So this blog is about Havasu Falls which is not in Sparta, TN, my normal blog topic. I was asked by a few to blog this vacation/adventure of mine and Bill’s and quickly decided I should because I can’t seem to stop talking about it. I thought maybe writing it all down would be a type of therapy for me and would help me to quit rambling on and on about it to anyone who would stop to listen.
So, anyway…Bill and I found the Garden of Eden. We had seen pictures, ones similar to what I am posting, but nothing would prepare us for what we would see.
Several months ago, Bill saw a show on the Travel Channel called “The 10 Best Swimming Holes in America.” (It still comes on periodically so watch it if you can.) Bill locked onto Havasu Falls like a snapping turtle with no lightning storm in sight. I did some research and found that it was part of the Havasupai Indian reservation and was in the western part of the Grand Canyon but not actually part of the Grand Canyon National Park. Further research showed it was a ten mile hike in. I quickly found Wildland Trekking Company that offered guided hikes.
The guides provide your tent and food and lead the way. For extra money, a mule will carry up to ten pounds of supplies for you. Click. (At my age, there’s no reason to debate this or even discuss it with Bill. Easy decision. I want the mule.) We made reservations and began our training. I also secretly hoped that our group would be filled with old people – much older than us – so we would be able to keep up.
We meet our group for the first time in Flagstaff, Arizona the evening before our hike. It is simply an orientation and lasts less than 20 minutes. But it is long enough for us to learn that we are the oldies in this group of 6 and that 2 of our fellow hikers are crossfitters (followers of a ludicrously extreme exercise program).
Day 1 – Havasu Falls Hike
We meet up with them again the next morning at 4:30 a.m. (yes, I said 4:30 a.m.) and drive 3 ½ hours to the trail head.
Bill and I both are carrying basic backpacks filled with water and sunscreen. We hike down into the canyon with little ado, the crossfitters catapulting themselves down the hill at a pace I consider running back in Tennessee. It is almost a mile down into the canyon on a switchback trail. From there it is 7 miles of flat hiking to the Supai Indian village and another 1-2 miles to the campground.
Our trail is made up of crumbled limestone from the walls around us so it often feels like walking on one of Bill’s driveways before he gets it leveled and compacted. Later we walk on red sand as if we were at the beach, another layer of rock in the canyon wall that has crumbled and found its way to the canyon floor.
The main challenge here is keeping on keeping on. And so we do.
It’s not as hard as it seems because the canyon is fascinating with its layers and red rock and sheer size. We see the mule train coming and step aside so our tents and stuff sacks will be waiting on us when we reach camp.
Lunch – Hallelujah!
Eventually we see a bit of water and stop for a picnic lunch along the babbling blue brook which is only a tease for what is to come.
Our guide, Cody, brings out sourdough bread, freshly sliced tomatoes, romaine lettuce, avocados, ham, turkey, and cheese. We eat the best sandwich in the world, by the bluest brook in the world, and then walk another mile until we reach the Supai Indian Village.
Supai Indian Village
The village consists of homes, a couple of markets, a café, a school with a top notch basketball court and amphitheater, a post office (mail is still delivered by mule, the last and only of its kind in the U.S.), and a field with two helicopter pads and a bench for waiting. For $85, you can skip the tired legs and blisters and fly in. The copter runs several days a week and gives preference to the local Indians. We pass the helicopter pads and agree it is cheating to come in that way but are secretly glad we have an alternative way out just in case.
We all take a rest before descending into the campground which is another mile or so away. It doesn’t seem that far because firstly, we are going down, and secondly, we are able to catch a glimpse of Little Navajo Falls – a breathtaking glimpse – which makes our tired feet lighter and our smiles too overwhelming to suppress.
Next we can see Hidden Falls a bit when we crane and stretch, which we do. Stunning.
First Sight of Havasu Falls
Then…then…then we come to Havasu Falls. Our jaws drop. We’ve seen pictures. Nothing prepared us for this. How can I put this in words?
The water is blue-green. Really. No filter. Just blue-green. The canyon is a back drop of red rock shooting high into the sky. The water is falling from maybe 100 feet forming a turquoise pool at its base and then cascading over to continue on to the campground. You might think I would be thanking God at this point for His amazing creation. I should have been. Instead, I am frozen. Paralyzed. Is this real? Where are we? Eventually I shake out of it and insist on enjoying it at once.
I change into my swimsuit and water shoes (there is a very clean bathroom at the beginning of the campsite) and meet Bill back at paradise. We swim and wade and try to fight the current of the falls and watch people jump from the ledges and do everything we can to soak up amazing. But in the canyon the days are short. The shade finds us and our paradise becomes a bit chilly.
We decide to head back to our campsite which Cody has so graciously set up while we frolicked in the blue waters. He guides us about a half mile deep into the campground along Havasu Creek and then across a dilapidated bridge that I would never cross under normal circumstances.
This is only the beginning of things I will find myself doing in this fairy land. I hesitate but carry on as there seems no alternative. (In 24 hours I will cross this without a second thought and will even carry large heavy crates across it. I guess it’s the affect of the blue-green water.)
We camp beside the magical river and eat a dinner of chicken alfredo that Cody has prepared for us. We basically eat and crawl into our tent exhausted but eagerly anticipating the next day’s adventures. As I lie there listening to the river babble, I finally meditate on the sites I have seen and the surety of a good and beautiful Creator. The juxtaposition of falling blue-green water against rising red rock walls eliminates the idea of chance or big booms. I feel small and favored at the same time. And with these worshipful thoughts, I sleep peacefully.
For part 2 of our amazing Havasu Falls hike see The Garden of Eden – Havasu Falls, Part 2.
I love talking about this trip so feel free to comment or ask questions.