I promised this blog weeks ago. I’ve been busy. I promise. I’ve spent a few weeks just trying to catch up from a ten-day September vacation and then a few more weeks in full-on 110 m.p.h work mode. Between three October weddings, my sister laser-beamed focused on remodeling a weekend camp house and being mandatory-volunteered to feed my dad’s animals while he’s in Utah playing volleyball, I haven’t had many spare minutes. I am not complaining by any means. This life is crazy beautiful and this blog post will prove it.
For years, probably just as long as I’ve been hyper interested in backpacking and hiking, I’ve had Havasu Falls on my bucket list. I first read about it some hiking chat room. The pictures made it look mystical. The people who had been there said it was magical. This place looked like nothing I had ever personally witnessed or read about being in the continental U. S. Was it a hoax?
I never thought I’d find a place that would top my favorite place on Earth: Concan, Texas, but I did. This is it, people.
My Trip to Havasu
For many years, 16 plus, this trip was only a place I visited in my daydreams and hiking fantasies. I was unwilling to do this with complete strangers and I never thought I could convince any of my non-hiking family or friends to humor me. I was so wrong. It actually didn’t take much begging for me to convince five people to join me! My hiking companions included two of my best friends, my brother AND sister (who doubles as a best friend) and my sister-in-law.
Havasu is billed as “the most remote place in the United States.” It is governed by the Havasupai Indian Tribe living in the canyon. In order to get here, you either have to walk 10 miles in or take your chances getting a seat aboard a tribe-operated helicopter. The helicopter’s priority is serving the village of Supai by carrying in groceries, other supplies and residents. Among other things, it’s also responsible for carrying trash out of the village. So, tourists literally take a back seat. You may or may not be able to get a ride. In that case, you either wait until the next day or lace up your hiking shoes.
But first you need a permit. You can not enter the canyon without a permit. Camping permits are sold only for the current year. The tourist office begins selling permits February 1 and only sells a certain number per year. I’m sure this is to preserve not only the beauty of their canyon home, but the sanctity as well. I called nearly every day from February 1 until mid-March when someone finally answered the phone. Up until that point, I had only heard busy signals on the other end. I explained I needed to make camping reservations, and was put on hold for about 20 seconds. And then the unthinkable happened… they hung up on me. I immediately dialed their number again. Busy. So, I began my daily ritual of calling the tourist office every day only to hear a busy signal. Finally, mid-April, someone answered the phone again. I promptly asked them to not put me on hold. And again, I pitched my spiel for the camping permits only to be told they were sold out for 2016. I. About. Cried.
My crew and I had three choices: keep trying to call the one-land-line tourist office and hope someone would cancel for the week we wanted, give up on 2016 and try again in 2017 or try our luck with a commercial hiking guide. We opted for the latter and BOOM! we were in!
(For the record, our permits were checked three times on the way in and daily at our campsite. We had to wear an armband the entire time we were guests of the Havasupai Tribe. You can show up without permits, but it is strongly not advised. They may or may not let you in, and if they do, the camping fees are whatever they feel like charging you that day. There is no set fee for not having a reservation.)
Waiting for September 9th to get here—the day we rolled out to Flagstaff—was excruciating for me. It seemed like it was consistently out of reach. But finally, it was September 9th and we were on the road and everything was going as planned. I was happy!
Standing on the rim of the Havasu Canyon was so surreal for me. After years of only imagining what this trip might be like, I was about to embark on the actual thing.
Not one second of the trip was disappointing for me… not one! This place is beyond beautiful. There are no words… no pictures that can even do its beauty an ounce of justice. What I can tell you is that the place is so unbelievably gorgeous that it caused me to cry three times just by looking at it.
My eyes witnessed the beauty of all five waterfalls: Navajo, 50 Foot, Havasu, Mooney and Beaver. My soul was gifted three nights under this canopy of stars. My lungs were temporarily filled with air that flows through this heavenly canyon. My feet soaked in the blue green waters and then carried me in and out and all around this peaceful place. My heart is full because I made unforgettable memories with people I love in such an incredible backdrop.
Every mile hiked, every blister rubbed, every tear streamed and every memory made was totally worth every ounce of effort it took to reach this place. The only regret I have about experiencing the great beauty of this place is that I did not get to do it with my daughters. I want to go back with them so I can see the look on their faces when they see how epic this place is!
And lastly, we really lucked out when we booked with Wildland Trekking and got Karla and Ciera as our guides. Not only did they prove to be outstanding guides, they fed us like royalty, took amazing care of us, told us really funny jokes and became really good friends!
If you enjoyed the blog post, be sure to watch our video footage of the trip:
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When I’m not photographing a wedding, I love to spend my spare time hiking, camping, cycling, reading, listening to Elvis and Prince. The most important things in life are for me to see my two daughters happy and to create a family history my grandparents and grandson would be proud of!
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