Published: October 20th 2012October 19th 2012
Fire and Ice
this is what we came here for...
For those of you who've driven through Grand Canyon National Park but never have made it below the rim, you have not truly experienced the awe of it all. I know this because I've been all over the top of the rim many, many times --- and, yes, it's spectacular, but oh my the wonder of the canyon bottom is so unbelievably the mother of all experiences.
There are several trails down. The one we took isn't as steep as Kaibab or Bright Angel trail. Let me rephrase that, it IS steep, but its switchbacks felt easier to handle. It begins at the top of a crowded parking lot called Hilltop. It's a little intimidating at first because you look down and think, "can I just sit and slide down that bitch?" But, going down (as hard as it is on the toes and knees) is the easy part. I was part of a group of 27. All of us walked down to Supai Village (an 8 mile hike), five took the helicopter ride back up. To give you more perspective there's a 20 to 30 degree temperature difference between the Hilltop parking lot and Supai Village. But, here's the
Get your kicks...
on Route 66. On our way to the canyon.
thing, it wasn't all that bad. I wasn't even sore the day after I climbed back up (and I totally expected to go to work in a wheelchair). In large part I think it's because I trained really hard for this (and will continue to do so --- imagine how much more I will see in the world), but the other part is the hike is so awesome (okay except for the 1.5 miles of switchbacks UP, UP and more UP). It's like being on another planet --- every time you turn a bend the scenery changes. One minute you're walking through a smooth, narrow canyon within the canyon, the next you're on a vast wasteland walled in by heaven or hell's (depending on your exhaustion level) enormous stone gates, the next you're in a lush green forest walking alongside a babbling brook. And then, whalla, you're entering Supai village with its soft- sand roads (although there are no cars), livestock and lotsa dogs that look like dingos.
Everything in Supai is brought down via their pack horses (which always have the right of way, so when a train of them pass you by on the trail you back
Crazy lil ice cream shop
in Seligman, Arizona on Route 66. The man behind the counter is a prankster and the backyard is packed with an eclectic assortment of fun things.
up against the rock walls) or helicopter. Take this in for a second. EVERYTHING. This isn't some hut village. People live in houses (although they're not McMansions and some are in desperate need of repair) and farm their lands. They have a cafe, a church, a clinic, a school, a store and post office (which receives/sends its mail through horseback). These are all things that need stuff --- big stuff. I would have given anything to see when the helicopter dropped in the tractors, four wheelers, appliances, furniture, and, best of all, the old RV that was parked near one of the homes.
Lucky for me they even have a lodge that includes hot showers and comfy beds. For those who can sleep anywhere there is also a campground two miles outside the village (those poor souls have to walk 10 miles before they get to rest and then have to set up camp). Again, remember, everything is brought down so campers are also part-time pack mules. That said we all can pay to use the pack horses and many of us (including my group) do. I feel for the horses and mules though. One horse had two large
for the climb down.
coolers, some duffle bags and a pot hanging off of its side. These are truly beasts of burden.
Now things are different at the bottom of the canyon in the middle of a small village. Time is different. I never did get to eat breakfast at the cafe because, well, on my first morning there the cook decided not to show, so someone had to rouse the manager who was also in no hurry to go make the donuts. This just cracked me up because let's face it everyone must know everyone in this village. How do you get away with not showing up for work when your boss probably lives two houses down? But, you do and that's okay. Smart hikers bring plenty of snack foods down with them just in case their timing is off. That said by dinner time there always seemed to be a cook, and the cheeseburgers and Indian tacos made for great dinners. If you love fry bread you need to get there early because they run out quickly.
There are two communities that kick up dust among the 'streets' of Supai --- the Havasu Baaja tribe (their name literally means people
of the blue water) and hikers. Most of the villagers I met were friendly. Some were more reserved than others and one girl who was obviously struggling with something yelled to me that she's "not talking any shit." Most, however, greeted us with an "enjoy your time here!" I'm torn about whether or not it would be heaven to live in Supai. On the one hand it's idyllic, on the other you constantly have people from all over the world trampling through your ancestral grounds. I'm surprised we didn't run into more cranky locals --- let's face it we tourists aren't always the nicest people. But, for me as a tourist/hiker it was cool to meet up with the variety of travelers along the road. I chatted it up with some interesting folk, including the Havasu Baaja.
The hike back home was just as cool, even with us leaving before the sun came up. There's something spiritual about walking through strange land early morning. The sounds, smells (forgive me but from this point forward I will always associate horse shit with the Grand Canyon) and textures have their own rhythm, and for me it was soothing. I was a
little worried about the trek back because I didn't sleep well the night before (thanks to a very vocal dog) and I had a splitting headache, plus I was concerned about that climb back up. The headache stuck with me, but waking with the world and watching the sun's rays reach the bottom one by one was therapeutic.
Plus, I knew all was going to be okay when two miles into the hike, one of my hiking buddies, a 65-year old marathon runner (Oh Bev you are a fascinating member of the human tribe!), plugged in her iPod and said, "Lady Gaga take me home." Please take the time to scroll all the way down this page (past the about-me stuff, which I can't move out of the way) so that you'll get to see all of the pictures, which is pretty much what you came here for anyway
. My next blog will be all about the falls --- especially my scary experience climbing down the cliff to Mooney Falls. The blue/green water deserves its very own entry. To learn a little more about Supai and its people, you can go to: http://www.havasu-falls.com/aboutthehavasupai.html (as well as google them on your own...) To learn more about booking a trip here (keep in mind reservations are usually a year in advance), you can go to: http://www.havasupaitribe.com/ (although I didn't book this trip and don't know if this is what our pack leader used)
There are more photos below