Friday, September 6, 2013

Grand Canyon Adventure Part 5: Out of Supai - The Hardest Hike Ever

In case you missed it:  Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4


We left Supai by hiking back out.  There is a helicopter that flies in and out on a first-come, first-served basis, with tribal members getting priority, however, it doesn't fly on Tuesdays which is the day we were leaving, so hike out it was.  This was the hike I was dreading... hiking up and out.  It made me tired just to think about it.  Little Helen kept trying to convince me that going up is easier but I just knew this would be really tough on me.

We decided to get an early start as we'd heard it takes about one and one half the time it took to hike in.  As it had taken us 4 hours to hike in, we figured 6 to hike out plus we had about a 3 1/2 hour drive after our hike.  In other words, one loooong day.

This time, it wasn't overcast, it was hot and sunny - another reason to get started early.  We still appreciated the beauty of the canyon and did stop a couple times to get a few photos but mostly we were concentrating on hiking hard.

Took this side shot just before we left to show how stuffed my backpack was.

This time we were following the signs back to the Hualapai Hilltop

My turn at the cairn

1 1/2 miles to go! 

Mule trains make it look so easy...

The next photo was taken from those switchbacks I talked about before.  We knew that last 1 1/2 miles was going to be super hard because now we were going up, up, up non-stop.  Once we go to this section, I asked Little Helen not to wait.  She had a good pace and she's 20 years younger than me - she could wait at the top while I finished.  Mr. Helen wouldn't leave me so I told him he needed to just let me hike at my own pace and not fuss with me.  That worked... sort of.  He kept insisting he wanted to take my pack but I wanted to do it on my own.  I wanted to say that I had done it without help.  I know that may sound silly but it was how I felt.  He finally got so annoyed he said "Fine!" and stomped off (thank goodness!).

Once he stomped out of sight, I was able to relax a little and stop when I felt like it even if it was every 10 steps or so, which I'm sure it was by the end of those switchbacks.  At one point, I pulled over for a horse rider coming through.  As he came by he looked at me and another guy who was also stopped and offered to take our bags up for $20.  We both said no - again for me it was an issue of being able to say I did it.  If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have let him take it and if I didn't have the money, bartered in some way to get it LOL!  Coming out of this canyon was the hardest hike ever. Honestly, what kept me going was telling myself that if I had been able to scale that wall at Mooney Falls, I could handle the switchbacks. Finally, just as I felt it would never end,  I came around the last switchback, there stood Mr. Helen waiting (and taking my picture).  He said he was sorry he stomped off and wanted us to finish this together.  And so we did, holding hand and going up and over and there was Little Helen cheering for us.

One last look at the trail we'd just been on

All the way up I had kept saying that I hoped the guy with the pickup truck full of ice cold drinks was at the top.  I was sick of water and electrolyte water and was dying for a Diet Pepsi.  He was there and I didn't even care how much he was going to charge. It might have been the most delicious drink I've ever had.

The biggest surprise?  It only took us 4 hours to hike out!  We were really hiking hard.  (No wonder the darn switchbacks felt so exhausting.)

We went to the car and got in for the drive to the South Rim.  We got back on Route 66 and began looking for a place to eat.  As you can imagine, we were hungry and all of us were tired of trail mix, Cliff Bars and Chex Mix.  Little Helen pulled out her guide and said she wanted to find Delgadillo's Snow Cap - a place known not only for its burgers, but also the humor served up with them.

We found it right in Seligman and stopped to have a bite to eat. It was one of those out of body experiences where you honestly believe that burger and milkshake are the best you've ever eaten in your entire life. The best in your entire life.  Plus this place was so fun.  There was a lady ahead of us who asked for a straw and the guy literally handed her a handful of straw.  We definitely got our kicks on Route 66!

Once our tummies were full, we headed to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Little Helen had booked us a lodge right on the rim in Grand Canyon Village.  To say that I was excited to be going to the land of modern amenities might be a bit of an understatement.

The drive took us about as long as expected but was perfect timing because we arrived close to lodge check-in time. First we stopped at the visitor's center to talk to the Park Rangers and figure out a plan for the upcoming couple of days.  Then we drove around Grand Canyon Village.  It is literally a small city - we were amazed to find a full size grocery store, shuttle buses, restaurants, shopping.  Almost a bit overwhelming after our simpler existence in Supai.

We finally found Kachina Lodge, where we would stay for the next 3 nights.  While this lodge did not have any dining facilities, it was a simple walk to either El Tovar or Bright Angel (where we ended up eating most of our meals).  We settled in, freshened up a bit, then went to get a bite to eat because yes, we were hungry again!  As soon as we walked into Bright Angel, we saw a shop so we parked Mr. Helen in the bar for a cocktail and Little Helen and I looked around a bit before we joined him.  We finally were seated and had a delicious meal.

It wasn't long before we were all yawning so after that we decided we should just retire early and get up the next morning ready to go!

Up next:  Another hard hike or what have I gotten myself into?


  1. I love your Grand Canyon reports. You have done so many amazing hikes and so many amazing things for yourself. You didn't give up on this hike either and you made it. I'm so proud of you.

    Again thank you for sharing your beautiful and amazing stories.

    1. More to come Fran. I'm probably boring everyone to death but I figure it's a travelogue for the future!

  2. I like your independence. I also like Mr. Helen's chivalry code. My wife has no problem letting me take her backpack, her water, or her purse. I wish she would carry her own purse:)

    1. Marc, you hit the nail on the head. Mr. Helen is VERY chivalrous. It was driving him NUTS to see me struggling and he just wanted to take over. But I am SO GLAD that I did it on my own. And proud too!

  3. I totally get how you didn't want any help. I am so like that.

    And there's more??

    1. More Lori! A couple ummmmmm maybe 2-3 more posts LOL!

  4. This was the trip of a lifetime! Very fun to read all the recap installments. And now I want to go to that burger place. :)

    1. It definitely WAS the trip of a lifetime. So not a vacation I would normally take but I'm SOOOOOO glad Little Helen gave it to us and that we just went with it.

    2. Also, if you plan a trip to Delgadillo's, include me. :)

  5. I've said it before and I'll say it again...I love the way you tell a story. I am always riveted...and can't wait for the next installment! There's nothing boring about it!.

    And I have the same stubborn streak...wanna do it myself. My way.

    1. Well, I'm humbled. That's quite the compliment coming from a real writer...

  6. Sounds like a wonderful adventure! I love booking back at the trail after finishing a really tough hike.

    Hiking in the Grand Canyon is definitely on "my list!"

  7. Hubby and I hiked this for my 50th b'day. It's so beautiful, isn't it? I have done a few rim to rims and one double. HAVE to get back up there...SOON!