Havasupai Hike

A dream come true!

With the advent of Instagram, so many more amazing places have come to the forefront of my travel world. Havasupai Falls is one of the most photogenic and magical looking places to flash across my screen recently and I knew I had to visit.

beginning hike
Shiny, clean faces, setting out for our big hike in! The hike follows the trail you can kind of see snaking down the canyon to the right.

Getting There:

Unfortunately, it is SUPER hard to get a reservation to visit Havasupai. Prior to this year, the only way to get a reservation was by telephone. They opened an online reservation system this year, however, after just a short while, it was put on hold due to overwhelming requests. In February, I called the four different numbers I could find listed for the reservation office, the camping office, and so on probably twenty to thirty times and it rang endlessly or cut out until finally someone answered and I was told no reservations available for April and no waiting list.

The conundrum: go now with a tour company at a higher cost (individually, it would have cost us less than $200) or wait until next year and call like crazy when the reservation line opened up in January. We decided to take the chance we had and go for a tour group. We selected BG Wild, a company started last year by a fellow by the name of Mike Bennett who had been taking groups of friends down to the canyon for many years and decided to make a business out of it.

We couldn’t have been happier with our decision. The group was professional to deal with, the price was fair, the food was plentiful and delicious, and our guide was super fun and helpful (although I did tell him to turn the sass down by 50% at one point :P). Not having to pack in our food or fight to get a reservation was worth the extra money for sure. We also had an awesome massage therapist, Casey, who came along with the group, offering 15mins free and then booking longer massages at cost, and she also taught us morning yoga right in front of the falls (heaven!). Side note: you have to bring your own mat, but honestly, the sand and dirt in front of the falls is soft enough that as long as you only want to do standing poses, you don’t need a mat.

You can fly into either Las Vegas or Phoenix, both are around a 3.5hr drive from the Hualapai Hilltop hike departure point. From there, it’s a 10 mile hike downhill into the oasis of Havasupai. You can also take a helicopter ($85 one way including one bag on your lap, tourists only start going on a first come first serve basis after the locals have been flown in/out as needed), or you pay $75 to have your bag flown in while you hike. Personally, we enjoyed the challenge and reward of knowing we hiked ourselves and our stuff in on our own.

Packing List:

The lighter the better! Here is what I took for 4 days:
-1x MEC quick dry shorts
-1x Inner Fire black leggings for evening/sleeping and I hiked back in them on the last day
-2x Acuarela Swimwear bikinis (amazing one-of-a-kind, handmade bikinis!)
-2x sport tanks with built in bras (Lululemon and Popflex)
-2x long-sleeve base layers for wearing over top in evenings/at night (MEC and Lululemon)
-1x lightweight Lululemon jacket for evening
-3x socks
-3x quick dry undies from Naja
ballcap
-1x flipflops and 1x sneakers (hiking boots really not necessary unless you need the ankle support)

-1x Enlightened Equipment down sleeping quilt
-1x sleeping mat with built in pillow (was not happy with this!)
-1x 2-person tent
-1x quick dry towel

-comb, mini-toothpaste sachets, toothbrush/floss, sunscreen, mini-deodorant, face and body lotion, mascara (yep, splurge), headlamp, waterbottle, camera, and mini-cam. I was able to use my camera case on day-hikes to carry lipchap, sunscreen, etc.

My friend Linda packed down a hammock and slept in that for a couple of the nights and said it was pretty good. Definitely a way to save weight. She also packed down the dehydrated soap sheets to use for hair washing, which was awesome. I was super pleased with my choices in packing apart from the sleeping mat which was both heavier than it could have been and not very comfortable.
Once you’re down there camping, you can swim daily to keep clean, and everything is a little dusty and dirty, but you’re camping, and so is everyone else, so it doesn’t matter. Being light on weight when you are hiking the 10 miles UPHILL to get out, even if that meant being a little smelly, was worth it.

The Itinerary:

If you can spend at least 2 full days down at the falls, that is ideal. Weekdays are obviously less crowded than weekends. Leaving Hilltop by 8 or 9am would be best, as you avoid the heat of the day (the hike took us about 3.5 or 4 hours from hilltop to tent site with a stop to check in and a stop for a fry bread with cinnamon sugar…yum), and you also get to spend more time at the falls that day after you set up camp.

Our second day down there, we hiked down to Mooney Falls (at the end of the campground) and Beaver Falls, 6 miles roundtrip, including quite a scramble down the side of the canyon to get to the base of Mooney Falls (well worth it). If you continue down the trail from Beaver Falls, you will reach the Colorado River, which runs through the Grand Canyon. I think it’s a further 5 miles from Beaver Falls though! The hike down to Beaver Falls feels like you are in Jurassic Park. There is lush, verdant forest and bush with a river running through the middle, and red rock canyon cliffs on either side. It is SO pretty!

The second day down there, we checked out an abandoned mine filled with quartz that’s just behind Havasu, and then most of the group hiked up to Hidden Falls and 50-Foot Falls, then attended a sweat lodge and smudge ceremony, put on by one of the amazing Supai village residents. My legs were SO sore from hiking in flip flops the day before, so I opted to mostly rest by Havasu, enjoy the view, and have another delicious fry bread.

That night, I believe our campsite was the only one that had an amazing song and dance performance put on by a few of the residents of Supai. It was really wonderful.

The next morning, those leaving on the helicopter woke up somewhere around 4 or 5am to hike up to the Supai village to get in line for the helicopter. The rest of us departed two by two between the hours of about 6 and 8AM. The hike out was HARD; our packs felt heavier, we were sad to be leaving, and the ‘slight’ downhill we had on the way in felt like a much steeper incline on the way out. Plus, you end with the 1 mile switchbacks straight back up the Canyon wall. But it felt so amazing to know we did it! And boy did we carb load when we got back to Vegas! 😉

Thanks again to BG Wild, Daniel our guide, Josh, who did set-up, and the amazing group of hikers we got to know!

The Pictures:

beaver falls
Hanging out at Beaver Falls. Some brave folks went jumping off it!
havasu
There she is! The famous Havasu Falls
hike in 2
The hike in. We are still quite clean. Recommendation: no tank top for the long hike! My pack rubbed my shoulders raw.
hike in 3
Nearly to the campground, walking along the river.
mooney hike
The scramble down the side of the canyon to get to the base of Mooney Falls
mooney
Lush and lovely! Just after Mooney Falls
to beaver 2
Shoutout to Acuarela Swimwear for my sweet elephant suit! This is the hike from Mooney Falls to Beaver Falls – you cross the river a fair few times.
to beaver
The beautiful valley through which the river and the falls run.
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Bright Lights, Big City

January 11, 2014

Flagstaff to Las Vegas

We departed Flagstaff mid-morning after a wonderful breakfast prepared by our awesome host Dhruva. Thank you again for your kindness and hospitality!! We truly enjoyed our stay in Flagstaff.

The drive to Las Vegas showcases more beautiful desert views and we were most excited to see people driving convertibles with the top down. Surely we are headed in the right direction then!! This was confirmed when we stopped at a “scenic view” point where we were pleasantly surprised with a warm breeze and no need of a sweater. 

 

We soon came upon the Hoover Dam and pulled in for a visit. There is a security check, but when we pulled up, the guy asked (gesturing to the stuff in the back seat), “Is this all yours?”, to which we obviously answered, yes, and he told us to have a nice day and we moved on! Clearly we are not the most threatening looking individuals. Especially when we pulled up bopping along to Gwen Stefani’s Sweet Escape…

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So, there are some parking lots (the ones closer to the actual dam), that cost $10, but if you drive up a bit further, they are free. We took a stroll along the dam, and a few photos. The dam is actually directly between Arizona and Utah, so you can stand in two different states and two different time zones on the dam. Our cell phone was most befuddled by this. We, on the other hand, were super befuddled by all the security and the masses of tourists. It’s just a big, man-made, cement….thingy….right?! We hadn’t seen as many tourists ANYWHERE other than NYC and maybe parts of DC, and could’t quite figure out the attraction. 

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Lake Mead, which is dammed by the Hoover, is quite pretty and looks like a fun place to spend time in warm weather. From the dam and the lake, it was only about 30-40mins into Vegas. We were struck by the vast expanse of buildings in the desert and it is quite cool to drive into, as it appears on the horizon, the largest accumulation of human life we’d seen in the desert for a bit. We definitely got excited seeing all the buildings in person, and they do look just as in the movies and tv – glittery, huge, and outrageous. 

Checking in to our hotel, the Excalibur, (Leah keeps expecting Robin Hood to pop out), I really felt like we were in America as we saw a bunch of cheer teens. It is unreal the amount of makeup on these girls. And the bows on their heads….bleghhh!! So yes, it is just like on TLC. Apparently, America has also not received the memo on secondhand smoke and the wide variety of smoking-related illnesses as it would seem that smoking is still allowed indoors here. Yet another reason we will not be frequenting the slots!

After a little down time, we prepared for our evening’s excursion – a trip across the street to New York, New York to see Zumanity. I was expecting a wild time and I was most excited for the pole dance portion of the show. Unfortunately, they seem to have changed their show a bit and it no longer includes pole, but apart from that, the show was the usual amazing Cirque standards: great live band and singers, hilarious audience participation (Cindy from Colorado, a recently retired teacher, especially seemed to enjoy getting pulled up on stage!), extremely flexible people, and overall good entertainment. Zumanity is less acrobatic than other Cirque shows that I’ve seen, but was funnier and more like a cabaret-style show. It seemed very appropriate to see while in Vegas! They definitely had us giggling away, and at times, totally losing it, the entire performance. I do think that they need to bring the pole dance part back for sure!!

After the show, we walked around the Strip a bit, until our feet told us it was time to go to bed. I can see how Vegas is like an adult playground, but I think it is also a very sad place. The juxtaposition of poverty and extravagance is a little disturbing with too much ponderance. However, I am sure that keeping this in mind, we will certainly have a fun time today as we explore!

(Sidenote: no photos of Leah because they are all on her camera! She was there tho… 😉

I mean… it’s pretty, I guess, if you like rather immense canyons

January 10th, 2014

The Grand Canyon

 

We began our day with a little practice with our host, Dhruva at his Shala in downtown Flagstaff. We could immediately see what a toll sitting in the car and not practicing yoga for several months had done. It was great to practice with such a terrific yoga master though!

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After class, we went to ‘Late for the Train’ on S. San Francisco St. It has a great vibe, friendly staff, and good assortment of foods and coffee type beverages. Thanks to the people there for treating us well, especially me in my post-yoga haze!

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Our next destination was the big ticket item, the Grand Canyon itself. It is easily accessed within 1hr 20mins-ish either via the 64 or the 180 then 64 from downtown. The Canyon was simply put, amazing. We walked from the visitors centre by Mathers Point to the Bright Angel trailhead area which is the 2nd to last stop on the orange shuttle (about 1 hr 30 mins including stopping for pics). We then took the shuttle to Yaki Point, and then proceeded back to the visitors centre for a car picnic. The shuttles are all free to ride around on, but in the winter, you can drive your car most of the way, since the volume of vehicles is much less.

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I made friends with the locals (some birds) and we also had the opportunity to write several of our postcards while watching the Canyon. We went down the Western route (road) to Hermit’s Rest during the afternoon and worked our way back to Hopi Point for sunset. Sunset was so incredible. I mean, how strange it is, that people gather around to watch the sun go down. But you can see why, and it was beautiful.

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We concluded our day by cooking for our wonderful hosts and enjoying a delicious, if I do say so myself, dinner with them. We made a salad that I love to make, consisting of mainly: sundried tomato, artichoke hearts, feta, kalamata olives, and fresh baby spinach. The other main ingredient is any grain you want, ie: pearl barley, couscous, pasta, orzo, or quinoa. You can also add cucumber, tomato, red onion, chickpeas, or whatever else strikes your fancy. The dressing is just the marinade straight from the artichoke hearts. SO GOOD!

We will certainly be sad to bid our kind hosts farewell tomorrow, but very excited to finally experience Sin City!

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Arizona sands between my toes

What an amazing day. After two major milestones yesterday (10,000 AND 11,000kms), we thought we’d take it easier on the driving. Poor Elva! We started our morning at the Quality Inn with a questionable hot water situation. It was one of those showers where you shower for 30s, turn it off because it’s become ice cold, wait a minute, turn it back on for another 30s to rinse, and repeat until fully showered…. yeah, this definitely speaks to the merits of hostelling, Couchsurfing, or just plain staying with friends and family. Comfier beds, better showers, and superior company!

 

We went to take advantage of the breakfast buffet, and at first when we walked into the dining room, we thought our eyes deceived us, as a beautiful panorama of Glen Canyon was spread out before our eyes. The buffet was not bad, but the view was supreme!

 

Our first stop was to be a tour of Antelope Canyon. We selected Antelope Canyon Tours and found them to be excellent. Our tour guide, Deborah, was really knowledgeable, well-spoken, and good natured and we really enjoyed our tour. I have rarely met rock or any scenery that photographs better than it appears in person, but this is definitely the case here. The photos are even more breathtaking than the actual in-person view in my opinion. 

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After getting the car washed (how diligent we are!) and stocking up on car snacks and coffee, at the recommendation of our tour guide, we headed down to Horseshoe Bend, which is a beautiful scenic point along the Colorado River. It was so serene there, with only a handful of other people and even a few minutes with no other people around, so we were able to enjoy the quiet sounds of nature and the beauty of the view.

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Once we’d finished there, after a quick shopping trip on the way back to the car (a woman and her adorable 2 year old were selling handmade Navajo style jewelry by the parking lot), we headed out on the 89T to Flagstaff. The views along the way remained stunning and we saw more of the “open range” highway. This basically means, watch out for cows because you may find them wandering the roads willy nilly. I gave Leah the quick intro to driving stick, and she did really well. She refrained from stalling or burning the clutch, which is a lot more than I can say for my first driving experience! However, she decided that sticking to parking lot driving would be best, which is fair enough, so I continue to rock the roads 😉

 

We made it to Flagstaff by 4pm and accidentally took a tour through the university (NAU) before finding our way to the historic district. It is quite a charming and walkable area. We found a great coffee place called Flag Buzz, which was quite tasty, with very friendly and helpful staff. Thanks for the great drinks, you guys!

 

We stopped into a little boutique in Flagstaff called Rainbow’s End. Visit their website here…and definitely stop in if you are in Flagstaff! The girl working there was totally adorable and very helpful and they have a great selection of unique items from shoes and clothes to jewelry to greeting cards and many other items. Highly recommend! After popping in to a few more stores, we decided to call it a day and head to our couchsurfing hosts’ place. 

 

Our hosts are completely wonderful and served us up a very tasty dinner (homecooking! Yay!) and some good conversation. They are both yoga teachers and we are planning to go have class with them in the morning. Should be fun!