Where in the World….Havasupai Grand Canyon 2013

So a few weeks ago I posted about our trip last year to the Grand Canyon. We arrived then the next day hiked down to the Colorado River to camp and then we hiked back out the following day. We got back to the top in the later afternoon and then had dinner. We slept pretty well that night. We had planned on getting up earlyish the following morning to pack and make the 3 and a half hour trip to the trailhead for Havasu Falls at Hualapai Hilltop.

It was a pretty gloomy morning and rained on and off. We didn’t get started as early as we had planned but eventually we were on the road. The drive was pretty boring, lots of the same landscape all around. Finally we got to the trailhead and parked.

My friend Cindy had made the reservations to hike into the reservation. Only a certain number of people can hike in at a time and you have to have permission. She had gotten the permit in the mail and had also booked us a room at the hotel at there reservation. It said that all the camping spots had already been reserved. This was actually a relief because unlike the previous day we did not have to carry tents/sleeping bags/bed rolls. Light backpacks for everyone!

There were 3 ways to get to Havasupai: Hike down, take a horse down, or take a (first come, first serve) helicopter. We chose the free option of hiking. The distance from the trailhead to the reservation was 8 miles. After that it was another 2 miles to the falls and the campground. We started hiking down in the early afternoon, but we had to stop and move over a few times on the initial decent for the horses to pass.

Fun fact: the Supai people are the only people who still receive all their mail by Pony Express. And by all their mail I mean all. We saw horses packed down with computer chairs, TVs, boxes from Amazon…it was crazy and I felt so bad for the poor horses.

The canyon was a lot different here than it was by Grand Canyon Village. The rocks were a lot looser and you could see where slides happened a lot.

Also the trail we would be taking was the old Colorado River riverbed. There were a lot of warnings about flash floods since the water would pool and rush through the riverbed. It looked like rain a few times, but luckily it never rained while we were walking.

The hike was better since our backpacks were not as heavy. We saw a lot of really cool rocks and caves.

At times I felt like I was in the Lion King.

The canyon around us at times was very narrow. We had to walk over a lot of big rocks. One thing that made me really mad was all along the route there was trash (water bottles, chip bags) and I couldn’t believe all these hikers came in and left garbage. It wasn’t until after I was in the village and heading out that I realized the trash was from the Supai people. More on that later.

Finally after about 4 hours we saw signs for the reservation.

From this point on we were walking along the river. Once we got closer to the reservation we started to notice horses all over the place. They were not tied up or saddled and they were all VERY thin, you could see their bones. A few came charging toward us at one point heading back to the reservation. We climbed some rocks to get out of their way.

The reservation was in the middle of a huge canyon. Walls of rocks all around the sides. It was pretty breathtaking. We walked a little further and could see houses and farms all over.

As we got closer to the main part of the reservation there were sign EVERYWHERE that photography was not permitted on the reservation because it was Indian lands. I respected that and put my camera away. I really think they don’t allow pictures though because they don’t want people to show the way they live. The yards were covered in trash and toys. The horses everywhere were so thin and a lot had sores or were bleeding where saddles had been. It was really sad to walk from the front of the reservation to the lodge. They had hundreds of dogs running around. Most are wild and they would all come up to you looking for food. A lot of horse were roaming around as well which was weird to me but I guess normal to them.

After the miscommunication of Phantom Ranch not having food. I made sure to check that the reservation had food before we left. We brought granola bars and hiking food, but had decided to get regular food when we got there. OF COURSE when we checked in we find out that the restaurant or whatever they had was not in service (food violation/fire) they never really told us why. They gave us a list of food and ASTRONOMICAL prices and said we could order from this guy who was providing food. $10 for a grilled cheese sandwich. I was mad but starving so we put an order in and went to the room.

The room was nice. It had two double beds, shower, nothing fancy, but it was a bed. We attempted to hike down to the waterfall but we had gotten there late so by the time we would have gotten there it would have been dark. We did walk around a little and saw a lot of the poor conditions everyone lived in. We decided to hang out and wait for our food…and wait…and wait. Finally around 10pm in a torrential storm this guy knocks on the door with our food. Him and his wife live on the reservation (but they are not part of the tribe) and he cooks. The food was good and after we ate we went to bed since we were exhausted.

In the middle of the night I got SO HOT and realized the air conditioning wasn’t on anymore. I went to go try and see if it had timed out or something and when I went to turn the light on it didn’t work. ICING ON THE CAKE. The power went out. Luckily we had been in the pitch black the last few days at the Grand Canyon so we had headlamps. While looking around with my light I see this HUGE spider and freaked out. I was afraid it was a poisonous one and we eventually used a boot to kill it. I could’t really sleep after that. I was too nervous there were more spiders.

When we woke up in the morning the power was still out so we got dressed and headed down to the falls. The walk had a lot of pretty views of smaller falls leading to the main ones.

Then we walked over a ridge and saw the gorgeous waterfall. It really was the highlight of the trip.

The water was so blue and clear!

Unfortunately we couldn’t stay very long so we took a lot of pictures and swam around a little.

I wish we could have been there longer. I could swim in these waters all day!

As we were leaving we saw a lot of the sad horses, but no other people! I guess a lot of people camping had left early to leave since they were predicting bad storms later in the day.

I was also pretty nervous, especially after all the flash flood warnings we had seen. We headed back to the lodge and packed up our stuff. There was still no power so we all took COLD showers.

I feel like I almost ran out of the canyon. The dark storm clouds overhead made me so scared. I was petrified it would start pouring any minute, especially with all the bad luck we had been having. BUT it did not! We did see a lot more horses headed into the canyon on our way out.

Once we got back to the car we had to repack. We had made a hotel reservation in Las Vegas. We were going to drive there (over the Hoover Dam) and stay the few hours before we had to go to the airport for our flight. We didn’t want to take all our hiking stuff into the hotel so we did it there. As we were driving out the storm finally hit us. It was a bad one. Hail, rain, winds…thankfully we were not still hiking!

So what did I learn on this hiking adventure? To not try to do too much. If I could do it over I would have chosen either hiking to Phantom Ranch OR Havasu. Having to hike in and out and in and out was too much. We couldn’t really rest and enjoy the beauty of what we were experiencing.

If I could I would go back to Havasu and camp. There are a bunch of different waterfalls all past the main one we went to. I would camp and go waterfall hopping and swimming for a few days. Bring food and a little stove and enjoy life!


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