Supai, Havasupai Indian Reservation, Arizona
You know, ever since I've been hiking in the Grand Canyon, I've wanted to see Havasupai. Tales of beautiful cascades and gorgeous turquoise waters fascinated me. But something in the back of my mind always kept me from going. Perhaps it was the hassle of making reservations months in advance, or perhaps it was the fact that we had to camp at the bottom (meaning we HAD to carry gear). Maybe it was even the relatively high cost compared to other hiking trips... Finally this November, a friend organized a trip and invited me along. When someone else does all the work of making reservations and plans, I was out of excuses and couldn't possibly turn it down! Now I know none of those excuses were valid, and I should have gone a long time ago! This trip is worth any amount of hassle.
Havasupai is an Indian reservation on the west end of the Grand Canyon. The Havasupai (people of the blue-green waters) were the original inhabitants of the Grand Canyon. Today, fewer than 700 tribe members live in the small village of Supai at the bottom of Havasu Canyon. They are blessed with the most breathtakingly beautiful desert oasis in Arizona (if not the whole world), crowned by a series of picture perfect waterfalls like jewels in the desert.
To get to Supai, you start from the Hualapai Hilltop (about 65 miles NE of Peach Springs and 4 hours drive from Phoenix) and hike 8 miles through Havasu Canyon. The first mile is hilly, but once you reach the canyon floor, the trail flattens and follows a (regrettably) gravel-packed ancient riverbed that snakes through gorgeous slot canyons of bright colored sandstone and limestone. Supai offers a cafe / restaurant, a grocery, a post office, lodging, and plenty of wild dogs. There's a helicopter service for $75 one-way for those who don't want to trek. We opted for the compromise and rented horses for our big packs, but hiked the trail with a daypack.
The hike alone would have been worth the trip, but the falls are even more spectacular. As we were hiking this trail, I kept noticing how the scenery gets more and more beautiful as we walked, making it exceptionally difficult to leave. Making a last minute decision to join the crew on this trip, I couldn't spare a day off from work. So I ended up staying only one night at the bottom. It was enough to whet my appetite and to promise myself that I would return -- again and again. Read on and perhaps you'll come to the same conclusion...
After a cold night camping at the Hualapai Hilltop, we bundled up our big packs and got them ready for the horses to haul them down. This is our luggage, full of camping gear, food, wine, and various other sundries. I can't imagine hiking 10 miles with all this on, but we saw people who did! The $38 each we spent on the horses were worth every penny in my opinion.
Here's part of our gang. From left to right we have Sean, Anita, Doug, Kelly (the organizer of this wonderful trip), me, and Bonnie. This photo was taken at the start of the trail by Sandro(?), the skinny-dipping mad Czech we met on the trail who did the roundtrip in one day. There were two others in our group (Anne-Marie and her boyfriend), but they went on ahead with their full gear the night before and hiked in the dark. (It was a full moon, and would have been a gorgeous hike I'm sure, but I was glad that we saw the canyon in its full glory.)
After a mile or so of descent, the trail flattens out and enters a slot canyon with steep walls on either side. This shot was taken before we got too deep into Havasu Canyon. I just love the contrast of the red rocks with the limestone canyon background. Say, doesn't this red rock look like a profile of a face? It's calling out to me... "keep going, it gets better!"
Incidentally, the only bad part about this hike is the ubiquitous gravel that you can see covering the trail. It is difficult to walk on and makes a constant crunching noise with every step that we got really tired of hearing after a while.
Very nice! The ladies take time out to pose for a photo on the thin sheets of rock. It was time to take a break anyway.
Sean and Doug: "Hey, where's the trail anyway?" Actually, they just climbed that boulder to check out the view from up there.
All along the way, we saw striking rock formations. This is a natural overhang on the side of the canyon wall. Must be a great place to camp or hide from the rain.
The narrow canyon winds its way through colorful rocks. This picture is my favorite among the canyon scenes. Daylight filters down through the steep canyon walls to give the scene extra richness. Reminds me of Antelope Canyon near Page.
Near the village of Supai, we see the two large protruding rocks the Indians call "the Watchers" or "the Protectors". They stand guard over the village and ward off evil.
This is the restaurant in Supai, makers of fine fry bread. We took a nice break and made use of the facilities here. Anita befriends one of many wild dogs that run rampant here. I found a little time to send some "mule-packed" postcards to friends and family from the post office across the street.
Past the village, it's another 2 miles to the campgrounds where we would call home for the evening. This huge tree along the way was just begging for me to take a rest.
The camp site was well equipped with picnic tables and outhouses. Our packs had not arrived yet (oh btw, the horses deliver the packs directly to the campground, a nice convenience). So we spent some time resting and exploring the area. We had also met up with the other two people in our group who had picked a fine camp for us. Doug "the gourmet" Mikus was nice enough to provide a feast of fettucini with grilled chicken breast for dinner, and Kelly brought 4 liters of wine for us to enjoy. Who said camping is "roughing it"?
Here's that turquoise limestone water we heard so much about. All the waterfalls are along this river, which ran right past our camp site. An interesting side note is that we listened (or attempted to listen) to the final games of the 2001 World Series from this very spot! Go Diamondbacks!