Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Grand Canyon Adventure Part 4: Mooney Falls

In case you missed it: Part 1   Part 2   Part 3


When I last left you we had hiked to both Little Navajo and Havasu Falls and enjoyed their water and beauty.  By hiking another mile, we would reach Mooney Falls.

Here's the thing, I was conflicted about going to those falls because as we were leaving the lodge that morning a couple came up to us and asked us about the facility.  They were leaving Supai via helicopter that day but were already making plans to come back with other family members and were considering staying in the lodge next time as this trip they had been camping. They asked where we were headed and when we said to spend the day hiking to the falls, the man asked if we intended to go to the base of Mooney.  We sort of looked dumbfounded and he then said, "You know that area is really high and the only way to get down there is to scale the canyon wall, right?" I breathed kind of hard as I have a healthy fear respect of heights. When I did, he slowly looked at Mr. Helen, Little Helen, then me and said, "You look like a very fit fellow, I'm SURE you can do it!  (at Little Helen) You look fit and young so I'm sure you'll be fine too. Then finally he looks at me... and maybe you two wanna leave mama at the top."


I wanted to yell at him that I'd just gotten my black belt in December and who did he think he was with his POT BELLY judging a book by it's cover!  Mr. Helen said a quick thanks and hustled me out of there because he could see the steam coming out of my ears.  I think I stomped all the way to Little Navajo falls, I was so infuriated.

Anyway, after Havasu Falls, we took off for Mooney and got to see the campground - which is basically clearings along the trail.  It's all tent camping by Havasu creek.  (Thanks Little Helen for putting us up in the lodge!)

Look closely and you can see a tent on the right...

We arrived at Mooney and to say that it was high up might have been a bit of an understatement... it was a very steep descent on the rocks just to get to a small platform where I could take a photo. I swear I was doing Lamaze breathing but I was determined to get pictures.  As I sort of crawled down to the platform, I decided right then and there I wasn't going to try to get to the base (even though I was still mad at that pot bellied idiot!), simply because of my respect of heights.  Signs on the way to platform confirmed my fears decision.

Once I got to the platform, I was so glad I had sucked it up because these falls were every bit as amazing as Havasu!

Taken from my top side vantage point

While I was busy taking these and other snapshots, Mr. Helen and Little Helen went scrambling through the first tunnel.  Tunnel?  Uh, no thanks.  That would address both my height issue and my claustrophobia issue lol!  No sooner had they disappeared than a woman came up through the tunnel.

I asked her if she'd seen a young woman and man and she said, "Yes, they're scaling the wall!" I waited and figured I'd take their photo once they reached the base, if I could get myself to hang over the side a bit.  Next thing I knew, Little Helen was coming back through the tunnel.  When I asked if she went all the way down she said, "Nope.  I tried, but after the second(!) tunnel there are only rope chains to hold onto and then it gets slippery and the chains got too wide and I don't have to prove anything to anybody!"

I heartily agreed and we waited for Mr. Helen.  When he came back up he told us he'd been all the way down.  Then he told me that he wanted to at least lead me through the first tunnel because there was another platform where I could get better photos.  He assured me he would go first and help me if needed and that I'd be able to see daylight.  I was still fuming about that jerk man thinking I couldn't do it, and I trust my husband so I decided to give it a go.  Sure enough as soon as you entered the tunnel and took about 2 steps, you could see the other end and daylight.  It was easier than it looked as there were some sort of rough steps carved into the rock.

I made it to the second platform and got a few more shots. I was really glad that I had given it a try.

Taken after going through first tunnel

After a couple snapshots and deep breaths, I asked Mr. Helen if he thought I could make it through the second tunnel and he said yes and again said he'd go with me.  So I said I wanted to try and off we went.  When we got through that, this is what I saw...

That my friends is the beginning of the chain system that gets you down to the base of the falls.  As you can see, there are no stairs/steps, just simply chains and the canyon wall, until you get down to the very end where there are a couple of ladders.  

I'm not sure why, but I looked at those chains and I realized I didn't want to be in the chains I'd been bound by for well over 6 months any longer.  Even in my darkest times this winter I promised myself that I wasn't going to let my weight hold me back any more and if it was the last thing I did, I would conquer that in 2013.  I looked at Mr. Helen and said, "I want to go down.  I can do it if you help me.  I may not be skinny but I'm strong and capable and fit."  He grabbed me and gave me a big hug and kiss and said, "YEAH BABY!  Let's go."  He went first and really just kept an eye on me. My respect of heights didn't even have to come into play since I was facing the canyon wall and concentrating on holding on to the chains.  As I repelled down, I gave thanks to the gazillions of Muay Thai pushups I'd done over the last years making my upper body strong. The next thing I knew we were reaching the ladders.  After the chains that felt like walking down stairs. And then with a final step off the ladder, we were at the base,


I was literally jumping up and down and screaming and laughing and crying all at the same time.  I can vouch that this moment was in the top 10 of my proudest moments in life. Here are the photos to prove that I made it.

The base of Mooney Falls.  See how powerful they are?

The ladder/chain system taken from the bottom vantage point

And my most favorite shot of all (I'm having it printed and framed) - the one Little Helen took from the top.  If you look closely you can see us a little towards the left, right where the lighter soil meets the dark soil... you can see my blue shirt but we're literally dots!

And that right there, is where Helen got her groove back.

Next up:  Out of Supai


    and yeah.
    now I want a DESCEND AT OWN RISK sign for my *life.*

  2. Wow! Just wow. I am totally impressed as I know for sure I would never have attempted what you did even in my 20's much less now. Great post!

  3. I was smiling from ear to ear as I read this post further - I was thinking to myself "she was so close to going down, I think she'll regret it if she doesn't do it!"

    But, I should have known better - you have come so far mentally and physically this summer and I am so proud you did it!!

  4. AWESOME! I had a feeling as I read this that you weren't going to stay at the top; love that you and Mr. Helen did this together. BTW, those chains are scary scary scary!!! SCARY!!!! Rock on, Groovy Helen, rock on!

  5. Wonderful story! So much fun to read about your process as well as your sucess and as always, the pictures are spectacular.

  6. Crap Helen: it's 8 am and you got me in tears first thing in the morning!

    What a fantastic and great accomplishment. I'm so so proud of you and so happy you didn't listen to that yerk!

    Beautiful pictures, all worth the trip.

    You go girl, you're my hero and example!

  7. I sincerely hope you showed your pictures to that asshat! So proud of you! I am scared of heights. I don't think I could do that.

  8. OMG...LOVE!! And I so love the way you tell a story!

    This reminds me of when Tim & I did the Rock Scramble, "Labyrinth" & "Crevice" at The Mohonk Mountain House (almost exactly a year ago). I seriously thought that was going to be the end of me! I blogged about it too... because I felt so freaking amazing that I actually did it.

  9. I made the descent all the way down into Moonie today. We also did the 4 mile hike into Beaver Falls. We got off of path a little somehow, and ended at the end of the tribal land and into the Grand Canyon National Park. Once we found our way, we jumped off of Beaver and made the hike back to village, where I am now.
    Great description of the descent! That sure was a nervous trek down. Those chains are crazy! Good for you! Love your story!