A photo-heavy and a long post..
After a lot of planning, re-scheduling of trip, cancellation and rebooking of flights and a lot of uncertainty on my part on whether to go for the trip or not, the 6 of us set on what turned out to be a very fun-filled, exhausting and amazing trip. Me, S, 2 friends of mine and 2 others who were friends of one of my friends.
Name of the hike: Havasupai, Mooney falls et al , Grand Canyon, AZ
distance: total of 25 miles round trip, covered in 2 days.
elevation: 2300 ft – from the GC top into the valley and back.
So, friday night we flew to Vegas from the bay area and after a quick bite, set off on a 4 hour drive to Grand canyon, AZ. As we neared AZ, it started snowing. But as brave soldiers, we drove on. We reached our starting point, Hualapai hilltop (this is the top of the GC) at around 4 am and slept off in the car, trying hard to keep ourselves warm. We woke up at around 6 am (as we had planned on starting the hike at 6 am sharp) and much to our dismay saw that it was still pitch dark and snowing lightly. I just happened to glance up at the stars, and it was simply awesome. I have never seen so bright and so many stars in the night sky before! Anyways, the positive thing about it was that we would still get to sleep for sometime till the daylight kicked in. So, we slept off till around 8 am. Once awake, I stepped out of our car to run to the restroom and realised that it was colder that what it was at night. I wore almost all the spare clothes I had got for the following days to keep myself warm, and ventured out. After brushing teeth, and freshening up a bit (there are no provisions on the hilltop except a measly portable toilet. Had to brush teeth using the cold drinking water. Painful!!), and taking in few sips of vodka each (to make the cold bearable) we all started the hike.
After a a mile of descent.
We descended the slopes quickly. And finally reached the valley floor afer a mile of descent. I was still not warmed up and my toes were frozen. Being a person who is a bit too sensitive to cold, I had several thoughts in my mind at this point to forget the hike and drive back to Vegas ;). But, as I started walking, I slowly got the frozen blood in my body to start flowing again. After about 4 hours of hiking with couple of breaks in between to eat nutribars and gluco-gells, we reached the Havasupai village. Residence to the ancient Havasu Indian tribe. A quick stop to register ourselves, and we set off towards our campsite, another 2 miles away and along the Colorado river. On our way we saw the ‘new falls’ or the ‘new Navajo falls’. At the end of 2 miles, we turned right on to the steps and suddenly the huge and magnificent Havasupai falls greeted us. Thundering white falls, amidst red rocks cascading into a pool of turquoise waters was a sight to behold!
After taking it all in, and after taking some pictures, we walked further down to our campsite vowing to come back the next morning to look at the falls again. Once at the campsite, we selected a spot on the Colorado river bank, put all our stuff there, and gorged on some trail mix and electrolyte. We still had to get our tent and sleeping bag, which we had sent through a mule service. Once some food was eaten and energy was replenished, we set of again (this time thankfully with no backpack) towards the Mooney falls. About a mile away from the campground, this hike involved climbing down an almost vertical precipice of about 300 ft, by holding ropes and hooks. (of course there were some crude steps as well). This was almost similar to wall climbing and scaling the wall down and back up remains my favorite part of the trip! 🙂
Once we were down, we could truly appreciate the wonderful-ness of the falls, more so because of the hard climb down. Mooney falls, rightly called the “mother of all falls” was surreal. Thats what I thought of it, when I first saw the falls.
Almost similar to Havasupai falls, this one had a more dreamy quality to it, for the lack of better word. We spent quite some time here, and then climbed the canyon wall back up and walked back to our campsite. It was almost 5 pm. We got our tent pitched and sleeping bags arranged and started making coffee and food. By food I mean free-dried pilaf (which had no salt!), freeze dried pad thai noodles and chicken-rice for the carnivores. It was a good thing we had got maggi as well, because there was almost no salt in the dried food, and eventually all of us hogged on soupy, slurpy maggi! I have lost count on the number of times maggi has come to the rescue :).
Unfortunately, campfires were not allowed and we were left to keeping ourselves warm by using the measly stove (which we had used for cooking) and some red wine. After chatting over wine and food, we all called it a day and retired in our tents at around 6.30 pm. The 4 of us in one tent and the other 2 in their own tent. Once inside, we decided to exhaust the remaining of our energy by making jokes and me laughing so hard that I had to go out again in the cold to pee. 😀 Once all of us were settled in, and the jokes slowly died, one by one we fell asleep, listening to the sounds of the river flowing by our tent. This night was not the most enjoyable parts of the trip for me. I was super uncomfortable in my sleeping bag because of the cold and I kept shifting and stirring to make myself comfy. In the end, I did get a few hours of sleep which was really needed after a long day. We woke up at 7 next morning, to a beautiful, albeit cold day.
After packing hurriedly we sent off the tent and sleeping bags ahead with the mule and we settled in for some cold breakfast of jam, bread and electrolyte. Once re-charged we packed up all the trash, the rest of our back packs, camel bags (for water) and stared the hike back to Havasupai falls, for looking at it again. After spending some time at the falls, we walked 2 miles back into the village, stopped for a few minutes at the small cafe for some coffee (which I must add, was better than the coffee at work). Once the tummy was taken care of, we stared the long hike back to the hilltop. 11 miles of walking along an incline, interrupted by a couple of breaks to eat nutribars, drink electrolyte and to stretch, we *finally* reached the top! We took 4-5 hours this time, coming up, which turned out to be pretty good time. We hugged each other and hi-five-ed at completing the hike, stretched a bit and settled ourselves back in the car for a drive back to Vegas. Sunday night was spent taking a long bath, brushing teeth with warm water (bliss) wearing a fresh set of clothes and heading out to eat a fancy mediterranean dinner!! We flew back to bay area early monday morning after catching few hours of sleep. Exhausted, sleep deprived but extremely glad at having completed the hike!
In future, whenever I feel less confident about my physical ability, I think I am going to look back to this trip, and remind myself that one really cannot estimate how much our bodies can withstand. It is always said, that “listen to your body-it knows the best”. I never understood what it really meant, but I think I do, now. It is amazing how clever our bodies are..at withstanding pain, at deciding when to give up , and adapting to temperature changes and at conserving and spending energy judiciously. And more than the bodies, it is our minds which decide when we give up.
This trip also strengthened my love for nature, outdoors and minimalism. It is amazing how little one needs for survival! And, it is amazing how great nature is. This trip comes a close second in all the trips I have taken so far. (The first is Alaska. I think it is very hard to beat the Alaskan beauty).
If you survived the ramble, pat yourself on the back! 🙂