (for us) adventure in early June of 2010,  We got reservations ahead of time for our group.Just the beginning of this trip took us 2 days to get to the trailhead.  This included 5 hours to St. George, then another 6 hours through Las Vegas and the bottleneck over Hoover Dam.  The preparations were intense.  People are allowed to ride their own horses.  However, I would NOT recommend this. I would not have wanted to find a place for my horses and haul all their food and our stuff.  It worked out better to use their horses.  After all, it couldn't be that bad.  We had been riding our own horses all spring.  We were in shape, right?

Click on any photo for an enlarged image.
We spent the first night at the trailhead,  in the back of our Pilot.
Horses packed with gear.
 Those in our group that were hiking, left at about 5:30 a.m. Daytime temperatures were hovering right around 106.  We had to wait around the trail head for another 5+ hours until our horses were ready for the trip down.

Interesting story...while we were waiting at about 7:30 a.m. a group of 3 people hiked into the parking lot, having come up from the bottom.  They saw us and asked, "Do you have any food or water?  We ran out of food almost two days ago and are desperate." Fortunately, we had a cooler with extra food and drink in it.  We were just going to leave it in the car and would have been wasted otherwise.  We gave them sandwiches, orange juice and milk.  They were so grateful.  It gave us a lesson in the harshness of this country if one is not prepared. 
The Indians' horses seemed to have run of the place all over.  There were also dozens and dozens of feral dogs ALL over.

Every day  pack and riding horses head up the trail.

We finally got our mounts...of course Cowboy Bob was....well Cowboy and since I was married to Cowboy, I became "Cowgirl" and was put in charge of leading the riding horses down the canyon.  My horse was called "Shorty".  The tack left much to be desired, literally held together in some cases by shoelaces.  The leather on one of my stirrups was missing with only a bit of wire left.  I didn't have boots, just hiking sandals. The guy in the turquoise shirt was a scout with a foot injury who was left by his leaders to wait 5 hours, then ride a horse down the canyon.  He had never been on a horse in his had to kind of take him under our wings.  He was so miserable, because the horses pretty much trotted the entire way. Fortunately, we both knew how to post.( But Turquoise boy did not, poor guy was just jostled all over)

 The ride down was very hot (106), I dropped a water bottle in the first hundred yards...(No stopping, "keep going" the Indian guide kept saying.  As a consequence I ran out of water.  Luckily, Cowboy Bob had a camel back and shared his water with me. ) 

Getting closer to the village.  Photo courtesy Justin Nelson.

Photo courtesy Justin Nelson

After 8 miles we were allowed to stop at the village to pay our fees.  Poor turquoise boy said he didn't care, he was never getting on a horse again.  He had to, or he would never hook up with the rest of his troop.  We said, "Buck up, camper boy, you can do it."  We helped him mount up again. But, he said no way was he riding a horse in a few days to get out of there.  He wanted to opt for the helicopter ride. He did eventually join up with his troop.  Don't know what happened to him after that.  From the village, it was still 2  more miles to the campsite.  

It was quite the adventure trying to find the pack animal that had our gear.  Once we found it, we had another hike of 1/4 mile to find a campsite. The first night, I wondered what we had gotten into.  Was this really worth it?  I was bordering on heat exhaustion and dehydration. At least we had  water close by to cool off in.

Some of our group had nice campsites next to the water.
We had a backpacking stove and pretty much just ate backpacker freeze dried meals.
The second night we moved into a campsite with a little more shade.
We had to get our drinking water out of this spring and then filter or purify it.  It wasn't that great tasting.  I was so grateful that my son had brought plenty of Crystal Light Pure to add to the water.

 The second day, I thought I was going on a 1/2 mile stroll to hang out by a beautiful waterfall.  Little did I know what was in store.  I took my sarong, a towel, food, a book to read and wore my swim suit.  The photo below does not do this justice...hiking down nearly vertically hanging onto chains AND hiking through a tunnel/cave like area. Whew!  Oh, well, the bottom was worth it.

Then, had to wait our turn to hike up the ladders and chains again.  Actually, kinda fun, but I swore I didn't want to do it again.

Mooney Falls
 Sadly, we found out later that two people had died playing in these falls just after we were there. These areas are to be taken seriously.
Mooney Falls

Photo courtesy Bethany Price.  This is a new waterfall created by the flood of 2008. That's my DIL jumping off the top.
Later that day and the next, we hiked in the other direction to Havasu Falls.  This, just involved about 1/4 mile through sand, rock and dirt..It's..that famous one you see in all the photos.

 A beautiful playground, just enough spray coming off the falls to keep us cool in the 100 plus heat.

The Sacred Datura that bloomed all over.  I joked to someone "there's enough of that here to get the entire campground of 200 people high for weeks"
 After 3 nights, we were ready to pack out.

The ride out provided more least it was a little cooler.  My horse was #91 and Bob's was "Blackie"
It was interesting watching the people that chose to ride a horse out.  It's got to be easier than hiking, right?  There were several in our group who gave up after a few minutes on their horse.  This was not a typical dude ranch ride where there's a guide that actually helps you.  The Indians just put you on the horses and say go for it.  The horses are used to pretty much trotting up the entire 10 miles. It was a trip of a lifetime...kinda like childbirth...the memories and photos are wonderful...the discomforts kind of fade away out of memory.  So glad we were able to do it.

Also check out Desertbound's photos and narratives of the trip: