Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Hike Down Hualapai/Havasu Canyons

Tuesday, March 27, 2012 – We woke up at The Caverns Campground at 5 am (we were awake, anyway….too excited to sleep in), had coffee and breakfast, and by 6am, loaded up, leaving the camper parked at the Caverns campsite.   

We were headed to Hualapai Hilltop…..1.5 hours north, through the Hualapai and Havasupai Reservations. The road was deserted at this time…. no cars, and nothing along side, no buildings or services. However, when we arrived at the trailhead parking, (7:30am), the lot was full!

We lucked out and found  a spot, hit the porta-potty, and, with a '”Are you ready?” We shouldered our backpacks and started hiking…..hoping that the training hikes at Lost Dutchman would pay off. Note – Our backpacks weighed 28 and 29 lbs. Certainly, not the lightest we have carried, but it felt ‘do-able’.

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The temperature was a brisk 25 degrees, we were glad to have a jacket, but knew that the temps at the bottom of the canyon were going to be warmer.


The view from the top was breathtaking in the morning light……


The trail descends 1,100 feet in the first 1.5 miles……rather steep….


With switchbacks through the Coconino Sandstone…..If you look closely, you can see the trail winding its way down through the middle of the ‘swirly’ rock formations.


The lighter streaks in this picture, middle left, are the various trails once you get to the floor of Hualapai  Canyon.


The trail surface was good…mostly gravel, or dirt, with railroad ties ……rather like the Bright Angel Trail at the National Park.  Oh, and LOTS of horse poop!


True to what the guide book said, at about 1.5 miles and a little over an hour of hiking, we were at the floor of Hualapai Canyon. I really don’t like steep down-hills……But, the descent was OK….Not too tough on knees and feet ……Only 6.5 more miles to the town of Supai -- and then, 2.5 more on to our campground!


The trail continues along the bed of this canyon another 5.5 miles ……and descending another 500 feet….before joining up with Havasu Canyon. We hiked on….feeling pretty strong.


The canyon was so amazing! We stopped to take pictures at every turn (and I took several of Fred hiking ahead of me!)


The rock formations were awesome…….and the day was just beautiful!

There were not many people on the trail…..several passed us going down, and by 10 am or so, more were passing us who were hiking up. Some hikers were just carrying a day pack – they were staying at the Lodge in Supai and did not need tents and sleeping bags, cook stoves and pots, etc.


As we walked, we were startled by the pack horses coming up…..

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These horses were driven from behind, not led, and they were not tied together…..


And they trotted! These were NOT the mule trains of Grand Canyon National park! When you hear the sound of hooves, you had better move over, fast!

The pack horses are the life-line to Supai village. People, mail and supplies (and tourists) come in and out of Supai by horse…..or on foot. There is also a helicopter service that flies several times a week.


We took picture after picture of the rock formations in this canyon…..


The smooth stone showing the effects of erosion…..


You could really picture this canyon hollowed out by the forces of water and wind.


The further into the canyon we walked, the more the vegetation changed to support the occasional tree…..I think this is a Cottonwood.


And Redbud trees in bloom!


We took a break under the shade of this large Cottonwood tree. The temperature had warmed… maybe  70 degrees.


About 1 mile outside of Supai…..water….tributaries drain 3,000 square miles of the Coconino Plateau….and eventually empty into the Colorado River. These tributaries, and the Havasu River are the reason Supai exists at the bottom of this canyon.

We were excited!…..we were almost to Supai…and still feeling good…..tired, but good.

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