Yesterday I posted a question about hiking poles and the LT and started thinking about riding and hiking and thought I'd tell the story of my 25th Anniversary hike and ride.
On Cinco de Mayo, 1986 I had the pleasure of marrying a beautiful woman named Karen. For our honeymoon we decided since we had absolutely no experience hiking other than walking near city lakes in Minneapolis, that hiking into the Grand Canyon would make a wonderful Honeymoon.
With preparations consisting of buying a gallon of water and some string to tie it to a belt we managed to snag a permit to camp at Bright Angel Creek campground. We tied makeshift packs and a tent to ourselves and headed down the South Kaibab Trail. It was the most brutal and grueling thing we had ever done. It was truly a wonder that we survived the hubris of the young. This began a twenty five year love/hate relationship with the canyon. For our tenth anniversary we stayed in a cabin at Phantom Ranch, after hiking Bright Angel trail. That was much easier, since we bought actual packs. Over the years we have spent much time at the canyon. Every time I am walking back up a trail, I vow itís the last time into that damned ditch. Yet, within days of the pain, hunger and thirst subsiding, I begin plotting ways to get back.
Supai is a tiny village within the Grand Canyon National Park inhabited by the Havasupai Nation. The village is famous for the spectacular waterfalls. There are only a few ways into Supai. Arrange for a horse, walk, or take the infrequent helicopters that give priority to natives. Karen and I decided, against our better judgment as always, that there is no better way to spend oneís 25th anniversary walking ten miles into a canyon, swimming in freezing cold water near a waterfall, and walking back uphill another 10 miles. And travel to and from this hike by motorcycle to make it that much more fun. Luckily I picked a wonderful woman, as Karen was not only willing, but excited for the journey.
We figured the best place to stay would be near enough to the start of the hike down to Supai to get there for an early start for our hike. We didnít really know how hard of a hike this would be. Or last hike had found us on Tanner Trail which may be the steepest most brutal trail we had hiked in the canyon. We decided to stay at Grand Canyon Caverns, on old Route 66. The hotel is close to the road that leads to Hualapai Hilltop, where the road ends and the trail begins.
Grand Canyon Caverns is an old school Route 66 motel that harkens back to a different time. Cool old cars and a few motorcycles lay about. We had a nice diner dinner of burgers and tator tots. Holy crap there were a lot of tator tots. I do recommend this place for anyone looking for a Route 66 experience.
We started our hike in the next morning after a nice winding empty road to Hualapai Hilltop. We parked the bike and secured it as best we could. There is security in the lot so I wasnít too worried. About Ĺ mile into the hike I realized my sunglasses were not perched on my head. I let Karen and my pack sit while I sort of walked jogged back up the switchbacks. Adding mileage on a hike like this is never a good idea. I got back to the bike and found my Ray-bans waiting for me on the dirt underneath the bike. Also there was a couple of pack mules tied to a truck parked next to the bike. I envision the helmets hanging from my guardian being filled with mule pee, but nothing to do about it now. I catch back up with Karen and continue our walk in.
We started the walk at about 9:00 AM and were in the village and checked into the Lodge by 2:00. The walk wasnít too bad. Downhill this way and only about the first 1.5 miles were steep. Then the ups and downs of a canyon hike. Along the trail Havasupai were repairing spots damaged during the disastrous floods of 2008 and 2010. It is weird to see wheelbarrows in the middle of nowhere. The Havasupai use wheelbarrows a lot to move groceries and goods around the village. We relaxed and hung out in the village and around the lodge and chatted with some rather altered Havasu youngsters fascinated with our Electronic Cigarettes. They really wanted real cigs, but we had none. There are reportedly problems with some of the youth and drugs in Supai, but I canít think of a place there isnít. And these kids seemed harmless enough.
The next morning we headed to the falls. The flood of 2008 has changed the falls. Navajo falls are no more. Nature does what it does and there are now two new falls. We reached the first, Rock Falls for now. It does not really have a name yet. Beautiful new falls with a nice swimming hole underneath.
The next falls we reached was Havasu Falls. This too has been changed by the floods. Some were telling us that they used to be more beautiful. I donít know. I thought they were amazing Eden like now, and since I didnít see them before, I donít have to judge.
The next set of falls was Moonie Falls. To reach the base of Mooney requires a bit of a climg down.
There are two tunnels and a series of sort of steps carved into the cliff with chains and rebar pounded into the rock to help guide you down. Karen professes a bit of a fear of heights and I was a bit worried about this part of the hike. A woman going down the path in front of us didnít help matters by breaking out in hysterical sobs. We proceeded slowly behind her. In some cases hanging out over the cliff holding the chain while she wondered if she would make it. Quite a line of people formed waiting to make the trip down. We waded and played in the healing blue waters of Havasu Creek.
The return trip up the cliff was much easier as you face the cliff and climb a little more naturally.
Our third day was our hike out. We got up fairly early, got the first cup of coffee from the General Store and hike on up and out. It is eight miles from the village to Hilltop. It kind of gradually climbs for the first six and a half miles, and then turns into switchbacks for the final ascent. This is fairly steep, but seems pleasant compared to the climbs on Tanner Trail, or even Bright Angel. Not exactly an escalator, but for Grand Canyon walks, nice. There was a horse that had died on the trail. Near this area, we spotted a California condor. In the eighties, there were only twenty some condors known left. They were all captured and bred. Now there are less than 200 in the wild. They are a magnificent bird, in flight they are huge.
We reached the top at a little after 11:00. We had thought we would get a hotel nearby and rest after the walk. But, home was only 400 miles away, so off we went the twisty way through Jerome and Prescott. I couldnít have asked for a better twenty fifth anniversary or a better partner for twenty five years. Thanks for reading.