The time I hiked Havasupai…

Havasupai is one of the most beautiful places on earth and making the journey is really one of the most inspiring accomplishments a person a make.

So here is the story of the time my wife, her cousin, her cousin’s husband and I made the trip.

We were hanging out at a family party and my wife’s cousin, we will call her E, mentioned that she booked reservations to make the trip for husband’s birthday. She booked it for four people and they were going to go with her brother and her dad.

I had seen pictures and always wanted to make the call for reservations, but never took that step. As soon as I heard E had made the call I instantly was jealous and asked if My wife and I could join in.

It took a few weeks and few texts to remind E to ask, but we were in. S, my wife, and I were super excited and also a little scared. We are in decent shape and both pretty athletic, but the last time I had hiked any distance was 10 plus years ago.

So the preparation began. S and I got the list of things to take and looked into using mules to hike our stuff in and out of the canyon. We were lucky enough to be able to borrow some stuff like the lightweight tent and a one backpack for S, but we needed to get some sleeping bags and dehydrated food.

A few trips to Big 5 sports and REI and we were loaded up on some socks and hiking clothes to make sure we were comfy. We bought S new boots, but I made the mistake of using some old combat boots I had from the Air Force. We got new camel packs and a portable stove and we were set.

We planned lots of times to go hike and spend time getting used to climbing and walking around on uneven ground, but we ended up hiking only one time to prepare. We went 2.5 miles south of our house towards the mountains and turned around and came home. Five miles total should be good prep to go 22 miles in two days right?

I had a small blister, but I didn’t think that my boots were an issue and I thought they actually held up pretty well on the short jaunt we took. S and I both were able to carry our packs that distance and felt good with our endurance. We were psyched and ready to go.

So, as I mentioned before we were looking to have our bags carried in, or out, or both. But E’s brother was set on making the trip an accomplishment by carrying our own bags in and out.

The night before the trip we find out that E’s brother was not going to make the trip. We already knew that her dad was not going to make it. So it was the four of us; E and her husband C, S and I.

We met at their house after work on a Thursday and made the drive to small town about an hour away from the trail head. We booked a hotel room and made it there about 11 pm Thursday night. As we pull in, it does not look like the safest motel I have ever been to and there is a Grim reaper mannequin inside the dark window that we had to buzz to get an attendant. The girls were terrified and wanted to stay somewhere else, but we were tired and needed sleep to be ready in the morning. So C and I were able to calm them down, we stayed and I passed out.

We woke up early the next morning and had the continental breakfast. We got to meet the manager that runs the place and she was one of the nicest ladies and very hospitable. Even when she caught us taking a stack of plastic forks to eat our dehydrated meals with she was very gracious.

After were had our fill, we were off to the trail head. We loaded up our packs and topped off our water, hit the bathroom, took some selfies, and started down the trail.

IMG_1313

This hike is unique in the fact that you start at the top and drop about a 1000 feet in altitude In the first mile. Then drop another 1000 feet over the next 10 miles.  As we made our way down the steepest part of the hike we were feeling great.

IMG_1345 (1)
View from the trail head.

We walked with a young Asian kid that had some professional photography equipment and was wearing flip flops. At this point we were feeling a little over prepared.

As you make the journey you see the locals on horseback leading the mules that would have been carrying our bags for a small fee, but instead there we were moving to the side of the path every 20-30 minutes as another group of them passed us while we carried our 60 lb packs.

We were making good time even though we’re stopping to take pictures along the way. The canyon was beautiful and the trail was nice and easy, heading slowly downhill.

The trail is not marked well and I think we thought we were close about 15 different times. Finally we did see a sign that said “You’re almost there,” but even that was about five miles from the village.

IMG_1321
You ‘re almost there is very relative.

The village was a very interesting place. There were some sick horses that looked like they had made the trip up and down the canyon a few too many times. I don’t want to make it sound worse than it was, but it was definitely something that got all of our attention.

There was a small school with a basketball court and most kids were wearing basketball shorts and some outdated Nike’s. You can tell that the hundreds of travelers a day were a necessary inconvenience.

S and E were very excited to make it to the village because it was rumored that there was beer for sale and after hiking 11 miles it would have been well deserved. So after we checked into with the office to get our tent tags, C and I went find a restrooms and the girls went looking for alcohol.

When we found them, they did not find beer, but were being swarmed by bees. They were not aggressive, but they were everywhere. We grabbed our packs quickly and headed to the falls. The first set of falls were only a few hundred yards out of the village. It was an amazing site. They were as  powerful as they were beautiful.

IMG_1325

It was almost a half mile further to make it to the waterfall that you see in all the pictures. You can hear it as you approach, but can’t see anything until you head down the steep hill past the cliff. But once you see it, it is breath taking. It is the real life version of the picture you looked at a hundred times and with your own eyes it is almost magical. For just a moment the 11 mile hike seems like a distant memory.

IMG_1326
This cliche shot that you just have to have in your camera roll.

We walked past the falls to the landing and started our search for the perfect spot to spend the night. We debated over a spot that was very private and secluded, or an open area with lots of space near the stream. We chose the stream.

This seemed like a great choice until we got visitors. A guided tour group made camp right next to us. About 12 people and 6 tents with basically a full kitchen and all the noise that it brought with them. It did lead to one of the most hilarious moments of the trip. More on this later.

We took some time to locate the water spout that was a fresh naturally running water source for all of the campers. It was very good and we did not need to treat the water at all. We then hiked down to the lower falls which were also amazing, C and S were not feeling very confident about hiking to the bottom of these falls.

The climb did include a kind of sketchy chain handrail and ladder to get down. E and I pushed our significant other’s patience and continued to climb down to get a mid fall view and it was spectacular. This did however lead to the first argument of the trip and C ended up throwing the world’s best natural walking stick into the bushes and we never recovered it. I also did not help them keep a promise to a neighbor friend of theirs that asked them to video tape their first fight of the trip.

We finally made it back to camp, filled up some water and started cooking our dinner. The just add water dehydrated meals were not that bad and actually filled us up. It was at the same time that the large guided tour group was setting up their camp. You could tell there was some awkward sexual tension going on between some of the campers and there was a wide range of skillfulness around a camp site that we were observing. This is where one of the funniest moments of my life happened.

There are no words to describe it. You just have to see for yourself.

We played some card games and had some wine that we carried in a water bladder down. We went to bed early knowing that we had a long hike out of the canyon the next day. Oh did I not mention that. We only stayed one night and had to hike in and out on consecutive days after not hiking for years.

As we got ready for bed the sore muscles and now large blister really started to hurt. It was not a great night of sleep on the hard ground and thin sleeping pad we brought. It seemed like it took forever to get to sleep.

In the middle of the night I did have to use the bathroom, so S and I went together. The bathroom is one of the nicest I have ever seen in a camp site. It was a compost system that you added scoops of wood shaving to your business and it neutralized any of the gross stuff that you anticipate in these types of bathrooms.

The morning was beautiful and the weather was perfect. The birds were chirping and we started making breakfast right away. Dehydrated breakfast is not as good as the lunches or dinners. Runny eggs are not what you need to get your day started. But we still had a ton of Cliff Bars and beef jerky for the trip up the hill.

We packed up with little to no issue and as we were leaving camp our neighbors started cooking real eggs, sausage and hash browns for breakfast. I was more than a little jealous as we went on our way.

As we got to the first falls just outside of the village the girls wanted to get some pictures at the base so we took some time to climb down and get our last pictures of the falls.

IMG_1337
Impressed they made it down there.

These falls are really cool and I wish that we would have spent some time here the day before. But after about 20 minutes we were back on the trail and headed into the village.

S and E stopped at the post office to send a postcard that gets a unique stamp since it is still carried by mule out of the village. Pretty cool souvenir to send home and to friends. While we were in town we had some serious considerations to hiring the mules to carry our stuff out. But, we stayed with the plan and carried our stuff out of town and onto the trail.

By the time we reached the “you’re almost there” sign, the mole skin I put around my blisters stopped working. It was uncomfortable to walk and I didn’t notice that I started changing my stride to compensate.

We took many more stops and water breaks than we did on the way in and took our time making it out. Slow and steady was working as we made it up the 10 miles to the base of the final climb. We were beat up and sore, but the end was so close. We sat down at some man made rock benches and looked up at the trail ahead. This was the moment that we realized that we were out of water. It was devastating. Looking back and the fact that we made it out, we obviously could physically do it, but the mental block of making the climb without water was almost paralyzing.

But we started up the switchbacks. About a 1/4 of the way up another couple with no bags passed us, my wife asked for spare water and they were kind enough to give us a flavored water bottle. We all shared but between the four of us it was not much. We kept going. We had made it up a few more switch backs and there was Gatorade bottle on the ground with a sip of blue deliciousness left. I drank it and my wife looked at me in disgust and asked if I just drank from the bottle on the ground. I screamed back you’re not as thirsty as I am! Her faced changed from disgusted to understanding and turned and started walking.

This is where it got a little scary. C is tough guy from Jersey and is in good shape. But he also has had a couple knee surgerys and the dehydration was not helping. We were taking breaks after every set of switchbacks and it was taking forever to finish this mile. I decided that I just needed to buckle down and go get some water we had in the car and bring it back. I went and I made it. I turned back around to let them know water was coming and to my surprise they were only one switchback behind me and going to make it before I could even make it to the car. So I waited and we celebrated.

E was right. Carrying our bags in and out of the canyon was a great accomplishment. But now that I have earned that merit badge, the next time I go, I am paying for the mules.

With all that said. I hope that if you are reading this it is because you have this adventure of a lifetime already planned. If you don’t, get out a pen, write it down the word Havasupai  and add it to your bucket list. It’s worth it.

#LongBall

Editors Note: I didn’t write this as a how to guide, but feel free to Email Questions@1ongball.com if you have questions about things you need to know about the trip.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.