Friday, August 30, 2013

Grand Canyon Adventure Part 3: Supai's Amazing Waterfalls

In case you missed it: Part 1 ~ Part 2


Today would be our one full day in Supai and we would visit as many of their waterfalls as we could.  We could tell that our bodies were shifting to west coast time because we actually slept until 6:30 am!  Since I'd gone to sleep around 8 and Mr. Helen and Little Helen said they'd put the lights out around 9, and none of us usually sleep that much, we figured that 8 mile hike the previous day had finally adjusted us.

We got dressed and went over to the restaurant to get coffee.  The coffee was hot and delicious and I ended up getting 2 large cups before I even ordered anything for breakfast.  The breakfast selections were slightly better than the lunch and dinner items:  there were things like cold cereal, hot oatmeal, breakfast sandwiches made on English muffins as well as standard eggs, bacon, sausage, etc.  We actually spent about an hour and a half there just enjoying watching the village wake up.  It was a Monday so we got to hear the school bell ring and see the kids walking to school.

After, we went to the post office to mail our post cards and Little Helen wanted to try to find fruit in the grocery store as she was having withdrawals.  While we did all this, Mr. Helen stood outside chatting with one of the reservation's Rangers who gave him some tips and hints for our upcoming hike to the falls.

Supai is known for it's unique waterfalls, five in all.  The waterfalls are actually one of the reasons so many people brave the hike into the canyon. They all have gorgeous clear blue water that is caused by travertine deposits.  The water has the same clear blue color as the water you see in the Caribbean, but with the background of the red canyon walls.  It's breathtakingly beautiful.

The first set of falls, Upper and Lower Navajo falls are about a mile hike from the village center.  We grabbed cameras and backpacks and wore swimsuits under our hiking clothes and took off.  We were again, hiking in that red sand which is so much harder than you'd think. But we didn't have a time agenda and again, it was a beautiful hike.  It wasn't long before we could hear the falls and then, we could see them.  I don't think the photos do them justice, but here you go!

Little Navajo Falls

There were several places where you could walk down to the bottom of the falls and even some natural swimming holes but we chose to just walk around and take pictures.  Around a mile beyond Little Navajo, is Havasu Falls, which are the most photographed falls in the Grand Canyon.  There is one big huge waterfall with a bunch of swimming pools beyond it.  The water stays at about 70 degrees year round so you can imagine how nice it would be to cool off there on a super hot canyon day.  Well, the day we were hiking it was unusually cool and overcast.  But when we got to these falls I knew I would regret it if I didn't get in that water - this was my trip of a lifetime after all!

That's me on the left.  Please excuse the whiteness and humongousness of me, but I wanted to give you an idea of how big and powerful the falls were and to show that I did indeed take my swim!

Also me in one of the smaller pools.  As you can see there were professional photographers there too, as evidenced by the tripod on the left.

The tribe has done a great job of placing picnic tables around the area so it's a lovely spot to stop and have lunch or just rest and swim for a while.  We loved these falls so much we stopped again on our way back to the village and relaxed a while longer.  Very hard to put into words just how wonderful and peaceful it was.

Next up was Mooney Falls, about another mile walk.  Funny story about Mooney Falls... which is a blog all in itself so stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Grand Canyon Adventure Part 2: The Hike to Supai

In case you missed it:  Part 1 is here


Our first major hike was to the Native American village of Supai which is at the bottom of a canyon in the Western Grand Canyon.  It is an 8 mile hike descending 2,004 feet, with 1 1/2 miles of very steep switchbacks at the beginning. I'm just being very honest when I tell you that from the minute Little Helen told us about this hike, I obsessed about it and worried, worried, worried.  I just figured no matter what we did to try and prepare, it would be hard.  Additionally I was very worried about holding Mr. Helen and Little Helen up.  Remember, my foot was still a bit wonky and I was carrying that extra weight I'd gained - not to mention that we would be hiking with packs that had to hold everything we needed for 2 overnights and the 2 hikes: about 20-25 pounds.  Worried was my middle name.

The road to Hualapai Hilltop, where the trail to Supai begins, is right around the corner from the lodge where we stayed in Peach Springs.  It is a paved road that literally only goes to the Hilltop and is 65 miles long. The Hilltop has a helicopter pad as all supplies into and out of Supai arrive via helicopter or mule train; mules for rent to carry tents and supplies for those who might be camping or for anyone who might not want to hike their items down; and a few horses should one desire to go to Supai via horseback. Once at the Hilltop, you find a place to park, secure your belongings and go.  Literally cars are just parked everywhere and it feels sort of odd leaving your vehicle behind knowing you won't see it for days - but it's safe.

It was overcast, cool and windy on the hilltop so we all put long sleeved shirts or jackets over our short sleeved shirts.  Little did we know how grateful we would be for those overcast skies.

Just as you start on the path, there is a big sign with the rules which basically are people going down yield to people coming up and everyone yields to the mule trains. Which we did, almost immediately upon stepping foot on the trail.

This photo gives you a good idea of just how steep the 1 1/2 miles of switch backs are!

This fellow stopped right in front of me to say hello.

These mule trains would pass us by for the first 4 miles or so of our hike as lots of people were coming out just as we were going in.  I couldn't believe how much they packed on these animals.

After we got past the first couple of switchbacks, the view opened up a bit and suddenly we could see a good deal of the trail that was to come.

The white squiggly line is where the switchbacks end.  It is still a descent but oh so much better.

Love this shot of Mr. Helen and Little Helen, who led the way for us most of the time.  You can see the decline here but that was a lot steeper than it looks in this photo.

Once we were completely off the switchbacks and past the squiggly line we were on the creek bed which is the trail that leads you to Supai.  That part is a much gentler descent and I'm not sure I can even describe just how incredible it was to go deeper and deeper into the canyon and have huge towering canyon walls surround us;  it really was magnificent!  What was really interesting was the flowers and vegetation managing to grow in that desert. I'm just going to post a few photos of the hike here and let me stress that these few photos just don't do it justice!

I really love these next two shots because they give great perspective.  The first is Mr. Helen and me hiking and holding hands.  The next, I asked him to stop and stand under another tree to show off just how amazing this was:  he's 5'11", then there's the tree, then there's the canyon wall which I couldn't even get the top of in the photo!

We came upon this cairn and, of course, needed to mark our presence as well! As you can see we've shed our jackets as it was probably 20 degrees warmer in the canyon floor.

Here's a mule train passing us on the way back in to Supai, packed with camping gear for a new batch of incoming visitors.

Almost there!  When you start seeing the clear blue stream and feel like you're near a forest, that's means only a couple miles to go! The last 1 1/2 miles or so of the hike are on sand, right next to this stream. Beautiful, but hard to hike in that sand, especially with tired legs.

This stream actually runs all the way through the village and the campground to the falls.

The sign says, "Cross bridge to village."

Entering the village.  Mr. Helen is on the right and you can see folks who are hiking out.

These two rock formations are sacred to the tribe.  They believe if they fall, their village and people will be destroyed as well.

We familiarized ourselves with the small village - found the post office (to mail post cards from as they get a special mule train stamp), grocery store (for jugs of water) and restaurant. When we saw that the restaurant closed at 6 p.m. we decided to get an early bite to eat since all we'd had all day hiking was Cliff Bars, trail mix, and water.  The tribe's restaurant has very basic food - and a lot of it fried.  Stuff like french fries, hamburgers, fried chicken, etc.  When I saw they had a green salad on the menu I ordered it as I was definitely craving vegetables and that was literally the only vegetable option.  Thankfully I ordered a hamburger as well because the salad, which Mr. Helen and I had intended to share (we were basing that on the price of it: $6) was about a cup of iceberg lettuce with a couple pieces of cucumber and tomato.  It tasted fine but just wasn't very much, or very nutritious. Right then we all decided that we had an idea why there is such an obesity issue within Native American tribes.  Especially sad in this village as there are NO vehicles and the natives and tourists alike walk everywhere.  Well, I take that back,we saw one "police" golf cart which I thought I'd taken a photo of but missed somehow.

Anyway, we enjoyed looking around at what would be our home for the next two days.

Even in this tiny village, there were two churches!  The first is the Mormon church and the second is a non-denominational Bible Church.

The cisterns that collect water to supply the village

Supai Fire Station!

The lodge where we stayed

Mr. Helen who is used to roughing it and actually doesn't mind camping, called this lodge camping with a roof over your head.  It was a bit better than that - double beds with a shower, towels, and even soap!  But no other amenities - no TV - no internet - nothing.  We were completely isolated with each other and the beauty of the canyon.  It actually was a really fun evening as we sat around in our room and just enjoyed chatting.  Needless to say, we were pretty tired too, 8 miles of moderately hard hiking is tough!  Mr. Helen and Little Helen made fun of me because I fell sound asleep at 8 p.m. and slept clear through the night until 6:30 a.m.  I guess I needed the rest for our next day's plans.

Our next adventure:  hiking to Supai's famous falls.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Grand Canyon Adventure Part 1: Peach Springs, AZ

This is the beginning of a series of recaps of our fabulous Grand Canyon vacation.  The posts might be long and/or photo heavy, which I make no apology for.  


This last Christmas, Little Helen gave us an all-expense paid trip to the Grand Canyon.  She planned the entire thing and boy oh boy was it the adventure of a lifetime!

Our adventure started out with a drive to Boston, where we stayed overnight prior to an early morning flight.  It also happened to be our anniversary, so Mr. Helen and I had dinner at Abe and Louie's to celebrate.  Abe and Louie's had literally just reopened the week before we got there as they were one of the businesses right in the area where the Boston Marathon bombings took place!

The next morning we got up bright and early and flew into Phoenix where we met  up with Little Helen and picked up a rental car.  From there we drove to Peach Springs, AZ - which took about 3 1/2 hours.  The best and last part of that drive was on Historic Route 66.

On our drive we found out we had come during the Route 66 Fun Run, which has nothing at all to do with running and everything to do with classic cars.  Color Mr. Helen very happy when we realized this. We stopped in Seligman for a bite to eat and got there just as the parade of cars was beginning so we watched that, then ate and got back on the road.

Once in Peach Springs, we checked into the Hualapai Lodge which is a beautiful, modern lodge with all amenties - including a pool and fitness center -  run by the Hualapi Indian Tribe.  (Why I didn't take one single outside shot, I don't know, but if you click on the link, it will take you to the Trip Advisor site that has some shots.)  We didn't arrive there until about 8 p.m. which our bodies thought was 11 p.m. as we were still on east coast time, so we pretty much just said goodnight and went to sleep.

Woke up bright and early to go to breakfast and get onto our first adventure.  The Hualapai reservation is the only place that has a road where you can drive, then hike, to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon!  All you have to do is buy the permit and off you go.  When we went to buy our permit, the lady asked us what sort of vehicle we had and we told her a four door sedan.  She said, "No Mustang? No Jeep?" which maybe should have been a clue for us but we just answered no, bought our permit, and headed off to Diamond Creek Road.  The first three miles of the road are paved and then you hit graded dirt road for 18 miles.  No biggie right?

It was simply a beautiful drive, but S-L-O-W.  I was driving and the further along we went, the less stable the road seemed which took all my mad driving skillz.  Anyway here are a few shots as we meandered our way along.

Eventually, we began to wonder just where it was we were supposed to park then hike the rest of the way in, which is what we were told to do.  We started running into areas where it seemed like the creek was crossing the road - and Mr. Helen would jump out of the car and motion me left and right to get through the water.  Finally, we hit a "stream" that really was creek like and could go no further so we just pulled over to the side of the road.  Mr. Helen hopped out and said he would walk around the bend in the road to see what was there... he came back laughing and said, "Girls we managed to drive all the way to the river!"  Evidently when we saw the grading equipment in the photo up there, THAT was where we were supposed to pull over and hike the last mile in lol! So we parked the best we could, and took off to see the mighty Colorado.

Mr. Helen and Little Helen standing at the bend in the road

We made it to the mighty Colorado!

What fun it was to walk around down there and explore and enjoy the beauty of that river and the canyon walls!  Our drive back was a lot faster than the drive in - for some reason the car handled better going up than it did down.

When we got back we discovered that the Fun Run had landed in Peach Springs for the day and the tribe was having a BBQ and entertainment and craft fair at a park right across the street from the lodge. We decided that since this was unexpected added fun we should definitely partake.  

My Indian Taco - so much food I didn't come close to finishing it!

There was Native American dancing too - so beautiful.  Here are 2 short video clips you can  wathc of a 13 year old boy doing the Hoop Dance - he is the National Champion in this right now. It's in two parts because I thought he was done then he started again.

Mr. Helen also got to see some of the classic cars up close and personal because, friendly guy that he is, he chatted up those people sitting at the table with us and they were in the Fun Run!

After all that excitement, we headed back to our rooms for an afternoon siesta as we were headed out to meet one of my long time virtual friends who'd I'd never met in real life.

We drove about 40 minutes to Kingman, AZ to meet at a Mexican restaurant.  On the way, we happened to find the only distillery in Arizona (maybe in the world?) that makes rum and vodka from agave.  They offer free tastings so we decided to add the Desert Diamond Distillery to our adventure.  It's a small, family run place and the owner does the tasting.  We actually ended up buying a couple of bottles which he packed for us to take home in our suitcase.  Again, unexpected fun!

Finally we got to the restaurant where I got to meet my friend Lori, who I first met through Sparkpeople years ago and who now blogs at Mama Bean's World.  She actually drove a couple of hours as she lives in the Las Vegas area.  I was so overwhelmed by the long stretches of desert with nothing to look at, I can't even imagine driving that far but her husband is native to the area and thought nothing of it. We had a wonderful but too short time together.

And that was the end of the first 24 hours in Arizona.  We slept really well that night.

Next up, the hike I worried about from the minute it was planned...